4 Things to Look for in Your Next Set of Car Tires


car tires on gray backgroundBuying new tires for your car is not as exciting as purchasing a new car or installing a pool in your backyard.  It is, however, one of the necessities of being a car owner—that is, if you want to get to your destination safely both during our hot Wisconsin summers and freezing winter blizzards.  Tires are what get you there.

So how do you choose that new set of wheels that checks off all your criteria and fits your budget? Here’s four factors to consider and use to buy your next set of tires for your car.

How your present set of tires did

The easiest way to start tire shopping is to look at what you have on your car and think about how satisfied you are with their performance.  Think about what you like or don’t like about the tire such as the ride, handling in the rain and snow, noise when driving, etc.

If you can’t think of anything your tires could do better, simplify your next tire buying decision.  Buy the same set of tires that are on your present car.  If you’re not happy with your present set, contact the pros to help you choose a tire that you’ll want to buy again.

What you want in your new set of tires

To narrow down your options for your next car tire, think about what you need them for.  If you need cars for your muscle car, look for tires with a higher speed rating. For a commuter car, look for tires that can provide a nice, quiet ride and maintains tread depth longer. Do your research, and be honest with yourself—and the experts you consult—about your driving style. If you have to venture out in the worst winter conditions, select a tire with a proven record on winter roads (or ask for recommendations for tires that handle well in snow).


Tire sizes are found on your present set of tires, in your owner’s manual, or on the inside of the driver-side door. Look for a series of letters and numbers, such as P255/55R17.

Now for the common question, “what do the letters and numbers on my tire mean?” The first letter indicates what the tire is built for.  In our example, the P means that the tire is intended for passenger cars. You may also commonly see the letters LT, which is for a light truck. The first numbers (255) are the width, in millimeters, between the two sidewalls. The second number (55) is the aspect ratio.  The number is a percentage, and the higher the percentage, the larger the sidewall of the tire. The last number (17) is the diameter of wheel that the tire fits on.

All season or snow

All-season tires, the most common tires on our cars, are designed for rain, heat, cold and snow. They give you a good all-around tire for those conditions, but the “take” is that they are not specially equipped for winter. Constructed with a softer compound and tread pattern designed specifically for getting through winter precipitation, snow tires can dig down and find traction on even the roughest roads. If you HAVE to venture out on winter roads because of work or school, snow tires get you there.

Once you’ve gone through these simple questions, ask your friends what has worked for them and read through online reviews for outside opinions. Remember to screen the reviews and look for others who drive in similar conditions. You’re not going to have the same experience as a driver in Florida—driving conditions and weather is different in Wisconsin. Also take into account their driving style. Some drivers are harder on tires than others, and their tires reflect that difference in wear.


You can set a budget for buying tires before your purchase or once you see the general cost of tires for your car.  Once you have an idea on how much you’re willing to pay for your next set of tires, discuss your options with the person who works on your car the most: your mechanic.  With their recommendations and your list of criteria, you can purchase a set of tires that isn’t as exciting as a new snowmobile, but it’ll be just as much fun to drive.

Do I need new tires for winter?

winter road that car needs new tires forThe Farmer’s Almanac predicted a cold and snowy winter. Whether you believe the prediction or not, it pays to start preparing now for all that comes with winter: icy sidewalks, cold winds, winter driving.  Just as you prepare your home for winter, fall is the ideal time to get your car ready too—especially your tires.

Tires are your primary defense during winter driving. Your tire’s tread and compound can make the difference between a winter accident and safe drive home. So how do you know when you need new tires for winter?  How can you tell when it’s time to put on new snow or all-season tires? (Find out the difference in our recent blog post.)

Tire Hardness

Though we often think of tires in need of replacement, the sign is not always so obvious.  Even with minimal mileage, tires can harden over time, reducing your traction. If you want to find out if your tires are hard, ask your mechanic at your next oil change to check your tires.


Tires with a chronic leak are not always a lost cause. Sometimes tires with punctures can be fixed by a mechanic, but other times the problem can stem from a tire that is not sealing properly or other issue.  If you feel like you’re always adding air to your tire or you have a constant flat, schedule an appointment to get your tires inspected and fixed so you’re not stranded with a flat in subzero weather.

