Category Archives: Tips and Advice

Replacing an Evaporator in a Car Air Conditioner

This video shows the work being done to replace a leaking evaporator in a car’s air conditioning system. As you will see, it’s a major undertaking.


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Is a tune-up really necessary?

Years ago, it was much more common to hear about someone having a tune-up done on their vehicle. Now, with more sophisticated computer-controlled engine, it may seem like tune-ups aren’t a necessary part of car care. The fact is, tune-ups are an important part of vehicle maintenance and should not be overlooked.

If you look through the owner’s manual for your vehicle, you’ll notice a number of service intervals. The simple service is the regular oil and filter change and tire rotation. After that, the service intervals become more extensive. A tune-up is identified as a major service and includes replacement of the spark plugs and spark plug wires. We used to change spark plugs at regular intervals, but with today’s vehicles, manufacturers have extended those intervals to as long as 100k miles.

We see a lot of miss-fire codes when the check engine light comes on, and all too often, the failure is an ignition coil.  Nowadays, instead of a large robust coil with wires delivering a spark to the cylinder, modern engines use a “coil over plug design” which means there are many small coils.  Great design, great engineering… with one exception.  When a spark plug wears, the voltage demand rises exponentially. These new coils don’t have the reserve to meet the extra load and overheat to the point of failing. So while you may not think you need to change the spark plugs, it’s prudent to do it earlier than to wait until the recommended service interval.  If the coils don’t need to be replaced, you’ll save time, money and avoid the inconvenience of looking at that pesky check engine light.

What do we do when we tune up your car?

In addition to changing the oil and filter, there are a number of other services we perform when we tune up a vehicle. These include:

  1. Replacing spark plugs and wires. The spark plugs are a vital part in the engine combustion process and ignites the fuel. When one or more spark plugs becomes dirty, the engine will begin to misfire and you’ll experience a definite decrease in fuel economy. Your vehicle may even feel sluggish, especially when it comes to accelerating.
  2. Correcting the timing. The proper timing is important to engine performance. When the timing is off (which happens from regular wear and tear), spark plugs can fire and/or fuel can be released at the wrong time. If you have an older vehicle, timing becomes an even more important issue to the efficient operation of your car’s engine.
  3. Scanning the onboard diagnostic (OBD) system. We use a special scan tool to see if the computer is identifying any problems with the engine. Our ASE-certified technicians will also check and adjust the idle speed (if needed).
  4. Replacing the fuel filter, PVC valve and engine air filter. The combustion process requires the proper mixture of air and fuel for your engine to operate properly. Replacing these filters will allow for optimal performance.

When was the last time you had your vehicle tuned up? Have you been noticing any problems with engine performance or poor gas mileage? It may be time for you to have a tune-up done on your car. Trust your tune-up to the car care professionals at Shade Tree Garage. Click here to schedule your appointment at our auto repair shop in Morristown, New Jersey.

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Answers to FAQs about the Engine Oil Warning Light

If you were driving down the road and your engine oil warning light came on, would you know what to do? Most people don’t. As a car owner, it’s important for you to know what each of your dashboard lights is trying to communicate to you.  Some lights, like the engine oil light, are critical warning lights and indicate a serious problem. Others, like the check engine light, are there to alert you to an issue so you can have it fixed before it becomes a major repair. In this blog post, we provided the answers to some frequently asked questions about the engine oil warning light.

Q. What should I do if my oil warning light comes on?

A. Glad you asked this question. The “red” engine oil warning light on your dashboard means you need to take action right away. This light should not be ignored. When the engine oil warning light comes on, there has been a serious drop in engine oil pressure. Safely pull over as soon as you are able and call for a tow. Continuing to drive when this warning light is on could cause serious engine damage and costly repairs. If the engine seizes, you’ll either have to buy a new engine OR a new car. If you start your engine and the light comes on and stays on, turn off your car and check the oil level. If you have to add oil, make sure it’s the same as what you currently have in your engine.

Q. Why did the engine oil light come on?

A. Sufficient oil pressure is required to make sure all engine parts are properly lubricated. If the oil pressure drops too low, the engine oil warning light comes on. Some of the common reasons the light comes on are when there’s not enough oil in the engine or there’s a faulty oil pressure sending unit.

