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!

brake failure

Brake Failure Indicators

One of the scariest scenarios that can happen to a driver is brake failure. You do NOT want to be driving down a steep hill and all-of-a-sudden lose your ability to stop.
As such, if you’re a car owner you should always be on the lookout for signs of brake failure, including the following:
If you put your foot on your brake pedal and it starts to vibrate or shake, your rotors are most likely warped, and you should head to a mechanic ASAP.
Squealing of Brakes
This warning sign can potentially be missed if you drive with your windows up, a/c on and stereo blaring, so try to make a point to roll your windows down and switch off your air/music every once and a while. The squealing can also be soft at first but the louder it gets, the worse shape your brakes are in. Be sure that the squealing is persistent though since sometimes a noise similar to mild squealing can come about after a rain storm or carwash.
Grinding Brakes
When you push on your brake pedal and you hear a deep grinding, this is a clear indicator that your brake pads are damaged or worn beyond safety limits and need to be replaced quickly.
ABS Light On
There are several reasons that your ABS light may come on at odd times, including having metal particles in the brake system or complete brake system failing. Either way, this is an obvious indicator that something is wrong.
Brake Pedal Touching Floor
One potential problem with your brake system is that it may start to lose fluid and fluid pressure, allowing you to push the brake pedal all the way to the floor. This is a possible indicator of a leak in your brake system.
Brakes Grabbing
While you are driving and if you ever feel your vehicle pull to one side or another when you apply your brakes, this may be an indicator of your car’s brake lining wearing unevenly or in need of a complete flush of the brake fluids.
If any of these brake failure indicators sound familiar, click HERE give us a call at (205) 663-6088 and schedule an appointment with our ASE-certified technicians!

car battery

Keep Your Battery Running in the Summer Heat

It’s May which means summer is right around the corner and with that comes more heat for your vehicle’s various components to deal with – including your battery.
Higher temperatures may help out with your battery’s capacity, making turning the engine over easier, the extra heat can also expediate the deterioration process for your battery as its current conduction grids will erode at a quicker rate which reduces the unit’s lifespan.
The rate of “sulfation” – the build-up of lead sulfate crystals – is also increased with higher temperatures. When your battery becomes sulfated, its charging power is affected and its cranking power is reduced.
Here are a few tips to avoid battery problems this summer:
Go Premium. Using a high-quality batter such as an Absorbent Glass Mat (AGM) will cut down on the risk of sulfation or other issues such as parasitic drain.
Keep it Cool. By simply parking or storing your vehicle in a temperate location such as a garage, the life of your battery can be extended significantly.
Stay Active. An inactive battery will be more susceptible to parasitic drains so be sure to start your engine regularly and keep the juices flowing.
Power Electronics Down. Electronics are the main cause of battery drainage so make sure that your electronics are properly shut down when you exit your vehicle.
Charge! Batteries need to be charged properly in order to ensure they’ll sustain themselves for the length of their expected lifespan so be cognizant of your unit’s charge level and add some juice if need-be.
Your vehicle’s battery is critical to its health so be sure to follow the above suggestions this summer to keep your car running optimally. Give our ASE-certified technicians a call at 205-663-6088 if you have any further questions or if you’d like to schedule an appointment!


Biggest Driving Distractions

Preventative maintenance is important for keeping your vehicle safely on the road, but just as important is safe driving practices! This includes avoiding driving distractions, which can seem minor but have major consequences…
Hundreds of accidents happen every day and 90% of all car crashes are caused by driver error. Being less than totally focused on driving when you’re behind the wheel is dangerous to your vehicle and everyone on board… So put down that tube of lipstick and lock up your cell phone!
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the top 10 distractions to drivers are:
1. Cell phones – Wireless devices are the number one culprit for distracted driving. More than a quarter of all crashes involve mobile device use. From phone calls to texts, smart phones to tablets, these devices are a hazard.
2. Passengers – Chatting with your fellow travelers will definitely affect your focus so try to ask your passengers to respect your role as the driver and help you concentrate on the task at hand.
3. Internal distractions – Fiddling with your stereo, looking for gum, munching on fast food… there are a lot of things inside your vehicle that can take your focus off of the road.
4. Adjusting controls – Reprogramming radio stations, tinkering with dashboard settings, getting the A/C just right… try to set up the accessories and controls inside your vehicle before you head out.
5. Personal Hygiene – If you’re running late, it’s tempting to finish getting ready in the car. But applying make-up, using an electric razor for a last minute shave, and checking your refection in the mirror can be dangerous.
6. Food – Eating at the wheel, from opening a can of soda, unwrapping a burger, fishing for fries in the bag, to bringing the food to your mouth takes at least one hand off the steering wheel.
7. External distractions – From bill boards to pedestrians, you can be just as distracted outside of the car. Save the people watching for when you’re in the passenger seat.
8. Talking – Boredom in the car can lead you to sing along with the radio or talk to yourself. Just don’t become your concentration’s own worst enemy.
9. Smoking – Rolling down windows to fix your nicotine craving can be dangerous, by occupying one hand from lighting the cigarette to tossing the butt.
10. Daydreaming – Not paying attention to the roads ahead is risky. It only takes a couple of seconds worth of a distraction for an accident to take place.
All of us at Melton Automotive are committed to your safety on the roads in Alabama. Try to avoid multitasking when you’re driving and do away with as many potential distractions as possible before you hit the road.
When it comes to keeping your vehicle running smoothly and safely, come to our shop for your preventative maintenance services. Drop by our location in Alabaster or call 205-663-6088 to schedule your next appointment.


