Maintaining Your Cooling System

  • By Discount Tire Centers
  • 11 Jul, 2016

Understand the Basics Of How Your Car Cooling System Works

Car Engine Overheating - Maintain Your Automotive Cooling System

Hot California summers can spell danger for your car's engine if your cooling system isn't running at full efficiency. If you notice that the temperature gauge on your dashboard is hovering around the "hot" end of the spectrum, or if you notice steam and a burning smell coming from beneath the hood, pull over right away. Your engine is overheating, and continuing to drive may cause permanent damage.

After pulling over, turn off the car and allow the engine to cool for a few minutes. Although you should take your car to a mechanic as soon as the engine cools down completely, it's good to have a basic understanding of how the cooling system works so you can take care of minor issues and prevent problems in the future.

How It Works

The engine must operate at a delicate temperature balance. A cold engine quickly degrades and works less efficiently, since the oil is thicker and harder to move. A hot engine burns out. The cooling system needs to keep the engine at a constant temperature by getting rid of excess heat while you drive and warming the engine up quickly when you turn it on.

Modern cars use a 50-percent-coolant, 50-percent-water solution to keep the engine at around 200 degrees Fahrenheit. This solution has a low freezing point and a high boiling point, allowing it to remain in liquid form in nearly every weather unless something goes wrong. The cooling system pumps the coolant through the engine constantly while you drive.

The cooling system consists of many parts that must all work together well. If one part malfunctions, the delicate balance is disrupted and the engine suffers.

Common Problems and How to Prevent Them

If your engine's temperature is climbing, there are a few likely culprits. Keep an eye on these parts and take your car to an auto service shop as soon as you detect a problem that you can't fix. The best way to monitor the state of your cooling system is to check the level of coolant, as low levels almost always indicate that something is wrong.

1. Old Coolant

Over time, rust and dirt collect in the coolant, ruining its purity and clogging the system. The coolant itself will also break down, becoming much less effective at cleaning and maintaining the engine's temperature.

How to fix it : Completely exchange the coolant and replace it with a new solution every couple years. How often you need to change the coolant depends on the car, so check the owner's manual for specific information.

2. Coolant Leaks

Although coolant degrades, it should stay at a stable level. If you check your coolant and notice that the amount is low (below the minimum fill line), you likely have a leak somewhere in the system.

Leaks can develop either externally or internally. External leaks are easy to detect because they leave a fluid trail. With internal leaks, the coolant leaks into the engine or oil pan, so you won't see any spilled fluid.

How to fix it: In either case, the leaks occur because of a faulty part. You can sometimes blame the water pump, which circulates the coolant through the engine, radiator cap, or gasket. A mechanic can identify the broken part and replace it. Though a replacement may be costly, it is significantly less expensive than having to constantly replace the fluid or the entire engine.

3. Bad Radiator Cap

The radiator cap raises the boiling point of the coolant solution by placing intense pressure on the liquid. With the correct amount of pressure, the boiling point increases by around 45 degrees, raising the boiling point of the water from 212 degrees Fahrenheit to 257 degrees. The radiator cap releases the coolant when it reaches the necessary pressure limit, preventing the coolant from overheating or exploding.  

Problems occur when the radiator cap no longer provides a complete seal on the reservoir. The pressure can escape, leaving the coolant at a lower boiling point, which causes it to turn from liquid to gas. Steam won't maintain a temperature balance, so the steam escapes, lowering your coolant levels and causing your engine to overheat.

How to fix it: The first step, as always, is to check the coolant levels. If you notice that they're low, the problem might be the radiator cap, particularly if you see steam escaping from under the hood. Have your mechanic replace the cap.

4. Thermostat

The thermostat monitors the temperature of the engine and releases an appropriate amount of fluid when necessary. The coolant won't flow until the engine sufficiently heats up. The thermostat remains closed until the engine is hot enough, and then it opens to let coolant circulate through the radiator.

Sometimes, however, the thermostat doesn't open or close when it should. If it remains open, the coolant keeps the engine perpetually cold and far under the temperature it needs to operate. If the thermostat stays shut, the engine overheats, leading to the usual problems.

How to fix it: An engine that never heats up can usually be blamed on the thermostat. An overheating engine can be caused by several problems, but you can generally diagnose the thermostat as the issue if there isn't any loss of coolant. You can either replace the thermostat yourself or take the car to an auto service shop.


Maintaining a healthy cooling system keeps your car running safely and efficiently, and it saves you hundreds of dollars in the long run. Be sure to examine it regularly and take the car to a mechanic, such as Discount Tire and Service Centers, at the first sign of trouble.

Discount Tire Centers Blog

By Discount Tire Centers 28 Nov, 2017

You may have noticed the letters and numbers on your vehicle's tires and wondered what they represent. It is likely you know that they have something to do with the size of the tires, which is certainly correct, but the letters and numbers actually contain much more information.

If you understand how to read this string of letters and numbers, then you have access to a lot of information about your tires and even your vehicle. Below is a guide to the useful and comprehensive information found on the sides of tires.

Tire Vehicle Type

In most cases, the first information contained in a line of tire code signifies the type of vehicle on which the tire may be mounted. This designation is represented by one or two letters and informs observers about the specific, intended application for the tire.

There are numerous vehicle type designations, but one of the most common types is P , which represents light passenger vehicles. This classification includes not only cars but also light pickup trucks, sports utility vehicles (SUVs) and minivans.

