Category Archives: Tips and Advice

7 Simple Steps to Winterize a Car

Winter is fast approaching! Cold temperatures and winter storms can wreak havoc on a car, especially one that’s older. If you have ever gone out on a cold winter morning to start your car and heard, “click, click, click,” you know that car batteries are more likely to fail. The cold temperatures will also cause old, brittle belts and hoses to break. By taking a few preventive measures, you can winterize your vehicle so you’re ready to go when the inclement weather hits.

  1. Maximize your visibility. Have you ever struggled to see through your windshield during a winter ice or snow storm? It definitely adds to the stress of driving on less than ideal roads. The best times to replace your windshield wipers are in the fall and spring. You should also top off the windshield washer fluid and keep some extra in the trunk of your vehicle.
  2. Make sure you can be seen by other drivers. Perform a simple driveway check of all your lights to make sure they are working properly.
  3. Have the oil and filter changed. Regular oil and filter changes extend engine life and help prevent breakdowns. (Click here to save on an oil and filter change at Morristown, NJ’s, Shade Tree Garage)
  4. Check the level and condition of other vital engine fluids. Just like engine oil, it’s important to maintain the other fluids in your vehicle – especially the antifreeze and transmission fluid. Check the level and condition of each fluid once a month. If you have to replenish any of the fluid, check with your owner’s manual to make sure you’re using the proper fluid for your vehicle make. Has it been a while since you’ve replaced the antifreeze? Stop by the shop and we’ll be happy to test it for you. The antifreeze should prevent freezing to temperatures at low as -34 degrees.
  5. Replace an older car battery. If your car battery is between 3.5 to 5 years old, replace it. Cold temperatures can drain any remaining life left in an older battery, leaving you stranded on cold, winter morning.
  6. Check your tires. Once a month, check the air pressure in your tires and inspect their condition. You’ll want to make sure they have enough tread depth and are not wearing unevenly. If you need new tires, let us know. We have specials on Michelin tires and can help you select the replacement tires that are right for your vehicle and budget. It’s also a good idea to have the tires rotated whenever you change the oil.
  7. Inspect hoses and belts. In between oil changes, take a look at all the visible hoses and belts in your car’s engine. If you notice any cracking or bulging, have them replaced.

Shade Tree Garage can handle all your automotive maintenance and repair needs. As part of our commitment to giving you peace of mind about the safety and reliability of your car, we always perform a 27-point courtesy inspection with every service.  We also keep a history of the service work performed on your vehicle, so you can have your vehicle maintenance performed on a regular schedule. Contact Shade Tree Garage in Morristown, New Jersey, to schedule an appointment to winterize a car.

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Plug-In Kit for Toyota Prius: Powering Your Home or Charging Your Toyota Prius Just Got Easier

Do you own a Toyota Prius? You may have noticed a number of benefits to owning this vehicle. For one, it is extremely fuel-efficient and your hybrid car claims to be better for the environment. BUT, did you know your Prius can also be used as an alternate power source in the event you lose power in your home during a storm?

Now there’s no need to buy a portable generator and store cans of gasoline around your garage. Shade Tree Garage can install a special converter that turns your hybrid Prius into a Plug-In hybrid Prius. You can then use your car to bring power into your home when a storm, or super storm, takes out the power. It’s size and capabilities makes this converter an elegant solution.

Contact Shade Tree Garage today for more information and to schedule installation of a Plug-In kit for your Toyota Prius.

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5 Ways to Make Sure Your Car is Ready for Back-to-School Carpooling

Trust your back-to-school car care to Shade Tree Garage in Morristown, NJIf you’re a parent of school-aged children, back-to-school driving and carpooling will be the center of attention for the remainder of the year. I’m fairly certain the last thing you would want is to have your vehicle break down or to be without one because it’s in the shop undergoing a major repair. Preventive maintenance is the best way to keep your vehicle on the road. Here are a few ways you can make sure your car is ready for the back-to-school carpooling.


