Category Archives: Tips and Advice

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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Children benefit from Shade Tree Garage’s giving efforts in 2014

Free Child Safety Seat Events, Morristown, NJ - Shade Tree GarageLast year, the owner of Shade Tree Garage made several contributions that had significant benefits for children of all ages in his local community.  Because of the twice-a-month free Child Safety Seat checks, over 180 parents are now able to make sure their children are seated safely and securely in their vehicles.  Additionally, children (ages 8 to 10) on the travel teams for the Morris United Soccer Club received free soccer gear and the club received checks resulting from a portion of Michelin tire purchases.

“As a long-standing business member in Morristown, I have a strong desire to give back to the community that has helped our shop become a success,” states John O’Connor, owner of Shade Tree Garage.  He adds, “The Child Safety Seat Checks are a no-brainer for me, especially now that I have several grandchildren.  When it comes to supporting the Morris United Soccer Club, I’ve been coaching soccer for decades.  It’s nice to be able to support an organization that’s brought me much enjoyment over the years.”

To make sure parents know how to properly install and use child car safety seats, Shade Tree Garage and Safe Kids hold Child Safety Seat Checks on the second Saturday, from 8am to noon, and third Tuesday, from 5pm to 8pm, of every month.  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.

“During the free Child Safety Seat Check events, we have certified technicians on hand to examine the child safety seat to make sure it is safely installed and appropriate for the height and weight of the child,” states O’Connor.  For more information, interested individuals can go to our Facebook Page ( or call the shop at 973-540-9880.


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Common Reasons the Check Engine Light Comes On and What to Do

Check Engine light on? Let Morristown, NJ's Shade Tree Garage fix it.The Check Engine light or Service Engine soon light is one of the most misunderstood warning lights on a vehicle dashboard.  It could come on from something as simple as a loose or cracked gas cap to a more complex issue, like a problem with the catalytic converter.  Despite what some websites will tell you, it’s not always as simple as going to your local parts store and having them check the code from your vehicle’s onboard diagnostic system.  In this post, I’ll give you some background on the Check Engine light and Service Engine Soon lights.  I’ll also identify the most common reasons this light will come on and what you should do about it when it does happen.

What is the Check Engine Light or Service Engine Light telling you when it comes on?

Your vehicle is equipped with a computer (also referred to as an Electronic Control Module or ECM) that controls how your vehicle operates.  The ECM’s job is to keep your vehicle running at optimum efficiency while also minimizing emissions.  Within the ECM is an onboard diagnostic system that is constantly evaluating the electronic sensors and emission control systems, including the catalytic converter.  When the system detects a potential problem, it turns on the Check Engine light or Service Engine Soon light on your dashboard.  The best part about this system is that it often alerts you to a little problem long before it becomes a big problem.

Why you shouldn’t ignore this light?

The whole purpose behind the Check Engine or Service Engine Soon light is to alert you to a minor problem before it becomes a bigger issue.  While you don’t need to immediately pull off the road and have your vehicle towed when this light comes on, you should schedule an appointment to have it fixed right away.  Failing to do so could cause serious damage to components like the catalytic converter and that’s an expensive part to replace.

What are some of the common reasons the light comes on and what should you do?

Reason #1 – A Loose or Faulty Gas Cap – Yes, surprisingly this can cause the Check Engine or Service Engine Soon light to come on.  This is a simple and inexpensive fix – one you can easily do yourself.  Start by taking the gas cap off and putting it back on.  You’ll then need to drive the vehicle a few times to get the Onboard Diagnostic (OBD) system to reset and turn the light off.  If the light remains on after a few drives, you may want to consider replacing the gas cap.  When doing this, you’ll want to get a cap that was specifically made for your vehicle.  Again, you have to drive the vehicle a few times for the ODB system to reset.

If you go through all these steps and the light remains on, you’ll want to schedule an appointment with Shade Tree Garage as soon as possible.  As I mentioned in the opening paragraph of this post, diagnosing the reason a Check Engine or Service Engine Light comes on isn’t as simple as getting the ODB codes read at your local parts store.  For some codes there are countless problems that could be causing the issue.  Our ASE-Certified Technicians have the training and experience to find the source (or sources) of the problem and implement a solution to correct it.