LT  is another common tire type, which represents light trucks. Since many pickup trucks can use P tires, it can be confusing to know when to use LT. However, LT tires are primarily designed for vehicles that tow trailers and perform other heavy duty work.

There are other, less-common types of tires, such as T  tires suitable for use as spares, and ST  types, which are designed for use on light duty trailers.

Tire Size

The next three entries in a line of tire code specify the various size attributes of a tire. Below is more information about these measurement parameters.

  • Section Width

The section width is the distance of the tire from sidewall-to-sidewall in millimeters. This distance is measured at the widest point of the tire while properly inflated.

For example, a tire with a section width of 255 is 255 millimeters from one side of the tire to the other. Since there are 25.4 millimeters per inch, simple division (255 divided by 25.4) reveals the tire's width is just a tiny fraction more than 10 inches.

  • Aspect Ratio

The next numeric measurement follows a forward slash and is designated as the aspect ratio. Instead of being an absolute measurement in millimeters or inches, the aspect ratio describes a proportional relationship between the tire's width and its sidewall height. By definition, the sidewall height of the tire is the distance from the edge of the rim to the surface of the tread.

As an example, a tire with an aspect ratio of 35 indicates the sidewall height is 35% of the section width of a given tire. Using the earlier example of a tire with a width of 255, that means that an aspect ratio of 35 for this particular tire would be equal to 89 millimeters (255 multiplied by 35%, or 0.35).

  • Wheel Diameter

The third measurement applies to the wheel diameter and is separated from the aspect ratio by a single letter, which will be described in the following paragraph. The wheel diameter is measured in inches and refers to the diameter from the edge of the rim to a point on the opposite edge.

For example, a wheel diameter of 18 refers to the 18 inches measured from rim edge-to-rim edge. If this measurement needs to be converted to metric numbers, simply multiply the diameter in inches by 25.4 to find the number of millimeters.

Tire Construction Type

The letter that lies between the aspect ratio and wheel diameter of a tire indicates the type of construction used to manufacture the tire. By far, the most common designator in use is R , which indicates that a tire is manufactured as a radial tire.

Two other less common construction types include D , which is indicative of a bias-ply tire, and B , which is the designation used for belted tires. It is fairly unlikely you will find D and B tires in most everyday circumstances, though they are still manufactured.

Tire Load Index

Tire load index refers to the amount of weight that can be safely carried by a given tire. The loading is a number that must be referenced in a table to determine its specific value in pounds. Tire loading numbers range from the low 70s to the 110s.

Tire Speed

The last significant parameter expressed on the tire code is its maximum speed capability. The rating scale begins with the letter M  and goes up to the letter Z . Generally, a higher letter rating means that your tires have a higher speed capacity.

If you have questions about the tires on your vehicle or would like to explore obtaining new tires, contact Discount Tire & Service Centers  for help. Our expert staff will quickly serve you and get you safely back onto the road.
By Discount Tire Centers 30 Oct, 2017

It won't be long before you can purchase tires that are self-monitoring. Tire manufacturers have recently introduced concept tires that sense their own tread depth, uneven wear, and internal pressure. Unfortunately, until you have "smart tires" on your vehicle, you have to be the wise one in the human-tire relationship.

Keep a close eye on your tires to reduce your driving risks. Since a car is only as road-worthy as its tires, letting your tires go without performing routine maintenance can leave you stranded on the side of the road or worse. Follow the three tips below to be a responsible tire owner.

Always Buy the Right Size Tires

Sometimes your budget dictates that you purchase a lower-cost tire than the one you might prefer. That's okay. As long as you purchase new tires from a well-known manufacturer, the low-cost tires will get you where you need to go until you can upgrade.

However, don't purchase tires that are the wrong size for your vehicle, no matter how budget-friendly they are. Tires that are the wrong size can affect your axle, CV joints, brakes, steering, and speedometer readings. The few dollars you save on mismatched tires can end up costing you thousands in car repairs.

You should also purchase a matching set of front or rear tires when you replace a tire, unless the undamaged front or rear tire is nearly new and you are buying the same size and brand of tire.

You can check the appropriate tire size for your vehicle on the inside of your driver's side doorjamb. There should be a sticker there that tells you the acceptable sizes and tire pressures for the vehicle. If you can't locate or read the sticker, your tire professionals can consult their references to find the correct size tire for your make and model of vehicle.

Keep Track of Tire Pressure

Tire pressure matters a great deal when it comes to the performance and safety of your tires. Gas mileage declines by 0.2 percent for each recommended pound of pressure (measured as pounds per square inch, or PSI) that your tire lacks. At least once a week, you should check your tire pressure using a tire gauge. To keep track of this task, some people check their tire pressure whenever they fill up their gas tanks.

Definitely check your tire pressure before, during, and after any road trips and when towing trailers. Daily travel can reduce tire pressure significantly, and a long road trip or towing journey can reduce tire pressure to dangerous levels if not monitored. Tire pressure should also be checked when outdoor temperatures fluctuate a great deal. As a general rule, hotter temperatures reduce tire pressure.

The best time to check tire pressure is when the tires are cold. Allow the tires to sit for a few hours before checking tire pressure when you've recently driven the vehicle. If you've never checked tire pressure before, read the instructions that come with your pressure gauge, or ask a pro at the tire shop to show you the right way to use the tool.