  1. Change the Oil & Filter – Keeping up with regular oil and filter changes not only protects your engine components, it will help extend the life of your engine.
  2. Other Vital Fluids – The other systems in your vehicle – braking, cooling, steering and transmission – also have fluids to keep them lubricated and from undergoing corrosion. Often times, though, car owners overlook the maintenance of these vital fluids. At a minimum, check the fluid level and condition of each of these once a month. Also, check with us to see when these fluids should be replaced with new.
  3. Tires – Over 50% of the vehicles on the road today have low tire pressure. Many tires on the road also have very little tread depth or have worn unevenly or prematurely. A simple tire gauge is a great investment and will help you save money at the pump and in purchasing new tires. You should check your tire air pressure once a month (use the tire pressure identified on the label inside the driver side door) and have your tires rotated each time you have the oil changed. Also inspect your tires for tread depth and uneven wear patterns. If you need new tires, give us a call. We always have a special running on Michelin tires. Read more on tire maintenance by clicking here.
  4. Headlamps and Directional Lights – The day light hours are getting shorter. To maximize visibility, your headlamps should be clear and aimed properly. You should also replace any bulbs that aren’t working.
  5. The Battery – The harshness of summer heat and winter cold can put a strain on an older battery. If your car’s battery is getting to be about 4 years old, you should have it replaced. We can check it for you when you bring your vehicle in for service.

You can make back-to-school car care simple by scheduling an appointment with Shade Tree Garage. We’re great at giving car owners peace of mind about the safety and reliability of their cars. After you’re done scheduling your appointment, head on over to our Facebook page (facebook.com/ShadeTreeGarage) and print off our latest car care coupons. You’ll find them on the “Save!” tab. Click here to schedule your back-to-school car care appointment now.


photo credit: Soccer via photopin (license)

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7 Basic Car Care Tips for College-Bound Students

car-care-tips-for-college-studentsIt wasn’t too long ago that August meant at least one of my daughters was heading back to college.  When it came to helping them prepare, I always made sure their cars were ready to go. It gave me great peace of mind knowing they were driving around in cars that were safe and reliable. I must admit, it was probably the only thing on their college agenda I could control. If your college student is getting ready to drive back to school, I have 7 basic car care tips that will help make sure his or her vehicle is safe and reliable… and you have some peace of mind.

  1. At least two weeks before your college student drives off to school, have the engine oil and filter changed in their vehicle and the tires rotated and balanced. While it’s in the shop, you may also want to have the fuel and air filters replaced and a tune-up done.
  2. Check all the other vital engine fluids and top-off or replace those fluids, as needed.
  3. If the battery is about 4 years old, have it replaced before they leave for school.
  4. Replace old hoses and belts. Over time and with wear and tear, hoses and belts become dry and brittle. You want to avoid having a belt or hose break while your student is on the road as serious engine damage could result.
  5. Have the wiper blades changed and replace any lights that aren’t working. If there’s a crack in the windshield, have it fixed or replaced.
  6. Prepare an Emergency Kit for the vehicle and include a flashlight, a first-aid kit, jumper cables, flares, and extra windshield washer fluid. Also make sure the vehicle has a tire jack and that there is a spare tire and it is in good condition.
  7. Check the air pressure in all the tires. Also, inspect the tread depth and condition of the tires. If they show excessive or uneven wear, have them replaced.

By following these tips, your college-bound student should be ready for the trip. Want even greater peace of mind? Our technicians are certified in all major areas of car repair and possess superior diagnostic skills. We’ll make sure your college student’s car is safe and reliable. Click here to make an appointment now or call us a 973-540-9880.

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Shade Tree Garage’s Child Safety Seat Program Brings About Community Partner Nomination

Shade Tree Garage nominated for Atlantic Health System's 2015 Empower AwardOn June 3rd, John and members of his family attended the 2nd Annual Empower Awards held by Atlantic Health System. In mid-May, Shade Tree Garage was nominated for the Community Partner category for work they are doing to make sure children are seated safely in cars.

As part of its vision, the Atlantic Health System desires to empower their communities to be the healthiest in the nation. They created the Community Partner award to recognize individuals and organizations within the community who are working with the hospital system to make this vision a reality.

While Shade Tree Garage didn’t win the award, John and his crew were extremely happy to be nominated and considered among many terrific local organizations.

The first Child Safety Seat Check was held at Shade Tree Garage in November of 2013. Since then, on any given month, at least 20 parents attend one of the free events to make sure their child is seated safely and securely. In fact, in 2014, over 180 parents attended one of the events at Shade Tree Garage.

