Our People: General Manager Todd Ward

a wrench set and a hat beside a sticker with a smiley face and the words drive happy

“I’ve had so many opportunities to learn and grow.”

Speaking with our General Manager Todd Ward, that’s a sentiment that comes up time and time again. It’s not just words, either — it’s backed up by an impressively long career history with Chapel Hill Tire, stretching all the way back to 1987.

In his first position as a General Service Technician, you could find Todd changing tires and oil with his team at the Carrboro location. But even during the four years he was cutting his teeth on the automotive repair industry, Todd was already looking to take the opportunities offered to him. That led to making light repairs on shocks, springs, and the like.

But Todd’s willingness and aptitude led him to become a Service Writer at the Carrboro location next, followed very shortly thereafter by his role as Manager of the entire location, a role he would hold all the way until 2015. This was perfect for him, as he felt a deep sense of connection to his work family at Carrboro, and loved being able to support them through the trials and tribulations of personal and professional life.

Even all of that experience couldn’t quite prepare Todd for what came next, though. With Marc Pons taking on the role as the company’s CEO, Todd was offered his largest responsibility yet: A role as the General Manager in charge of all Chapel Hill Tire locations.

“At the time, I didn’t deal with change very well.” says Todd, “And I’m a very loyal person. My Carrboro team was my family,” and being away from that location felt almost insurmountable.

“I just knew that the toughest part would be leaving my Carrboro family — but I also knew that I’d still be involved. Letting go was hard, but it’s been totally worth it.”

But with time and experience, Todd has taken to the General Manager role like a duck to water. He loves getting to spend his days visiting all nine locations, checking in with his people, making sure everything is going well for them both personally and professionally.

“In the stores, I always want to show that I care.” says Todd, and he does that every day by having conversations with every employee he meets.

“It did take me a little while to get in my groove. It was a lot to learn, and a different way of leading than what I was used to.” But what made that transition possible for Todd was sticking to Chapel Hill Tire’s core values — particularly Winning As A Team. By always supporting each other like a family, those values served to open the door to real personal and professional growth, all within the company.

With regards to those values, Todd says it best:

“I’ll say this: Those values are not just writing on the wall. They are what have helped to build the culture that we have today, by living those values and making decisions based on those values.”

For Todd, that means implementing them in a real, physical way each day: “We really focus on and talk about them daily, with our managers having a morning huddle focusing on the value of the week. They’re a huge piece of what’s gotten us to where we’re at today.”

Chapel Hill Tire wouldn’t be the place it is today without the people who keep it running, and we especially thank Todd for the work he’s done in continuing to grow and develop with everyone as a team!

What’s Up With That? How Tire Pressure Affects Your Gas Mileage

Checking tire pressure

As you’re cruising down the highway, you probably don’t often think of your car’s tires. But put just a little bit of ice and snow on the ground, or start maneuvering around tight hairpin turns, and it quickly becomes obvious how important your tires’ traction really is. And that traction, as well as almost everything about your tires’ performance, depends very strongly on proper tire pressure.

The trick of it is this: Even though it might look like your tires are fully touching the ground while you drive, they’re actually using a much smaller contact patch. And for the average tire, this area where the tire is actually touching the ground while you’re moving isn’t much bigger than the sole of your shoe.

When your tires are properly inflated, their contact patches are like a well-fitting pair of shoes.

High Heels and Clown Shoes

So imagine for a minute: What if your shoes didn’t fit well at all?

Overinflated tires are like shoes that are too small. Their contact patches (soles) are smaller than you’d expect, and that makes it awfully difficult to keep the right traction and stability while you’re moving — just think of what it would be like to wear high heels on an icy sidewalk!

Similarly, low tire pressure and underinflated tires are like wearing a pair of clown shoes. Their contact patches are bigger and floppier, and that makes them harder and less efficient to move around in.

But the perfectly inflated set of tires is like the perfect shoe, giving a smooth and comfortable ride and plenty of traction even when road conditions get dicey. And that efficiency is key to getting the best gas mileage out of your vehicle, just as wearing a perfect pair of shoes makes it easier to walk longer with less fatigue.

Right Tire Pressure, Better Gas Mileage

This isn’t just a fun analogy, though — it’s also backed up by science from the U.S. Department of Energy.

In a study from 2014, researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory tested tires across a range of inflation pressures and highway driving speeds from 40 to 80 miles per hour. And their results were pretty amazing: In addition to being much safer to drive on, properly inflated tires can have as much as 10 percent better fuel economy compared to underinflated ones.