To check tire pressure, find the valve stem located on the inside edge of the tire (closest to the hubcap). Unscrew the end cap from the tire's valve stem. Have a safe place to put it so you don't lose it. Once the end cap is off, insert the pressure-sensing part of the tool into the port in the valve stem to take the reading.

Most tire gauges only need you to insert the end completely into the valve stem for just a second. Any longer and you may cause air to be pushed out of the tire. Depending on the type of pressure gauge you have, you'll get a digital reading or a measured stick will pop out to show you the tire pressure. It's advisable to do a few checks of each tire to get an accurate reading, but do each check quickly to avoid letting out too much air.

If the gauge shows that your tires are inflated above the recommended pressure for your vehicle, you can press in the gauge to let out air. Keep checking the pressure and letting out air until you reach the correct pressure. If the gauge shows that tire pressure is too low, add air to your tires and take readings until the tires are inflated properly.

Use a Quarter to Check Tire Tread

Keep an eye on your tire's tread. While tires can last up to 10 years, if there's no tread on your tire, your vehicle will have no traction for wet roads or quick stops. Use a quarter inserted upside down in the space between tread lines to check tire depth. If you can see most or all of the top of George Washington's head, your tread is dangerously low.

It may seem silly to think that having good tires makes you a good neighbor, but it's the truth. Recently, a woman's vehicle caused a wildfire when she drove on bad tires and they popped. Sparks from her tire rims set off wildfires that burned hundreds of acres of land. Keep track of your tires for the safety of everyone, including yourself.

At Discount Tire & Service Centers, we help you choose the safest, most reliable tires for all of your vehicles. Contact us today to learn about our specials  on tires.
By Discount Tire Centers 15 Sep, 2017

Understanding when to seek brake care can extend the life of your brake system and vehicle, as well as protect you and your passengers while on the road. In this blog, we list eight signs that you should schedule a brake service .

1. Abnormal Sounds

Any abnormal brake noise can indicate a serious issue with the system. Common noises include grinding, squealing or thumping. A routine brake check can identify the source of the sound and address the problem before it poses a safety hazard.

You can find an overview of the reasons your brakes may make a specific sound in our previous blog  on brakes making noises.

2. Brake Fluid Leaks

If you notice a puddle that looks similar to motor oil but appears oily and more yellow than brown, the liquid may be brake fluid. Your vehicle must maintain an adequate fluid level in order to stop appropriately.

While most of the signs on this list indicate progressive brake system problems that require service as soon as possible, a brake fluid leak is an emergency. Do not attempt to drive a car without adequate brake fluid. Have the vehicle towed instead.

3. Decreased Resistance

As you drive your vehicle over time, you become accustomed to the way the components feel, from the shape of the steering wheel to the resistance of the brake pedal. If you notice a change in how hard you need to press the pedal to brake, schedule an inspection.

In many cases, resistance changes provide an early warning of fluid leaks or of air leaks in the brake hose. This issue may make your pedal feel squishy or quick to sink to the floor.

4. Increased Stopping Distance

One of the most obvious signs that your brakes are struggling to bring your vehicle to a complete stop is an increase in the distance you need to stop. You may find yourself inadvertently driving farther into intersections or having close calls in traffic.

You may struggle to stop when your brake pads become too worn down. Have a brake expert replace the pads and check the brake line to ensure that you're protected from the risk of fender benders.

5. Pedal Vibration or Pulsing

Sometimes when the sensation of depressing the brake pedal changes without affecting the resistance. In these situations, you're most likely to notice vibrations or pulses when pushing the pedal down.

Typically, these interval sensations result from a problem with the brake rotors. When the rotors become bent, damaged or warped, the brake pads don't have a smooth surface to push against, which creates the vibration.

6. Poor Handling

When you have healthy brakes, you should not notice any changes to your vehicle direction when you start to come to a stop. However, brake problems can cause sudden pulls to one side or the other when you apply your brakes.

This change in handling can make your car more difficult to control, therefore making it less safe to drive. Generally, this issue requires a brake line or fluid replacement to resolve since the pulling occurs when the linings sustain uneven wear or the fluid picks up too much foreign matter.

7. Rubber Odors

Burning rubber is perhaps one of the most distinct and alarming smells you may notice when driving. If you catch a whiff of burning rubber when you use your brakes in normal traffic situations, the system may have significant damage.

Specifically, your brakes may be worn down to the point that they cannot effectively create friction without eating into the rubber pads. The pads may need to be replaced. In some situations, your mechanic may recommend switching to a higher quality brake pad material to avoid similar issues in the future.

8. Vehicle Vibration

In addition to the brake pedal vibrations we discussed in section five, brake issues can make other components of your vehicle shake. You may notice that your wheel or even your entire car trembles.

If this issue stems from a brake issue like a worn rotor, you will most likely feel the vibration only when applying the brakes. If you notice vibrations at other times, you should have the issue evaluated, but it's more likely to come from misalignment or another problem.

In addition to bringing your vehicle in when you notice these signs of brake issues, you should also follow brake care recommendations from your mechanic and vehicle manufacturer. For example, most manufacturers recommend replacing your brake fluid every two years or 30,000 miles and your pads every 20,000 to 60,000 miles.

