Category Archives: Parts and Accessories

When Is It Time To Change Your Windshield Wipers

Windshield wipers increase your visibility during a rainstorm.

One of the most important factors of safe driving is your visibility. If your vision is obstructed in any way, you are putting yourself, your passengers and other people on the road at risk. Driving in the rain or snow is a risky proposition, to begin with, but having worn wiper blades makes it even worse. Your windshield wipers are very possibly the most important feature on your car when there’s a downpour. If they aren’t performing at the highest efficiency, then you can’t see the things that you need to see. Ninety percent of the decisions you make while driving rely on your ability to see clearly. During a rainstorm, your car is being bombarded with rain in multiple instances, from the sky, from the ground, and from other cars.

Most experts say that you should replace your wipers every 6 to 12 months, but with our harsh Texas summers, I’d keep it closer to every 6 months. During the months of July and August, when the heat is bearing down on us, it’s warping and cracking the rubber of your wipers, making them less and less effective. Even our yearly freeze takes its toll on them too. When you use the wipers as ice removers, you tear and disfigure them and they no longer make full contact with the windshield.

Replacing your wipers is a simple and fairly cost-effective fix. A pair of replacement blades will generally run you $15-40. The name-brand, high-quality blades, or odd sizes, may run a bit higher. If you must drive when it’s pouring outside, then a functioning set of wiper blades is well worth the money you spend to help you see better.

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Do you know when seat belts became standard?

Do you know when seat belts became standard? Consider this a history lesson. I found it pretty fascinating. I can’t guarantee you will too, but if you have kids, have them read it. In my opinion, the seat belt is one of the greatest automotive inventions second only to the internal combustion engine.

DFW, did you know that there were no seat belts in cars when most of the ”baby boomer” generation was born, post World War II.  For that matter, there weren’t any Interstate Highways either.  That was a program championed by President Eisenhower after he took office in 1953.  Here’s an interesting time line.

In 1956, Ford tried, unsuccessfully, to interest Americans in purchasing safer cars with their Lifeguard safety package. (Its attempt nevertheless earned Ford Motor Trend’s “Car of the Year” award for 1956.)

In 1958, the United Nations established the World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations, an international standards body advancing auto safety. Many of the most life saving safety innovations, like seat belts and roll cage construction were brought to market under its auspices. That same year, Volvo engineer Nils Bohlin invented and patented the three-point lap and shoulder seat belt, which became standard equipment on all Volvo cars in 1959. Over the next several decades, three-point safety belts were gradually mandated in all vehicles by regulators throughout the industrialized world.

In 1966, the U.S. established the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) with automobile safety one of its purposes. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) was created as an independent organization on April 1, 1967, but was reliant on the DOT for administration and funding. However, in 1975 the organization was made completely independent by the Independent Safety Board Act.

Volvo developed the first rear-facing child seat in 1964 and introduced its own booster seat in 1978.

In 1979, NHTSA began crash-testing popular cars and publishing the results, to inform consumers and encourage manufacturers to improve the safety of their vehicles. Initially, the US NCAP crash tests examined compliance with occupant-protection provisions. Over the subsequent years, this NHTSA program was gradually expanded in scope. In 1997, the European New Car Assessment Program (Euro NCAP) was established to test new vehicles’ safety performance and publish the results for vehicle shoppers’ information. The NHTSA crash tests are presently operated and published as the U.S. branch of the international NCAP program.

In 1984, New York State passed the first US law requiring seat belt use in passenger cars. Seat belt laws have since been adopted by all 50 states, and NHTSA estimates increased seat belt use as a result save 10,000 per year in the USA.  In fact, fewer people died in on US roads and highways in 2008 (37,261) than in 1952 (37,500), despite an enormous increase in the number of drivers on the road.

Here’s what happens when you don’t wear your seat belt.

Hope you enjoyed this little history lesson from Freeman Grapevine.  Now buckle up, or you might be History.

