What is an AC Recharge?

what is a car ac recharge

Modern life has spoiled most of us. We’re used to traveling around with adjustable seats, auto-everything, and GPS so we never get lost. We also expect a cooling system we can set to the precise temperature for maximum comfort.

Your car AC is one of those things you take for granted. That is until it dies during the heat of the North Carolina summer. Then you realize how much you appreciate it.

You can ignore your car’s AC system until it stops working. Hopefully, this doesn’t occur on a road trip far from your trusted local repair shop.

Or you can schedule regular AC recharge services. Once every year or two is probably sufficient. Spring is a good time to do this.

We advise you to schedule an AC recharge before your unit stops blowing cold air entirely. If you notice that the air coming out of your vents is not quite as brisk, give us a call.

How Does Your Car’s AC System Work?

Before we answer the question ‘what is an AC recharge,’ let’s briefly describe how electric air conditioning works.

An auto air conditioning unit is a ‘closed-loop’ system. This simply means that there is no starting point or ending point. The refrigerant goes around and around. If your system has no leaks, it works great. The refrigerant doesn’t need to be ‘topped-off.’

Car air conditioning systems contain these five parts: a compressor, a condenser, a thermal expansion valve, an evaporator, and an accumulator (or receiver/drier).

The AC Compressor

The compressor pushes the refrigerant through the system at high pressure. The refrigerant turns from liquid to gas form when it is subjected to high pressure. This process pushes the gas to high temperatures as it pulls heat from the surrounding air.

Refrigerant has a very low boiling point. If you remember your high school science class, you remember that water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit. In contrast, R-134a car AC refrigerant boils at minus 15 degrees.

When the refrigerant starts boiling—thereby turning into a gas—it absorbs heat. This is how it cools the air down in your car.

But now that the refrigerant is in gas form, we need to turn it back into liquid so the process can continue. That’s what the compressor does.

The Car AC Condenser

The condenser works like a radiator and cools the refrigerant. As the gas cools down, it turns back into a liquid.

The AC Thermal Expansion Valve or Orifice Tube

Now that the refrigerant (which is liquid at this point) moves through the tubing to a small valve. The valve tightly regulates the flow of refrigerant and lowers the pressure. In the process, the liquid refrigerant is turned back into a gas, though at much lower pressure than before.

The AC Evaporator

The next stop for the cold refrigerant is the evaporator which lives in your dashboard. The evaporator turns the liquid back into a gas which cools the surrounding air. An electric fan blows the cold air through the vents and into the cabin, thereby keeping your ice cream from melting.

The Accumulator or Receiver/Drier

Automotive air conditioning units also pull the humidity out of the air. This is a welcome feature in humid climates like ours. Your system has either an accumulator or receiver/drier to perform this function.

What If I Can’t De-Fog My Windows In Cold Weather?

Because AC units work so well at de-humidifying, most automobiles use the AC system to de-fog windows. If your system can’t clear your windows during cold weather, it could be a sign you need an AC recharge.

What Is An AC Recharge?

AC systems perform best when the refrigerant is at the recommended level. There isn’t a lot of wiggle room here.

Before your refrigerant is replaced, your service technician will test the unit. An ultraviolet dye will be injected into the system. This allows your technician to detect any leaks that are present.

Your technician will also test or inspect the other system parts previously discussed.

For the recharge part of the service, your technician will attach a special machine to your air conditioning unit. The machine will suck out the existing refrigerant and oil. Then they will refill it to the right level.

Wasn’t Freon Outlawed Years Ago?

Older drivers may remember that the Environmental Protection Agency outlawed Freon because it dissolves the ozone layer. The type banned (in 1994, by the way) was R-12 Freon. Air conditioning systems manufactured since then use R-134a Freon. If you drive a car built before 1994, you can retrofit your AC for the legal refrigerant. Talk to us if you need more information about AC retrofits.

Chapel Hill Tire AC Repair

If any parts, hoses, or belts are malfunctioning, your technician will replace them with quality equipment. Your service advisor will also check for blockages that reduce cooling function. Our 3-year/36k maintenance warranty gives you peace of mind.