Checking Your Tires

Now that you know how important tire pressure can be, you might be wondering: How do your tires currently match up?

Most cars list an ideal tire pressure on a sticker inside of the driver’s side door; open your door and look down, and you should be able to find it pretty easily. Failing that, you can also find optimal tire pressure listed in the owner’s manual for your car.

Or you can save yourself the hassle, and bring your car by any of our Chapel Hill Tire locations to get the pressure checked and adjusted. That’s a great time to make sure your tire tread is in good shape too, so you can rest easy knowing that your car will get you from here to there and back again without any problems.

Our Community: Volunteering to Help Animals

Aerial photo showing green trees and buildings

Anyone with a pet knows that family can come on four legs just as easily as two — and that an animal’s unconditional love and affection is one of life’s most amazing blessings.

That’s why organizations like the Wake County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) are such an important part of our communities — and why Chapel Hill Tire is so happy to be able to support their mission “To transform the lives of pets and people through protection, care, education, and adoption.”

But too often, animals outside of safe and loving homes are barely getting by. And without our help, they could be in real danger.

Emely Bernal, one of our Service Advisors at the Atlantic Avenue location, really took this mission to heart. When she and the human resources team set a goal of finding a way to help their community, the path forward became obvious:

“A lot of us love animals and have pets at home, so I felt like the SPCA was a perfect fit. On top of that, they’re a no-kill shelter, with values that really match up with what we do at Chapel Hill Tire.”

To be of best help to this invaluable organization, Emely first took a trip to their Garner location. “Going to their facility in Garner gave me such a pleasant feeling,” says Emely, mentioning that the way staff treated her and the animals was warm and kind from the moment she walked in.

That gave Emely a great idea: Knowing how many of her Chapel Hill Tire family members loved their own pets, why not organize a way for everyone to be able to donate what the SPCA needed most?

“I reached out to them and asked what items they were most in need of,” says Emely. After that, she put a plan in action for marking lists of those items and putting out donation boxes at all of our Chapel Hill Tire locations.

Keeping these boxes out for about three months gave plenty of opportunities for our Chapel Hill Tire teams — and customers — to fill them up with donations. And it was a big success: At Emely’s location on Atlantic Avenue, that box was filled up within just two weeks!

By the end of July, Emely gathered up all the donations to take over to the Wake County SPCA. They were incredibly grateful for everything we could provide, and it was a real reward for Emely to meet some of the animals she had helped through her initiative.

“I hope this is my first time of many doing something helpful like this, and I’m so grateful to everyone at Chapel Hill Tire for helping me to achieve my goals.”

If you can help adopt, donate, volunteer, or foster, please do reach out to the Wake County SPCA through their website!


Our Values: Winning As A Team, With Our Families and Communities

Chapel Hill Tire Values

When you think of what it means to be a family, what comes to mind?

Life Magazine author Jane Howard said “Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.”

Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said “In family life, love is the oil that eases friction, the cement that binds closer together, and the music that brings harmony.”

And renowned actor and activist Michael J. Fox may have summed it up best: “Family is not an important thing. It’s everything.”

Taken together, those quotes build a powerful message: That family and love are essential to every aspect of life — and that very much includes the workplace, too.

In our values at Chapel Hill Tire, one of the ways we express that sense of family is through our commitment to Winning As A Team. Just what does that mean? Let our owner Marc Pons tell it best:

“It means that when we are successful, we recognize that everyone contributes equally to the customer experience. Any breakdown from shuttle driver to service advisor to technician creates a bad experience. A great experience means everyone is doing their role and going the extra mile for the customer and each other. So when we are successful, the whole team needs to be recognized.”

And most recently, we were able to live that value in a way that helped to further connect our work families, home families, and communities: Through an exciting Family Night watching a Durham Bulls game!

Marc continues: “We also want to make sure that we celebrate in ways that allow people to include their families. Our employees want to share what’s special about Chapel Hill Tire with their families. Our team brought out their spouses, children, sisters, brothers, mothers and fathers to the game. We all had a great time together, and that’s what winning as a team is all about.”

And while the game may have been a blast, it seems that the opportunity for everyone’s extended families to get together was the real draw. “Of the three and a half hours we were there, I probably caught about 10 minutes of the game,” says General Manager Todd Ward, “and I just loved getting to see everybody together and having fun.”

