Signs Your Car is Ready for a Tune Up

Sure you’ve heard of a Tune Up. But do you truly know when its necessary to get one?

Of course it is better to be pro-active with your vehicle, which means getting regular service and tune ups. However, most of us are guilty of not having regular maintenance performed on our cars. If you are one of those people who waits until the last minute to get service on your vehicle, then you have probably seen or felt the signs that your car is not performing at its best. Not Sure? Here are several indications that your car may be ready for a tune up.

1. A misfiring engine
When your spark plugs ignite at inopportune times either from excessive wear or faulty equipment it is considered to be misfiring.

2. A dirty or clogged air filter
This will greatly reduce acceleration. Filters will get dirty over time, but you will notice your car gradually getting slower.

3. Engine deposits
Low-quality or contaminated gasoline create issues causing the vehicle not to drive properly, which could be an indication that your vehicle needs a thorough fuel system cleaning.

4. Check Engine Light
The most common of them all is the infamous Check Engine Light. When something isn’t right within the emissions control system it will trigger this light to tell you there is a problem. Don’t ignore this!

5. An old oxygen (O2) sensor
Even if it has yet to trigger the Check Engine Light, an Oxygen sensor can still be hurting your fuel economy. Not to mention, the wear this puts on your engine and it’s performance.

Due to the fact that there are so many of the same signals that could be coming from different problems, it is best to bring your vehicle in for a thorough diagnosis or a tune up. Having your car checked could prevent you from costly maintenance down the road, or from having to purchase a new vehicle completely.

2017 Vehicle Recall Alert Update

Beware when purchasing your new car. Vehicle Recall Alert List of 2017 has been released. has recently published the 2017 Vehicle Recall Alert List and it is shocking! Here is a snippet of the list including the ones with a higher number of faulty vehicles. Is your car on the list?

2017 Buick LaCrosse:

Approximately 2,000 vehicles affected

Recall Alert- Electrical  connectors for the electronic power steering system improperly sealed. This may cause corrosion due to exposure to water. This may cause the vehicle to lose power steering and greatly increasing risk for an accident.

2016-2017 Chevrolet Cruze

Approximately 17,200 vehicles affected

Recall Alert- Possible welding issue on seatback recliner bracket. This may cause head restraints to malfunction and seatbacks to break during an accident increasing the risk of serious injury.

2015-2017 Mercedes-Benz Cars, Wagons and SUVs:

Approximately 354,000 vehicles affected

Recall Alert- In the event the engine or transmission can’t turn over, repeated attempts to start the vehicle could result in a fire from the starting current limiter overheating.

2016-2017 Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX, 2017 Continental:

Approximately 27,500 vehicles affected

Recall Alert- Frontal airbags may be faulty and may not inflate or detach from the module during an accident, due to a misalignment of components within. This could increase the chances of fatality or serious injury.

2014-2017 Dodge Charger, Chrysler 300:

Approximately 69,000 vehicles affected

Recall Alert- Front driveshaft bolts have the potential to come loose possibly causing the driveshaft to disconnect. This could result in a loss of motive power and increasing the risk for an accident.

2014-2017 BMW i3:

Approximately 19,000 vehicles affected

Recall Alert- Fuel tank vent line could rub against the wire protection sleeve of the positive battery cable. This may cause a fuel vapor leak and pose a potential fire hazard.

2017 Hyundai Elantra

Approximately 34,000 vehicles affected

Recall Alert- Brake booster has the potential to fail and could result in a loss of power brake assist. This could result in a longer breaking distance and increases the risk of an accident.

The list continues on for over 160 pages. Be sure to check on manufacturer recalls regularly to ensure your vehicle is safe for the road.

Having Problems with Your Shocks & Struts?


