When Do You Need A Wheel Alignment?

If your car drifts to one side and you have to turn the steering wheel away from the center position to drive straight, that is a good indication that your wheels are out of alignment. Perhaps it is the result of hitting a deep pothole or scoring a direct hit on a curb while parking.

Before you head off to a repair shop to have your wheels aligned, a job that typically costs about $60 to $100 for most vehicles, it would be a good idea to check your tire pressure. Underinflated tires can also cause a vehicle to pull to one side, so eliminate that possibility first. You might also want to inspect your tires to see if there is uneven wear, such as the tread being worn off along one edge, another sign of an alignment issue. However, it can be hard to separate normal from excessive wear, so unless you’re well trained in “tireology” you shouldn’t jump to conclusions.

Vibrations in your wheels are different from alignment problems. Vibrations are probably caused by wheels being out of balance or bent (potholes can do that) or because suspension parts are worn, and getting your wheels aligned won’t solve those problems.

Some vehicles require only that the front wheels be aligned, but many car-based models require four-wheel alignment. Alignment specifications differ by vehicle, and it isn’t as simple as just making sure all four wheels are pointed straight ahead.

Depending on the vehicle, proper alignment involves setting the camber (inward or outward tilt of the wheels when looking head on), caster (wheel tilt front or back looking from the side) and toe-in or toe-out (looking down at the wheels from above). The adjustments are measured in fractions of an inch and require specialized alignment equipment. Wheel alignment isn’t usually listed by vehicle manufacturers on the recommended maintenance schedule, so how often it should be done is open-ended. If your vehicle tracks as straight as an arrow, you’re wheels likely are properly aligned. Even so, it’s a good idea to have your alignment checked annually, such as when you have your tires rotated. You certainly should have it done when you buy new tires so they don’t immediately start to wear unevenly.

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Wheel Balancing: Why does it matter?

Every time a wheel is first mounted onto the axle with a new tire, it has to be balanced. The goal is to make sure the weight is even around the axle.

Wheel balance is checked on a wheel balancing machine that can sense as little as 1/4 ounce difference in weight around the wheel. Why worry about 1/4 ounce on a wheel that weighs many pounds? That tiny amount of weight is traveling very fast around the axle: hundreds of times a minute. It creates enough momentum to cause serious vibration. And when you multiply by 4 wheels, the wobble really adds up. Unbalanced tires put uneven pressure on the treads. Tires get too hot and wear unevenly. Tire imbalance can also strain the wheel bearings and suspension system.

To balance the tires, the technician places tiny offsetting weights at specific points around the wheel.

Not “once and done”

The minute you pull away from the service station with your newly balanced tires, they begin getting out of balance again. Every bump and corner affects balance; so does tire wear. Over time, your tires get out of balance again. That’s why it’s important to have tires balanced regularly.

What are the warning signs that my tires aren’t balanced?

You’re most likely to notice uneven wear on the tires. Many drivers also notice vibration over 40 mph, especially if the imbalanced tires are on the front.

How often should my tires be balanced?

During typical use, it’s a good idea to have your tires rotated and balanced every 4,000 to 6,000 miles. Have them balanced any time a tire is replaced or patched.

ICE – In Case Of Emergency

Sometimes the unthinkable happens.  A terrible accident and those involved aren’t able to provide rescuers with emergency contact information.

You’ll have people who you will want to contact to arrange help, give consent to treatment, and inform paramedics of medical conditions, allergies or medications.

Too often our police and rescue workers have to sift through pockets, glove compartments, wallets, purses and cell phones for clues, often wasting precious time.

A smart and simple solution is now spreading around the country: ICE. ICE- stands for In Case of Emergency, is a way to identify emergency contacts in your cell phone directory. Simply put ICE before a contact name, such as ICE- Dad, ICE-Mary or ICE-Doctor Jones. Rescuers will be able to quickly identify your emergency contacts, saving valuable time.

This powerful idea is now being heavily promoted throughout the U.S. and other countries. Rescue workers know of how many times they are unable to find a wallet or purse on an accident victim, yet they are seldom without their cell phones.

There are national and worldwide disaster data base, but participation can cost hundreds of dollars a year. ICE is free to the 276 million cell phone users in the U.S.

It’s easy and only takes a few minutes to designate your ICE contacts in your cell phone. Remember to keep the listings current.

Please join  Signature Total Car Care in getting the word out. Help us put everyone on ICE.

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5 Maintenance Tips to Help Keep Your Car Running Longer.