It’s this commitment to treating each other like family and winning as a team that keeps our crews together, and it’s what motivates us to keep including our customers and communities in that family as well. We strive to share that with everyone who comes to visit one of our Chapel Hill Tire locations, and hope that you’ll agree that when you’re here, you feel like family.

Our News: A New Location, and New Car Wash and Detailing Services

aerial photo of green trees and a curving road

In this month’s news, we have two exciting announcements to make!

First, Chapel Hill Tire is expanding its range of locations in the Triangle — and while we can’t share all the details yet, as soon as we have things nailed down you’ll be the first to know. We’ve been hard at work to secure this new location, and we’re going to be so excited to welcome more people in our communities as part of the Chapel Hill Tire family.

But we’ve saved the most exciting news for the end: At six different Chapel Hill Tire locations across Chapel Hill, Durham, and Carrboro, we are now offering a comprehensive cleaning and detailing service!

This isn’t just any old car wash though. In addition to washing, waxing, and vacuuming, we’re also offering fine-tuned detailing through paint correction, stain removal, carpet shampooing, and more.

But the best part? If you don’t have time to drop your car off and wait, we can still get it looking brand new and shiny for you.

As part of our service packages for our Drive Clean, Drive Happy car wash and detailing, we’re also offering free pick up and delivery. So while you’re working at the office or out on the town for a bit, we’ll be hard at work getting your car cleaned, detailed, and ready to go. Because there are few feelings better than stepping out of work and into your freshly cleaned and detailed car.

To see our range of car wash and detailing services and to schedule an appointment, click the image below.

Our Values: What It Really Means to Treat Each Other Like Family

Chapel Hill Tire Values

Chapel Hill Tire is a family company in more ways than one

Here at Chapel Hill Tire, treating each other like family is more than just marketing jargon — it’s a way of life that guides everything we do. And a lot of that dedication to treating people right comes straight from the company’s patriarch, Al Pons, and his desire to pass it down to the next generation of his family.

The trouble is, you’ll find advertisements everywhere saying that all these businesses treat their staff like family. So what does that really mean in this day and age?

That’s why we’d like to take a minute here while we have your attention to explain a little bit more about how we think of our Chapel Hill Tire family, across all of our locations.

We Choose to Care

In our personal lives, choosing to care can take a lot of different forms: Laying out our kids’ clothes the night before, making a nutritious breakfast for our families, and setting aside quality time on the weekends all make a difference — and help to keep our families and communities working in harmony.

The same is true in business, just on a different scale. When we think about choosing to care, it starts before anyone even walks into the store in the morning. Have everybody’s scheduling needs been taken care of? Does every employee have an opportunity to advance to a fulfilling and meaningful career?

But probably most important of all: Are we treating each other like we’d want to be treated? The Golden Rule is as relevant now as it’s ever been, and we try to live that value in our personal and work lives here at Chapel Hill Tire. To us, that’s family.

It’s About Relationships

No matter how successful a business might be on paper, it really doesn’t mean as much if they aren’t contributing to making real, lasting relationships in their communities.

For us, that starts with the amazing people we hire at each of our Chapel Hill Tire locations. People like Todd Ward, who has been working with us for over 35 years now, or relative newcomer Terry Govoreau, who says “I’m grateful every day that I walk into this place and see the level of care that everyone treats each other with.”

Empowering those people with our Core Values gives them the tools necessary to create deep relationships, both with their coworkers and with the folks who come in to get their cars worked on time and time again.

In short, we want to journey together and grow together — all while staying accountable to ourselves, to each other, and to our larger communities. And if we’ve done all of that right, we hope to include you as a part of our big Chapel Hill Tire family so that we can all work happy and drive happy together well into the future.

Our News: Fine-Tuning Our Relationship With Chapel Hill High’s Racing Team

aerial photo of green trees and a curving road

Thanks in part to donations from Chapel Hill Tire, local high schoolers get the opportunity to work on a real NASCAR race car before they graduate

Here in North Carolina, we have a long history of working on our own vehicles — going all the way back to bootlegging during Prohibition, when distillers would need fast and maneuverable cars to deliver their illicit goods. Those early modifications eventually led to the development of their own sport, in the form of the National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing, NASCAR.