How to Know When to Replace Your Shocks & Struts

The shocks and struts in your vehicle are part of your suspension system. Your suspension’s job is to maximize the friction between the road’s surface and your tires. This provides stability when you’re steering. If the road were flat with no inconsistencies at all, a suspension system wouldn’t be necessary. These irregularities in the road apply forces to your wheels. Without a suspension system, your car would lose contact with the road completely when faced with an irregularity in the road. Your suspension is made up of many parts, but your shocks and struts in particular absorb the energy and force to give you a smoother ride. It also ensures good handling and comfort for you and your passengers. So, it should be obvious when you need to replace your shocks and struts, right? Not necessarily. Here are some signs to look out for:

• Poor steering response with noise or stiffness when steering
• Experiencing a “nose dive” or instability when applying the brakes
• Vehicle swaying or leaning on turns or when changing lanes
• Excessive vehicle “bounce”

There are other visual signs that you can look out for, such as:
• Dented or generally damaged looking shock or strut bodies
• Fluid leaks from your shocks or struts
• Uneven, cupped tire wear
• Damaged, corroded or broken mounts or bushings

If you experience a generally bumpy or uncomfortable ride, poor steering response, noise or stiffness when steering, instability upon braking or vehicle swaying you definitely need new struts or shocks. Testing has also shown that generally vehicles will need these parts replaced around 50,000 miles. If you’re still not sure, check for the visual signs. But don’t delay in getting a repair. It’s the kind of job that can’t wait. If you think you need new suspension parts, come on in to Courthouse Automotive and we’ll give you an honest quote.

Symptoms of a Bad CV Joint

bad cv joint

How Do I Know if I Have a Bad CV Joint?

CV stands for constant velocity. CV joints transfer power from your vehicle’s transmission and differential to the wheels. It’s a greased, flexible joint that lets the axle flex with road conditions. A bad CV joint does not.

The joint is packed with grease to keep out debris. Because they are under a lot of stress, they will eventually wear out and need to be replaced. There are a few tell-tale signs that will let you know you have a bad CV joint that needs replacing.

Loud clicking noises when turning
One of the most common signs of a bad CV joint is an audible clicking noise when you’re turning. As the joint wears, it becomes loose which produces the clicking noise. The sound may become louder when you’re making faster turns and will be pretty pronounced on the side that needs replacing.

Excessive vibrations
If your CV joint or axle is damaged, it won’t rotate properly. This will cause the shaft to vibrate when you’re driving. You may notice the vibrations becoming more pronounced as you increase speed. Excessive vibrating can interfere with the handling of the car and be a serious safety issue. If this is the case, you’ll need to have the joint and axle replaced.

Tear in the CV Boot
A CV boot is a protective rubber boot enshrouding the joint. CV joints can last 100,000 miles or more if the CV boot remains intact. If you can see a tear in the CV boot, it may mean your CV joint needs replacing. The boot keeps the grease in and dirt, debris and water out. Rub the grease between your fingers. If it feels gritty, the CV joint is already contaminated.

If you suspect that you have a bad CV joint or a torn CV boot, bring your vehicle in to Courthouse Automotive. Our ASE-certified technicians will inspect it for you and give you an honest quote.

Does My Car Battery Need To Be Replaced?

car battery

When to Replace your Car Battery

The car battery is the power for every electrical element of in vehicle. Sooner or later it will need to be replaced. How will you know when that time comes? Why would your battery need to be replaced?

Over time, a lead-acid car battery will lose some of its capacity. This is due to sulfation (a lead-sulfate compound deposited on the lead electrodes). Eventually, the capacity will drop to the point where the car battery won’t be able to start the car. Your car battery can last an average of 5-7 years. Maybe longer if the car is driven daily. If your car is parked for lengthy periods without starting, it may need to be replaced sooner.

How can you tell if your battery needs to be replaced? Well, there are some things to look for. If your car is turning over slower than usual, it may indicate your battery is failing. You may also notice that the interior lights are dimmer than usual when you’re starting your car.

Your mechanic can easily and inexpensively test your car battery with a simple battery tester. This device can also test your car’s charging and starting systems. This test will tell you if your battery needs to be replaced or simply charged. Remember, a battery absolutely needs to be replaced if it shows signs of leaking.