Keep Your Cool With Chapel Hill Tire Air Conditioning Service

The next time you feel a refreshing blast of cool air coming from your vent, you can thank Willis Carrier, the inventor of electrical air conditioning.

The next time you need automotive AC service, you can rely on Chapel Hill Tire for providing timely, quality work at a fair price. Give us a call today to learn more, or make an appointment to come get an AC recharge.

What Happens When You Don’t Get an Oil Change?

Man checking engine oil of an older car

Thanks for visiting the Chapel Hill Tire blog. Today’s post answers a question we hear quite often: what happens when you don’t get an oil change?

We know life gets busy and it’s hard to prioritize all the ‘gotta do’s.’ Work deadlines. Family responsibilities. Dental appointments. Home maintenance. (Did I forget to replace the furnace filter?)

When you can’t keep all the balls in the air, is it really that bad to wait a few more months to get an oil change?

Even if you have no mechanical knowledge, you probably suspect that it’s not a good idea to put this one off. Let’s explore why.

What happens when you don’t get an oil change?

First, let’s discuss what oil does in your engine. You may have heard that ‘oil is the lifeblood of your motor.’ This isn’t hyperbole. Your engine couldn’t run without oil.

To continue the blood analogy further: just like blood, oil circulates through the motor. It enables the parts to perform their specific functions. It brings necessary substances to the parts. This allows the entire system to work in harmony.

The most important thing oil does is provide lubrication. When parts aren’t lubricated they create heat. Too much heat is a problem.

What happens when metal grinds on metal with no oil to provide lubrication and dissipate the heat? It’s not pretty. Eventually, the parts actually melt and weld to each other. This is called amalgamation. In an engine, it’s called seizing. If you think that sounds expensive to fix, you are right. You may need to replace the entire motor. Ka-ching!

Why do I need to replace my oil if I have enough? Can’t I just add more?

Now we’ve established why oil is critical. Your engine can’t run without it. But why do you have to replace it periodically if you have enough in there? Can’t you just add more?

As the oil makes its journey through your engine it passes over and through thousands of parts. It picks up fragments of metal, grit, and dirt. It also picks up soot. (Hence the combustion part of internal combustion.)

Your oil filter does a great job of trapping these particles. It allows your engine to run for thousands of miles between oil changes. Eventually, however, the filter gets clogged with debris. It reaches the end of its useful life. Just like the furnace filter mentioned previously.

Motor oils have additives that improve their effectiveness. When oil gets dirty, it also compromises the additives. These include agents that prevent corrosion and anti-foam compounds. These additives don’t have an unlimited lifespan either.

How often should I change my oil?

Many North Carolina drivers are confused about this question. Auto manufacturers’ recommendations vary. But most agree that the old rule—every 3,000 miles—doesn’t apply to newer cars. This is due to improvements in materials and manufacturing.

Consult your owner’s manual for service interval guidelines. While you’re at it, check which type of oil is recommended. Using the right type of oil is key. Your manufacturer may recommend synthetic oil. It’s important to follow the guidelines. Using the wrong kind could harm your engine. At the very least, it could void your warranty.

What are the benefits to getting my oil changed when I am supposed to?

  • It will keep your engine clean and extend its life
  • You will prevent unnecessary engine damage
  • You will get better fuel economy
  • You will pass your emissions test
  • Your car will not release as much pollution (pat yourself on the back for being environmentally conscious)
  • Your car will run better
  • You will protect your investment

There might be something going on with your car that requires more frequent service. Even if you got your oil changed recently, don’t ignore warning signs. They could indicate a problem with your fluids or something else. You could have a leak.

What are the warning signs that my oil needs to be changed?

  • Ticking or knocking noises
  • Oil pressure light
  • Oil level warning light
  • Check engine light (this could indicate a number of other issues as well)
  • You check your oil the old-fashioned way and it looks like thick Coke
  • The little reminder sticker on your window fell off last year
  • You can’t remember the last time you changed it

Let the Team at Chapel Hill Tire Keep You On Track

In addition to your motor oil, you need to replace all the other fluids in your car. That’s a lot to keep track of. Take a look at our oil change services or give us a call to talk to a service advisor at Chapel Hill Tire. We would be happy to set up a maintenance schedule. Let us worry about oil viscosity and service intervals.

