3 Types of Car Engine Smoke

Picture of a car engine smoking

What do you do when your engine starts smoking? Is my car safe to drive? There are actually 3 types of engine smoke your car might produce from under the hood. The mechanics at Chapel Hill Tire are here to provide further insight and answer your questions about engine smoke. 

1: White Engine Smoke

White engine smoke is commonly caused by burning radiator fluid (also known as coolant or refrigerant). You might also notice a sickly sweet smell (often compared to that of butterscotch or maple syrup). Radiator fluid contains ethylene glycol, which is chemically similar to sugar compounds—causing a sweet smell when burning.

Is white engine smoke dangerous? 

While it might smell sweet, the radiator fluid is toxic to ingest, according to the CDC. Thankfully, ethylene glycol cannot be absorbed well through the skin. You might notice eye or lung irritation when breathing it in, so it is best to limit your exposure. 

As for your car, it can overheat without the cooling properties of your radiator and its fluid. You can read our guide to engine overheating here. In this case, it is best to visit a mechanic immediately to avoid further damage to your engine. If your engine begins to overheat, safely pull over and give it time to cool down. 

2: Black Engine Smoke

Dark engine smoke is a sign of excessive or improperly burning fuel. Most commonly, this issue is caused by a fault somewhere in your fuel injection system

Naturally, gasoline is highly combustible. If you fear your car is catching on fire, FEMA recommends you immediately:

  • Safely pull over and turn off your car.
  • Have all passengers exit the vehicle as quickly as possible. 
  • Get at least 100 feet away from the car to avoid harm from the flames and toxic fumes. 
  • Call 911.

Black engine smoke could also stem from an electrical issue in your vehicle. Even if your car is not on fire, approach black engine smoke with caution. Do not continue driving without consulting a mechanic for insight.

3: Blue or Gray Engine Smoke

Smoke with a blue hue indicates burning engine oil. Engine oil can burn when it is far overdue for a routine oil change—or if you have replaced this fluid with the wrong oil type. Oil may also burn if you have a failing part somewhere in your engine, including a broken valve, leaking seal, or faulty piston ring. 

Engine oil is vital to keeping your vehicle protected. Burning oil indicates a severe and immediate risk to your engine. 

Is my car safe to drive?

How safe your car is to drive will depend on the source of the smoke. This could be a sign that your car is long overdue for a routine oil change. However, it may also signify a deeper engine issue. If you are unsure of your car’s safety, it is best to have it towed to a mechanic. 

Chapel Hill Tire: Mechanic Car Care in the Triangle

If you fear your car may be a safety hazard to yourself or others—call 911 immediately. However, most of these issues simply require the insight and care of a mechanic. The experts at Chapel Hill Tire are here to help. We can find the source of your engine’s problems and repair them for you.

Chapel Hill Tire proudly serves the Triangle with our 9 locations across Apex, Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Durham. Our local mechanics also commonly serve surrounding communities, including Knightdale, Cary, Pittsboro, Wake Forest, Hillsborough, Morrisville, and beyond. We invite you to make your appointment, browse our promotions, or give us a call to get started today!

Will Your Car Pass Its Annual Inspections? Mechanic Insight

Annual NC vehicle Inspection

When you are due for your registration renewal, you might wonder, “Will my car pass the inspection?” Let the local mechanics at Chapel Hill Tire put your mind at ease with a closer look at the annual car inspection process. 

What is an Annual Car Inspection?

In North Carolina, there are two inspections your car will require each year to renew your registration:

  • Safety Inspection: Every car is required to have a safety inspection. As the name suggests, this inspection checks to make sure your vehicle is safe on the road.
  • Emissions Inspection: Required in most counties, the emissions inspection checks any vehicle components designed to keep your vehicle’s production of harmful greenhouse gases in check. 

A Closer Look at the Annual Safety Inspection

One way or another, your car is going to try to warn you of a safety problem. You might be driving along when you notice that something feels off. Before deep-diving into the safety inspections, you might look for more surface-level signs of trouble:

  • Dashboard lights: The dashboard light system is designed to notify you of a problem. You can read our guide to dashboard lights here
  • Unusual noises: Grinding, shuddering, or squeaking noises in your vehicle might be a cause for concern. 
  • Performance changes: When your vehicle starts driving differently than usual, it could indicate an issue with a safety component. 

One thing to note: the safety inspection only checks for safety issues. For example, let’s say you are due for an oil change. Low oil might cause some of the above symptoms, and it is best to get this service done as soon as possible to protect your engine. However, because engine oil is not technically a safety component, it will not cause you to fail your inspection. Our safety inspection checklist here details everything checked during the inspection.  