Here are some of the other common reasons that will cause the Check Engine or Service Engine Soon light to come on:

Reason #2 – Faulty Oxygen Sensor:  For your car’s engine to operate efficiently, it requires a particular ratio of oxygen to gasoline.  When there is too little oxygen, your engine will be running “rich” from gasoline that is left over from the combustion process.  Too much oxygen causes poor engine performance and can even damage the engine.  The oxygen sensor works with the engine’s computer to determine and adjust the ratio of air to gasoline.  When the sensor is faulty, the computer cannot properly adjust the air/gasoline ratio and the light comes on.  A malfunctioning sensor can cause loss of engine power and will eventually foul your spark plugs and catalytic converter.

Reason #3 – Spark Plugs & Wires: The spark plugs and wires in your vehicle wear out and need to be replaced.  Worn plugs and wires will affect the combustion process.  Plugs that are misfiring are noticeable when you accelerate – you may feel a little jolt.  Don’t wait until the spark plugs and wires are completely worn out.  Have them replaced according to the schedule recommended by the vehicle manufacturer.

Reason #4 – Mass Airflow Sensor is Faulty: The mass airflow sensor measures the amount of air going through the air filter.  It then tells the computer how much fuel is needed based on the amount of air entering the engine.  With a faulty mass airflow sensor, you notice poor gas mileage.  The vehicle may also begin to stall.  If you delay replacing the mass airflow sensor, you risk damaging the spark plugs, oxygen sensor, and/or the catalytic converter.

Final Comments About the Check Engine Light

Remember, failing to fix any issue that causes your Check Engine or Service Engine Soon light to come on can end up causing the catalytic converter to fail.  Trust me; you don’t want this to happen.  Because of the metals they use in a catalytic converter – – platinum, palladium and/or rhodium – they are very expensive to replace.

By maintaining your vehicle and taking care of small problems when they first occur, you’ll be able to avoid, or at least minimize, major repairs on your vehicle.  If your Check Engine or Service Engine Soon light is on, click here to schedule an appointment with Shade Tree Garage in Morristown, NJ.


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4 Keys to Maintaining Your Tires

Trust your tire maintenance, wheel alignments and suspension system maintenance to Shade Tree GarageYes, if you want them to last their expected lifetime, your tires require maintenance. Based upon the kind of automobile you own, tires can be a pretty hefty investment. Research has shown that tires are among the most overlooked items when it comes to vehicle maintenance. Your car tires are designed to work with the steering and suspension systems to keep your vehicle on the road. Over-inflated, under-inflated, misaligned, and/or dry-rotted tires can quickly become safety hazards. By adhering to a few tire maintenance tips, your tires will last longer and your vehicle will operate more efficiently.

Key #1 – Check Tire Inflation on a Monthly Basis

When your tires are properly inflated, they will wear evenly, help you conserve gas and improve handling. Extreme weather temperatures will affect the air pressure in your vehicle’s tires. To make sure your tires are always inflated to the correct air pressure, it’s wise to check them once a month. Invest in a tire pressure gauge and keep it handy. Checking the air pressure is a fast and simple process. If you don’t know how, we’d be happy to show you the next time you bring your vehicle in for service. When checking the pressure and filling your tires with air, don’t use the pressure that’s noted on the sidewall of the tire. The correct tire pressure will be listed on a label on the inside of the driver’s door. One last note – Check the tire pressure first thing in the morning, while the tires are still cold.

Tire pressure warning light on? Call Shade Tree Garage in Morristown, NJIs the tire pressure warning light staying on despite having the proper air pressure? Schedule an appointment with Shade Tree Garage in Morristown, New Jersey. This warning light is designed to illuminate when one or more of your tires are under-inflated. When the light comes on, check the tire pressure and add air, as necessary. If you’ve been driving and this light turns on, your tire is probably losing air quickly. Do not drive on a flat tire as it could pose serious safety risks and will cause damage to the wheel. If the tires are inflated properly and the light remains on, make an appointment with Shade Tree Garage. Sensors will sometimes go bad and require replacement.

Key #2 – Have Tires Rotated Regularly
Your tires will wear evenly and will last longer if they’re rotated regularly. The easiest way to be sure this is done on a regular schedule is to rotate the tires every time you change the engine oil and filter. When it comes time to replace your tires, for safety reasons, it’s highly recommended to replace all 4 simultaneously.