Most days, our cars take us smoothly from here to there … and back again. So, not surprisingly, we often take their reliability for granted. But even the trustiest of vehicles still relies on you to complete five basic maintenance steps for better survival in the long run. You should likely have lower maintenance and repair costs and a safer drive if you regularly follow these essential tips:
1. Understand the Suggested Maintenance Schedule
Every new car comes with an official manual loaded with recommendations for regular maintenance. The manufacturer can’t compel you to follow them, but it would be smart if you did. Among other maintenance tips, the manual tells you how to:
• Change the oil and how often to do so.
• Make sure your fluids are the right color and at the right level.
• Know the right grade of fuel to use for your vehicle. Regular unleaded or premium, diesel or ethanol? It matters.
2. Maintain Your Tires
Your auto manual suggests how often a mechanic should rotate your tires. Check your tires regularly to ensure they’re properly inflated and that the tread is still at a safe level. This makes for smooth rides, better gas mileage and lower risk of a blowout.
3. Listen to Your Car
You probably don’t speak “dog,” but if you have one, you learn to read the signals that your pup is hungry or needs to go outside. You can understand your car the same way. Listen for squealing or grinding noises that mean your brakes need to be checked. Is your steering wheel shaking more than usual on smooth roads? That’s an indicator of potential trouble ahead. Don’t ignore vehicle sights and sounds that are inconsistent from one day to the next. Address them as they change. If something on the car feels wrong, it probably is.
4. Practice Good Driving Habits
Be kind to your car. Don’t try to make it do zero to 60 in three seconds. Slow starts cause less strain on the engine. Change gears smoothly as you accelerate. And don’t expect it to stop on a dime either. That damages the brakes.
5. Keep Your Car Clean Inside and Out
Your auto’s exterior and undercarriage attract road debris such as hot tar, dirt and bugs in the summer and salt in the winter. Over time, those elements can give the components of your vehicle — including motor parts and external body structure — a beating. As for the inside, well, you’ll enjoy your car more and extend its resale value if you keep it tidy.

Keep Up with Your Maintenance

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The end of Daylight Savings Time and inclement winter weather creates unfamiliar driving conditions that can be hazardous without proper vehicle lighting. Signature Total Car Care recommends vehicle lights be checked before the clocks “fall back” to help ensure safe driving, especially during dusk and peak evening traffic hours.
A vehicle’s lighting system includes headlights (high and low beam), parking lights, turn signals/emergency flashers, brake lights, tail and marker lights, backup lights, interior lights and instrumentation lighting. Some vehicles are also equipped with fog lights.
Headlights should also be periodically cleaned of mud and muck, and properly aimed according to procedures outlined in the owner’s manual. Headlights can be knocked out of alignment by rough driving, and if not properly aimed, can be distracting to other drivers.
Vehicle inspections during National Car Care Month in the United States have shown lighting to be an often neglected maintenance item, with 8 percent of vehicles inspected needing work on at least one of their turn signals, and 6 percent having problems with at least one of their brake lights.
Stop in to Signature to have your vehicle lights inspected.
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Most drivers wait for their air conditioning to fail before they have it serviced. That’s because motorist don’t really understand that automotive air conditioners need periodic service. Let me share some of the reasons why they fail.
First, like every machine, air conditioner parts need lubrication. The lubrication is actually mixed with the refrigerant (that’s what makes the air cool). So sometimes, even though the air conditioner is still making cool air, the oil that lubricates the parts has just been used up, and unlubricated parts can fail in all cars.
NOW HEARS A TIP FOR DRIVERS: You should run your air conditioner every so often during Ga. Winters. This will circulate the lubrication to help keep the seals from drying out.
The air conditioner actually removes some of the moisture in the air. So if you have trouble with fogging on your windshield during Ga. Winters or during a rain storm, running the A/C on the defrost setting should help.
Also air and water can get into the A/C system. That can reduce the efficiency of the system and also lead to corrosion that causes damage. Drivers should periodically purge the system and replace the refrigerant to clear out the air and water.
So following the recommended service intervals in your owner’s manual can help prevent mechanical failure of your air conditioning system. You’re A/C system contains some expensive components and anything you can do to lengthen the life of your A/C is well worth it.

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When Is It Time To Change Your Brake Fluid?

By the magic of fluid dynamics and leverage, when applying your brakes pedal at an average of 8 pounds, it is multiplied to over 400 pounds at the calipers (calipers are the mechanism that squeeze the brake pads to stop the vehicle). Pretty Amazing! But here is where the problem lies. Without delving deeply into the physics and chemistry, this force multiplier is dependent on the brake fluid being a non-compressible liquid.

So what can go wrong? Over time brake fluid absorbs water from the atmosphere. Depending upon your climate, this absorption rate is typically about 1% per year. Each 1% of moisture content will drop the boiling point of brake fluid by around 60 degrees F. So what’s wrong with that? When you step on the brake part of the kinetic energy of the car is turned into heat. In most cases a lot of heat. When brake fluid boils it no longer acts as a non-compressible liquid, the vapor is a compressible gas. This can cause a spongy pedal, longer brake pedal travel and even complete brake failure.

So here is what it all boils down to (no pun intended). We already know that the boiling point drops about 60 degrees per percentage of moisture absorbed, therefore when brake fluid has more than 3% H20, it is unsafe and needs to be replaced.
Some manufactures such as BMW and Mercedes recommend complete brake flush ever 2 years. With the stop and go traffic around Atlanta, we recommend having your vehicles brake fluid flushed at least every 3 years.

