tire inflation

The Importance of Proper Tire Inflation

What supports the weight of your vehicle? If you answered your tires, you are wrong. It’s the air pressure inside the tires that supports the weight. This is why proper tire inflation is so important.
The correct tire pressure can help you save money on fuel because over- or underinflated tires can cause your engine to work harder. It’s hard to say which is worse, over- or underinflated tires as both can cause serious problems.
Underinflated tires. Underinflated tires will have you driving on the sidewalls. The sidewall part of the tire is normally thinner than the part of the tire you drive on – that being the tread. If you are driving on an underinflated tire, a puncture could easily rupture the sidewall and result in a tire blowout. Underinflated tires increase the area of the tire you are driving on and can result in the sidewalls wearing out, since you are now driving on them. Also, fuel mileage can be reduced by one MPG or more.
Overinflated tires. Overinflated tires will cause uneven wear on the tread as all the wear is concentrated in the center. An overinflated tire is stiff and unyielding and the size of its footprint on the road is reduced. If weather conditions are less than optimal, you are reducing the amount of control you are exercising over your car. Overinflated tires cannot isolate road irregularities (potholes or debris) as well and will result in a harsher ride.
Best Practices. You cannot set tire pressure and forget about it. Tire pressure should be checked at least once a month and before starting on any long trip. You need to make sure the ravages of time, changes in ambient temperature or a small tread puncture have not caused it to change.
The recommended tire pressure is the vehicle’s recommended cold tire pressure. Tire pressure should be checked when the vehicle is cold, let’s say in the morning before you drive more than a few miles or before rising ambient temperatures. Checking your tire pressure is a very simple process and takes only one instrument. You can buy a tire gauge at any auto parts store, big- box store, or online. A good gauge will cost anywhere from $5 to $15.
Use the tire pressure recommended by your car’s manufacturer, not the “max pressure” numerals found on the tire sidewall. By using the recommended pressure, you will get the best combination of performance, ride comfort, tire life, and fuel economy.
If you have any questions about tire inflation or anything else related to your vehicle’s health, be sure to give us a call at 205-663-6088. If you suspect any issues with your vehicle, please come into Melton Automotive and have our trained ASE-certified technicians take a look!

oil loss

Oil Loss Prevention

The vast majority of vehicles on the road today will experience some form of oil loss at some point during their lifespan. More often than not, it’s just usually minor dripping and smaller leaks that are preventable but, sometimes, more significant oil leaks occur which require the attention of an experienced mechanic.
Most commonly, improperly-sealed drain bolts are the cause of a small oil leak. When having an oil change performed, your oil pan is drained and then resealed, often with a new washer being fastened around the drain bolt. Cheap “quickie lube” oil change services may not include a new washer, which may result in new leaks after the service is performed. If you notice a leak shortly after having an oil change done and it persists for a couple of days, there’s a good chance you could need a new washer.
Small oil leaks are also common in older vehicles because of mechanical motion as well as dramatic temperature fluctuations that occur within combustion engines. Frequently checking oil levels is important. If the oil stains pavement, kitty litter or crushed drywall will absorb the oil.
In a worst-case scenario, oil loss will seemingly come out of nowhere. Most modern vehicles come equipped with tools that notify drivers when oil pressure drops, usually in the form of a light or computer-based alert. When you receive a notification like this, you should stop driving ASAP since friction from oil loss can damage vital motor components and potentially lead to engine failure.
Abnormal oil loss without any indication such as oil stains or an oily engine may indicate a much deeper problem. This could be a signal that oil is being burnt internally or possibly seeping past the pistons into the combustion chamber. A broken head gasket could also be in pay. These problems are quite serious and will lead to reduced fuel efficiency as well as power loss issues for your vehicle.
If you think you might be losing oil, bring your vehicle to an ASE-Certified Technician who will diagnose the problem and will offer solutions based on the nature and severity of the oil leak. If you have any questions/concerns about oil loss or anything else related to your vehicle, swing by our shop in Alabaster or give us a shout at 205-663-6088!

car battery

Is It Time For A New Car Battery?

Car batteries are one of the most important components of a vehicle’s engine. It must provide the electricity to start your car and power your accessories. Without a working battery, you’re going nowhere. But how do you know when it’s time for a new car battery?

You should always have an one of our certified technicians take a look at the battery as part of a thorough vehicle inspections. Heat, cold, and temperature swings can affect the battery’s performance, so check your battery at the change of seasons.