And while that rum-running history is mostly behind us, the appeal to work on fine-tuning a vehicle for racing is as present as ever. Through our work with Chapel Hill High’s Racing Team, we’re proud to offer the most dedicated high school seniors the opportunity to work on a real NASCAR race car — earning valuable experience before they graduate, and possibly going on to participate in the North Carolina Auto Apprenticeship Program.

About the Program

Chapel Hill High is one of the few schools you’ll find where in addition to a football team and a basketball team, they also have a dedicated stock car racing team. That’s a product of their Automotive Service program, which students can take for all four years of high school — and end up participating in a real race-day build in their senior year.

The Automotive Service program is just one part of the Career and Technical Education Department at Chapel Hill High, a department whose goal is “to provide students with a competitive advantage as they leave high school,”  said CTE Director Kathi Breweur.

For the students who go on to work through all four levels of the Automotive Service program, that unique opportunity takes the form of working on a NASCAR late model stock car, running a Chevy 350 engine. That car will go on to race at the Wake County Speedway in Raleigh, NC, where the students will be able to see the real-life results of all their hard work and dedication.

Striving for Excellence and Winning As A Team

Chapel Hill Tire’s Core Values guide everything we do, and that’s a big part of why we’re so proud to contribute to our communities through this program.

By giving local high school students the opportunity to strive for excellence — stock cars are a detail-oriented, high speed affair after all — and win as a team, we hope to continue to spread those values into every corner of our community. And if some of those students go on to pursue apprenticeship programs or want to jump right into the automotive service workforce, we’d love to have them join our family here at Chapel Hill Tire.

Our People: Jason Silva Rojas

photo of a set of wrenches beside a bumper sticker with a yellow smiley face that reads "Drive Happy" and a blue ball cap with a yellow smiley face

Our latest apprentice was born and raised in this area, and has big aspirations as an automotive technician

For Jason Silva Rojas, an interest in cars and automotive repair took hold early in life. He got his start like many of us did, holding a flashlight for his Dad while he worked on general maintenance and engine repairs.

It was only natural, then, that when the time came to start thinking about what he might want to do after graduating high school, Jason turned towards working on cars and trucks. And as luck would have it, a friend of Jason’s would tip him off to what would become his next step in life — an apprenticeship program through Wake Tech.

“I’m really grateful for my experience with the apprenticeship program”, says Jason, adding that it has been a great way for him to continue his automotive education without having to take on student loan debt.

Especially because he’s lived his entire life in the Apex area, Jason was really looking for a way to stay local and still have a genuine career path. When asked about his motivations, Jason responded “I’m really hoping to become a good [automotive] tech.”

We’re proud to report that he’s getting plenty of opportunities to do just that, in his role as an apprentice in our Apex location. While there, he’s continuing his education through the apprenticeship program at the same time as he’s learning real on-the-job skills.

On any given day, he might be asked to check up on cars, relay information to his fellow techs, do a few oil changes, and then help the more senior techs with hands-on repairs. And because our Apex location is right down the road from the high school Jason graduated from, he gets to see some familiar faces: “It’s actually really cool, I get to see some of my old teachers and change their oil and fix their cars.”

Jason will be celebrating his one year anniversary of working with Chapel Hill Tire this August, and we’re looking forward to continuing to see him grow and develop. That’s part of our commitment to treating everyone we work with like family: We want to always be accountable to ourselves, each other, and our communities, and be able to journey and grow together as we pursue excellence in our personal and professional lives.

As for his overall take on the apprenticeship program, Jason is a big fan: “The apprenticeship is a good opportunity for anyone who wants to further their education in the automotive industry. If they’re interested in this field, this is a great way to get into it.”

What’s Up With That? Understanding Your Cabin Air Filter

Cabin Air Filter

Allergies acting up? Persistent odors when you turn on your A/C? It might be time to change your cabin air filter.

Just like your home, your car has a heating and cooling (HVAC) system. It’s what keeps you warm in the winter, cool in the summer, and comfortable in the spring and fall. And when it comes to making sure that you’re breathing the freshest and cleanest air possible in your car — and avoiding the worst of allergies and pollutants — you’ll be relying heavily on your cabin air filter.

What is A Cabin Air Filter, Anyway?

Midway through your car’s heating and cooling system, all the air that’s passing through from the great outdoors to the inside of your car’s cabin passes through — you guessed it — the cabin air filter.

This cloth fiber based filter looks a lot like the air conditioner filters in your home, with plenty of pleats that help it capture dust, pollen, and allergens. It’s usually located right behind your glovebox, and plays a key role in making sure your vehicle’s HVAC system works as cleanly and efficiently as possible.