For expert brake services and intuitive car care advice to ensure your vehicle stays safe and comfortable, visit the Discount Tire and Service Centers location nearest you.
By Discount Tire Centers 01 Sep, 2017

Problems with the complex mechanical system that makes your car run should be left up to the experts who trained for years to diagnose and fix issues with various vehicular systems. However, to keep your car running smoothly year after year, you do need to know how to perform basic maintenance. One area of car maintenance where you can take a more active role is dealing with the various fluids your car requires.

The fluids perform a variety of important tasks, ranging from protecting the engine to cleaning the windshield. Because they are subjected to a wide range of temperatures and considerable force, these fluids must be resilient and long-lasting. Read through this blog to learn more about the fluids your car needs, why they matter, and how to maintain them.

1. Brake Fluid

Brake fluid amplifies the pressure placed on the brakes, allowing your car to stop quickly. The key to brake fluid is its incompressibility. The incompressibility means that the volume of the brake fluid remains constant so you don't need to slam on your brakes to get the car to slow down.

Brake fluid isn't supposed to lose volume or run out. However, over time, the quality of the fluid can degrade, weakening it and putting unnecessary pressure on the braking system. If you notice that you need to exert more and more force on the brakes to get the car to slow down, you likely need to check for one of the following problems:

  • Conversion to gas. While brake fluid has a high boiling point, moisture can enter the fluid and cause it to change to gas, which is compressible. You'll need to flush out and replace the brake fluid, which some experts recommend doing about once every two years.
  • Low fluid. You shouldn't need to refill the fluid if the system is in good shape. If you check the fluid reservoir and the fluid is below the fill line, have a mechanic inspect the entire braking system. It's likely that your brake pads or disc brakes have worn down.
  • Air in the brake lines. Occasionally, air bubbles appear in the brake lines, displacing the fluid. To fix the problem, you'll need to drain all four brake lines until you remove all the air bubbles, then refill the reservoir.

Ask your mechanic for assistance dealing with any of these issues. He or she can show you the correct way to maintain the brake fluid for your particular car.

2. Engine Oil

Engine, or motor, oil serves as a lubricant to protect the engine's moving parts and to keep it from overheating. If the parts were to contact each other directly, the friction would quickly cause the parts to wear down, generate too much heat, and slow down, leading to wasted fuel and excessive inefficiency.

You likely already know the importance of changing your oil at regular intervals, although the time between changes depends on your vehicle, your driving habits, and the oil you use. Synthetic oil, for example, tends to last longer than conventional oil, and driving regularly keeps your oil in better shape since it isn't just sitting in the engine.

Over time, engine oil collects particulates from the engine, causing the fluid to become dark and gritty. These particles can clog the engine. Engine oil also can run out as the engine uses it up. Make sure to check the oil on a regular basis to monitor the fluid levels and the quality of the oil. If the levels are low but the quality looks good, top it off. If the levels are low and the oil is black and dirty, flush it out and replace it with fresh oil.

3. Power Steering Fluid

Like brake fluid, hydraulic power steering fluid connects the pressure you place on the steering wheel to the rest of the steering system, which then moves the car. It serves as a cushion to protect the moving parts of the steering system and as a conduit so you don't need to use excessive force to turn the car.

Over time, the seals and other components of the steering system can break down, causing contaminants to enter the fluid. If not maintained, the fluid can start to degrade or disappear, making the steering system work harder and burn itself out. Your system may also have a leak, so you should check the fluid levels on a regular basis and receive professional maintenance.

Checking the fluid levels in your car on your own will give you a better idea of what possible issues your vehicle may be experiencing. If you notice any problems in the three types of fluid mentioned above, visit Discount Tire and Service Centers. Our experienced mechanics can examine the system and provide additional details about your car's needs.

By Discount Tire Centers 28 Aug, 2017

Whether you inherited your family's old minivan or you just purchased a new car for the first – or fifth - time, you know that a car is both an investment and a commodity. And you want to protect this modern-day convenience as much as possible.

You drive carefully so that your car doesn't get damaged while you drive around. You even pay for insurance coverage to safeguard your vehicle in the event of an accident.

But do you make any efforts to keep your car in good condition? If not, now's the time to start. Below, we've listed several car care tips you can use to keep your car in excellent condition. Read through these tips so you know what you can do to further protect your car and keep using it for years.

1. Check the Car's Vital Components and Fluids

You know that if any car parts are damaged or broken, your car can't run properly. Likewise, you understand that your car's engine needs certain levels of fluids to make each component work well.

Briefly inspect the following parts and fluid levels in your car:

  • Air conditioner
  • Antifreeze
  • Battery
  • Belts
  • Brake fluid
  • Brakes
  • Filters
  • Hoses
  • Oil
  • Power steering fluid
  • Refrigerant for A/C
  • Tire treads
  • Windshield wipers
  • Wiper fluid

You should also check each tire's air pressure and fill it up if necessary.

Note that checking many of these fluid levels and components may be difficult if you don't know what to look for. The best way to accurately inspect your car's parts and fluids is to take your car to a mechanic for a quick inspection and fluid top-off. You should also schedule regular tune-ups to ensure your car's engine and transmission work well.

2. Inspect the Glass for Damage

The windows in your car serve two primary purposes: to let you see around you and to protect you as you drive. But when the glass is too damaged, it can't fulfill those functions.

Starting at your front windshield and slowly moving around your car, inspect your glass for the following kinds of damage:

  • Breaks
  • Chips
  • Cracks
  • Holes
  • Scratches

If you do find any damage, take your car to a glass repair shop or your auto shop and have the damage fixed. You may also want to call your insurance company to see if your policy will pay for any of these repairs.