It’s one more way we make life easier for our valued customers.

What Kind of Tires Should I Buy?

Wheels and Tires

Every car owner has to deal with this question. It seems like there are more types of specialized tires than ever before. The fact that there are so many choices doesn’t make it any easier. So what is the right tire for your car?

The answer depends on several factors:

  • What type of vehicle do you drive?
  • What are the driving conditions where you live or travel?
  • How do like your car to handle? (Maybe you didn’t even know you had a choice in the matter…)

What kind of tires should I buy?

Let’s discuss the different types of tires available.

All-Season Tires

All-season tires are aptly named: they work well in all types of driving conditions. Because of their deeper tread depth, they often last longer than summer tires. You can get all-season tires for any type of car.

An important advantage of all-season tires is the fact that you can leave them on your car year-round. You can put them on and not worry about them too much. (Of course, you need to get new all-season tires when they wear out.)

Are All-Season Tires Safe In Wintry Conditions?

If your all-season tires say M+S on the side, it means the Rubber Manufacturer’s Association (RMA) rates them for use in mud and snow. Tire manufacturers rate all-season tires for “light” snow. That term is a bit subjective, but we recommend erring on the side of caution. Also notice that M+S doesn’t say anything about ice.

Winter Tires

Winter tires have a deeper tread depth than both all-season and summer tires. They also have different tread patterns that improve traction. In addition, the rubber is engineered to stay softer and more flexible in cold temperatures.

Studded Snow Tires

Some winter tires can be ordered with studs for extra traction. If you live where there is heavy snow but don’t want to drive a 4-wheel-drive, consider studded tires in the winter months. They will allow you to climb snow-packed hills and stop on ice. A front-wheel drive vehicle with studded tires is a good winter solution for many drivers.

Be aware that you need to pay attention to the patchwork of laws that regulate the use of studded tires. Some states allow drivers to use studded tires during the winter months. In other places, they are banned throughout the year. A few states even have laws that differ by county. Currently, there are no restrictions on studded tires in North Carolina. Make sure you understand the laws in the states you visit or travel through.

Should You Swap Your All-Season Tires For Snow Tires?

In the fall, you may wonder if you should change to a tire designed for more extreme winter conditions. If you are going to be driving in heavy snow, you should consider snow tires, also called winter tires. Your service advisor can discuss this with you in depth.

Summer Tires

Summer tires are built for high performance driving in mild conditions. They are designed for rain but not for snow. North Carolina sports car drivers often pick summer tires. Summer tires are grippy and responsive in handling.

What If I Have The Wrong Tires For The Season?

While driving with winter tires in the summer isn’t recommended, the opposite is more dangerous. It is worse to drive with summer tires in winter. If you are driving in ice, snow, or freezing temperatures, your tire choice is critical. We already discussed why all-seasons and summer tires aren’t the safest choice for heavy snow and ice.

Driving on snow tires in the summer creates other problems. Your car won’t handle like it’s supposed to. And winter tires wear out faster in the heat.

Specialty Tires

There are also sub-specialties in each of the tire categories we have discussed. These include high performance, passenger, and off-road.

Choosing The Right Tire Is Important

The type of tires you have on your vehicle influences your fuel efficiency, safety, and ease of driving. Tires are a big-ticket purchase for most people. Choosing the right tire for your vehicle, location, and driving habits ensures that you derive the maximum value from your tire purchase.

You can rely on the tire specialists at Chapel Hill Tire to help you choose wisely.

We have answers to the most common tire questions:

  • When should I replace my tires?
  • What size of tire do I need?
  • Which tires are best suited for my automobile?
  • How do I determine if I am getting the best value in tires?
  • What do all the codes on the sidewall mean?

Use our tire shopping tool to find tires that fit your car or make an appointment today.

How to Change a Car Tire

Tire Change

Remember when you were a kid and the family piled into the station wagon to go on a road trip? Somewhere near the Tennessee border your dad reached into the backseat to quiet down the kids, hit the shoulder, and busted a tire. As he fixed it, traffic howling past, he told you to watch. He said, “One day you’ll need to know how to do this.’” But you were busy trying to catch a Minnesota plate to complete a three-in-a-row on license plate bingo, so you could beat your sister.