Does a car battery require any maintenance? Most modern batteries are maintenance free. You may need to get the terminals cleaned if there are signs of corrosion.

If your battery is draining very quickly it could indicate an internal defect or some electrical component is staying on and draining it. Your mechanic may recommend a parasitic draw test to make sure all your electrical components are turning off.

Courthouse Automotive is happy to test your car battery and your electrical system. A simple check could save you from the dangers and frustration of being stuck on the road.

Keep Your Car Running Forever

keep your car running

How long can you keep your car running? Ask Irv Gordon, who’s 1966 Volvo P1800 just reached 3 million miles. Yes, I said 3 MILLION. Now, most of us won’t come to a fraction of that, but there are some steps we can take to get our car running as long as possible.

1. Follow your vehicles service schedule.
The manufacturers built the car, they should know how to maintain it. Newer models even have oil life monitoring systems that tell you the best time to change the oil. Most newer cars have indicators lights located in the dashboard to remind you of recommended maintenance. So really, there’s no reason to be sparing on proper maintenance.

2. Regularly check fluids and tire pressure.
With the engine cool check the engine oil. Check the radiator overflow reservoir level and the brake cylinder reservoir. Also check the power steering fluid level and while you’re under the hood look over the hoses and belts for any signs of wear. Now start the car up and after it’s warm check the transmission fluid level. And lastly, with the tires cool check their pressure to make sure they’re filled to the proper psi.

3. Don’t race off.
If a car has been sitting cold for more than 5 hours it will have little or no oil left on it’s moving parts. The oil is in the oil pan. After start up it only takes a few seconds for the oil pump to lubricate the engine. During those few seconds keep the rpm’s down to a minimum. Give the engine about 30 seconds before dropping it into gear.

Wear and tear is normal, so don’t stress out over it. The steps we’ve discussed can be used on any vehicle and will help you be proactive about your car’s longevity. Remember, parts wear out on all cars, even really expensive ones. However, it’s almost always less expensive to repair your car than to buy a new one.

Drop by Courthouse Automotive and we’ll help you keep your car running as long as it can. Maybe not 3 million miles, but who knows?

Summer Car Care Tips

car care

Car care tips to ensure your vehicle does not overheat or breakdown

The weather is heating up, and the windows are being rolled down – it’s summertime! Our families may be taking a vacation from school and work, but we still need to focus our attention on car care and maintenance. While the heat of the season can pose severe challenges for our vehicles, there are steps you can take to ensure your car is properly cared for so that your vacation does not end up as a “stay-cation.”

1. Essential Fluids

Our cars need to stay hydrated, therefore it is extremely important to check the level of coolant and ensure that there are no leaks from the hoses. The hoses should also feel firm rather than soft. Along with the coolant, be sure to watch the oil, brake, power-steering, and windshield-wiper fluids.

2. Belts

The serpentine belt runs between several components of your engine and is used to keep your alternator, power-steering pump, air conditioning, and even your water pump running smoothly. A squealing sound from under the hood may hint at loosening or deterioration of the belt. It is important to watch for cracks or missing pieces. If these appear, it is time for a replacement.

3. Windshield Maintenance

Our travels can often take us off of the highways and interstates and onto dirt and gravel backroads. Excess sediment can be flung up from other cars and into our windshields. Small cracks and chips should be dealt with immediately. Any crack larger than six inches will call for a full windshield replacement. It is also important to keep your windshield clean.
Dirt and grime has a tendency to build up over extended periods of time, so we don’t typically notice it. Haze can diffuse sunlight and cause glares, making it hard to see where you’re going.
Rain will not provide a thorough cleaning job, nor will worn wipers won’t do you any good. They can leave streaks across your windshield and add to your frustration of a lack of visibility.