Q. What can I do to protect my vehicle’s engine?

A. To operate properly, and for the long-term, your vehicle’s engine needs to be maintained. By committing to regular oil changes, you are extending the life of your engine.  It’s also a good idea to check the level of oil in your engine each month. That way, you will be able to quickly know if your oil level is low. If you find that you have to add oil each month, there’s an oil leak that should be repaired. Just give us a call and our auto technicians will be able to locate and repair that leak for you. 

Regular car maintenance at Shade Tree Garage is the best way to make sure your car’s engine is operating properly. We keep a detailed history of all the services and repairs performed in our auto repair shop in Morristown, New Jersey. With each visit, we perform a 27-point vehicle inspection and can alert you to parts that need to be replaced. Click here to schedule maintenance or repair at Shade Tree Garage in Morristown, NJ.

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Common Summer Car Care Problems and How You Can Avoid Them

Whether you are driving to your vacation destination, heading to the Jersey shore, or just driving around town, summer driving can pose some problems if your vehicle isn’t up-to-date on its maintenance. Winter isn’t the only time of year that can wreak havoc on a vehicle engine. Extreme temperatures in either direction along with lack of regular car maintenance are responsible for many break downs by the side of the road. You can avoid three of the most common summer car care problems by doing this…

  1. Take care of your vehicle’s cooling system. An overheated engine is at the top of the list of common summer car care problems. The cooling system consists of the radiator, water pump, thermostat, fan, belts and hoses. These parts all work together to remove heat from the engine. The normal operating temperature for car engines is between 195 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s hot! If the coolant in the system is old, it won’t be able to prevent the engine from overheating. Worn hoses and belts can also break on a hot summer day, spewing coolant everywhere. To make sure your car, truck or van is protected from overheating, regularly change the engine oil and coolant. It’s also a good idea to visually inspect hoses and belts and replace them at the first sign of excessive wear and tear like cracks and bulges. If you begin to notice the water temperature gauge on the dashboard is running hotter than normal or you haven’t had maintenance performed on the cooling system in a while, bring it in to Shade Tree Garage in Morristown, New Jersey. If the engine does overheat, safely pull over and call for a tow. Continuing to drive an overheated engine will cause serious engine damage.
  2. Maintain your car’s battery: It’s just as common for a battery to fail in the summertime as it is in the winter. If your car battery is about 4 years old, you should have it tested. The Shade Tree Garage technicians can do that for you and will let you know if you need a new battery.
  3. Keep up with tire maintenance: The best practice for tire maintenance is to check the tire air pressure once a month and to add air when the tires are low (make sure you check the pressure in the morning, before you drive your vehicle). Tires that are over or under-inflated create a serious safety hazard. You’ll also end up spending more on gas and will have to replace tires more often than you should. Another good habit to develop is to regularly inspect the tires to be sure there is enough tread on them and that they are wearing evenly and don’t have bulges or cracks. When you need to replace your tires, give us a call. Not only can we help you select the right tires for your vehicle and budget, we can install, mount and balance them.

The best deterrent to these common summer car care problems is to make a commitment to regular maintenance. Click here to schedule your summer car maintenance with Shade Tree Garage in Morristown, NJ.

photo credit: Traffic in Brisbane via photopin (license)

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Is your vehicle ready for summer traveling?

Planning on traveling by car this summer? While you’re getting everything ready, don’t forget about making sure your vehicle is up for the task. Your safety is definitely worth the extra effort you’ll need to take to make sure your vehicle is vacation-ready. Plan to bring your vehicle in for an oil change and other recommended maintenance at least one week before you plan to leave. That way any problems can be fixed in plenty of time for your departure.