4 Common Causes of Failed Safety Inspections

Worn Brake Pads

Naturally, your brakes are an essential component of vehicle safety. The most frequent service they require is brake pad replacement. If your brake pads are worn beneath 1/4th of an inch, you will need replacement service to pass your safety inspection. 

Light Troubles

Whether it be a failed brake light, extremely dim headlights, or a burnt-out turn signal bulb, light issues are incredibly common. All of your vehicle lights need to be working to pass your safety inspection. Thankfully, this solution is often a simple light bulb change. If your headlights are extremely dim, you may also need a headlight restoration service. 

Windshield Wipers

During heavy rain, what would you do without your windshield wipers? These vehicle components are essential to keeping you and other drivers safe. As such, your windshield wipers must be working effectively for a pass on your inspection. Most commonly, drivers will face worn, ripped, or ineffective wiper blades. Luckily, this is another easy fix. Windshield wiper blade replacements are a quick and easy solution to help you pass your inspection and stay safe on the road.

Low Tire Tread

Is your tire tread worn out? Tires use tread to grip the road—helping you start, stop, and handle your vehicle. Naturally, this is essential to your vehicle safety. If your tire tread is worn or visibly damaged, you will fail your safety inspection without replacing the tire(s). You can read our guide to checking tire tread depth here

4 Common Causes of Failed Emissions Inspections

Check Engine Light

Your check engine light is often telling you that your engine is having performance troubles, which are often tied to fuel waste. A check engine light can cause you to fail your emissions test. The solution here is to have a mechanic find and address the source of your check engine light. 

Stolen Catalytic Converters

Catalytic converters work to lessen harmful emissions—in part with the help of precious metals like platinum. These vehicle components are unfortunately easy and lucrative to steal, making them a target of theft. These vehicle components can also fail naturally over time. If your catalytic converter is stolen or failing, you will be unable to pass your emissions inspection. 

Air-Fuel Mixture Issues

Your engine requires a mixture of air and fuel to power its combustion process. Too much fuel in this mixture will lead to unnecessarily high emissions. In most cases, an engine performance restoration will fix this issue.  

Clogged Engine Air Filter

Your engine air filter is responsible for keeping harmful dust, dirt, and debris away from your engine. When this filter becomes clogged, it will deprive your engine of vital airflow.  Suffocating your engine will also cause unnecessary fuel waste while putting your engine at risk. 

Chapel Hill Tire: Car Inspection Near Me

If you need a local car inspection, Chapel Hill Tire is here for you! Our experts will get you in, out, and driving happy in no time. If your car is at risk of failing the inspection, our full-service mechanics can take care of any services you need. 
Chapel Hill Tire proudly cares for the greater Triangle area with 9 locations across Apex, Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Durham. Our expert mechanics also commonly serve surrounding communities, including Knightdale, Cary, Pittsboro, Wake Forest, Hillsborough, Morrisville, and beyond. We invite you to make an appointment, browse our coupons, or give us a call to get started today!

Tire Protection Plans: Are They Worth It?

Tire mechanic at work

When buying new tires, you might look for ways to save money. Chapel Hill Tire makes saving easy by offering a Price Beat Guarantee; however, some drivers might try to save money by cutting out their tire protection plan. Are tire protection plans worth it? The experts at Chapel Hill Tire are here with insight. 

Do Tires Include Insurance?

The first common misconception in tire buying is that new tires automatically include insurance. Depending on the tire(s) you choose, there are different kinds of protection options that may apply:

  • Limited Manufacturer Warranty: Manufacturers often include a limited warranty to instill buyer confidence. This warranty will protect you against a defective tire, but it will not apply to any hazards you may face on the road. 
  • Satisfaction Guarantee: Some manufacturers, like Michelin, include a satisfaction guarantee. While this won’t protect your tires on the road, you can return eligible tires within 60 days if you are unsatisfied. 
  • Tread Wear Guarantee: Other tire manufacturers, like Goodyear, offer a tread wear warranty. This plan covers eligible tires if the tread wears out prematurely. 

What about everything else? Road Hazard Tire Protection is the safeguard you need to cover damage you might encounter on the road. While it is not included in your tire buying expenses, it is a necessary coverage for drivers. Like any kind of insurance, tire protection is a small fee that can save you a lot of money in the case of a problem. 

Does My Car Insurance Cover Tires?

You might be thinking, “I pay for car insurance, so why would I need a separate tire protection plan?” So, does car insurance cover tire expenses? The short answer is no—your car insurance is rarely a reliable option for tires. Let’s take a closer look. 