No (or very little) tire tread

Use the old coin trick to check the tread of each tire. Place a penny in the tread of your tire because tires can wear differently, leaving some tires with uneven tread depth (which is why a regular tire rotation is important). If you can completely see Abraham Lincoln’s head, you need new tires.

Cracking & blistering

If you have cracks or blisters on the sidewall of your tire, you need to get your tires checked as soon as possible. Excessive cracking or blisters are tire injuries that can lead to a blow out, leaving you stranded by the side of the road in a winter storm.

Tread wear indicator bars

When you first buy new tires, you can’t see tread wear indicator bars. As the tread of your tire starts to wear, inevitably you start to notice bars in the bottom of the groove around your tire. As the name implies, tread wear indicator bars are a clear sign you need to get your tires to your mechanic to see if you need new tires before winter.

If you can’t tell if your tires need to be replaced before winter (they don’t always), or you’re looking for new tires, contact Tire-rifik or schedule an appointment to get your tires checked.  A few minutes of preparation can save you time and funds once the snow arrives.

Snow Tires Versus All-Season Tires: do you need snow tires?

wintry road in the middle of snow stormAs much as we Wisconsinites like to live in denial, it’s time to prepare for the inevitable snow that’s sure to blanket our roads and lead to some, well, interesting winter driving.  It’s also an excellent time to buy tires to get through all the snow and ice that our Wisconsin winter is sure to throw at us (plus some).  Many of the top tire manufacturers are offering rebates that make that new set of tires for your car or truck not just a must, but also incredibly affordable when you add in the rebates and offers on the market.

Before you sign on the dotted line, though, you need to understand what you’re buying—and mounting—on your car.  We know a thing or two (or three or hundred) about tires, and here’s our breakdown of the common snow tires versus all-season tires question—and a few other things you need to know (anything else, just ask us).

Snow tires versus all-season tires

Snow tires are specifically designed for traction and handling through all the snow that comes with winter driving. Constructed with a softer compound and tread pattern designed specifically for getting through snow and ice, snow tires can find traction on even the roughest roads.

Remember as you shop for snow tires that traction control, common on many vehicles, is not a replacement for snow tires; traction control adjusts the speed of your tires to conditions, but does not give your vehicle more traction while driving.

All-season tires are exactly what they say: tires construction for any weather condition and temperature. They give you a good all-around tire for general driving conditions, but are not specially designed for winter driving.

What to look for in your next set of tires

Purchasing the right set of tires for your car or truck is based on three key factors: 1) tire size 2) your expectations for your next set of tires and 3) driving style.

It’s easy to find the size of the tire you need. Tire sizes are found on your current tire on your car, in your user manual and often on the inside of the driver-side door. (There are cars that can take more than one truck size-check your user manual.) Look for a letter and a series of numbers, such as P255/55R17.

The P in the tire size indicates that the tire is intended for passenger cars. You may also see the letters LT, which is for a light truck. The first numbers are the width, in millimeters, between the two sidewalls. The series of numbers, in this example 55, is the aspect ratio.  The number is a percentage, and the higher the percentage, the larger the sidewall of the tire. The last number, 17 in this case, is the diameter of wheel that the tire fits on.

Once you’ve determined the size you need, do your research (or ask your mechanic who knows your vehicle and can recommend tires) when buying tires, and be honest with yourself about your driving style. If you need cars for a muscle car you drive hard, tires with a higher speed rating and increased handling fit the bill. For daily driving, you probably don’t need tires with a higher speed rating, but you should look for tires that can provide handling, a quiet and smooth ride, and adequate tire tread wear.

Another strategy for choosing the right tires is to stick with what works. If you are happy with the performance of the current tires on your vehicle, replace your old tires with the same tires that you had before.

Snow tires

If you have to venture out in the worst winter conditions, select a set of tires with a proven record on winter roads. Beyond size, choose a set of snow tires with improved handling and traction; again the exact set is going to depend on your driving style.  A set of snow tires for a truck that has to head out onto the farm is going to have different tread pattern and depth than a set that can get you to your job on the highways.

Snow tires should be mounted when the temperature dips below 40 on a regular basis and removed when the temperatures start hitting the upper 40’s or low 50’s. Be careful not to remove tires too soon; you don’t want to get stuck in a spring snow storm on all-season tires when you bought a set of snow tires for safety and increased traction.