If you had an oil change done at Shade Tree Garage within the past month, here are some things you can check in advance of your trip:

  1. The levels and condition of all vital fluids – Check the engine oil along with the transmission, radiator, power steering and brake fluids. It’s also a good idea to check the level of and top off the windshield wiper fluid.
  2. Tires – Check the air pressure in your tires (don’t forget the spare!) and add air, if necessary. While you’re checking the air pressure, make sure there’s enough tread on the tires and that they don’t show any bulging or cracking. If you need new tires, give us a call. We can help you select the best tires for your vehicle and budget.
  3. Replace the wiper blades (if they haven’t been changed recently).
  4. Car air conditioner – Is your car’s air conditioner not working properly? Click here to read about why it may not be working and then schedule an appointment with Shade Tree Garage. 
  5. Pack an Emergency Road Kit – Even with all the pre-planning, vehicle breakdowns sometimes occur; usually at the least favorable time. A good Emergency Road Kit should include jumper cables, a first-aid kit, flares, and a flashlight.

We hope you enjoy your summer vacation!

Need to schedule your pre-trip vehicle service? Click here to make an appointment with Shade Tree Garage in Morristown, New Jersey.

photo credit: Chase your dreams via photopin (license)

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If your car air conditioner isn’t working, one of these 5 things could be the reason

A hot and humid summer day in New Jersey is definitely the wrong time to find out your car air conditioner doesn’t work. If you’re like most people, the thought of a broken car air conditioner conjures up words like “unpleasant,” “sticky,” “sweaty,” and “miserable.” Getting it fixed may bring up even further feelings of frustration. This blog post will address some of the common reasons you may need a car air conditioner repair done and what you can do to get your car blowing cool air out of the vents again.

The air conditioner in your car works just like the one you have in your home. It not only cools the air coming into your vehicle, it also reduces the humidity. There are five main parts to a car’s air conditioning system – compressor, condenser, drier, evaporator and expansion valve. A problem with any one of these parts can cause the system to fail, requiring car air conditioning repair.

5 Reasons Why Your Car’s Air Conditioner May Not Be Working

  1. Leaks in the system – Quite often, a broken car air conditioning system is the result of low refrigerant caused by a leak. To determine if a leak is the cause, we introduce dye into the system and see where it leaks out. The majority of times, we find the leak within the compressor or hoses. Note: If your car is older (pre-1994), the refrigerant will run out on its own. If your vehicle is using the R-12 Freon, you MUST have it replaced by a professional.
  2. A noisy air conditioner – There could be problems with the compressor and it may need to be replaced.
  3. Fluctuating air temperatures – If you’re noticing a fluctuation in the temperature of the air coming out of the vents, this could be the result of moisture build-up in one of the hoses or assemblies. The certified technicians at Morristown, NJ’s Shade Tree Garage can quickly and easily fix this problem.
  4. The air conditioner seems to be struggling or doesn’t work at all – In this case, the electrical system might be the culprit.
  5. Odors – If you notice funny smells coming from the air conditioning vents, there is usually a problem with bacteria that has built up in the system. You should have the evaporator flushed out.

The easiest way to deal with car air conditioning problems is to bring your vehicle to Shade Tree Garage in Morristown, New Jersey. Click here to schedule your air conditioner repair in Morristown, NJ.

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Oil changes done during week of April 11th to raise funds for ALS research

Shade Tree Garage is holding a “Name Your Own Price Oil Change” fundraiser for ALS research from April 11 through April 15 at their auto repair shop in Morristown.  Shade Tree Garage will be donating the technicians, oil and filters to the oil changes, and one hundred percent of the proceeds will be donated to the Robert Packard Center for ALS Research.

John O’Connor, the owner of Shade Tree Garage, and his family have been supporting ALS research activities ever since O’Connor’s brother, Gary, was diagnosed with the debilitating disease.  “Last year, we were able to raise over $600 during our one-day oil change fundraiser,” says O’Connor.  “Like past years, we are dedicating this fundraiser to my brother.  We hope our efforts will help in the fight against this disease.”

The fundraiser is being held from April 11th through 15th from 9:00am to 4:00pm each day at Shade Tree Garage, 171 Washington Street in Morristown, NJ.  To participate in the “Name Your Own Price Oil Change” fundraiser, interested individuals can call to schedule an appointment at 973-540-9880.  Drive-ins will also be accepted.

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We’re Celebrating 40 Years In Business!

During 2016, Shade Tree Garage is celebrating a special milestone, our 40th anniversary.