Flash forward to today, and you wish you had watched your father—because now you really need to know how to change a tire. You got a flat and that Minnesota tag of yesteryear isn’t helping at all.

What tools do I need?

It’s always easier to do a job when you have the right tools. When it comes to changing a tire, there are a few things you need.

  • You need a jack. Your vehicle came with a jack. It’s a simple device that you crank to raise your vehicle so you can remove the flat tire and put on a spare. One thing you may want to keep in mind: factory jacks are not the greatest. What your car comes with is the most basic of tools. If you want to purchase a more heavy-duty jack, or one that is easier to use, you can purchase one from $25 to $100. If you’re prone to hitting curbs and popping tires, a good jack might be a solid investment.
  • You need a tire iron. Again, your car came with this. It’s used to loosen your tire’s lug nuts, the large screws that keep it attached to the wheel. One tip: Get the lug nuts started before you jack up the car, while it is still stable on the ground. Removing them can take some leverage and you don’t want to push your car off the jack. Some vehicles will have a key to unlock your lug nuts to prevent theft. Your owner’s manual will have specific instructions for your vehicle.
  • You need a spare tire. This is the “donut” in your trunk. It is important to remember that spare tires are not rated like normal tires. You should not drive on them long or quickly. In fact, some people purchase a full-size spare, a tire just like those on your car. Whether or not this is right for you depends on your budget and if your trunk can accommodate a full-size tire. Trucks or SUVs often have space available for a full tire.

How do I change the tire?

  • Pull over in a safe spot. Remember when your dad stopped on the side of the Interstate? Don’t do that. Get yourself to a safe place with limited traffic and turn on your hazard lights.
  • Loosen the lug nuts. After you get all the tools out of your trunk, loosen the lug nuts. You don’t want to take them all the way off, but you want to get them started.
  • Jack up your car. Consult your owner’s manual to see where you should put the jack. Every car is different. If you put it in the wrong place, it could hurt your vehicle…or, worse, collapse and hurt you. You want to raise the car until the tire is 6 inches off the ground.
  • Replace the tire. Remove the bad tire and put on your spare. When you put on the new tire you want to tighten the lug nuts so the tire is in a proper position before lowering the vehicle.
  • Lower the vehicle. Put the car back on the ground. Take your time and, even though you’re almost done, stay aware of your surroundings.
  • Tighten lug nuts. When the car is on the ground, tighten the lug nuts all the way. The DMV recommends that you tighten 50% on one then move to the opposite lug nut (across the circle), and so on until all are tightened. When everything is as tight as you can get it, pack all your tools and the bad tire back up in your trunk.

Your tire experts are here to help.

After you change a tire, contact your local Chapel Hill Tire. We can give you an estimate on a new tire or see if the tire that went flat can be repaired. Again, we don’t want you driving around on a factory spare for long. It’s there to help you get to a safe location, not as a replacement for your regular tire. All you have to do is request an appointment and we’ll give you a hand. With 5 locations around the triangle, Chapel Hill Tire is poised to help you with all of your car care needs.

How to Make Your Car More Green

Green Car

Everyone is trying to go green these days, and we don’t mean they’re dressing up in shades of grass and clover. We’re talking about a prevailing desire to reduce our carbon footprint. It’s a topic of conversation on the news and a popular principle among our clients. That’s why we want to help you go green. Below are a few simple tips that can make your car more Earth-friendly and help you reduce that footprint.

1. Carpool

The best way to reduce your carbon footprint when it comes to travel is to share transportation or carpool. Reducing the number of cars on the road is a great way to decrease the level of carbon emissions. This will also reduce the wear and tear on your vehicle. Putting fewer miles on your car means fewer trips to the shop for maintenance and tires.

2. Drive more smoothly

How you drive your car can reduce its impact on the environment. Carbonfund.org recommends drivers accelerate gently, obey speed limits, drive at consistent speeds and anticipate stops. They even say that driving better can reduce the your gas usage by as much as 30%. Imagine having a third less of an impact on the globe just by paying attention to how you drive!