Demonstration done during a free Safety Seat Check event at Shade Tree Garage in Morristown, NJDuring a Child Safety Seat Check event, the technicians talk about child passenger safety and discuss the violence of a crash, loose objects flying around in the car and the importance of correctly strapping in your child. This is especially important in the event the car rolls over. When your child is properly strapped into his or her safety seat, he or she cannot fall out – as seen in the demonstration photo to the left (no, that’s not a real baby in the photo). Several months ago, the news told of the crash in Utah where the mother died and the child was suspended upside down. The car was in a brook and the water level was inches away from the baby. Had she wiggled out of the harness most likely she would have drowned.

Shade Tree Garage and Safe Kids hold Child Safety Seat Checks every month on the second Saturday, from 8am to noon, and third Tuesday, from 5pm to 8pm.  All Child Safety Seat Check events are open and free to the public and held at Shade Tree Garage, which is located at 171 Washington Street in Morristown, New Jersey.

For more information, visit our Facebook Page (http://facebook.com/ShadeTreeGarage) or call the shop at 973-540-9880.

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Why should I replace my timing belt?

Do you need timing belt repair in Morristown, NJ? Call Shade Tree Garage.Your car’s timing belt is responsible for making certain the valves open and close at in time with the motion of the pistons. Timing belt replacement is usually among the higher-priced maintenance items, and for that reason, many car owners postpone its replacement. This can be bad and here’s why – If the timing belt breaks, its failure might cause serious engine damage. In this month’s blog post, I’ll answer some of the frequently asked questions about replacing a timing belt.

When should I have the timing belt replaced?

Timing belts wear out. When they do, serious engine damage could be the result. That’s why it’s important to replace the timing belt before it slips or breaks. The schedule for timing belt replacement depends upon the make of your vehicle. Recommended replacement intervals range between 60,000 to 100,000 miles. You can find this information inside your owner’s manual. The technicians at Shade Tree Garage in Morristown, NJ, are also pleased to answer any questions you may have about replacing your car’s timing belt

Why does it cost so much for timing belt replacement?

In most car engines, a timing belt isn’t easy to get at, making it a labor intensive job. When the time comes to replace the timing belt, it may be advisable to replace additional parts, like the tensioner, idler arm, and water pump. This is all part of what we refer to as “preventive maintenance.” The purpose of preventive maintenance is to replace a part or component before it fails. The cost to replace a timing belt is much less expensive than replacing an entire engine that fails because the timing belt breaks.

Can you inspect the belt to find out if it needs to be replaced?

No, most timing belts are hidden behind covers and other engine parts that prevent us from seeing its condition.

What kind of damage can occur if timing belt breaks?

The extent of engine damage from a broken timing belt depends on the type of engine in your vehicle.

If it’s an interference engine, the timing belt keeps the values and pistons from smashing into each other. If the timing belt snaps, you’ll end up with bent valves (at the very least), cylinder head or camshaft damage, and possibly damage to the piston and cylinder wall.

In a non-interference engine, the pistons and valves don’t occupy the same space so they won’t slam into one another if the timing belt breaks. Though there won’t be extensive damage to the engine, you will need to have your vehicle towed in for timing belt repair.

Is a timing chain the same as a timing belt?

Some cars are equipped with a timing chain instead of a timing belt. A timing chain is a fairly maintenance-free component and will rarely need to be replaced. If you don’t know whether your vehicle has a timing belt or chain, you can find the information in your owner’s manual or ask one of our technicians.

Need to have your timing belt replaced? Call the automotive repair professionals at Shade Tree Garage in Morristown, New Jersey. Click here to make an appointment for timing belt replacement now.

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Signs You May Need Exhaust System Repair

exhaust-system-repairYour vehicle’s exhaust system is made up of more than the muffler and tail pipe. It’s actually a complex system of chambers and pipes that begin at the car engine and end with the tail pipe. The main function of the exhaust system is to control emissions. Without the exhaust system, you and your passengers would be at an increased risk from the harmful gases generated in the combustion process. The components of the exhaust system are also responsible for protecting the environment, quieting engine noise and making your car run efficiently. In this blog post, I’m going to give you additional background information on how the exhaust system operates. I’ll also talk about some of the signs that point to you needing an exhaust system repair.

