The Magic Behind Wheel Alignment

017_Car_JeansMost people can tell when their car pulls to the right or left. What they can’t tell is whether it’s due to alignment issues, worn tires or a combination. Wheels require proper alignment on the X, Y and Z axis for the tires to wear properly. If the alignment is off, it can destroy the tires. The three axis are called Camber, Caster and Toe-in.

CAMBER

The camber can be seen when looking at the front of the vehicle. The ideal camber is at 0° or straight up. If the camber is positive the top of the tire is angled away from the car. If the camber is negative the tire is angled toward the car. When the camber is off, the tire shows an angle of wear or a slope across the top of the tire to one side or the other. This uneven wear will cause the car to pull.

CASTER

Like a shopping cart on a pivotal wheel, front tires require the ability to turn on a pivot while staying connected to the suspension system. Caster is the angle of that pivot. If the top of the pivot leans toward the back of the car it is a positive pivot. Leaning toward the front of the car is considered negative.

The ideal is not straight up at 0°, as most would suppose. A positive caster of 2°-5° helps non-professional drivers by returning the steering wheel back to center after the turn. Racecars use a negative caster to make sure the wheel doesn’t return until the driver manually moves it back.

TOE-IN

The distance between the front and back of two parallel tires is the Toe-in measurement. If the front of the tires point inward like a person standing pigeon-toed instead of in parallel, its called a toe-in. If the front of the tires point outward, it’s called toe-out. Again, the ideal is 0° or parallel tires.

THRUST ANGLE

One additional consideration is the Thrust Angle or the position of the front tire relative to its back tire. This measurement became significant with the evolution of four-wheel drive vehicles. The alignment keeps the front and associated rear tire in parallel.

THE ALIGNMENT

All alignments start and end with a test drive. The front end and steering linkage is checked for wear before any alignment work can be done. Tires in good shape simplify the alignment work.

If alignments were put off and the tires are now excessively worn, the process will correct the alignment, but in the case of a camber worn tire, the tire will now only partially touch the street.

Some people get concerned when their alignment job didn’t turn out “perfect,” when it actually did. Consideration must be given to the effects of tires with unequal air pressure, pre-worn tires, power steering problems, and brake issues. All of the mentioned parts can give the illusion that the wheels are out of alignment when they are spot on.

ROAD CROWN

But, sometimes it’s not an illusion. There are standards in how roads are built that most municipalities and states follow. This includes what’s known as the road crown, which is up to a 7° curvature in the road for drainage purposes. When a car is aligned, it’s not typically aligned to a flat surface, but to the average degree of road crown in the area.

Without that consideration, “perfectly” aligned cars in the right lane would always pull to the left. When in the left lane of a four-lane highway, the car would pull in the opposite direction. On a six-lane highway, the driver will always feel some tension on the steering wheel regardless of the lane due to the crowning affect.

Trusting the technician to mechanically align the wheels according to best practices is important. The standards allow each wheel to be “within tolerance” up to 3/16th from center. That allows the tires to be off halfway between a ¼ inch and a ½ inch, which can cause excessive wear of the tires and the hardware that holds everything in place. Sharp mechanics use a zero tolerance to make sure the tires are spot on.

Making sure wheel alignments become a part of regular maintenance is critical to a healthy car. How often an alignment is necessary comes from the manufacturer’s recommendations and the number of curbs and potholes the driver tends to hit. The key is making sure the alignment happens often enough that the tires wear evenly.

© 2016 Hi-Tech Automotive Specialists, Inc.
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DO’s and DON’Ts of Transmissions

pexels-photo-100647Transmissions have a finite life span, yet most people do little to maintain their transmission. Even when manufacturers suggest changing the fluid every 30-40,000 miles, few people make it happen. Worse yet are the little things people should avoid doing that shorten the life of a transmission.

Here are a few insights…

DO follow your manufacturers recommended service interval. The property of the fluid breaks down over time. The fluid will eventually turn to a varnish and lose its ability to lubricate. Stay in front of this issue by checking your fluid levels regularly.

A typical transmission service involves removing the transmission oil pan, cleaning and inspecting the pan for the presence of metal shavings, replacing the pan gasket and filling with clean fresh fluid.

DON’T keep your gas pedal on the floor when going up a long, steep incline. This is especially true when carrying a great load than normal or towing a trailer. Traveling up a steep hill puts a lot of stress on a transmission, which turns to heat, which can overheat your transmission.

Check your owner’s manual to make sure you don’t exceed the tow weight limit. This is critical in hilly areas. The heat of driving through the desert can also play a role in how fast the transmission heats up.