4. Air Conditioning

Air conditioning is not something we typically think about during the winter, and it is always fun to just enjoy the breeze flowing in through the windows. On hotter days, however, it can be frustrating when your car is only blowing lukewarm air. A lack of cold air can result from a refrigerant leak. Instead of breaking the bank to have your air-conditioning system recharged, just check with your mechanic and have them inspect the problem.

5. Air Filter

Over the winter, your air filter can become clogged with salt and road debris. It is always a good idea to check the filter to see if you can clean it out or possibly replace it with a new one. A clean air filter can improve gas mileage by as much as 10%.

6. Tires

If you should remember anything from high school, draw your mind back to chemistry. You probably learned that as temperature increases, pressure increases. In terms of car care, as the temperature rises, your tire pressure rises with it. Because of this, the chance of a blowout or accelerated deterioration is much higher. Keep your tires properly inflated and keep an eye out for any holes or punctures.

While treating yourself to a fun-filled summer, keep your vehicle in mind. Proper car care maintenance can go a long way in keeping your vehicle on the road and out of the repair shop. However, if you have any concerns, our certified technicians here at Courthouse Automotive would be more than glad to see you!

The Dangers of Driving Through Flood Water

engine stalling

Driving Through Flood Water Can Cause Engine Stalling

Flash floods happen frequently around Hampton Roads. And driving through floodwaters can easily cause engine stalling. Driving through wet conditions can be dangerous enough. But in heavy downpours, the outlying water levels can rise and back up into the streets. Standing water is dangerous enough. It can cause hydroplaning as well as greatly reduce visibility. Only drive through standing water if you know that it isn’t too deep. But, what is too deep?

When approaching floodwater in the road, you may think that you can make it through. Especially, if you’re driving a truck or SUV. However, it only takes 6 inches of standing water to cause engine stalling. The first rule of driving through floodwaters is DON’T. It’s always best to reroute. Flash floods occur rapidly and unexpectedly. If your local weather warns you of flood dangers, heed their warnings. If you live in a low lying area, it’s best to evacuate or at the very least move your vehicle to higher ground.

If you do decide to drive amidst a flood warning, never drive through water that you couldn’t walk through. Also consider that there are more than likely deeper waters that are hiding in dips in the road. Those dips could even be hiding the fact that there is no road under the surface at all! Floodwaters can easily wash away the surface of the road and a significant amount of ground underneath. If you do find yourself negotiating a flooded section of the road, drive down the center where the water will be at its shallowest. Also, consider other drivers on the road. Don’t pass through flood water while another vehicle is driving through it.

Always Avoid Fast Moving Flood Water

If the floodwater is moving fast, your vehicle can easily be swept away. Only drive through it if it appears to be 4 inches deep or less even if the water is still. And be sure to drive slowly to avoid creating a bow wave. If you make it through, be sure to check your brakes shortly after passing the standing water. They will not function normally when wet, so you need to prepare yourself for an adequate stopping distance. Light brake applications will help dry them out faster.

The risks to your vehicle are too great to take a chance. A small amount of water getting into the intake will cause engine stalling. If it stalls, don’t try to start it up again. You’ll only cause further damage. On many cars, your air intake is low down on the front of your engine bay. Water can easily get sucked in. And only an egg cupful of water in your combustion chamber can wreck your engine. Some four-wheel drive vehicles have high-level air intakes. This will allow you to drive in standing water that is several feet deep. But don’t take our word for it, check where your air intake is located yourself before attempting to drive through deeper waters. And if it’s raining, avoid popping the hood as well. Your electrical parts will get soaked and make it more difficult to start up again later.

Driving in flood conditions is highly dangerous, and can be hazardous for your vehicle as well. It’s best to remain calm and keep safety in mind. Don’t push the situation. Reroute if you can. Drive slowly, and if you get stuck, don’t push your vehicle either. Put on your hazards and call for help. If your vehicle has experienced flood damage, call us for a tow. We’ll do what we can to save your engine.

Winter Showdown: Steel vs. Aluminum Wheels

aluminum wheels

Which is best for winter: steel or aluminum wheels?

