Category Archives: Tips and Advice

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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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 ( 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 ( 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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