DON’T switch to the latest fluid. Synthetics take longer to breakdown than organic fluids from heat and are therefore pushed by many repair companies. However, most people are unaware that there are almost two-dozen types of transmission fluid to choose from and the only one to be used is recommended in the auto manual. This will avoid many secondary problems.

DON’T replace a dead transmission with a rebuilt one. Instead replace it with a remanufactured one, which are better than the original. Remanufactured transmissions receive the benefit of additional lessons learned. The update kits also include smoother shifting and longer lasting parts. The quality is high enough that Hi-Tech puts its extended warranty on the product.

DO come to a complete stop before backing up. Shifting into drive from reverse or visa versa before the car comes to a complete stop can chip, crack or break gears and severely damage the transmission. These types of repairs are costly because the transmission must be removed from the vehicle and disassembled.

DO set your emergency brake when parking on an incline. Set the emergency brake before shifting the transmission into park. This puts the car’s weight on the brake rather than on the transmission.

However, using the brake after several years of non-use might cause a new problem. The brake line is similar to a bike brake line in that the center core is pulled inside of a shell to set the brake, but if it hasn’t been used for years, it may not slide back to its starting position if rust blocks the line. Rusted lines are easily replaced, so its more important to make sure your car doesn’t roll back and hit someone else’s car than being worried about it not popping back to its starting position.

DON’T spin your wheels when stuck in snow. Shifting back and forth between drive and reverse to rock out of a slick area only increases the heat. In fact, it only takes a few minutes of unrestricted spinning to burn out a transmission. All too often people think they’re getting close to freeing their car so they extend past the five minute mark, only to find out the transmission dies 2-3 days later.

DO consider an external transmission cooler. Consider installing a cooler if you regularly drive in the desert, pull lots of loads or drive in mountainous conditions.

The end result of following these insights will be a longer lasting transmission.

Copyright © 2016 Hi-Tech Automotive Specialists, Inc.

 

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End of Summer Car Care Tips

Legs_CarKids getting back to school signals the end of summer and the time to winterize your car. Breakdowns in bad weather are dangerous and can be avoided with the following preventative maintenance tips:

CHECK THE OWNER’S MANUAL
The manufacturer publishes its recommended service schedule in the owner’s manual. Some list two schedules of preventative maintenance: normal; and, severe. The severe schedule is no longer based on the road warrior of yesteryear, but on the driver placing the greatest amount of stress on a car in urban and suburban stop-n-go traffic.

ENGINE PERFORMANCE
Any form of drivability issues (hard starts, rough idling, stalling, diminished power, etc.) should be corrected before the eminent cold weather makes all existing problems worse. The most common are the replacement of filters, removing moisture from fuel, etc.

In addition, anytime dashboard or warning lights go on it’s important to have it checked out immediately. While some lights alert you of a growing problem, others light for imminent catastrophe that will lead to thousands of dollars in repair work unless the car is pulled over and stopped. Reviewing your lights with a mechanic can save you money.

FUEL
Moisture in the fuel can freeze during super cold days and can be prevented. Years ago the recommendation was to add a deicer to the tank once a month, but with today’s ethanol gas mixtures and discount gasoline, this pattern creates multiple problems and costly repairs. Instead, using BP or Shell gasoline, which has a winter blend already in the gasoline, will protect the fuel from freezing.

OIL AND FILTER
Every vehicle has a recommended amount of mileage between oil and filter changes. Many repair shops encourage car owners to follow the guidelines to extend the life of the vehicle. However, a few repair shops try to advance the process, which is never needed unless the vehicle experiences a lot of stop-n-go driving or dirty roads.

COOLING SYSTEM
The frequency of flushing and refilling the cooling system is recommended in the owner’s manual. The level, condition and concentration of coolant (typically a 50/50 mixture of anti-freeze and distilled water) should be checked periodically. Also, inspecting the coolant reservoir will give insights to the condition and flow of the system.

The tightness and condition of drive belts, tensioner, clamps and hoses play an important role in the system’s performance and should only be checked by a certified mechanic. Don’t ever find yourself removing the radiator cap without first allowing the radiator to cool down completely.

HEATER/DEFROSTER
There is nothing like having a heater/defroster that doesn’t work during the winter. Passenger comfort and drivability is critical to the ongoing operations of a car. It is prudent to check this system before winter is upon us.

WINSHIELD SAFETY
Rubber-clad blades and windshield washer solvent are the two best tools to protect the drivability of a car in the winter. The blades are designed to fight ice buildup and the solvent makes sure the windshield is clear of debris during the winter. Stocking up on the fluid in advance and purchasing new blades will start the season off well, but don’t forget to make sure an ice-scraper can be found in your car.