Technically speaking, certain kinds of tire damage might be covered by your car insurance—depending on how comprehensive your insurance is. However, there are a few points to consider before filing an insurance claim:

  • Deductible: You will have to meet your deductible before your insurance kicks in. If you are buying a $200 tire and your deductible is $500, you will still have to pay for the tire out of pocket. 
  • Insurance Rates: Filing a claim for your tire replacement(s) may raise your insurance rates—costing you more long-term. 
  • Type of Damage: Insurance coverage is often limited based on the source of your tire damage. If your tires are slashed, for example, a comprehensive insurance plan will likely cover this kind of damage. However, tire insurance seldom applies to road hazards—such as damage caused by nails, potholes, glass, and debris on the road. 

As such, car insurance is not necessarily an option when it comes to tire damage.  Many drivers choose Road Hazard Tire Protection as a safeguard instead. 

What is Road Hazard Tire Protection?

Tire distributors, local tire shops, and mechanics often sell tires with an optional Road Hazard Tire Protection plan. This tire insurance protects you against damage you might encounter on the road—filling the gap between your manufacturer warranty and your car insurance. A Road Hazard Tire Protection Plan includes three areas of coverage:

  • Tire Services: When you partner with Chapel Hill Tire’s protection plan, we will service your tires for their lifespan—so the service coverage (like free tire inflation and balancing) continues even after your warranty period ends. Your tire protection plan can easily pay for itself in the cost you save on tire services and preventing tire damage—such as that caused by low tire pressure.
  • Tire Repairs: Flat tires? Nail in your tires? Tires damaged by glass or debris on the road? Your Road Hazard Tire Protection plan has you covered. Your tire shop will complete the repairs for free.
  • Tire Replacement: If your road hazard damage cannot be repaired, the tire protection plan will include a free replacement. 

Not only are tire protection plans a worthy financial investment, but they can also put your mind at ease knowing that your tire investment is covered. We invite you to read our guide to Chapel Hill Tire Road Hazard Protection Plans here

Chapel Hill Tire: Industry-Leading Tire Protection

When you are due for new tires, Chapel Hill Tire offers a revolutionary tire buying experience. We make it easy to buy tires online with our Tire Finder Tool. Our local mechanics also help drivers protect their investment with our industry-leading Road Hazard Tire Protection Plan.

Chapel Hill Tire proudly serves the greater Triangle area with 9 locations across Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Apex, Raleigh, and Durham. Our expert mechanics also commonly serve surrounding communities, including Knightdale, Cary, Pittsboro, Wake Forest, Hillsborough, Morrisville, and beyond. We invite you to make an appointment, browse our coupons, or give us a call to get started today! 

Do I Need a Power Steering Fluid Change?

Picture of power steering fluid in an engine

Each time you turn your wheel, you are guiding your vehicle with the help of power steering fluid and other system components. Like most vehicle parts, your steering system requires regular maintenance—including power steering flushes. Our local mechanics are here with a look at the 4 signs you need a power steering fluid flush

1: Heavy Steering Wheel and Other Control Difficulties

Each time you drive your vehicle, you maneuver several thousand pounds of machinery. So why is it so easy to control? The power steering motor pressurizes your power steering fluid to multiply the force you apply to your wheel. This process turns a heavy task into an effortless function. 

Naturally, when your power steering system loses the pressure it relies on, you will begin to bear some of the weight. A jerky, heavy, or hard to control steering wheel is a tell-tale sign of low power steering fluid—and the most dangerous symptom on this list. Visit your mechanic at the first signs of steering difficulties. 

2: Noisy Steering Functions

Does your steering wheel make noises as you turn? If so, you may need a power steering fluid flush. In addition to providing the pressure you need to steer, this fluid also lubricates your steering system’s moving parts—including the valves, pistons, and hoses. This lubrication ensures your steering components can move and work together seamlessly. Without proper steering fluid, these moving parts may begin to make abrasive contact—causing squeaking, whining, scraping, and scratching noises. 

3: Failed Vehicle Safety Inspection

Proper vehicle steering is needed to pass your annual car inspection and renew your registration. The inspection detects any issues that can cause safety hazards on the road. While you will likely notice your steering troubles sooner, you may find out you need a power steering fluid flush once you fail your car inspection. You can find our full safety inspection checklist here

4: Leaking Power Steering Fluid

If you notice a red fluid leaking onto the floor of your garage or driveway, this is likely your power steering fluid. Healthy power steering fluid is a light red color, though it becomes amber when it is due for a flush.