3. Get regular maintenance

When your car drives more efficiently, it creates less of an impact on the environment. This means you need to change your filters, keep your car well tuned and obey factory recommendations. If every car on the road ran as it should, global emissions would certainly drop. It’s the gunk and grime that contributes to those black clouds we often see tailpipes spitting at stoplights.

4. Check your tire pressure

We have talked about tire pressure on this blog a number of times. Having properly inflated tires can dramatically improve your gas mileage and, like regular maintenance, make your car run more smoothly. A smoother car is a greener car.

5. Shop local

You can decrease your carbon footprint by reducing the number of miles you travel. This means shopping local. Visit your neighborhood stores for regular shopping trips and when your car needs maintenance, don’t drive across town. Choose one of 5 convenient area Chapel Hill Tire locations for your service needs. You can even make an appointment online to save yourself some trouble.

5. Drive a hybrid

Each year more hybrids hit the market — and these cars require special attention. At Chapel Hill Tire, we are experienced in the unique maintenance requirements of your hybrid engine. We abide by stringent requirements to make you maximize your sustainability efforts and keep your car running smoothly for a long time. If you’ve committed to driving more sustainably, choose Chapel Hill Tire for your next vehicle check up.

Chapel Hill Tire can help you lessen your carbon footprint

A well maintained vehicle is a more environmentally conscious vehicle. So trust Chapel Hill Tire to help you get the most of your gas money and reduce your impact on the globe. We are committed to helping you get the services you need, when you need them, to help you avoid issues down the road and save money in the long run.

If you want to talk more about how car care plays a role in sustainability, give us a call. We’re happy to hear about the vehicle you’re driving and talk through ideas for making it more efficient.

Is Your Car Cruising on Crooked Skis?

Alignment Inspection

Is your car pulling one way or another when you’re driving? Do you feel an unusual or harsh vibration? Are your tires wearing unevenly? If so, your car may be out of alignment.

Alignment relates to the suspension of your car. Your suspension determines how tires come in contact with the road. Often people assume alignment is directly related to the tires, as this is where you feel bad alignment when you’re driving. But think of it like this: if you are skiing and your skis are pointed inward, sideways, or spreading wide, the skis are not broken; rather, it’s your legs and knees, your shocks or struts, throwing everything off.

Three terms to know when talking alignment

When it comes to alignment there are three things to keep in mind: toe, camber and caster. Each of these terms defines a different way in which the tires can be out of alignment. Let’s keep our skis on and carve further into each term.


Toe is simple if you’re looking down at your skis. There is toe in, and toe out. Like your feet, the tires can be slightly pointed toward or away from one another. Toe in will wear the tires on the outside and toe out on the inside. Think about skiing with your toes pointed toward one another: snow will build up on the outside as the skis scrape, which is similar to how a tire might wear on the outside.


Now, still on your skis, gently cruising down the mountain, try to touch your knees together. This is like having negative camber, as everything is folded in and the top of the tires point toward one another. If the camber of your car is off, it will cause tires to wear oddly and affect how the car handles.

Some finely-tuned sports cars use negative camber to improve handling. But if you’re driving to and from soccer practice, you don’t need to hug the neighborhood curves.


Caster relates to the vertical angle of your suspension. A positive caster angle means the top of the suspension is back, and negative is when the top of the suspension is tilted forward. This affects how your car performs and handles. If the caster is off, it’s like your skis have drifted out in front of your torso and now you’re leaning back while moving forward. This is not an efficient way to get down the mountain and it is equally troublesome for a car. When the caster is off your car may act irregularly at higher speeds — exactly when you need it to drive true.

Call on Chapel Hill Tire for all your alignment needs

Your alignment may get knocked off any number of ways. If you hit a big bump, drive on worn-down tires, jump a curb or get in a high-speed chase — we’re kidding! Please don’t! — you can knock your alignment out of whack.

If you think your alignment may be off, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Bad alignment can lead to increased labor costs or, worse, accidents down the road. Chapel Hill Tire specializes in tire service. We can help you recognize an issue and get it repaired before it grows into something more significant. So if your car is pulling one way or the other or your tire treads look uneven, make an appointment today. We’ll get you in, out and on with your life.