When a vehicle’s exhaust system isn’t functioning properly, noxious fumes can get into the passenger compartment of your vehicle. These fumes pose a serious hazard to you and anyone else in the vehicle. Carbon monoxide is odorless and can cause symptoms of headaches, dizziness, tiredness, flu-like symptoms, nausea and even loss of consciousness. A malfunctioning exhaust system will also emit more pollution into the environment. It’s important to know what the five primary components of the exhaust system are and what they do:

  1. Exhaust Manifold – The exhaust manifold is attached to the engine at the cylinder head and is responsible for collecting gases produced during combustion. After that, it delivers those gases to the exhaust pipe.
  2. Oxygen Sensor – The vehicle’s computer is continually measuring the air/fuel mixture in the engine. The oxygen sensor measures the amount of oxygen in the exhaust and alerts the computer so it can determine how much fuel to send to the combustion chambers.
  3. Exhaust Pipes – They start at the front of the engine and carry the exhaust through the entire system.
  4. Catalytic Converter – Carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides are converted into water vapor and less harmful gases.
  5. Muffler – If you’ve ever had to replace a bad muffler, you know that its job is to “silence” the loud noises produced during combustion.

What does the “Check Engine” light have to do with my vehicle’s exhaust system?

The Check Engine or Service Engine Soon lights are there to alert you to a problem with your car’s emission system. There are countless explanations why your vehicle’s onboard computer is sending you this message (read our blog on the Check Engine light). It could be a simple fix – like a loose gas cap or faulty oxygen sensor. It could also be notifying you of a more complex repair issue such as a catalytic converter that needs to be replaced. When the light turns on, the best plan of action is always to have it diagnosed and corrected as soon as you are able. By delaying any repairs, it could lead to extra strain on your vehicle causing total failure of certain components.

What are signs that I need an exhaust system repair?

The most prevalent problems faced by your vehicle’s exhaust system are rust and corrosion, typically from road salt. To help minimize the effects from road salt, hose the underside of your vehicle every few weeks during the winter months. If you start to notice a lot of rust or holes in any part of the exhaust system, have it checked. Here are some other signs to watch out for when it comes to your vehicle’s exhaust:

  • Smelling Exhaust Fumes – In the event you smell fumes within your vehicle, schedule an appointment with Shade Tree Garage in Morristown, NJ. Until you can get the vehicle in for repair, drive with the windows down to minimize any problems with exhaust fumes entering the vehicle.
  • Hissing & Popping Noises Coming from the Underside of the Vehicle – Noises from the exhaust system are an indicator there is a leak, most likely in the muffler.
  • A Decrease in Fuel Efficiency – This could indicate a broken oxygen sensor.

The simplest way to make sure your vehicle’s exhaust system is operating properly is to have it inspected periodically and to take care of minor issues before they become major exhaust system repairs. The certified auto technicians at Shade Tree Garage in Morristown, New Jersey, perform a courtesy inspection every time your automobile is in for maintenance. If we notice a problem, we’ll inform you so you’re able to deal with it right away. Give us a call today to schedule your appointment.

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8 Spring Maintenance Tips for Your Vehicle

Vehicle maintenance in Morristown at Shade Tree GarageSpring weather is right around the corner and that means you’ll be driving more. Of course, you’ll need to make sure your car or truck is ready for the scenic drives you’ll be taking to the mountains or the shore. This checklist is a good way to make sure your vehicle is ready.

  1. Remove winter tires or rotate all-season radials: For those who have winter tires, it’s time for you to have them removed and stored until the fall. If you’ve got all-season radials, you’ll want to have them rotated.
  2. Replace wiper blades: Winter weather can be quite harsh on wiper blades. Spring and Fall are ideal times to have wiper blades replaced.
  3. Check your brakes: With many of today’s vehicles, it’s fairly easy to check the amount that’s left on your brake pads. You’ll need to be able to see the pads and discs to inspect them. Of course, you can always bring your vehicle to us for a free brake inspection. Click here to visit our Brakes Page to learn about some signs that may indicate you need a brake job.
  4. Wash and wax your car: Keep your vehicle looking great with a good wash and wax.
  5. Clean your vehicle’s underbody: Build-up from salt that’s on the roads after winter storms can lead to corrosion and rusting. Be sure to rinse the underbody of your vehicle (including underneath the rear and front bumpers).
  6. Apply a protectant: The sun can be very damaging to vinyl and leather surfaces. It’s always a good idea to apply a protectant to vinyl and leather at the beginning of the warm weather seasons.
  7. Change the oil: Warmer weather puts greater demands on your engine. Make sure it’s up to the task by changing the engine oil and filter.
  8. Check the fluids: Just like the engine oil, it’s important to regularly check the level and condition of fluids in your vehicle. We’re happy to do this for you when you bring your vehicle in for an oil and filter change. You should also have these fluids (antifreeze, brake, transmission, steering) changed on a schedule that’s recommended in your owner’s manual.