Snow tires can be mounted on your current set of rims and you all-season tires dismounted (schedule an appointment here) or you can purchase a second set of rims specifically for your snow tires. With a second set of rims, you don’t have to go through the hassle of being without a vehicle while your mechanic remounts tires.

The cost of your snow tires depends on the size of tires and what you want in a set of tires; you can find out the cost of snow tires, contact us to find out your snow tire options and cost—before the snow hits.

Truck Repair & Maintenance Tips that Keep Your Truck on the Road

truck working in field with combineAsk any pick-up truck owner and they’ll tell you: a truck is more than just a truck.  It’s a workhorse, a heavy hauler, a tow truck when needed, and a reliable part of your vehicle fleet.  Maintaining the latter part—reliability—of your truck requires a truck maintenance and repair schedule that minimizes breakdowns and keeps your workhorse working.

Make preventative maintenance a priority

When you’re busy hauling or your truck is working fine, it’s easy to just keep working. But don’t let that purring engine and reliable tow fool you; preventative maintenance is essential to extend the life of your truck—and how long it can work for you.

Establish a regular schedule of oil changes, transmission oil changes, and tire rotation with a local mechanic to keep your truck going (or maintain the schedule yourself).  Package as much of your service and maintenance together into one visit to limit the days your truck is out service.  In between scheduling oil changes and maintenance, check your oil and tire pressure on a regular basis.  Don’t let your TPMS sensor tell you when to check your tire pressure; we’ve seen customers whose tires were more than 10 pounds low without triggering the TPMS sensor.  If you don’t have time, find a mechanic who you can trust with your truck—and can get it done quickly so you can get back to work.

Put good tires on your truck

As tempting as it may be to purchase and mount the first set of tires you find, do your homework and select the right set of truck tires. Look for tires that can handle the weight of the loads you haul, provides maximum off-road traction, and on-road handling.  Buying the right kind of truck tires is not only an investment in daily driving; the right tires wear correctly, preventing breakdowns and protecting suspension parts.

Once you have the right tires mounted, check your tire pressure regularly for a smooth ride, protected suspension parts, and optimum fuel efficiency. Check your tire pressure when the tires are cold (have not been driven for three hours) on a regular seasonal basis.

Keep the number of a good road service company handy

When your workhorse pickup does break down, store the number of a good road service company in your wallet or phone.  A good road service company responds to your breakdown and gets your pickup working again—saving you time and getting your truck (and you) working again.

4 Ways to Make Sure Your Tires Last Longer

cars on highway with tires that last a long timeOver the life of your car, new tires can be one of the most expensive replacements—and one of the most important safety aspects of your car, especially when you need traction (like when it’s raining and snowing!).  Here’s how to get the most out of your next set of tires—both for performance and budget.

Check your tire pressure.

An underinflated or overinflated tire can accelerate the tread wear of your tires, causing you to need new tires sooner. With an overinflated tire, less of the tread is touching the road, accelerating the wearing of certain parts of your tire tread. The result: you need to replace a tire because parts of it are more worn than others. An underinflated tire does the opposite: more of the tire is wearing down faster. Tires not wearing properly can cause blown tires and needs more frequent tire replacement.

To avoid uneven tire tread wear, check your tire pressure by using a tire pressure gauge, or by asking your mechanic to fill your tires to the proper pounds per square inch (PSI) listed in your owner’s manual or on a decal on the bottom of your door frame (driver’s side). Don’t forget to check your spare tire, in addition to all four tires. One final warning: don’t wait for your TPMS warning light on your dashboard to come on to check your tire pressure.  By, then it may be too late because many TPMS lights don’t appear until your car is 20% under standard air pressure.

Tires can actually lose or gain pressure with the seasons. Check your tire pressure seasonally, or ask your mechanic to check your tire pressure at every oil change appointment.

Rotate your tires.

Tires need to be rotated to maintain even wear on each tire, which extends the life of your tires. This is especially true for front wheel drive vehicles which use the front tires primarily for traction. There is no hard-and-fast rule for when your car needs a tire rotation, but a good general guideline to use is every 5-8,000 miles (sometimes less for the warranty-ask your mechanic or tire salesman). Usually that number coincides with an oil change appointment depending on how many miles you drive.

Remember too, that the way you rotate your car may vary from the traditional front to back and cross in the front.  Asymmetric and uni-directional tires, or vehicles with different size tires on the front and back, may need a different tire rotation.  Check your owner’s manual or talk to your mechanic to find out when, and how, your tires need to be rotated.