A Ride Through Time: Cars from the 1950’s through the 2000’s

Chapel Hill Tire History

In 1954, post-war America was roaring into the boom years. More families than ever before were able to afford family cars. It was a bold decade filled with bold vehicles, chrome-decorated luxury machines that reflected all the optimism and progress of the ‘50s. Suddenly, everything was shiny!

More cars meant more need for quality, trustworthy, affordable car service. So along came Chapel Hill Tire— and we were glad to oblige.

The world, and its cars, may have moved on in the 60 years since our inception, but we’ve continued to provide the same stellar service throughout the years. As cars changed — and boy, did they change! — our expertise kept up.

Let’s take an automobile retrospective, starting in the glory days of Detroit and moving right on up through Chapel Hill Tire’s fleet of hybrid future machines.


1950s Car

A rising middle class wanted nicer vehicles, and the car industry obliged. Turn signals, for instance, changed from a luxury add-on to factory model standard, and the independent suspension became common. However, safety wasn’t yet a huge concern: cars didn’t even have seatbelts!


1960s Car

The same decade that brought the world a counter-cultural revolution also introduced the cars that would become the icon of all things America: the Ford Mustang.

You can see that chrome was still important, but car designs got sleeker — the ‘60s introduced the concept of the compact car, an important part of the design of this decade’s infamous muscle cars.


1970s Car

As car sales skyrocketed through the ‘50s and ‘60s, so did car-related deaths. The industry tried to aggressively address the problem by the 1970s, introducing four-way anti-skid systems (you know them as anti-lock brakes) and airbags (although these didn’t become standard until the Porsche 944 of 1987). As fuel prices rose, aerodynamic designs became more important, and cars began to look straight out of the space age!

But innovative as they were, the ‘70s were nearly the death of American automobile manufacturing. The “Big Three” American automakers — General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler — began to be crowded out of their own market by cheaper, more fuel-efficient imported cars, particularly the Japanese. It was the age of the Toyota, and its influence hasn’t left us yet.


1980s Car

The era of strange hair also brought with it a strange car: the DeLorean DMC-12, made famous in Michael J. Fox’s Back to the Future. It sported stainless steel panels and wings for doors, and it perhaps personified that strange decade better than any other vehicle around.

Car engines also got a reboot as electronic fuel injectors replaced carburetors, in part to comply with federal emissions standards.


1990s Car

Two words: electric cars. Although designs for electric cars have been around for a century, the Clean Air Act of 1990 spurred car manufacturers to develop cleaner, more fuel-efficient cars. However, these cars were still cost-prohibitive, and they tended to have limited range. We needed better solutions.



2000s Car

Enter the hybrid. As the whole world began to become aware of environmental issues, hybrid cars — cars with both electric and gasoline engines — burst onto the scene. Their popularity began with the Toyota Prius, the first hybrid four-door sedan released in the U.S. market. The future really was here.

At Chapel Hill Tire, we were early adopters of hybrid technology. We were the Triangle’s first certified independent hybrid service center, and we have an entire fleet of hybrid shuttles for your convenience. And, more importantly than that — we just plain love cars. Make an appointment online and see for yourself what half a century’s experience can do for you!

Making the Most of your Gas Mileage

Gas Milage

You can maximize your gas mileage, or the number of miles your car can travel on a full tank of gas. The higher this number, the less frequently you’ll have to fuel your car, and the less money you’ll spend on gas.

The U.S. Department of Energy recommends a few effective tricks for keeping your miles-per-gallon high and your costs low. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that these benefits are minimal; they can significantly improve your savings!

Maintain your engine.

Before you do anything else, take your car in for a check-up. You may be unaware of certain maintenance issues that are affecting your gas mileage. For instance, does your car have a rough idle? Do you ever hear it pinging? Then you may have a faulty oxygen sensor. This tiny little part might be costing you as much as 40% of your engine’s efficiency.

Clogged air filters are another common malady, one your technicians at Chapel Hill Tire will check during regular maintenance. A dirty air filter can decrease gas mileage by as much as 10%.