Watch for warning signs, including:
-Fraying cables
-Corrosion on the terminals
-Trouble starting your vehicle

An average car battery usually has a lifespan of 3-5 years. Keep track of the age of your battery and have it tested more frequently as it gets older. We recommend keeping the vehicle’s maintenance records for all services, including purchasing a new battery. Our technicians will also keep track of the maintenance schedule for your vehicle.

Between routine inspections, periodically check the battery yourself at home. Look for fraying cables, corrosion, and white or green powdery substance on the battery itself. Battery acid is very corrosive. If you find evidence of a leak, including the powder-like corrosion at the terminals, bring your vehicle and battery into Melton Automotive.

Our technicians will inspect your battery to determine if the corrosion can be cleaned and the leak fixed. If the damage is severe enough, your vehicle may be due for a new battery.

Even young batteries can be damaged in the summer heat we’ll be getting soon here in Alabaster. Don’t be left high and dry on the side of the road. Keeping track of your battery’s age, watching for warning signs, and regular inspections can help you ensure your vehicle has the power it needs to keep you safe on the roads in Shelby County.


Don’t Neglect Your Vehicle This Fall!

It’s a frequently-seen sight when you are on the road today: a car on the side of the road. When you see this it’s more than likely that the car has broken down, leaving the car owner stranded waiting for a tow truck to come and take it to a shop… They probably wish they’d kept up with their vehicle maintenance schedule!
Unfortunately, it’s becoming more and more common for motorists to hold off on what would should be considered routing maintenance for their cars. While this may save you time/money and seem harmless in the short term, over time this can cause serious trouble with your vehicle. Eventually, seemingly insignificant things like general maintenance on your spark plugs, batteries and fluids add up and can mean the difference between breaking down on your way home from work or getting home hassle-free. Simply because an issue isn’t blatantly obvious doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be taken care of on a specific timetable.
Often, problems with your car don’t give any warning ahead of time but just pop up when regular maintenance goes unattended. The vast majority of breakdowns can be avoided easily and at a low cost if routine inspections and tune-ups are conducted. It’s important to keep in mind that these inspections are nominally-priced compared to what a towing bill will be, not to mention the financial-cost of major repairs and the time-cost of being without your vehicle for an extended period.
If you are able to keep up on your car maintenance schedule, your vehicle will be healthy and thus more likely to go breakdown-free, saving you time/money in the long-term and keeping you and your family safe on the roads! Be sure to call us at 205-663-6088 or click HERE to set up a maintenance schedule for your car at your earliest convenience.


steering wheel

Steering Wheel Shakes

In an ideal world, when you hit the road in your vehicle the surface you’re driving on is even and smooth and you cruise along without any issues whatsoever. Unfortunately, roads are rarely perfectly smooth and even when they are, you can still have issues steering and navigating the terrain you’re driving on.
The components in your vehicle all wear out and will need to be replaced at some point. Several components are connected to your steering wheel, which means that when you feel shaking of any degree there could be several possible reasons for it.
Here are a few reasons why your steering wheel might be vibrating while you’re driving:
If your steering wheel is shaking violently whenever you stop or slow down, there’s a good chance that your rotors are worn out or warped and you should have your brake system inspected immediately.
If you have an issue with your engine that causes vibrations to emanate, you’ll probably feel the tremors throughout your vehicle, but the steering wheel will feel them the most. Fuel delivery and air induction are two of the potential issues that can lead to engine vibrations.
If your car has been in a fender bender or been involved with an impact of any kind lately, there is a decent chance your axle has been affected and might be bent. When you’re driving with a damaged axle, your steering wheel will shake more violently the faster you go but there will be vibrations no matter what your speed is. If your steering wheel is jerking to the left or right, your driveshaft is most likely damaged and you should have your vehicle towed to a garage ASAP.
Given that your steering wheel is responsible for telling your wheels which direction to go, when your tires are improperly configured you’re liable to feel it while you’re steering. If your tires aren’t properly inflated or if they have bald spots, worn out tread, etc., your steering will be affected and you should have your tires changed or rotated in the near future.
Other components that could affect your steering if they’re damaged in any way include wheel bearings, tie rods and ball joints. If you have any concerns about your vehicle’s health or safety, be sure to give us a call at 205-663-6088 or get in touch with us online – our ASE-certified technicians can answer any questions you might have!