3. Find Out If Your Vehicle Has Been Recalled

Recently, thousands of cars have been recalled because of malfunctioning parts. If your car has been recalled, the manufacturer will send you a notice in the mail telling you what the problem is and where you can go to fix the issue free of charge. Sometimes, these notices can be delivered late, and you may not be aware of a recall in a timely manner.

You can look up recalls by VIN numbers  to determine if your car has been recalled. Or, you can call the manufacturer or a local dealership that sells your vehicle's make. If a recall notice has been issued for your car, follow the instructions listed in a mailed notice or those given to you by the dealership or manufacturer.

4. Wash Your Car

Dirt and grime make your car look dusty and unappealing. Tree sap makes your car feel sticky, and it can damage the paint on the body. To make your car look clean and sparkling, wash it regularly. Run your car through the automatic wash at your gas station next time you fill up the tank, or give it a thorough cleaning with a hose and rag at home.

5. Apply a Fresh Coat of Wax

Once you've washed your car, keep it cleaner for longer – and protect the paint job from damage – by applying a fresh coat of wax. The wax also makes your car look sleek as well.

6. Clean the Interior

Even if you've taken great care of your car's exterior, your vehicle's overall value can drop significantly if the interior is in poor shape. Take time to clean the inside and keep your car spick and span. Vacuum the floors and fabric seats a few times a month. If you have leather seats, wipe them down with leather-safe wet wipes.

You should also use wet wipes or dusters to clean the center console, dashboard, and any other parts inside your car.

Throw away all trash and invest in a small container or bag you can use to dispose of garbage in the future.

7. Protect Your Car From the Sun

The sun not only causes the paint on the outside of your car to fade, but it also damages the fabric or material of your seats. Park in shaded areas or parking garages whenever you can, and use sunshades to block out the sun.

 Use these 7 tips to maintain your car and keep it drivable for you and your family members. When you need more extensive care to keep your car running properly, visit Discount Tire and Service Centers. Our mechanics will take a look at your vehicle and determine what problems need fixing so your car runs smoothly and seamlessly.

Want more information to further care for your vehicle outside of our shop? Let us know. We'll happily answer any questions you have so you can confidently drive a well-maintained, safe vehicle.

By Discount Tire Centers 18 Aug, 2017

One of the most fundamental maintenance measures any motor vehicle needs to run smoothly is a regular oil change schedule. However, because oil changes  are fairly straightforward and usually are not needed for months at a time, some drivers may put off or forget this task.

Additionally, your vehicle may need more frequent oil changes as it ages, increases in mileage, or drives in more extreme climates. Because the need for oil changes can become different over time, you may wait too long between changes, even if you're right on schedule.

So how do you know if it's been too long since your last oil change? In this blog, we list nine warning signs that you should bring your vehicle into an auto shop to refresh the oil.

1. Excess Vehicle Exhaust

Modern vehicles generally do not release visible exhaust from their tailpipes, so if you see what looks like smoke trailing behind your vehicle, the change can indicate a serious issue. Commonly, excess exhaust indicates that the motor oil has become too old to function properly.

Exhaust changes can also point to engine problems like cracked gaskets, so be sure to have this symptom checked out as soon as possible.

2. Falling Oil Level

Topping off your oil occasionally can help extend the period of time between oil changes. However, if your oil level seems to fall quickly and constantly, your oil system has likely developed a problem.

In this situation, you may need additional repairs on top of an oil change.

3. Increased Engine Noise

Motor oil lubricates your engine so that all the parts work together smoothly. When the oil becomes thin, old, or poorly textured, you might hear the issue every time you drive.

When driving with bad oil quality, your engine may make a knocking sound while the vehicle is in motion. Oil issues can also cause other noises, like ticking, which we'll discuss in the last section.

4. Irregular Oil Texture

All oil becomes darker as it runs through engines, sometimes almost immediately, so color isn't always a reliable indicator that you need an oil change. However, over time, oil can pick up small particles of grime that make the liquid gritty.

When you check your oil levels, check the consistency as well. If your oil seems to have a lot of grit in it, you may need to replace it.

5. Low Oil Level

While you can top off between oil changes, you should pay attention to the level you find the reservoir at. If it's been too long since your last oil change, the oil levels may read well below the minimum.

If you notice this low of an oil level, have your car serviced right away. Driving with extremely low oil levels can cause permanent engine damage and increase your risk of stalling or breaking down, especially in warm weather.

6. More Mileage Than Usual

If you recently returned from a long road trip or a long-distance business trip, you may need to take your car in for an oil change right away.

Any time you put significantly more miles on your car than you usually would, you should anticipate needing an oil change sooner than usual as well.

7. Persistent Check Engine Light

The "check engine" light on your dash can come on for a number of mechanical reasons. If your car doesn't have an oil change light or if your oil situation is extreme, this is the light you'll see.

A mechanic can read the signal of the light and help you determine if you need an oil change to resolve the issue.

8. Shaking While Idling

The high level of friction present in your engine when the oil needs to be changes can affect your ride quality. Specifically, when your car is idling, you may feel abnormal vibrations or shaking motions.

Avoid idling as much as possible until you can have your oil changed.

9. Ticking Sounds When Starting

When you start your vehicle, the engine immediately begins circulating oil. If the motor oil has an improper texture, this task may take more time and effort than it should.