Key #3 – The Front End Suspension and Vehicle Alignments
Worn out steering or suspension system parts will result in tires that wear out quicker than they should. Steering and suspensions systems that are worn out can fail and pose a serious safety hazard. Your vehicle’s suspension helps you keep control of your automobile. Moreover, the suspension allows your vehicle to smoothly drive around curves and make turns without rolling. If you notice excessive bounce when you hit a bump or your vehicle sways from side to side around curves or when you turn, have the suspension system checked. It’s also wise to have the wheels aligned at least once a year (more if you hit a curb or pothole). The technicians at Shade Tree Garage are equipped and knowledgeable in handling all of your steering and suspension system repairs. We can also perform wheel alignments.

Key #4 – Inspect Your Tires When You Check Tire Pressure
At least once each month, complete a visual inspection of your tires. Inspect the tread depth and check on how your tires are wearing. If you notice any uneven wear or you find that very little tread depth is left, have your tires replaced right away.

Bring Your Vehicle to Shade Tree Garage, New Jersey for Tire Maintenance & Replacement

By following these key steps, your tires should last their expected lifetime. When it comes to replacing them, give Shade Tree Garage a call. We can assist you to in selecting the right tires for your vehicle and budget. You can choose from a number of different tire manufacturers and we often run specials on Michelin tires. If you need any repair or maintenance on your vehicle’s suspension and steering systems, we can handle that too. Click here to make an appointment with Shade Tree Garage, in Morristown, New Jersey.


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6 Signs You May Have Issues with Your Transmission

Trust your transmission repair to the professionals at Shade Tree Garage, Morristown, New JerseyIt’s always advisable to deal with your vehicle at the first sign of a problem. By doing this, you’ll avoid the trouble and cost of a car breakdown. Routine maintenance is particularly important when it comes to your vehicle’s transmission. Repairs on transmissions can be very expensive. Because of this, you should be on the lookout for anything that seems unusual so you can have it fixed immediately. Here are 6 signs you might have problems with your transmission:

1. A Burnt Smell or Transmission Fluid that is Black – Your transmission’s fluid, when in good condition, is a bright red color and has a sweet odor. If it smells burnt or is dark red or black, have your transmission checked. The fluid is meant to lubricate the various components in your automobile’s transmission. Additionally, it’s supposed to keep your transmission from overheating.

2. When in Neutral it Makes Noise – If your transmission makes a noise when it’s in neutral, this could be an indication there is a problem with the transmission oil pump. The filter may also be clogged. Have your transmission checked if you hear any noise whenever your vehicle is in neutral.

3. Slipping Gears – An RPM over 3,500, a delay in acceleration, inability to shift into reverse, or difficulty shifting into gears are signs your transmission is slipping. A slipping transmission doesn’t necessarily mean it will be an expensive repair. The key is to have it looked at right away. A transmission that slips could be the result of something as simple as a low fluid level or fluid that needs to be changed. It could also be an indication of a more complicated repair issue like a solenoid or torque converter.

4. Bright Red Fluid Under Your Vehicle – If you notice a leak of bright red fluid on the driveway or in your garage, schedule an appointment to have us find and repair the leak.

5. Sounds – Grinding, shaking, humming, and clunking sounds are signs or symptoms your transmission isn’t operating properly.

6. Hesitating – A transmission is built to smoothly transition from one gear to another. If it hesitates or won’t shift into the next gear, there is something wrong.

Maintaining Your Vehicle’s Transmission

Regular transmission maintenance is the best way to prevent major transmission problems. A lot of modern cars no longer have a dip stick for checking the actual fluid level and condition.  Don’t worry about it since these cars have onboard computers that monitor the condition of the fluid.  Plus, the computers will adapt as the transmission wears, preventing any slippage from occurring.  We have the ability to communicate with these cars and can identify wear or fluid breakdown before a failure occurs.

We should also touch on “lifetime” fluid.  Whose lifetime?  Mine? The car’s? The lifetime of the gearbox?  Even if the fluid can still lubricate, there are components of the fluid that do breakdown. Our experience shows that the transmission operates better with regular fluid services. You should have the transmission fluid and filter changed every 30,000 miles. If you have never changed the transmission fluid and filter and your vehicle is approaching 100,000 miles, check with us prior to having it changed.

The ASE-certified technicians at Shade Tree Garage, in Morristown, NJ, are happy to speak with you about a proper maintenance schedule for your vehicle. In addition, we can perform periodic maintenance as well as handle any transmission repairs. Don’t postpone work that needs to be done on your transmission. If you believe you have a problem, click here to schedule an appointment for transmission maintenance or repair.


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