Check for uneven tire wear—and car alignment.

Uneven tire wear can occur on a car out of alignment, so a tire rotation is also a good chance to check the wear patterns on your car for signs your car needs an alignment.  You can also tell in another way: when you drive.

An unbalanced car typically has a vibration or shake that becomes progressively worse as the car’s speed increases. The speed at which the vibration first becomes apparent varies depending on the size and weight of the tires and wheels, the size and weight of the car, the sensitivity of the steering and suspension, and the amount of imbalance. The vibration or shake usually starts in at 35 to 45 mph and increases in intensity as your speed increases. A car out of alignment can wear down your tires prematurely, as well as your car’s suspension parts.

Be aware of worn car suspension parts.

Worn car suspension parts can wear your tires unevenly and prematurely.  Watch for signs of worn suspension parts, such as if your car leans abruptly forward when you brake, oil on your shock, sudden pulling to the right or left, or a lot of bouncing when driving.  Include your vigilant driving with regular tire maintenance and checks and you’ve done everything you can to make sure your tires are a long-term investment—and not a short-term mistake.

Does my flat tire need a fix or replacement?

mechanic repairing flat tire on carYou’re stranded because of a random flat tire puncture. You’re annoyed because you have to keep adding air to your tire that keeps going flat. You’re irritated by the tire that is stuck in your tire.  You’re frustrated—all because of a flat tire on your car when you need to get somewhere.  Unfortunately, your flat could be more than an inconvenience; it can also be an expensive inconvenience.  How expensive is determined by a number of factors, but the good news is that flat tire may not mean you automatically need to replace your tire.

Your options for a flat tire

Liquid tire fix kit-Those liquid tire sealant repair products on television may allow you to drive on that flat tire, but it’s a temporary repair.  The caveat that comes with these repair kits is that they are only useful for small tire punctures that occur in the tread and require you to take your car to a repair shop for a long-term fix.

Tire fix-There are a couple of different ways that a small tire puncture can be fixed, either with a plug or a patch.  Both are more than temporary fixes, but need to be done properly for long-term results.  If you want to take on fixing your tire as a DIY project, make sure you do your research so you don’t do any more damage to the tire and don’t compromise safety.  If you’re not confident, contact a repair shop to repair your tire for far less than the cost of replacement (depending on the tire model and type).

Replacement-This is the most obvious solution to a flat tire, but where to put the flat tire for long-term use is not as obvious as you think.  You can purchase a whole set of tires for a smooth ride, or a pair for a nice ride.  Ask your mechanic whether to put the tires on the front or back.  If you have to purchase one tire, contact your mechanic for a tire rotation (if one hasn’t been done recently) with placement of the tire in the optimum location.  If you just throw a new tire on your car, you are going to have a bumpy ride and can damage other parts of your car and affect your alignment.

When your tire can’t be fixed

When the puncture is in the sidewall or shoulder-Because of the flex of these parts of your tire and for the long-term safety of your car, tires with punctures in these areas—-even small holes—cannot be fixed.

When the damage is a large cut-If the damage to your tire is large (usually more than a quarter inch as a general rule) or is a long, straight cut, a patch or plug is not going to do the long-term job.

When it’s been fixed multiple times-If you are a repeat offender with numerous punctures and patches, another patch is not recommended especially if the holes are close together on the tire.

When you’ve been driving around with a damaged tire for awhile-If the nail has been stuck in the tire for awhile, or you’ve been driving with the damage for any period of time, the damage to your tire (interior and exterior) may be too severe to fix the tire.

Fix or replace?

If you don’t know whether to fix or replace your tire, head to a mechanic so the tire can be inspected and you can get back on the road again.

Labor Day Weekend Trip Checklist: Ready Your Car for Your Road Trip

campers enjoying their Labor Day weekend tripIt’s almost time for the traditional Labor Day weekend road trip to celebrate (or mourn) the end of summer.  Whether you’re heading up north, out with your camper, or just for a day trip, it makes cents (literally) to take time to check your car, truck, and camper (find out more in our camper towing checklist here) over before you head out on your trip—so you’re not stranded on the side of the road calling for a tow or facing a huge repair bill that ruins your fun Labor Day weekend trip.