In this situation, you may hear a ticking noise while your engine warms up. This noise comes from valves working to move the oil effectively.

If you notice any combination of the warning signs listed above, schedule an oil change as soon as possible to prevent damage to your vehicle's engine. When you come in for an oil change, discuss the needs of your vehicle with a technician to ensure that your next oil change happens right on time.

Whenever you need an oil change, bring your vehicle to the Discount Tire & Service Centers location nearest you. Our technicians offer efficient, cost-effective oil changes using the best products in the industry.
By Discount Tire Centers 11 Aug, 2017

If you're traveling through the desert for work, camping, or a weekend in Vegas, take some precautions before you head out of town. You may think your car is in great shape, but the desert is no place to learn that your vehicle actually needs work.

Plan ahead when traveling across desert areas. Follow the four tips below to enjoy your desert journey with less chance of a breakdown.

1. Know the Limitations of Your Ride

Every component in your vehicle has its limits. Your tires will only last so long before they begin to wear. Your oil, brake fluid and transmission fluid only last so long before the reservoirs need to be checked or flushed. If it's been a while since you've had your vehicle inspected or serviced, have your mechanic check the following areas before your desert outing:

  • Tire wear
  • Brakes
  • All fluids
  • Air-conditioning coolant
  • Fans, belts, and hoses
  • Battery and ignition system
  • Air, oil, and fuel filters
  • Windshield wipers
  • Lights

When your battery, tires, and air conditioning are in good shape, you travel more comfortably. You also have a lower chance of suffering a breakdown or dealing with a non-starting vehicle.

Know the limits of your gas tank, too. How far will it take you through the desert before you need a fill-up? Map out the locations of gas stations before you head out of town. Don't take another driver's word for the potential location of desert fuel stops, but double-check the hours of operation at each location for yourself.

2. Pay Special Attention to the Tires

If your tires are reaching the end of their useful life, order a new set before your desert trip. Hot pavement and highway surfaces put a lot of strain on tires. It's not the direct heat that hurts the tire but the fact that the interior pressure of a tire increases when the exterior of the tire is heated.

For each 10-degree increase in roadway temperature, expect a one-pound increase in tire pressure. You may start out your desert trip with tires that are perfectly inflated, then check the pressure a few hours later, and the tire is way over the recommended pressure.

Don't make the mistake of letting air out of the tires at that point. If your tires were at the correct pressure when you began the trip, under-inflating the tires will do more harm than good.

Both under- and over-inflated tires are at greater risk of having a blowout. An over-inflated tire may burst when heat over pressurizes the tire. An under-inflated tire makes more sidewall contact with a hot road surface, leading to increased risk of cracks, weak spots and tears.

Stay alert for debris from other drivers' tires. Summertime is when there may be many pieces of shredded tires scattered across highways. Keep your eyes on the road to avoid hitting all types of debris.

3. Know How to Handle Sudden Rains

When it rains in the desert, the highways are suddenly slick. Old vehicle oil in the asphalt or tar rises to the surface of the wet roadway. Slow down and take it easy when it's raining. Your tires can't grip the road as easily, and you have decreased visibility, which is a recipe for a wreck.

Experts recommend following the tire tracks of the car ahead of you on a rainy road. This can keep you from sliding or hydroplaning. If you begin to hydroplane or skid, don't panic or slam on brakes.

If you hydroplane, firmly grab the steering wheel and gently brake until you slow down. If you begin to skid, steer in the direction your car is skidding and gently brake. Your brakes may feel as if they're pumping or vibrating, but that's okay. Your brake sensors are adapting to the road conditions to help your brakes work more efficiently.

Avoid any sudden wheel turns, acceleration or stops when on wet roads. Never, ever drive through standing water on a road. As little as 18 inches of water can pick up your car and cause it to float down a flooded creek or river.

4. Notify Loved Ones and Stock Up on Survival Supplies

Let someone know when you'll be traveling through the desert, what your route is and how they can reach you in the event of an emergency. Check with websites or state highway officials to learn about any delays or road closures along your planned desert route. Your phone should be fully charged before you head out for your desert travel. Remember to bring your phone charger along for the return trip.

You never want to get caught in the desert without supplies. Pack the car with plenty of water, snacks, necessary medications, and safety gear. Flares, a first-aid kit, and auto-repair tools are also handy in a jam.

Remember when you had your mechanic check your tires? Hopefully, the spare tire was checked, too, because it should be loaded in your trunk with a jack and a tire iron in case you get a flat.

If you have a more serious breakdown on a desert highway, stay with your car. Don't attempt to walk for help. Raise your car's hood and light any flares you may have if it's after dark.

Contact Discount Tire & Service Centers  today to schedule a complete inspection of your vehicle. We help you prepare for safe and comfortable desert, coastal, and highway travel.
By Discount Tire Centers 04 Aug, 2017

Southern California is known across the world for its beautiful, sunny summer days. Our warm weather makes it possible to soak up the sun, head to the beach, or hike to mountain peaks. And to participate in most of the area's activities, you need reliable transportation.

But, on extremely hot days, your car may experience heat-related performance issues. These problems may prevent you from reaching your desired destination, especially if your car is not well maintained.

If you want to make sure hot temperatures don't ruin your summer fun, review our list of heat-related car problems below. You'll discover which problems might affect your car and how to avoid those issues altogether.