Fuel injectors and fuel systems also become clogged over time with carbon deposits. This reduces the efficiency of your engine. The pros at Chapel Hill Tire can provide a fuel/air induction service that will improve fuel efficiency, reduce emissions, and restore power.

Inflate your tires properly.

Did you know that tire inflation changes depending on the tires you have, how much driving you have done, and the weather? Most people don’t, so they don’t check to make sure their tires are inflated to the proper psi (pounds per square inch). Your engine has to work harder to push the car down the road when the air pressure is low. Properly inflated tires can improve your gas mileage by more than 3%.

So check your tires’ recommended tire pressure, and check regularly to make sure you’re not losing air pressure. The maximum tire pressure for a tire is printed on the tire’s sidewall, but don’t inflate the tire to that amount; it’s not calibrated to your specific vehicle. Instead, check your owner’s manual and find out what your manufacturer recommends.

For even more efficient performance, we recommend inflating your tire with nitrogen. Nitrogen helps your tires maintain air pressure more consistently over time and across different temperatures.

Use the right oil.

Oil lubricates metal parts in your engine, helps clean it, and transfers heat to keep your engine cooler. Not all motor oil is made equal; it comes in different grades, or measures of viscosity. When you touch motor oil and it feels thick and sticky on your hand, it’s high viscosity; when your fingers slide more easily, it’s lower viscosity.

Using the correct oil for your vehicle creates a more efficient environment in your engine. For instance, if you’re using oil that isn’t viscous enough to fully cushion moving parts, you’ll experience greater engine wear. On the other hand, your car may require a less viscous oil, and if you use the wrong grade engine parts will experience too much friction to move efficiently. This lowers your gas mileage — sometimes by as much as 2%.

These few tricks will go a long way toward keeping both your car and your bank account happy. If you spend a little time on them, you’ll see a big result!

How to Spot Bad Brakes

Spot Bad Brakes

Here’s a driving nightmare: You’re in stop-and-go traffic on the interstate, and suddenly, you’re less stop and more go. You rear-end the car in front of you, causing irritating bumper damage to both of you and, embarrassingly, a pile-up on the highway that has passing motorists behind you scowling and honking. A lot. What happened?

Your brakes happened. They’re failing, and as bad as your situation is, it’s a really good thing you found out about the problem while traveling at only 3 miles an hour.

Don’t let this be you. Be on the lookout for worn-out brakes, and take your car in for convenient brake services at Chapel Hill Tire as soon as you spot any warning signs.

Brake Warning Signs

Thin brakes pads

Brakes pads squeeze against a rotor located in the front wheels, providing the friction that stops your car. If they’re too thin, they can’t squeeze with enough force to brake your car properly. Luckily, you can do a visual inspection and spot thin brake pads. Look between the spokes in your wheel; the pad is a flat metal plate. If it looks less than ¼” thick, it’s time to take the car in.

Squealing sounds

A small metal piece called an indicator is designed to make a really irritating noise when your brake pads are wearing out. If you’ve ever heard a high-pitched screech as you depress the brake pedal, you’ve probably heard the indicator’s warning cry. (Rust over your brake pads may also cause this noise, but it’s hard to tell the difference, so you should assume the worst.) As soon as you hear the indicator, make an appointment for an inspection.

Poor performance

This one’s simple; if your brakes aren’t working well, they’re failing. You’ll feel this in the brake pedal itself, because it will depress further than normal toward the floor before your car stops. This may indicate a leak in your brake system, either an air leak from the hose or a fluid leak from the brake lines.


Your brake pedal can talk to you in other ways; if it begins to vibrate, especially at times when the anti-lock brake system is not engaged, it’s time to make an appointment. This is probably (though not always) a sign of warped rotors, which may need “turning,” a process by which they are evened.

Puddles on the driveway

A small puddle underneath your car may be another sign of a leaking brake line. Touch the fluid; it looks and feels similar to fresh motor oil, but it’s less slippery. If you suspect your brake fluid is leaking, take your car for service immediately. This problem will compound quickly as you lose more fluid.