tire maintenance

Keep Your Tires in Good Shape

When it comes to vehicle safety, tires are at or near the top of the Importance List. What many car owners don’t realize however, is that tires require regular maintenance in order to maintain their integrity and keep your vehicle safely on the road. With that in mind, are a few quick tire maintenance tips for your consideration:
Rotating/Balancing. Your front and rear tires perform different functions regardless of what wheel-drive your vehicle is and rotating them regularly is imperative to avoiding wear and tear. The American Automobile Association recommends this be done every 6,000 miles or so.
Alignment. Your vehicle’s suspension will become warped if your wheels are misaligned which can lead to serious problems for your car and adversely affect your tires’ lifespan; AAA recommends you get your wheels aligned every 12,000 miles or anytime you feel your steering veering to one side or another.
Proper Inflation. If your tires have too much air in them they can bulge which will lead to the sides wearing out quickly. If your tires aren’t inflated enough, they will sag which will also lead to rapid disintegration. Be sure to keep your tires at the factory-recommended PSI levels in order to get the most out of them long-term.
As always, if you have any questions about tire maintenance or anything else relating to your vehicle’s health be sure to give us a call at (205) 663-6088 or click HERE to schedule an appointment with our ASE-certified technicians!

timing belt

The Importance of the Timing Belt

Like every other component in your vehicle, your timing belt will ultimately wear out and need to be replaced. Waiting until yours is broken to get a new one can highly problematic though; avoiding this scenario is definitely something you want to avoid.
The majority manufacturers recommend that your timing belt be changed out every 95,000 miles or so. Waiting until you reach this mileage mark isn’t advisable though, and being proactive in replacing your timing belt can actually save you a fair amount of money.
Comprised of rubber and high-tension fibers as well as various dense polymers, timing belts are responsible for synchronizing of your crank/camshaft(s) to ensure that your engine’s valves open/close in the proper intervals during the intake/exhaust stroke process. When your timing belt breaks, this causes the engine to shut down – sometimes immediately.
The two most common reasons for timing belts to fail are age/miles and the seizure of your vehicle’s water pump. If your water pump seizes, key gears turning which creates a force that breaks your belt. Cooling system failure, which can stem from not flushing your coolant regularly, is a primary instigator of this problem.
Stripped teeth are also a cause of timing belt failure as having a smooth section on the belt results in drive clog slippage. If your belt isn’t connected properly or if its tension isn’t properly calibrated, it will wear out faster than normal. Foreign rubbing against your timing belt can also lead to premature failure.
If you think you need to have a belt replaced or if you have any questions/concerns whatsoever about any other component in your vehicle, be sure to give our ASE-certified technicians a call at 205-663-6088 or schedule an appointment with us online. We’re here to help the drivers of Alabaster stay safely on the road year-round!


Time for New Tires?

Trying to figure out when the right time to change your vehicle’s tires can be tough. You obviously don’t want to wait too long and drive around with a dangerously low amount of tread on your tires but you don’t want to get them changed too early either since it can be an expensive undertaking.
Thankfully, there’s an extremely simple way to determine what stage of their life cycle your tires have reached.
The official recommendation from auto experts is that 1/16 of an inch is the minimum amount of tread you want to have on your tires for them to be safe. How do you measure this though?
The answer is simple – grab a penny!
Insert the copper coin into your tire’s tread with President Lincoln’s head facing towards you. If Honest Abe’s noggin is completely visible, that means it’s time for you to get some new tires.
Be sure you conduct this test on different sections of your tire. In the event that your vehicle’s alignment is off at all or if a regular rotation schedule hasn’t been followed, your tires will wear out unevenly and there could be bald spots on one or more tires.
If you’re a bit on the cautious side, you’ll probably want to change your tires out when their tread is between 1/16 and 1/8 of an inch thick. If you get too close to the 1/16 limit, bad road/weather conditions could become tough to negotiate.
For checking this threshold, the process is equally as simple – grab a quarter! The gap between George Washington’s head and a quarter’s edge is 1/8 of an inch so if you can see all of our first president’s cranium in its entirety, the clock is ticking on your tires’ life cycle.
To get the most out of your tires, we recommend making sure they’re properly inflated all times, rotate regularly and stay on top of your alignment schedule. If you have any further questions about your vehicle’s health, be sure to give our ASE-certified technicians a call at 205-663-6088 or schedule an appointment online!