1. Beware of Tire Blowouts

Be honest: how often do you check your tire pressure? You should be checking it at least once a month, but many drivers don't pull out the pressure gauge unless they have a reason to, such as seeing a dashboard light turn on or hitting an object while driving.

In hot weather, tire pressure matters even more than under normal weather conditions. Your tires heat up when you drive, and that combined with the extra heat from the pavement can make it hard for them to do their job if they aren’t properly inflated.

To keep your tires speeding safely across California roads, check your tire pressure monthly. Always check tire pressure when tires have been resting a while. You may get a less accurate reading if you check pressure after a drive. While you check the pressure, also evaluate your tire wear. If the tires look bald or uneven, replace them with safe, new models.

2. Treat Your Battery Right

Hot temperatures may cause your battery fluid to evaporate faster than normal. When this occurs, the internal components become more likely to corrode. Plus, the combination of summer heat and typical vibrations caused by driving can break down your battery at an accelerated pace.

You can perform a few simple tasks to reduce your chance of battery trouble in the heat:

  • Ensure that your battery is mounted securely to minimize vibration-induced damage.
  • Clean the battery of any corrosion, particularly around the terminals.
  • Ask a mechanic to test your battery and determine how much life it has left.

Also, always carry jumper cables in your vehicle so you can revive your battery in a pinch.

3. Rely on A/C for More Than Comfort

In Southern California, a working automobile air conditioner seems like a necessity, not a luxury. But if your car's air conditioner goes on the fritz a lot, you may try to just live with it. Not the best idea. When your car spews out cool air despite the hot weather, you and your passengers stay comfortable. You can also avoid fatigue and stay safe while driving.

In addition, air conditioning problems may be related to other car issues, such as a low refrigerant level. You may even need to replace the air filter to improve the climate control system's efficiency. If your air conditioner doesn't work, ask a mechanic to evaluate it and recommend a repair.

4. Protect Your Gas Tank

Gas prices are no joke, and Southern California drivers pay more per gallon than most other vehicle owners in the country. If your wallet feels the burn every time you pump gas, you may not like learning that hot temperatures can cause some gas in your tank to evaporate.

While you can't entirely prevent this from happening, you can do a few things to make it happen less. Try the following:

  • Park your car in the shade so your car stays cool.
  • Twist the cap on as tight as you can after each fill up.
  • Buy gas early in the morning or later at night when temperatures are cooler.

Also, keep your eye out for gas leaks on your driveway or your typical parking spot. Ask a mechanic to check your fuel line if you notice any drips.

5. Get Your Engine a Checkup

No matter what the weather is doing, your car's engine heats up anytime you turn the key and start the ignition. So when that heat meets hot air outside, your engine's cooling system has to work overtime to keep your engine in a safe temperature zone.

Like any other car fluid, engine coolant needs a top-off from time to time. And for many vehicles, a full engine flush is recommended every five years or every 50,000 miles (whichever occurs first). During an engine flush, a mechanic will replace all the coolant in your car and clean out gunk that accumulates in the engine. Check with your mechanic to see if your vehicle is eligible for a flush.

Don't Get Stuck in the Heat

Car problems are annoying at any time, but they can be the worst when you find yourself stranded on a 100- degree day. Use the tips above to reduce your chances of experiencing a heat-related car problem. Remember to bring your car to Discount Tire and Service Centers for regular maintenance as part of those efforts.
By Discount Tire Centers 04 Aug, 2017

The California heat definitely keeps you on your toes. But luckily, you've found the best way to combat the varying temperatures: air conditioning. You love how cool your home and workplace feel, but you absolutely cherish your car's cooling system. Your car's A/C provides you with the perfect relief as you run errands, drive to and from work, or travel to a friend's house on scorching hot days.

But how well do you manage the heat when your car's air conditioner stops working? Chances are not very well.

While you might want to just tolerate the heat instead of addressing the problem, you should know that a small issue with your car's cooling system could also indicate problems with other parts of your vehicle.

Below, you'll find several common air conditioner issues and the other problems associated with them. Read on to discover what you should look out for and what you can do to keep your vehicle in good repair.

Which Common Issues You May Encounter

To determine if your air conditioner is malfunctioning, look out for the following issues.

Hot Air Blows From the Vents

When you turn your air conditioner on, you expect to feel cold air blowing from the vents. If, however, you feel warm or hot air, the cooling system may not be working correctly.

Let your A/C run for a few minutes to see if the air will cool down. Sometimes, the high temperatures outdoors require your car's cooling system to work a little harder and longer to cool down. If the air still feels hot after a few minutes, some part in the system isn't working as it should.

No Air Comes Out of the Vents

Likewise, you also expect some kind of air to come out of your car's vents. If you turn on your air conditioner and no air blows out, you should take your car to a mechanic as soon as possible.

Low Air Pressure

Depending on which settings you prefer, your car's cooling system should blow air out at a certain level. If, however, you turn the system on and you only feel a small trickle of air, you could have a more serious issue at hand.

Try turning the system to its maximum settings. If the air pressure is still low after you take this step, visit an automotive expert.

Metallic Clicking

You likely recognize all the sounds your vehicle makes as you drive it around every day. However, you don't want to hear a metallic clicking noise coming from your vents or under the hood. If you do hear this sound, don't wait to get your car inspected.

Musty Smell From the Vents

When air blows from your vents, it should smell cool, clean, and crisp. If you regularly notice any odors that smell like must or mildew, your air conditioner isn't working as well as it could.