So, you’ve decided it’s time for new winter wheels. There are a lot of questions to ask yourself before choosing a set of new custom wheels for your vehicle. What wheel will give you the best performance? What is the right wheel to suit your needs? What kind of style options are you looking for? There are two types of wheels that we offer at Courthouse Automotive: steel and aluminum alloy. So, what are the differences and which is best for you?

Steel Wheels
Steel wheels are the best economical choice. The price is low due to mass production and the low cost of steel. Your style choices are limited though. They come in fairly basic designs. Steel wheels can lack excitement. However, you do have the option to place a plastic hub cover over the steel that will give it that aluminum wheel look. Steel wheels also require little to no maintenance. But given that they’re steel, they may rust after a couple of years. They are also not made for every vehicle application.

Aluminum Alloy Wheels
Aluminum alloy wheels come in a vast amount of style choices. You basically have your pick of colors and finishes. For the winter, a fully painted finish is best such as silver or black. A chrome finish can be delicate and is less practical for the winter months. Machined lip wheels are also not the best choice for this time of year. Road salt and brake dust can collect and cause the clear coat to peel off. These types of wheels would require regular maintenance to preserve the finish. While aluminum wheels are becoming less and less expensive, the price ranges greatly based on style.

When choosing your new custom wheels, it’s best to consider your needs first. Steel wheels are low cost, durable and presentable. Aluminum wheels are more expensive, but stylized and can improve vehicle handling.

Air Filter

A Dirty Air Filter Can Trigger Your Check Engine Light

Who thinks about changing their air filters? Let’s admit it. No one does. You head to your local auto parts store for a new windshield wiper, and they always ask. Would you like to purchase a new air filter today? You inevitably decline. But, if you stop to think about it—when was the last time you changed your air filter? Probably never! It seems like such an inconsequential part—like something that they just try to get you to bundle with your much-needed purchase to get more money out of you. Switching out your filter regularly can’t really do that much for your vehicle’s performance… can it?

The truth is, your air filter is vital to your vehicle’s performance. You car or truck needs an exact mixture of air and fuel to run efficiently. This is how your vehicle maintains the combustion process, which powers your engine. Your air filter acts as a barrier that protects your engine from dirt and other particles. If you’re skeptical, check your grill and your front license plate after driving a long distance in warm weather. It’ll inevitably be covered in leaves, sap, bugs and other grime. All of these things can make its way into your engine bay—even water. If these bug guts, water and other grime can make it passed your air intake, it can cause corrosion or abrasion in your engine. Two things that you definitely don’t want to happen! Your air filter catches all of these contaminants before they can reach your engine. However, when your filter gets clogged, these particles can pass right through and cause your engine to work harder. A clogged air filter will actually starve your engine of air, which it needs to execute the combustion process. In theory, a totally clogged air filter can cause your engine to stop running.

More than likely, a dirty filter will just reduce your engine’s performance. It can lead to decreased MPG, reduction in power and even permanent damage to your engine. You may think that permanent damage is a pretty severe side effect for such an inconsequential part. However, it is a realistic outcome. These contaminants can wear on your engine’s metal and produce even more debris. If the debris accumulates enough, it can get sucked into the combustion chamber and cause your engine to completely shut down.

Even if it hasn’t gotten that far, a dirty filter can seriously affect the performance of your vehicle. When your air filter is blocked, the oxygen in your fuel mixture decreases and clean air can’t mix with the fuel. The mixture will become too fuel-rich and lower your gas mileage. This can put unnecessary stress on your engine. You may even notice that your vehicle is running a little rough. Your check engine light may even turn on. Don’t ignore these warning signs. Some parts on your vehicle, you can procrastinate on replacing. For instance, certain worn out floor mats or that cheesy piña colada air freshener. However, your air filter is not one of them. It’s a simple, but vital part and they’re cheap and easy to replace. Check your vehicle’s owner’s manual to see how often you should replace it. Or, have your favorite auto technician check the state of your air filter at your next tune up.