Making the (Octane) Grade

When you pull into a local gas station in Shelby County to fill your empty tank, it may be tempting to reach for the fuel with the lowest price tag. After all, how can one little number be so important?

But reaching for the regular grade isn’t always the right choice. Here are a few FAQs we get about octane rating:

What do the numbers on the gas pump mean anyway?

The numbers on a pump indicate the octane rating of the fuel. This rating (87, 89, 93, etc.) relates to its ability to be compressed in the engine without igniting prematurely.

In a typical engine, gas and air are combined in the cylinders then compressed into a smaller volume. Once compressed, the fuel is ignited with a spark plug to create the combustion that powers your vehicle.

But different engines compress the gasoline and air at varying ratios – high performance engines often have higher compression ratios that gives it more horsepower.

The octane grade relates directly to the compression in the engine. Higher octane gasoline can withstand more pressure and compression without spontaneously igniting.

Can I use the cheaper gas to save money?

When the fuel ignites on its own (during compression instead of with the spark plug), you’ll notice a knocking sound in the engine. Did you recently fill the tank? You might be using the wrong grade of gasoline.

If you notice this sound, bring your vehicle into our shop right away. Pre-ignition can damage the engine, so catching the problem early can help prevent further damage and costly repairs.

Uncontrolled combustion inside the cylinders can cause severe engine damage. Using the lowest grade of gasoline might save you a few pennies now, but it’ll cost you much more when you have to repair or replace your engine later.

Is so-called “premium” fuel better for the engine?

Higher octane or “premium” fuel will not boost the performance of your vehicle. If you put 93 grade fuel into your engine that calls for 87, you won’t see any increase in power, speed, or performance. Horsepower comes from the engine, not the fuel.

It’s always best to use the grade of fuel recommended in your owner’s manual. The manufacture can calculate the best octane rating based on the compression ratio and running temperatures inside your engine. Use the recommended fuel – if your engine calls for regular, there’s no need to pay more for premium!

Will I ever need to change fuel types?

As your car gets older, you may notice changes in its performance. If you notice knocking or pinging as you drive, you may need to consider putting in a higher octane. Carbon deposits inside the cylinders can raise the combustion ratio, requiring higher octane. However, with proper care and maintenance, you can keep your engine in its best condition to keep running as it was designed!

Services like regular oil changes, cooling system flushes, fuel injection cleaning, and motor vac will keep your engine in good shape for a long and healthy life. Stop by our shop regularly to make sure its preventative maintenance is being taken care of.

If you have any questions about the right gasoline for your vehicle, different fuel types, or the services needed to care for your engine, be sure to call our team of auto experts at (205) 663-6088 or click HERE to schedule an appointment at our Alabaster location!


Three Fluids to Check this Month

In order to run smoothly, your vehicle’s engine is dependent upon countless moving parts and fluids. Just like the components in your engine, vehicle fluids need to be tended to regularly in order to ensure they’re in good working order and can perform their particular functions at a high level.
With that in mind, here are three fluids you might consider having checked and potentially flushed this month as you hit the road here in Alabama:
Antifreeze/Coolant. This invaluable fluid can appear to be in good shape for a significant amount of time as it typically maintains the same bright green hue it had when it was first installed for a while. Worn out or contaminated antifreeze/coolant can lurk at the bottom of your system though, and when this older fluid courses through your engine it can cause costly corrosive damage.
Motor Oil. As a rule of thumb, you should have your oil changed every 3,000 miles or so but it’s not a bad idea to have a mechanic check your levels and consistency before hitting this deadline. If you go beyond the 3,000-mile threshold without getting an oil change done, the oil in your vehicle will thicken and become unable to properly lubricate your engine which will lead to major problems.
Transmission Fluid. If your vehicle’s transmission fluid is red-clear in color, it’s most likely in good shape. If it’s a darker shade of red, your transmission could be in trouble. Your transmission fluid should typically be changed out every 20,000 miles or so, but you should monitor its coloration closely to see if this should be done sooner.
While they might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about your vehicle’s health, its fluids are vital to your engine’s ability to properly run. By staying on top of your fluids’ flush and top-off schedules, you’ll be preventing damage to key engine components and avoiding any potential breakdowns. Be sure to call Melton Automotive at 205-663-6088 to set up a preventative maintenance plan for your vehicle that includes all mechanical fluids!