What Issues These Signs Indicate

As previously mentioned, the signs listed above could indicate more serious issues with your vehicle. The following problems are a few that could cause your car's A/C – or your car itself – to stop working properly.

Refrigerant Leak

To cool down your vehicle properly, your car's air conditioner uses a refrigerant to lower the air temperature. That refrigerant flows through a small tube. If that tube has a hole or crack in it, the refrigerant will leak through the opening and evaporate into the air. As a result, you won't have cold air when you turn the A/C on.

Damaged or Worn-Down Compressor

The compressor also circulates the refrigerant through your car. Over time, the part can wear down or sustain damage. If it isn't in good condition, it can't regulate the refrigerant and cool down the air that goes into your car.

Electrical System Issues

Even though your car runs on gas or diesel fuel, it still requires electrical components to function at full capacity. These components include fuses, pressure switches, and relays. If any of these parts is broken, your air conditioner won't work. Likewise, other parts of your car, like the radio and lights, won't work if the electrical system has failed.


If excess moisture and air remain in your cooling system, different parts of your car could literally freeze. You can turn off your cooling system to let these components thaw, but this solution is only a temporary fix. Without a proper flush, the system will keep freezing and prevent your A/C from working.

Dirty Filters

Like all cooling and heating systems, your car uses a few filters to make the air clean and breathable. When it gets too dirty and clogged, you may notice the musty or mildew smells mentioned above. Dirty filters also put more strain on the cooling system and your car, so replace them frequently to keep your vehicle in good condition.

Who You Can Trust to Fix Your Car's A/C

If you notice any of the signs listed above, take your car into the trusted mechanics at Discount Tire and Service Centers. We service all kinds of vehicles, and we have the skill and knowledge necessary to address and repair your specific cooling problem.

Let us make any necessary adjustments to your car so you can enjoy cool air in your vehicle all day long.
By Discount Tire Centers 06 Jul, 2017

Whether you live in an area with all four seasons or in perpetually sunny Southern California, spring is a crucial time for car maintenance. Not only does spring maintenance help your vehicle recover from winter driving, but these tasks also prepare your car for the hot summer road ahead.

In this blog, we list eight fundamental maintenance measures your car will most likely need this spring.

1. Change Vehicle Filters

Spring provides the perfect opportunity to change out your vehicle filters. Dusty wind storms can leave your cabin air filter obstructed. Have these filters cleaned or replaced during the spring so that both your interior and engine cooling systems are ready for summer.

You may need a mechanic to complete these tasks since many automotive filters are located in hard-to-reach places like the area behind the glove compartment.

2. Check Tire Pressure

Temperature fluctuations, especially cold spells, can have a significant impact on tire pressure. If your vehicle doesn't have an automatic pressure sensor, you could start your summer off driving on low tires. Gauge the pressure and adjust as needed to avoid the wear and tear of improper tire pressure.

You may also need to have your tires rotated or your alignment tested to maintain good vehicle handling.

3. Have the Battery Tested

Like your tires, your car battery is vulnerable to temperature changes. As the weather warms up, your battery won't have to work as hard to power your vehicle. However, the decrease in battery strain won't matter if the battery was weakened during the winter.

Have the battery tested, especially if you live in or visited a cold area recently. If necessary, replace the battery right away to avoid issues during the coming year.

4. Have the Coolant Exchanged

During the winter, your engine probably didn't generate as much heat as it will during upcoming warm weather drives. In summertime heat, your coolant system is your vehicle's first defense against the damage and inconvenience of overheating.

Schedule a coolant system service  this spring at a trusted auto shop such as Discount Tire & Service Centers.

5. Replace Windshield Wipers

Winter and spring can both manifest with high levels of precipitation. The sleet or fog of winter can cause irreparable damage to your windshield wipers, leaving them incapable of keeping your windshield clear in spring showers.

Check both your front and rear wipers for signs of damage, such as pitted or warped rubber. Replace the wipers if necessary.

6. Schedule a Brake Inspection

Most drivers spend more time on the road during the summer. If you're planning on taking day trips or a vacation, it's smart to have your brakes checked. This step is particularly crucial if your winter travels took you anywhere where snow melt was used since salt can corrode your brakes.

If you have noticed any brake problems, such as a fluid leak or unresponsive pedal, have your car towed to the mechanics to ensure your safety.

7. Spring Clean the Interior

While the cleanliness of your car's interior may not affect how the vehicle drives, it can affect how you drive. As you spring clean your home, take time to clear out and freshen up your car's interior.

It's particularly important to remove any food waste or scented items that could attract pests during the summer. Additionally, eliminate any lightweight loose objects, like grocery bags, that could be distracting if they came loose while driving with the windows rolled down.

8. Wash and Wax

Depending on the climate you live in and frequently drive to, your car can collect a lot of grime over the winter. Certain substances, like airborne pollution, can cause corrosion if left sitting on your car's undercarriage or paint.

Wash your vehicle thoroughly and apply a layer of automotive wax to protect your paint job. Waxing can prevent tree sap, bird droppings, and other common spring hazards from scratching, corroding, or etching the paint. Waxing is more important if you park outside more often than you park in a garage.

In addition to the general maintenance measures listed above, take care of any issues you've been putting off. This proactive spring upkeep ensures that your car can safely transport you wherever you go during the summer, whether you're taking your usual commute or road tripping to a dream vacation destination.
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