Summertime Vehicle Maintenance

Whether you’re about to head up to the mountains, on a lengthy road trip vacation or just around the corner for some ice cream, driving in the summertime can present a set of unique challenges for your vehicle. Intense sunlight, oppressive heat, etc. can take its toll on your car, meaning the more on top of your maintenance you are the better prepared you’ll be to handle whatever challenges you might face while cruising around in Alabama this summer.

Here are three easy ways to help maintain your car this summer driving season under these conditions.

Bring your car into Melton Automotive for an inspection
Certain parts and systems of your car take just a little more maintenance during the summer than what is normally required throughout the rest of the year. Bringing your car in to have it checked out by an ASE-certified technician is extremely important.

Your battery in particular can be affected as fluid inside the battery can evaporate, eventually causing it to stop working altogether. It’s important that you get your battery testes as part of your summer maintenance checkup.

The cooling system is also susceptible to summertime wear. Having a mechanic take a look at the hoses and seals for cracks and wear and tear are critical. Furthermore, you may want to a cooling system flush performed and your fluids changed out.

Pay attention to and maintain your tires
Over the course of a hot summer, your tires endure a fair amount of wear and tear. While this may decrease the lifetime of a tire in the long-term, it can also put you or your loved ones at risk for a tire blowout on the road in the short-term.

It’s important to have your tires rotated and to have a mechanic check for indications of unusual wear and tear, especially with increased driving during the summer months in warmer temperatures than normal.

In addition, hot weather can cause the pressure in your tires to increase. Check your tire pressure periodically, ensuring that it’s filled correctly and according to the manufacturer’s technical specifications.

Don’t forget about the exterior
The summer heat and sun can also take its toll on the exterior of your car as well. Regular washing of your vehicle will remove unsightly bird droppings, unwanted tree sap, etc. and help protect the paint of the car.

Of higher importance is your windshield wipers and their condition. Rain storms during this time of year can be particularly violent and it’s critical to have your wipers in good condition.

Keeping these maintenance tips in mind will not only help you enjoy your summer months, but keep your car in proper shape for the rest of the year as well!

air conditioning

Keep it Cool!

As temperatures continue to rise this month and we head towards summertime, you’ll most likely be using your air conditioning system more and more in order to stay comfortable while you’re driving.

The one thing you DON’T want to experience this spring/summer is discomfort at the hands of a faulty a/c system! With that in mind, here are a few symptoms to look out for regarding your vehicle’s air conditioning – you may want to have your a/c checked by an ASE-certified technician if…

• The air being emitted isn’t as cold as it used to be…
• A funny smell is coming from the vents…
• The air conditioner’s drive belts, compressor, or blower are nosier than usual…
• A rhythmic clicking noise is coming from under the hood when you turn on the a/c or defroster…
• The defroster no longer clears up the windshield effectively…
• Water is resting on the floor of the passenger compartment or…
• The cooling fan keeps cycling on and off.

If you are noticing any of these symptoms, it’s time for air conditioning service. If you want to avoid paying big bucks to fix your whole system, you should service it regularly, just as you would any other part of your vehicle.

If you have any questions or concerns about your a/c system, or if you’d like to schedule a service appointment, be sure to give our ASE-certified technicians a call at (205) 663-6088 – we’re dedicated to keeping you safely (and comfortably!) on the road year-round!