Schedule an oil change.

A car engine without oil, enough oil, or very dirty oil, is an engine with a death wish that’s not going to make it through many road trips. Schedule regular oil changes (and keep them!) and check your oil periodically between appointments—especially when you’re about to take a long trip. To check your oil:

  1. Turn off your engine and grab a paper towel.
  2. Open the hood of your car and locate your dipstick.
  3. Pull your dipstick out and wipe off the end.
  4. Put the dipstick back in and pull it out.
  5. Your dipstick has little lines on it; make sure your oil level is between the two lines (and not above the max line).
  6. If your oil level is low, add oil. Make sure you added enough by checking the oil again when you are done.

If you find your oil level is consistently low, mention it to your mechanic at your next appointment so they can check for a leak or if another problem is causing your car to burn through oil.

Make sure you have working headlights and taillights.

Having working headlights, taillights, brake lights, and blinkers is incredibly important for your safety on the road.  Don’t wait until a police officer pulls you over or you’re stranded with no working lights.  Check your headlights, taillights, and blinkers in your driveway or on the street:

  1. Turn on your car and leave it in park.
  2. Turn on your lights (usually on your dash).
  3. Walk around your car and make sure every light works.
  4. Turn on your blinkers/turn signals (one at a time).
  5. Walk around the car to make sure that every blinker/turn signal works.
  6. Have another person assist you in checking your brake lights.
  7. Press your brake pedal while your car is still in park.
  8. Ask the other person to stand behind the car and tell you if each brake light works.

If you find that one of your car lights is not working, you can change the light yourself or schedule a quick appointment for your mechanic to change it (it’s important!).

Inspect your tires.

tire tread that needs to be inspected for air leaksIf you want to “hit the road” on your next Labor Day road trip, you’re going to need your tires to literally hit the road without a flat—and efficiently so you can get the best gas mileage.  Here’s how you can make sure your tires are ready for your Labor Day road trip:

  1. Find the right PSI (pounds per square inch-tire pressure) for your tires in your car’s owner manual or on a decal on the bottom of your door frame on the driver’s side.
  2. Get a tire pressure gauge like the one in the picture. (We’ve also found this great video as a reference.)
  3. Remove the cap from the tire stem. (The tire stem is a small rubber piece sticking up from your tire.)
  4. Insert the tire pressure gauge into the tire stem. You will feel the gauge fit in there correctly. (If you have a gauge with a knob for deflation, you will know if you are using the right end if you DON’T hear air escaping.)
  5. The end of your tire pressure gauge will register a number electronically or the white numbers will rise at the other end of the tire pressure gauge.
  6. Repeat for all your tires, including the spare tire.
  7. Check the tread of all your tires by putting a penny into the tread. If you can see all of Abraham Lincoln’s head, ask your mechanic for recommendations for new tires—and for what quality tires they have in stock so you can get new treads on before you leave on your trip.

Flat tires or tires low on air can be unsafe—especially for a long trip—and can cause more damage to your car and your gas mileage.  The same goes for tires with low tread, which can make driving through wet weather more hazardous and can cause random flats that could interrupt your fun Labor Day weekend trip.

Make sure you have brakes when you need them.

Be aware of these signs that you need new brakes before your trip:

  • Squealing sound when you step on your brakes,
  • a grinding noise that goes away you press the brakes,
  • a soft or pulsating brake pedal,
  • when your car pulls to one side.

If your car is pulling to one side, there could also be other car problems which could cause more damage to your car. Schedule an appointment with your mechanic to get a diagnosis so you can head out on the road safely.

Check your fluids

Before you hit the road, make sure you—and your car—has all the fluids you need for a long road trip:

  1. Fill your windshield washer reservoir.
  2. Double check your windshield wipers to confirm they can do the job.
  3. If your transmission fluid has never been flushed, schedule an appointment with your mechanic. Your car uses transmission fluid to shift gears, so a dirty transmission fluid can cause a very expensive transmission failure. To keep your transmission shifting, and on the road, make an appointment to have your transmission fluid flushed every 30-60,000 miles (or as low as 15,000 miles for vehicles that tow on a regular basis or drive with heavy loads).

Pack an emergency travel kit.