BATTERY
All too often people buy batteries that are the wrong size for their car’s activities in the winter. Most people size their battery based on summer use, forgetting that 2-3 times more charge is required to start the same vehicle in the winter. Certified mechanics have access to professional equipment that can help right size the battery based on the vehicle and location it’s operated within.

Interstate batteries are sized based on all start conditions and are good for about five years. Discounted batteries, which save the car owner $20-$30, are good for one and a half to two years.

Also, mechanics can scrape away corrosion from the posts and cable connections to increase the flow of energy. Maintaining the proper levels of acid and fluid levels are paramount to making sure the battery will get you through the winter. However, some batteries do not allow access or maintenance to the battery.

LIGHTS
Inspecting all lights and bulbs is a must. Road grime and natural weathering of the lenses can diminish the reach of the light beam. The replacement of weaker bulbs is done best prior to the winter weather. Consideration should also be given to replacing the headlight pods, as the yellowing of the pods tend to diminish the effectiveness of the bulbs. The added brightness is worth the approximate $100 price carried by most cars. SilverStar lights by Sylvania also increase the beam’s reach.

EXHAUST SYSTEM
Not only is the system performance important to the state’s licensing process, but it’s also important to make sure no leaks exist. Small holes can fill the cab with exhaust fumes that can be deadly. A mechanic with a lift can easily accomplish the inspection of the system and floorboards for small leaks.

TIRES
Worn tires can turn into nightmares during first snowfalls. Making sure the tires are examined for tread life, uneven wearing, cupping, and cracks will protect the vehicle’s precious cargo. Tire pressure should be checked monthly when the car has cooled down. To get an extended life out of the tires, a mechanic can rotate the tires regularly and check the spare that is forgotten more times than not. A jack of some form should also be present in the car at all times.

WINTER EMERGENCIES
Carrying a winter kit in the car is prudent regardless of the severe weather that can come up quickly. The kit should include blankets, a small shovel, sand or kitty liter, flashlight and high-energy bars. It can also include gloves, boots, flares, tire chains, and a cell phone. Strobe flashers are a great tool for alerting oncoming drivers of your roadside issues and are well worth the added ten-dollar expense.

The winterization process allows every driver to prepare for the winter and check everything that is most likely to go wrong had it not been addressed. This provides much greater safety and peace of mind for those on the way to grandmother’s house for hot cider and chocolate cookies.

Copyright © 2016 Hi-Tech Automotive Specialists, Inc.
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The Humanity of Hi-Tech

road-car-tire-2When a person does a Google search on Hi-Tech Automotive Specialists, they’re looking for an expert to turn their nightmare into a smooth sailing dream. When a person does a Yelp search, they’re interested to know if customer service is high on the list of things Hi-Tech does well. But when our street or email address is sought for a personal note, it’s our humanity that they reference.

John received a letter that brought him to tears. A VIP customer had passed away and he got word in the form of a gracious note. The daughter wrote:

“… I am so thankful for everything that you did for my mother; you were her guardian angel when it came to her van. Without your compassion and kindness she wouldn’t have been able to go to all of the places she went and enjoy the zoo and aquarium with her grandkids, as well as making the drive to the inner city to teach when she was healthier – For that I am truly grateful and you will be blessed. I will always recommend you not just for the good service, but also because I know how much of a kind and compassionate person that you are. Thank you so much for everything that you have done for us, I will never forget! …”

John’s heart overflowed with compassion all the more after reading that note. He has always seen each customer as a friend of the family. If he had the money, he’d open up one of the garage bays, set up tables and chairs, and throw a huge party for all – Celebrating how blessed they’ve made him feel over the years.

The mutual admiration drives the team to work hard in making sure each customer’s car never lets them down. They make sure that their due diligence and fair price is a blessing to everyone seeking Hi-Tech’s help. After all, you’d never want one of your family members to be stranded along side of the street.

Humanity is at the core of the Hi-Tech brand thanks to years of developing it alongside of happy customers. We count the opportunity to work on customer cars as a privilege that we hope continues for years to come. So, the next time you’re at a nearby corner, just stop in and say hi to John and the guys. They’ll be glad you did.

Copyright © 2016 by Hi-Tech Automotive Specialists, Inc.

 

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7 Ways to Spot Talent

TalentThe argument about finding the right talent for an open position continues due to changes in generations and expectations. However, the one true sign of talent that has not changed is the fact that others determine your talent, not you.

A person’s belief, desire, knowledge or experience may or may not impact customer’s perception of their talent, as each people group has their own set of expectations. While one generation says that Steven Spielberg has directing talent, another group who loves choppy video effects might say Spielberg, who avoids those effects, no longer has talent.

A person’s performance on the job, their talent, is like fruit. It was made for others, not for the tree that produced it. The true definition of talent is how the audience or customer receives it. The only thing that matters are the amount of benefit the customer receives from the person who brings their talent to bear.