How Your Cabin Air Filter is Like A Sponge

Probably the easiest way to understand how a cabin air filter works is to consider the common kitchen sponge.

When they’re fresh and new, both your cabin air filter and a sponge will be entirely clean and ready to “soak up” dust, dirt, and grime. Air filters take these nasty bits out of the air; sponges take them off of hard surfaces.

But as anyone who’s cleaned a kitchen knows, no sponge lasts forever. After a few weeks of use, they’ll start to look a little bit ragged — and worse yet, start developing a musty smell that’s impossible to ignore while you’re cleaning.

Lucky for you, your car’s cabin air filter lasts a lot longer than an average kitchen sponge! More on that in a moment.

But once it starts to wear out, your air filter will show a lot of the same problems as a sponge. You might notice a damp or musty smell in your car’s cabin while you’re running your fans, or you might notice that your HVAC system just isn’t able to produce as much airflow — meaning that it’s no longer capable of effectively cleaning the air coming into your car.

When Should You Change Your Cabin Air Filter?

Most manufacturers recommend changing it somewhere between every 15,000 and 30,000 miles (you can check your car’s manual to find the exact recommendation for your make and model). You can think of that as changing it on every third or fourth oil change, if you want to lump everything together into one maintenance trip.

But a lot of how often you need to change your car’s air filters depends on the quality of the air you’re usually driving in. Spend lots of time on gravel roads? That’ll cut down on your filter’s lifespan. Stuck in heavy traffic every day after work? All those exhaust fumes can really take a toll on your car’s filtering abilities.

Instead, you can know that it’s time to get your cabin air filter checked and replaced when these signs start to show up:

  • Weak airflow from your vents, even when they’re set to high
  • A musty or damp odor when you’re running your fans
  • Excessive noise while you’re running your heating or cooling system

If any of these show up, give us a call. We can take a look at your car’s air filters and let you know whether they need to be replaced, and set you up with a new cabin air filter if your old one is worn out.

Our Community: Empowering Through Apprenticeships

Aerial photo showing green trees and buildings

We’re proud members of the North Carolina Auto Apprenticeship program and have high hopes for the impact it can have on young people’s lives.

For the better part of 500 years, apprenticeships were the most common way that young people would learn a trade and develop it into a career. It’s only been in the past 50 years or so that we’ve moved away from apprenticeship as a worthwhile way to give our kids direction and skills in life. And that’s got to make you wonder: Why?

See, we think that apprenticeships — like the ones offered through the North Carolina Auto Apprenticeship Program — are one of the best ways for young adults to find their place in life. That’s why we’re proud to support the program through hiring their apprentices to work in our shops across the Triangle. And it’s also why we’d like to share a little bit about the NC Auto Apprenticeship Program with you.

What Is the NC Auto Apprenticeship Program, Anyway?

This apprenticeship program is a unique one that’s only available here in North Carolina, with some branches run by the Automotive Service and Tire Alliance (ASTA) — but anyone in the state can form their own apprenticeship plan as long as it meets the state guidelines.

According to the ASTA, this program “is seeking current high school seniors interested in pursuing a successful automotive career for participation in the 2020-2021 North Carolina Automotive Apprenticeship Program. Apprentices in the program receive a free education through the North Carolina Community College system while gaining on-the-job experience and earning wages by working part-time at an approved shop.”

Or, in short: This apprenticeship program can take a high school senior with an interest in the automotive service industry, give them all the tools necessary to pursue their education free of charge, and then help them find immediate placement in the workforce. For a generation that’s facing increasingly high student loan debt, that’s a darned attractive option!

Our Role

Chapel Hill Tire is proud to be one of the approved shops participating in the NC Auto Apprenticeship program. That means once a high school senior gets signed up for the program, they could easily find themselves learning real on-the-job skills — all while earning a paycheck — at one of our stores.

We’re increasingly dedicated to nurturing a community of technicians here and now, so that our communities both receive a successful member of the workforce and a highly trained automotive technician. Because when we all take care of each other, our entire community benefits as a result.

How You Can Get Involved

Do you know any high schoolers who might be interested in an apprenticeship program through the ASTA? If so, please help them get in touch with the NC Auto Apprenticeship Program — because we’d love to welcome them into the Chapel Hill Tire family once they’re graduated and ready to move onto the next phase of their training!