The best way to enjoy driving this Spring is to bring your vehicle into Shade Tree Garage. We’ll give you peace of mind about the safety and reliability of your car. Click here to schedule your Spring maintenance appointment now.

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Preventive Maintenance Saves Car Owners Money

Bring your vehicle to Morristown's Shade Tree Garage for all your preventive auto maintenance.With the cost of many items rising in the U.S., it’s important for most to find ways of saving money. Often times, car owners will forgo preventive maintenance in an effort to keep monthly expenditures at a minimum. But is this prudent? When it comes to preventive maintenance, do you think, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?” This age-old statement means, “If something is working adequately well, leave it alone.” But, is this a statement we can apply to our vehicles, especially when safety and reliability are at stake? What would you say if I told you preventive maintenance not only keeps you safer, but it can save you money in the long-run?

To understand its importance, it’s helpful to know what preventive maintenance is and what it is meant to accomplish. Preventive maintenance is a step that is taken to keep an automobile operating efficiently and is performed before a vehicle breaks down or is in dire need of repair. Preventive maintenance includes services like periodic fluid and filter changes, tune-ups, and regular inspections to check on the level of wear and tear in certain components, like brakes and tires.

Auto repairs resulting from breakdowns are usually unexpected and unplanned expenses.  They’re also typically fairly costly.  It’s not always easy to budget for these repairs, but with preventive maintenance, you can plan your expenses and extend the life of your vehicle.  Let me illustrate this for you –

Illustration #1 – It’s wise to rotate your tires every 3,000 to 6,000 miles.  This can easily be done when you bring your vehicle in for routine oil and filter changes and costs just a few dollars extra to have done. Regular tire rotations allow your tires to evenly distribute tire wear – helping you get the most miles out of your tires while maximizing traction on all four wheels. Now, if you skip tire rotations, your tires are going to wear unevenly. That means you’ll have to replace them sooner and they won’t give you the traction you need for safe driving. You’ll also void any warranty you may have on the tires. The cost for a pair of new tires (yes, you must replace them in a pair) is at least $160.

Illustration #2 – Brake pads should be replaced when you have about 1/8” left on them (when you bring your vehicle to Shade Tree Garage, we’ll let you know when your brakes are approaching that thickness and should be replaced). The average cost for a brake job (changing only brake pads) is about $250. Now let’s assume you decided to skip having those pads replaced. What will the cost for a brake job be? First, and foremost, you risk not being able to stop your vehicle. I’m pretty sure you and I are alike in that we don’t want to risk our lives or the lives of others by driving with bad brakes. After that comes the fact that a brake pad that is severely worn can leave deep marks and grooves in the brake rotor. Depending on how deep the grooves are, the rotors would need to be either “turned” or replaced. Now, the cost for a brake job can start at $425 and go up depending on the type of vehicle.  Which would you rather pay?

What are the benefits of preventative maintenance?

  1. Reduced Repair Costs – Over the long run, the cost of preventive maintenance is far less than the costs and inconveniences associated with break downs and expensive repair bills.
  2. Improved Gas Mileage – By doing simple preventive maintenance procedures like properly inflating car tires, passing emissions tests, getting a basic tune-up and changing the fuel filter, you should expect to see up to a 10% increase in gas mileage.
  3. Breakdowns Minimized – No one wants to be stuck on the side of the road because their car breaks down.  By checking fluid levels and having oil and filter changes performed on a regular basis, the number of unexpected break downs will be reduced.  It’s also important to remember to perform maintenance on brakes, transmissions, power steering, air filters, radiators, belts, etc.
  4. Increased Passenger Safety – By properly maintaining a vehicle, the incidence of dangerous mechanical failures is reduced.

As an independent auto repair shop located in Morristown, NJ, Shade Tree Garage is the car owner’s best advocate for safety and preventive maintenance.  With each visit to our shop, we perform a courtesy 27-Point Safety Inspection on your vehicle.  This allows us to alert you to maintenance issues before they become costly repair problems.  We also keep a detailed record of all the work performed so you will know when your vehicle is due for a specific type of service.  Click here to schedule your next preventive maintenance appointment with Shade Tree Garage.

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