As much as you plan and check your car over before your road trip, prepare for the unexpected—just in case.  Start by making sure you have your roadside assistance card or tow truck phone number (920-261-8111). Program these numbers into your cell phone, and carry your card, and copies of your cards, at all times.

  • Flashlight. Test the flashlight from time to time, and make sure the batteries are still strong.
  • Jack and lug wrench. Most cars come with a jack and lug wrench for changing a tire, but some of the smaller, more compact car models do not.
  • Jumper cables. For step-by-step instructions on how to use those cables, read our recent post.
  • First aid kit. Your first aid kit should have gloves, bandages, scissors, hand cleaner, and antiseptic wipes.
  • Blanket. No matter how warm the weather, you may need a blanket during an emergency. For the sake of space, find a small blanket that’s easy to store.

If you find any issues on your car that could slow or hamper your road trip, don’t hesitate to make an appointment for your car (even a last minute one).  A few minutes in the shop now can save you a load of hassles and wasted time spent on the side of the road—time that could be spent having fun on your trip.

4 Common Car Owner Mistakes That Lead to Costly Repairs

money piling up for car repairs from car owners' mistakesFor one of our friends, it was spark plugs in her truck.  Though the truck needed new spark plugs, she waited too long to replace the plugs which led to a clogged catalytic converter—more than doubling her original repair bill.  We see mistakes like this all the time from truck and car owners—mistakes that end up costing them more in the long run.  Here are a few of the most common (and costly) errors car owners make with their vehicles.

Driving on a flat or with little tire tread

A flat tire can just be that: a flat tire that needs to be changed—or it can be the cause of serious (and costly) damage.  A blown tire at high speed can damage car suspension and body parts.  If you drive on tires with low pressure, you can actually damage your tire more; instead of just needing tire pressure or a tire fix, you need a new tire.

How you can avoid this mistake:  Check your tire pressure regularly (here’s how) or have your tire pressures checked every time you schedule an oil change appointment.  If you find that your pressure is low, add enough air so your tire meets the pounds per square inch (PSI) that is specified on your driver’s door decal or in your manual.  Most importantly, don’t ignore a tire that is repeatedly low.  Schedule an appointment to see if your tire can be fixed; often the cause of your low tire can be inexpensively fixed instead of replaced.

Ignoring squealing brakes

Squealing brakes is a sign that your brakes need to be replaced.  If you ignore those annoying brake sounds, you could end up in a car accident or in the ditch after your brakes fail.  Both scenarios can lead to costly body and part repairs and replacement.

How you avoid this mistake:  Watch for signs that your brakes need to be replaced, such as a squealing, grating sound, or a soft brake pedal.  If you have any concerns about your brakes, ask your mechanic to check your brakes when they change your oil or rotate your tires.

Not being vigilant about a failing AC

A car AC system blowing cool air is a wonderful thing.  That same system can become vulnerable to breakdown if one part of the system starts to malfunction or if there is a leak.  Waiting too long to repair one part of your AC system can cause the whole system to stop working.

How you avoid this mistake: If you want to keep that blast of cool air, be watchful so leaks can be fixed promptly.  We’ve listed signs of a failing car AC unit here.  A car or truck air conditioner with a leak is an air conditioner that’s not going to keep working.  If you notice that the air blowing from your AC is not as cool or that it takes longer for the air to cool, schedule an appointment to have your AC system inspected.  If there is a refrigerant leak, the system needs to be repaired and recharged.

Ignoring warning lights

It’s one of the biggest—and most common—mistakes made by most car owners today: driving with a warning light on because, “it’s not a big deal.”  While it may not harm your car right away, driving with your check engine on—or any of your critical warning lights—can cause more damage, both in the amount of parts and the cost of repairs.

How you avoid this mistake: When a light comes on, ask your mechanic to check your car at your next oil change, or make an appointment to get the problem diagnosed.  Though we all love to procrastinate, waiting too long can cost you more in the long run.

What’s wrong with my car’s AC?

woman sweating because car ac is not workingA summer steam bath.  That’s what it feels like we’re living in when the temps spike and the humidity peaks—and what we’re driving in.  If you’re driving in a steam bath inside your car because your AC doesn’t work (or partially works), it’s only natural to find some relief from the heat.