In 1976, John O’Connor opened the doors of his auto repair shop, Shade Tree Garage, at the end of a dead end street in Morristown, New Jersey. With a love for cars and people, he worked to build a strong business relationship with his customers and members of his local community. Now, 40 years later, the business has grown to one of the best independently-owned auto repair shops in Morris County.

“For decades, we have provided our customers with the very best in car care,” says O’Connor. “Early on, we made a commitment to education and equipment. Our certified technicians and staff are extremely knowledgeable when it comes to maintaining and repairing every make and model of car, foreign and domestic. We also make sure they have access to the latest in diagnostic equipment and training.” This dedication to customer service excellence has allowed Shade Tree Garage to stay at the forefront of automotive technology and build a thriving business.

O’Connor adds, “We have accomplished a lot in the past 40 years, but what really matters is what we continue to do going forward. Our employee and customer relationships are our life-blood and we will continue to make sure they know we appreciate their patronage.” Everything done by Shade Tree Garage is summed up in their motto: “At Shade Tree Garage, we give you peace of mind about the safety and reliability of your car.”

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How to Properly Care for Your Car’s Electrical System

When you get into your car and turn the key in the ignition, do you ever wonder how your vehicle works to get you to and from your destination? Don’t worry if your answer is “no.”  Most drivers don’t give the inner workings of their vehicle a second thought, until… Vehicle breakdowns have a way of putting a damper on things. Not only are they inconvenient, but the added expense of the repair work is always unwelcome. You’ll hear us say this time and time again – taking care of your vehicle means making a commitment to preventive maintenance. Every system in your car requires maintenance, including the electrical system. In this blog post, I’ll let you know what you can do to properly maintain your car’s electrical system. You’ll also learn about some telltale signs your car needs electrical system repair.

How does a car’s electrical system work?

The electrical system in your car not only powers the engine, but is also used to power the windows and door locks, defroster, headlights, radio, interior lights, clock, sun or moon roof, and more. That can put a lot of strain on an electrical system that isn’t functioning properly. Here’s how they all work together:

Battery – Your car battery provides the electrical current that’s used to operate the ignition and fuel systems.

Starter – Current from the battery supplies a small amount of power to the starter. The starter then rotates the flywheel that turns the crankshaft. If the starter isn’t working, the engine won’t work.

Alternator – Without the alternator, your car battery wouldn’t be charged.

How do you maintain a vehicle’s electrical system?

Your vehicle’s electrical system undergoes wear and tear and needs to be maintained regularly to avoid major problems. Here are a few things you can do to properly care for your car battery, starter and alternator:

  • Regularly inspect and clean the battery and battery cables  Corrosion builds up on the posts and cables of your battery. It’s a good idea to inspect the battery and cables once a month to make sure there’s no corrosion build-up. If there is, you can clean the battery posts and cables by using a mixture of baking soda and water or a corrosion removal fluid made specifically for maintaining batteries. Here are the steps to cleaning the battery posts and cables (of course we can always do this for you):

    1. Remove the battery cables from the battery posts.
    2. Clean the posts and the cable ends using the fluid and a wire brush.
    3. Rinse the battery cables and posts with water.
    4. Re-connect the battery cables (positive side first).
  • Inspect the Drive Belt once a month – Open the hood and inspect the belt looking for cracks, dryness and/or glazing along its surface. You’ll also want to check the tension of the belt. If you don’t know how to do this or don’t feel comfortable inspecting the belt, don’t worry. We always perform a 27-point courtesy inspection on your vehicle when you bring it in for service. This is one of those areas that we’ll be able to inspect and let you know when it’s time to replace the belt.
  • If your car battery is nearing 4 to 5 years of age, replace it – If you don’t, your car battery will fail to start you car one morning and you’ll be stuck waiting for a tow or service. If you’re not sure your battery should be replaced, let us know. We can test it for you.

What are the common signs that indicate car electrical system repair is needed?

  1. Your car won’t start.
  2. Your interior and/or dashboard lights seem dimmer than normal or do not light up properly.
  3. You car’s headlights dim while you’re driving at low speeds or the car is idling.