What Are The Best Tires For Your Truck?

truck tiresIf you own a truck, you know that when it comes time for tire replacement it can be a costly venture in more ways than one. What exactly do I mean? Well, I know you’ve heard the saying, “You get what you pay for.” Well when it comes to new truck tires, this adage may be more truth than philosophy.

If there’s one part of your vehicle that demands attention, but usually doesn’t get as much as it should it’s your tires. Remember they are the only things that are between you and the road…I’d say that was pretty important. Under-inflated tires…over-inflated tires…tires that are simply the wrong choice for your vehicle, there are a lot of pitfalls when it comes time to replacing the tires on your Dallas Fort Worth Truck. Do you really know to shop for new tires?

So, when it comes time to replace your truck tires, Fort Worth, which are the best for you? What makes Tire A better than Tire B? What brands are the best? What type of performance do you expect to get out of your tires? To answer all of these questions and more, I turned to a trusted resource: Consumer Reports.

Our tread-wear test is more than double the mileage that’s required by the government for grading tires per the Uniform Tire Quality Grading System (UTQGS). While the government test is based on a total of 7,200 miles, we run on the same West Texas course to 16,000 miles. We believe the added mileage provides a better assessment of a tire’s true wear potential, upon which our ratings are based.

For the official UTQGS test, manufacturers assign the grades. A tire graded at “200” indicates it will wear twice as long as one graded “100.” The truck tires we tested have grades typically in the 500 to 600 range. Tire tread-wear grades can be found the on new tire label and embossed on the sidewall of the tire. (See our tire buying advice for more information on reading tires.)

In all, when viewing tire models that compete head-to-head, you may see similar warranties and UTQGS tread-wear grades. Often the differences are less impressive than what we find from our tread-wear test. For example, results from our test showed one tire model wore out at above 100,000 miles; the fastest wearing tire model lasted less than 50,000 miles. Despite the difference, you wouldn’t know it by the tread-wear warranties on those tires, which are only 5,000 miles apart (65,000 and 60,000 miles, for the long- and fast-wearing tires, respectively).

The longer-wearing tires do command a higher purchase price, however. A set of four tires cost us $673 in our test size (P265/70R17)—a premium of $145 over the fast-wearing model. Buying cheap tires is one way to go and a common practice of many consumers looking for new tires, based on our research. (Read: “Survey: Car tire shoppers satisfied with retailers, but their research falls flat.”) But that isn’t the best strategy for getting the performance and longevity you want.

Tire prices vary quiet a bit from model to model. But if you want to save lots of cash, don’t consider the initial purchase price alone without considering tire tread life. Think about it: Not only could you be replacing tires twice as often, but you will be doubling tire installation cost. If you plan on keeping your truck for years to come, the long-wearing tires are a bargain – for argument’s sake, let’s say that with a $100 installation fee, the total cost of your new tires comes to $743. But to get the same mileage with the cheaper, fast-wearing tires means buying two sets of four and two installation fees for a whopping $1,255. That’s an added cost of $512. So, spending more up front in this case is the smarter buy.

Don’t discount tire performance, either. Always put safety before price — even above tread life. When it comes time to buy, look for tires that do well in our tests for braking, handling, and resistance to hydroplaning. Winter traction should also be considered, if applicable. Let tread wear, ride comfort, noise, and rolling resistance be tiebreakers.

Make sure you check the tire-buyers guide provided by Consumer Reports. It will really shed some light on the many different styles, performance options and tread wear that can make choosing the right set a difficult task.

If you have any further questions, bring your truck or SUV by Freeman Grapevine and we can work together to get you the right set.

Running on empty can damage your car!

Even though gas prices have come down some, it still hurts the wallet. And to avoid that sting, some people are driving their vehicles until they have used every last drop in the gas tank, literally. Which means not only could they end up on the side of the road because they ran out of gas, but running on empty can cause costly damage to your vehicle. We’ve seen it first hand here at Freeman Grapevine.