Common causes of Car AC problems


The compressor is one of the most important parts of your AC system, and the source of many truck and car AC failures.  A failing compressor can be very noisy, especially if a compressor internal bearing is at fault.  In addition to the noise, one of the first symptoms of a compressor that’s giving out is air that blows into your car that isn’t as cool as it once was.  A failing compressor can lead to irreparable damage to your condenser, meaning both your compressor and condenser needs replacement.

Refrigerant leak

On one of the most common myths (with an emphasis on myth) is that over time refrigerant evaporates out of the system and needs to be recharged.  The truth is that a truck or car AC system is a sealed system.  If your system is low on refrigerant (or has no refrigerant at all), most likely there is a leak in the system.  Recharging an AC system with a leak is only a very temporary fix.

There’s more bad news: a truck or car without refrigerant (or low refrigerant level) can cause the compressor to give out, which can also cause the condenser to fail.  If you suspect your car has low refrigerant, contact your mechanic to repair the refrigerant leak and prevent system failure.


If you’re not an experienced mechanic, a failing condenser can be harder to diagnose.  The most telling sign of a failing car AC condenser is a system that’s not working as efficiently as it used to.  Usually, when a condenser fails, it starts to leak—more so than the regular drip of a working car AC system.

Evaporator issues

Car evaporators are susceptible to a host of problems.  At the least, debris that comes in contact with the evaporator core can cause the air-conditioned air that comes out of your vents to smell horribly.  At the most, an evaporator can fail from corrosion and leaks.

How you can prevent car AC problems

Don’t procrastinate when the air in your vehicle starts blowing hot or the air flow from your AC weakens.  As soon as you start experiencing problems with your car or truck’s AC, schedule an appointment to have your problem diagnosed.  If you wait too long (which isn’t that long), your problem is only going to worsen—and your repair bill increase—because a small problem in your AC system can cause other parts to fail.  Avoid tackling the problem as a do-it-yourself project; improper handling can damage the environment, your car, or could even injure you.  Remember, the sooner you get your truck or car’s AC system checked and fixed, the sooner you can cool down the steam bath inside your car.

How to Avoid Your Next Flat Tire

tire tread that needs to be inspected for air leaksEven with all the advances in tire technology, we’re not going to lie to you: you’re probably still going to have to change a flat tire (or call for help to get it changed) during your lifetime—sometimes more than one (here’s how to deal with a recurring flat).  An occasional flat tire on your car is not fun to change (and incredibly inconvenient!), so use these tips to avoid your next flat on your car or truck.

Know the proper air pressure—and maintain it.

Unfortunately, you can’t eyeball correct tire pressure or rely on your TPMS sensor (it may not activate until your tires are 20% underweight)—and the effects of low tire pressure can leave you stranded.  Low tire pressure can cause premature flats, compromise your ride, and decrease your gas mileage. Instead, use a tire pressure gauge to check your truck and trailer tires. Fill all low tires up to the correct air pressure.

To check your tire pressure, first find out what is the right tire pressure for your car. You can find it on the sticker at the bottom of your driver’s side door frame. Unscrew the cap on your tire stem, and push the top of the tire pressure gauge into the stem. Depending on the type of pressure gauge you have, the amount of tire pressure should show up digitally or via looking at the numbers on the white bar that pops up.  If you don’t have time, ask your mechanic to check your tire pressure at your next scheduled oil change.  They can check and correct the problem so you don’t end up with a flat.

Check your tire tread.

Uneven tire tread wear is another cause of a flat tire. Not sure if you have enough tread? Use the old coin trick. Put a penny into the tread of your tire. If you can completely see Abraham Lincoln’s head, you need to shop for new tires. Make sure you try this trick in a few different places on the tire. Tires can wear differently, leaving some tires with uneven tread depth.

Rotate your tires.

A regular rotation of your tires, usually at every oil change, can go a long way to prevent a pain-in-the-butt flat.  Tires wear differently depending on the position on your car (think front vs back, left vs right) so a regular rotation ensures that your tires wear evenly, and, as a bonus, can also clue you in to any problems with your suspension before it becomes an issue.

Be careful around road construction and debris.

tire debris that causes flat tiresIt only takes one nail, a piece of metal, shard of glass, or debris from another blown out tire to make you have to pull over, call a tow, or have to get your jack out.  Be aware when you are in a road construction zone.  Try to avoid pulling over on the side of the road (where a lot of debris sits) and watch for anything that could send you to the shop for a tire repair or cause your next flat tire.