Trust your car’s electrical system to the trained technicians at Shade Tree Garage in Morristown, NJ

The best way to maintain your car’s electrical system is to bring your vehicle to Shade Tree Garage in Morristown, New Jersey. We can troubleshoot your electrical system issues and get you back on the road quickly. Click here to schedule an appointment for your car’s electrical system repair now.

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How Do I Get My Low Tire Pressure Warning Light to Turn Off?

Another pesky light is illuminated on your dashboard. This time it’s the low tire pressure warning light. Fixing the problem could be as simple as adding air to your tires. What do you do if you’ve checked the tire pressure and it’s fine? Read on to find out about your vehicle’s Low Tire Pressure Monitoring System – why you need it, how it works, and what you should do when this warning light comes on.

Why Does My Car Need a Low Tire Pressure Monitoring System?

Your vehicle is equipped with a Low Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) to help you make sure your tires are inflated to the correct air pressure. Almost 200 deaths occur each year because of tire-related crashes and a good number of them happen because tires are underinflated. Think about this for a moment. When was the last time you checked the air pressure in your tires? Do you check your tire air pressure once a month, as is recommended? The TPMS makes the job a little easier for you.

Ok, So I Need a Low Tire Pressure Monitoring System, but How Does it Work?

Your car is either equipped with a direct or indirect TPMS. The sensors in a direct TPMS monitor the air pressure within each of your tires. If the tire pressure in one or more of your tires drops 25% or more, the computer module in your vehicle will trigger the tire pressure warning light on your dashboard. With an indirect TPMS, wheel speed sensors are used to determine how fast your tires are rotating in comparison to the relative size of your tires. If a wheel starts to spin faster than it should, your car’s computer assumes the tire is underinflated and it tells the TPMS warning light to illuminate.

The Tire Air Pressure Warning Light is On. Now What?

  • If it Comes on While You’re Driving: If you’re driving and the TPMS comes on, pull over to a safe place and stop to check your tires. Unless your tire is completely flat, you’ll want to use a tire gauge to check the tire air pressure in each tire. You can find the correct tire air pressure on the label found inside the driver’s side door panel or in your vehicle owner’s manual (do not use the air pressure identified on the sidewall of your vehicle’s tires). If one or more tires is low, re-inflate them. (Click here for information on how to care for your car tires.)

Quick Tip: Always carry a tire gauge in the glove compartment so you can quickly check the air pressure once a month. Remember, to check the tires when they are cold – first thing in the morning is best.


  • If it Comes on In Cold Weather (in the morning or before you start driving): The air pressure in your tires will drop when the temperatures are colder. In fact, the colder the temperature, the more the pressure will drop. If the tire air pressure falls 25% or more, the TPMS dashboard warning light will come on. You’ll need to add air to your tires, but be careful not to fill them too much as the air in them will expand once the tires warm up.

Quick Tip: Some vehicles are equipped with a reset button for the TPMS Warning Light. Once you’ve filled the tires to the correct pressure, reset the warning light on your instrument panel.

Why Does the TPMS Warning Light Stay On or Come Back On After It’s Been Reset?

If you’ve added air but the air pressure warning light stays on, there’s a problem with your Tire Pressure Monitoring System or you have a slow leak. Assuming there is no leak in your tire, a lit TPMS warning light indicates a problem with a tire pressure sensor. One of them may be bad, the lithium-ion battery may be dead or there could be an internal fault within the TPMS. In any of these cases, you’ll need to have repair work performed on your Tire Pressure Monitoring System.

Quick Tip: If the TPMS warning light comes back on after you’ve filled the tire with air, recheck the tire to make sure it is inflated to the proper air pressure. If the tire air pressure is low, you have an air leak and should have the tire fixed or replaced.

Call Shade Tree Garage in Morristown, NJ, When You Have a Problem with Your Tire Pressure Monitoring System

If that pesky Tire Pressure Monitoring System light won’t turn off, give us a call. The ASE-certified mechanics at Shade Tree Garage can diagnose and correct whatever is causing the problem. Click here to make an appointment to have your low tire pressure monitoring system fixed at our auto repair shop in Morristown, New Jersey.

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