Sometimes you’ll feel your car try to move off to the side of the road when you brake. If braking doesn’t produce even results on both sides of your car, your brake pads may be wearing unevenly, or there may be a blockage in your brake fluid line.

Loud metallic sounds

If your brakes start to sound like an ornery old man, watch out! Grinding or growling sounds are serious trouble. They occur when your brake pads are completely worn out, and they indicate damage to the rotor. Unless you catch the problem quickly, your rotor may need an expensive repair, so drive your car right in to the shop!

Warning lights

Two warning lights on your car may indicate brake problems. One is the anti-lock brake light, indicated by a red “ABS” inside a circle. If this light comes on, there may be a problem with one of the anti-lock brake sensors. You can’t fix this problem on your own. If the light stays on, take the car in.

The second is your brake light. On some cars, this is simply the word ‘Brake;’ on some, it is an exclamation point within two brackets. Sometimes this light indicates a simple issue with your parking brake, which may be engaged while you’re driving. This one’s an easy fix. However, if the light stays on, it may indicate a more severe problem: an issue with your brake fluid. The hydraulic pressure that activates your brakes may be uneven, or the brake fluid may be low. These problems can be dangerous, so if your brake light stays on, make a service appointment.

One note: if both the brake light and the ABS light come and stay on, stop driving your car! This indicates imminent danger in both of your brake systems.

With these warning signs in mind, you can keep your brakes ship-shape and minimize your collision risk on the road.

When to Change Your Tires


Chapel Hill Tire is a full-service car care center, but — it’s all in the name! — we also specialize in tires. We want every driver on the road to travel safely, and that means having fully-inflated, balanced tires that grip the road, keep traction in the rain, and hug those turns at speed. You should regularly inspect your tires for signs of wear, and take your car in for a makeover as soon as you catch sight of a problem.

So what kinds of issues are you looking for?

1. Worn tread

The groove pattern on your tires is called your tread, and it’s a crucial part of their design. Substances of all kinds — gases, liquids, and solids — travel between your tires and the road. Never thought of it that way? Remember, your tires travel through or over three substances: air, water, and ice or snow. Each of them interrupts your tires’ traction.

Tread offsets that problem. Substances travel through the tread and are channeled away from your tires, allowing the body of the tire to keep contact with the road.

However, each substance travels differently. Liquids and solids require more time and more energy to move through your tread. This means that tires with worn tread are more likely to hydroplane in the rain, snow or ice. It’s a dangerous situation for both you and other drivers!

The legal minimum tread depth is 2/32”. You can measure this depth approximately with the “penny test;” insert a penny, head first, into the tread of your tires. Can you see the top of Honest Abe’s head? Then your tread is too worn.

However, some experts recommend that you replace your tires at approximately 4/32”, well before they reach legal minimum. Don’t just rely on the penny test; make an appointment to get your tires inspected if you even suspect they’re getting a little gray around the temples!

2. Cracks

Tires are made of rubber, and just like rubber bands, they lose elasticity over time. This transition to a more brittle state leads to cracks. If your tire is cracked, you’ll know it with a visual once-over. You could find a crack at any point on a tire’s surface, including the sidewalls: the parts of your tire that don’t touch the road. Don’t ignore them in your inspection.

Tire cracks are very dangerous. They expose the underlying structure of tires, making them vulnerable to erosion, which will eventually lead to a blowout. The last thing you want is to lose a tire while you’re heading down the highway at speed — you will quickly lose control of your vehicle, and the possibility of an accident is very high. Avoid this emergency situation by monitoring your tires as they age, and bringing your car in for a tire service at any sign of a problem.

3. Bulges or bubbles

Just like cracks, bulges or bubbles in your tires indicate an imminent emergency. They are caused by air escaping from a hole or tear in the inner liner of your tire, usually due to impact. This impact doesn’t have to be major — you may bump a curb or speed through a pothole and think little of it without noticing that it was, in fact, a big deal to your tires.

If the inner liner of your tire is damaged, fewer layers are protecting it from a blowout. Bring your car in for a repair or a new tire immediately if you notice an uneven tire surface.

Stay safe out there, and remember: Chapel Hill Tire is here to serve all your tire needs!