Naturally, your power steering fluid will need to be replenished if it is leaking. In this case, however, a mechanic will also need to find and repair the source of the leak.

Is a Power Steering Flush Necessary? 

When you find that you are due for a power steering flush, you might wonder if you can get by and skip this service. So is a power steering fluid change really necessary? The short answer is yes—routine power steering flushes are essential to protecting your vehicle and keeping you safe on the road. Let’s take a closer look:

  • Noticing Symptoms: If you notice any of the symptoms listed above, your power steering fluid flush is absolutely necessary—and should be scheduled as soon as possible for the safety of you, your vehicle, and other drivers on the road. 
  • No Symptoms: What if you are due for a routine power steering fluid flush but have not yet noticed any symptoms? This service is still necessary to prevent dangerous or inconvenient symptoms from emerging. It can also help protect your power steering system. For example, your power steering pump can begin to degenerate without adequate fluid—turning a simple maintenance flush into a costly repair. A visit to the mechanic is necessary—but not as urgent as it is for drivers seeing symptoms. In these cases, schedule your service at your earliest convenience—or have a mechanic come to you

How Often Do I Need a Power Steering Fluid Flush?

On average, vehicles need a power steering fluid flush every 40,000-80,000 miles. In some cases, manufacturer recommendations can go even higher or lower than this range. Your recommended flush routine depends heavily on your type of vehicle—as the steering system and fluid needs can vary. You can check your owner’s manual for specific manufacturer recommendations.

Local Power Steering Flushes from Chapel Hill Tire

In need of a power steering fluid flush? Chapel Hill Tire is here for you! Our local tire experts proudly serve the Triangle with 9 locations across Apex, Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Durham. We also commonly serve nearby areas, including Knightdale, Cary, Pittsboro, Wake Forest, Hillsborough, Morrisville, and beyond. Chapel Hill Tire welcomes you to make an appointment, browse our coupons, or give us a call to get started!

Transforming the Tire Buying Experience: Chapel Hill Tire

Four tires lined in a row, meant to represent different tire seasons

Chapel Hill Tire has been transforming the tire buying experience for nearly 70 years: making it easier, more convenient, and more transparent than ever. Our process helps customers get the tires they need within their ideal price range. Here is a look at 4 ways you can transform your tire buying experience with Chapel Hill Tire. 

Easy Online Tire Shopping

Find your tires without ever stepping foot inside the shop with the Tire Finder from Chapel Hill Tire. Buying tires online lets you quickly and easily compare your options—from the brands to the prices and the tire features. We sort your tire results by the size and brands that fit your car. You can read more about how to use the Tire Finder Tool here

Once you make your decision, you can check out online and visit your local Chapel Hill Tire location for your new set of tires.

The Price Beat Guarantee

Naturally, when you buy new tires, you want to ensure you get the best price possible. Chapel Hill Tire can help you buy with confidence—by offering the most affordable prices on new tires. We maintain the lowest prices with our Price Beat Guarantee. Simply bring us any eligible tire quote from a competitor, and we will beat it by 10% of the difference in price.

Transparent Tire Pricing

Most tire retailers and mechanic shops will hide their tire pricing from you—leaving you stunned when they hand you the bill. But why? This is often because their prices are higher. Chapel Hill Tire is different. We show you the full pricing details for each tire—including the breakdown of charges and the out-the-door price. Simply click on your preferred tire in the Tire Finder tool for complete pricing breakdowns. 

Best of all, we do not require you to submit your phone number or email address to view our tire selection and prices. Unlike other retailers, there are no strings attached when shopping for tires online at Chapel Hill Tire.

Road Hazard Protection Plan 

After investing in a new set of tires, you can drive off with confidence knowing they are protected. Chapel Hill Tire’s Road Hazard Tire Protection plan is an industry-leading safeguard for your tires. We will replace or repair your tire within three years or 2/32″ tread depth remaining—including damage from potholes, nails, and curbs. This plan also includes your necessary tire services for the lifetime of your tires, including tire rotations, air pressure refills, and tire patching services.

Easy Tire Buying at Chapel Hill Tire

If you need new tires in Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Carrboro, or Apex—Chapel Hill Tire is here for you. We strive to promote the best possible tire buying experience. 
Our local tire experts proudly serve the Triangle with 9 locations across Apex, Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Durham. We also commonly serve nearby drivers, including those in Knightdale, Cary, Pittsboro, Wake Forest, Hillsborough, Morrisville, and beyond. Chapel Hill Tire welcomes you to make an appointment, browse our coupons, or give us a call to get started!

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!