Most people on the road don’t realize that if you are running on empty, you may be putting your vehicle at risk by causing damage to the fuel pump. The electric fuel-pump motor uses the gasoline as a coolant, so when you are low the pump may suck in air which creates heat and that is not a good thing. Replacing the fuel pump will cost a couple hundred dollars to fix which leaves you in a position of shelling out even more money!

Besides costly fuel pump damage, running on a low tank of gas could possibly leave you stranded on the side of a road or could possible be the cause of an accident if your vehicle suddenly stops running. Being stranded puts both you and your vehicle at risk. Hopefully a friend can help out by bringing you some gas, but you will need to be prepared to take some heat for letting your car run out of gas in the first place!

Thankfully, you can prevent these situations by following the tips below:

  • Fill up once your tank reaches 1/4 full.
  • Before driving on a long trip, fill up. You never know what the traffic might bring that day and you may end up with a longer trip than planned.
  • If you do get low enough on fuel for your car to ding or warn you, fill up as soon as possible.  Don’t hope that you can get just a little bit further as you never can be sure how far you can get.
  • Find the cheapest gas near your house instead of driving to the other side of town. There are some apps out there that can help find the cheapest gas.

Don’t take your chances by running your vehicle on empty. Even though you may think you are stretching your dollar further, you will run the risk of potentially having costly as well as dangerous situations running on a near empty gas tank. One way to make sure you are getting the best MPGs possible is to have your tires properly inflated and your vehicle properly maintained. You can always bring your vehicle by Freeman Grapevine and we can help you out!

Do You Know How Your Airbag Really Works?

I just wrote a blog entry about airbag safety and your children. That got me wondering how much you really know about your Buick, or GMC’s airbag itself. We’ve had a few DFW Buicks and GMCs come through our Service Department recently that were in minor fender benders. However they were just “major” enough to deploy the airbag. Consequently, that got me thinking, not just about the rate an airbag deploys, but also deflates.

This is a very interesting video on “How Your New Car’s Airbag works. The airbag has been something that I think that we have started to take for granted. For example, we know that they inflate at an extreme speed, but did you also know they have to deflate almost just as fast?

This is a very informative video. Check it out:

I know when it comes to understanding the airbag all you probably care about is that it works. However, you really should try to learn everything you can about your vehicle. The more you know, the more you can assist Freeman Grapevine with any issues you may be having with your Dallas Fort Worth Buick, or GMC.

Does anyone have an airbag story they can share for all of us who have been lucky enough not to experience it first hand?

timing belt, weakest link

Do you know what the weakest link in your Car is?

timing belt

That’s right, your car could have weak link. Now, you may not know anything about your new car other than the color and how to position the mirrors, so you’ll just have to believe me when I tell you that…

YOUR TIMING BELT IS THE WEAKEST LINK IN YOUR ENGINE!

Too Extreme? Well, maybe if your engine has less than 100,000 miles on it. However, the mere mention of its name should fill you with spine tingling fear. Why? A worn timing belt will quickly deteriorate into a BROKEN timing belt which could then result in catastrophic engine damage. Of course, if you don’t mind being a full time pedestrian, then you can keep thinking that belts are just for holding your pants up and continue on to the next post.

Timing belt service is not inexpensive and trying to save money going for the lowest bidder can be a prelude to disaster. I suggest using top quality parts, done by a mechanic that knows your type of vehicle. They will know if there are common faults that prevent the service from lasting through another full service cycle. Hmmmm, I wonder where you can find such a mechanic (Hint: Freeman Grapevine).

SPOILER ALERT!Typically, thousands upon thousands of dollars in damage is done when a timing belt fails. Many times the engine is destroyed.

Don’t believe me? Watch this!

Even though your car is new, remember, the weakest link is the one that takes the rest with it. That’s just one of the reasons you follow the manufacturers recommended mileage intervals for timing belt replacement, so an experienced mechanic can inspect the timing components to ensure they ALL can keep on driving with confidence.