Why cars need preventative maintenance

Manufacturers know that a properly maintained car will be more dependable, safer, last longer, and increase your satisfaction with their product. Car makers and owners also have a responsibility to make sure emission controls receive regular service and are functioning properly. Regular maintenance helps accomplish these goals by keeping your engine running efficiently and eliminating potential problems that may leave you stranded.
What’s in it for you?

• More Dependable Car
• A car that retains the “new car feel”
• Less chance of a costly breakdown
• A safer car for you and your family
• Doing your part for cleaner air
• A car worth more at trade in or sale
• An intact warranty
Manufacturer Maintenance Schedules
The manufacturer creates detailed maintenance schedules outlining specific operations to be performed on various components and systems. This is done at different mileage intervals to ensure proper operation and prevent premature wear. The manufacturer also indicates what services must be done to maintain the factory warranty and extended warranty.
ALLDATA(R) Automotive Information System
Signature Total Car Care is equipped with an automotive information system that provides this detailed data. The system even lists high-tech specialty lubricants required for your particular car. Other information includes vehicle specific repair and diagnostic information and factory-issued Technical Service Bulletins. The bottom line is efficient, dependable and cost-effective service for you.



Did you know that most cars carry more computer power than the Apollo 12 Lunar Module that landed on the moon in 1969?
New cars have as many as twelve networked computers and over five miles of wiring. In fact, for the last decade or so, auto computers have been controlling about 85% of your vehicle functions.
Cars have sensors for manifold air temperature, coolant temperature, manifold air pressure, airflow, throttle position, vehicle speed and oxygen content. All of this electronic wizardry is pretty complicated. So how do you know when there is a problem? It’s simple; the Check Engine Light comes on.
The computer monitors all the sensors and uses that information to decide what to adjust such as the fuel mixture, spark timing and idle speed. In addition, the computer monitors its own circuits. When it finds a fault, it turns on the Check Engine light and stores a trouble code in the computer.
It can be pretty disturbing when the Check Engine light comes on. We wonder just how urgent is it. Generally speaking, it is not critical like a temperature or oil pressure light. When you get one of those it means STOP NOW! When the Check Engine light shows up, you should come in to Signature Total Car Care to find out what the matter is as soon as possible.
Since 1996, there has been a strong emission control component to the Check Engine diagnostic. But if your Check Engine light flashes on and off, you know that it is more urgent and you need to get it checked immediately to prevent damage.

How often should oil and filter be changed

How often should oil and filter be changed

Change oil and filter often enough to protect the engine from premature wear and viscosity breakdown. For most cars and light trucks, the standard recommendation is to change oil and filter every six months or 3,000 miles, whichever comes first.

Most late model owner’s manuals say that except for “Severe Service” applications, oil change interval can be safely stretched to once a year or every 7,500 miles, with filter changes at every other oil change.

When auto makers make such recommendations, one assumes they are based on extensive durability testing. After all, auto makers themselves would have to bear the warranty costs should their maintenance recommendations prove inadequate.

Except for Chrysler’s 7/70 powertrain warranty, and a few others that go up to 5/50 or 6/60, most new car powertrain warranties don’t go beyond 3/36. So where’s the risk? There isn’t any.

With proper maintenance, there is no reason an engine shouldn’t go 100,000 miles or more without developing a thirst for oil. That is why most oil companies, as well as aftermarket service professionals, recommend changing oil and filter every six months or 3,000 miles.

They also make such recommendations because many motorists are not aware that they should follow the “Severe Service” maintenance schedule in their owner’s manual, calling for oil and filter change intervals of three to six months or 3,000 miles. Severe service (as defined by auto makers themselves) includes:

Making frequent short trips (less than five miles)

Making frequent short trips (less than 10 miles) when temperatures are below freezing

Driving in hot weather stop-and-go traffic

Extensive idling and/or low speed driving for long periods of time (taxi, police, door-to-door delivery, etc.)

Driving at sustained high speeds during hot weather

Towing a trailer

Driving in areas with heavy dust (gravel roads, construction zones, etc.)

Protective additives in a motor oil do not hold up as well under such driving conditions for several reasons. If the engine is not running long enough to get the oil hot, condensation and fuel vapors will not boil off. Contaminants will accumulate in the crankcase, leading to formation of corrosive acids and sludge.

Excessive idling and high operating temperatures from towing and high speed driving during hot weather accelerate viscosity breakdown. Exposure to dust can put dirt particles in the crankcase.

The filter also needs to be changed every time for two reasons. Today’s pint-sized filters do not contain as much filter material as their quart-sized counterparts. The filter contains dirty oil that can contaminate fresh oil added during an oil change.

Considering what four quarts of oil and a filter cost, versus the cost of replacing an engine, it is better to change oil and filter a little more often than might be absolutely necessary rather than risk not changing it often enough.

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