Here are seven ways of spotting talent in someone else that will benefit customers.

  1. Energy Level: True talent comes from an over abundance of enthusiasm. A person who is talented in a specific area gets more invigorated by performing their talent. The presence of additional energy is a reflection of talent, whether it’s a mechanic who loves troubleshooting or a guy who loves quilting. Find that person with interested eyes and helpful hands, and you’ll find a person with a lot of talent ready to shine.
  1. Effortless Expression: I’ve seen public speakers that are painful to watch and I’ve seen the ones who so effortlessly share from their heart with knowledge that must be captured in notes. The person who expresses themselves with little effort within their ken is a sure sign of talent.
  1. Brings Value: When I’ve met a person who readily shares what they love, whether it’s cooking, a hobby, or job-based insight, I see a person that brings significant value to those around him. That person who can make life better for others or generate value for their customer does so from the well of talent within.
  1. Results that Shine: Another sign of talent comes from the person who produces something out of their own interests that unexpectedly shines for others. No one has to tell them how to help others, as it’s a natural byproduct of their performance. The sales person who loves widgets becomes the person that outsells the team.
  1. Inclination Over Skill: We’ve all seen the guy on the dance floor who mechanically does the right moves, but produces no art, fruit or talent. Then there’s the guy who feels the music and finds himself moving to a cheering crowd who can’t believe he’s never had a dance lesson. The person who finds their thing being a natural extension of who they are will always demonstrate more talent than the educated.
  1. Unplanned Benefits: Skills can be taught, but not talent. The person who shows a steady improvement has demonstrated their vibrant talent, even when it wasn’t their intention. The talented sales person makes people feel safe and receives a byproduct of more closed deals.
  1. Acceleration through Opportunity: When a person is given the opportunity to step up to the next level in work, the person with talent rises to the occasion, while others recoil from the confrontation of unknown fears. The person of talent has fun exploiting the opportunity.

When you spot a person of talent grab hold of them and don’t let them go, as their natural form of play will generate great benefits for customers and a generous revenue stream.

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Hi-Tech Earns Top Yelp Award

yelp3Yelp tracks reviews of every company that’s been rated by a satisfied or dissatisfied customer. Each year the totals are looked at and vendors are given notice about all the good and bad reports. The scores are averaged and the vendor receives anywhere from a half star to five stars for their efforts.

At the end of every 12-month measurement period, Yelp awards the few companies who have consistently received 5-star reviews. All it takes is one bad review to disqualify a vendor from the honor, making a 5-star rating all the more valuable.

Today, Hi-Tech Automotive Specialists, Inc. received a signed certificate from the CEO of Yelp, Jeremy Stoppelman, for consistently receiving 5-star ratings for the past 12-month period. This honor was well received by owner John Hickey, who is proud of his team for meeting the quality standards required to exceed our customer expectations.

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What to Do in a Roadside Emergency

017_Car_JeansSafety should be your first concern when you’re the recipient of a sudden flat tire, mechanical breakdown or an empty gas tank. The following actions will help ensure your safety.

Turn on Hazard Lights
The moment you’ve experienced a major car problem, take your foot off of the gas pedal and turn on your hazard lights. This will alert other drivers that you’ll be moving into a safer position and they will most likely give you the space needed to maneuver.

Get off the Road
Getting the car off of a highway or major street will increase your safety. On a highway, you’ll want to pull as far off the road as possible to keep out of the way of traffic. If you pull off onto the right shoulder and your car is still partially in a live traffic lane, get out of the car on the passenger side and move to a safe area.

Notify the Police
Calling the police allows them to dispatch an officer for your safety and the safety of the other cars. The officer will also be able to direct traffic should you require towing or a lane to be temporarily closed down.

Make your Vehicle Visible
Setting up hazard lights to alert other drives of your car’s presence will help. To encourage drivers to change into a lane further away from your car can be done with a set of three or more emergency lights set up every 20 steps from your car.

Display a Distress Signal
If you are unable to contact the police, you can end a distress signal by raising your hood or tying a white rag to an antenna, door handle, or bumper. You can also open the window to pinch the white rag in place. Or, purchase some inexpensive strobe lights to keep handy in the trunk.

Keep the Doors Locked
If the vehicle is in a safe location, you should wait inside. Keep the doors locked and the safety belts fastened. If, however, you need to move away from the car, keep it locked to avoid auto theft.

Exercise Caution
Be very careful with volunteers wanting to help. While an off duty mechanic might give you ideal service, you might have a predator offering to help. Using good judgment in accepting help from strangers can be critical, especially at night. If you need help from a stranger, ask him or her to make a phone call for you, while you stay in your locked car.

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