How much does Timing belt service cost? While the cost for timing belt service has a wide range depending on model and components required. The basic timing belt service on most four cylinder vehicles starts at around $300.00.

Be sure to read your owner’s manual for your actual mileage to have your timing belt looked at.

Does anyone have any timing belt horror stories?

How’s Your Timing with Changing your Timing Belt

Q: What’s one of the worst things that can happen to your engine?

A:  Really poor “timing” changing your timing belt.

Let’s say that your vehicle is roughly 6 years old. You’ve never had any issues mechanically and as far as you are concerned, the engine purrs like a kitten. You may even pop your hood every now and then to tug on your fan belt, fill your wiper fluid, heck, maybe you can even change your own oil. However, there is a engine killer that lurks in the dark that rarely gets checked or is even remembered. It’s your timing belt.

Here’s the rub when it comes to changing your timing belt at the manufacturer’s prescribed intervals. Let’s say, for years your car has just been the perfect vehicle. Until one day you are cruising along and the engine suddenly goes dead silent. Guess what? Your vehicle’s timing belt failed!

Now is when the real pain starts. Not only do you have to pay for the tow and the belt replacement, but also a costly valve job due to the damage the broken timing belt has caused. You’re one of the unfortunate car owners with an “interference engine” …A What?– That is an engine that can leave one or more valves still propped open far enough to contact a piston with valves and the belt parts. Sadly, car sales brochures don’t list whether or not an engine might suffer catastrophic damage if the belt goes. But trust me…a broken timing belt will leave you with considerable more expenses. In fact, you might have to replace your engine all together.

Check out the video below for more…engine terror:

So, as you can see the mere act of reading your owners manual and paying better attention to your maintenance schedule can save you from making a costly mistake of omission. Remember, in most cases, the broken timing belt unpleasantness could have been prevented with timely maintenance. I can’t say this enough: Replace the timing belt according to your vehicle manufacturer’s recommended schedule. It’s just that easy.

If you’d like to avoid a catastrophic engine seizure or your manual (hint, hint) says it’s time for a change. Don’t wait. Call me so I can save you time, money and all of the headaches that also come with a broken timing belt.

Are Self-inflating tires a myth?

Science Fiction, or Science Fact? The self-inflating tire: I know we’ve all heard of it’s purported existence, but now it looks like it may come to fruition. That means no more loud compressors, say goodbye to leaky hoses and inaccurate tire gauges. The good people at the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company have apparently developed a system which will allow tires to self-inflate automatically.

The technology that Goodyear has developed is called Air Maintenance Technology (AMT) and is completely self-contained, without any need for external pumps or electronics.

“While the technology is complex, the idea behind the AMT system is relatively simple and powered by the tire itself as it rolls down the road,” said Jean-Claude Kihn, Goodyear senior vice president and chief technical officer.

Here is some theory behind the science.

Now that you know that self-inflating tires are indeed Science Fact don’t bother searching the net just yet for this new tire technology, Goodyear has yet to provide any costs, or even an estimate when the technology will become available to the public. However, don’t let that crush your self-inflating dreams. Goodyear has received grants from the United States Department of Energy’s Office of Vehicle Technology to help further development.

Aside from the “cool” factor, keeping your tires at optimal operating pressure delivers lower emissions, longer tire life, enhanced safety and improved vehicle performance.

Stay tuned for further details. I’ll keep an eye on this topic for a future post. How great would it be if keeping your tires at optimal pressure just meant a quick trip to the corner store for some milk? It’s just one less maintenance issue you will be responsible for in the future.

Have you considered upgrading your car stereo?

One thing is certain, we all spend a lot of time in our cars, 540 hours a year to be exact. That’s right 540 hours of traffic, of red lights of sitting for hours on end. What do you do with all of that time wasted? With the crack down on cell phone usage, you’d better have a pretty killer stereo to stay entertained.

Now, for the most part, most people are totally content with their factory installed systems. However, there are some people…self-proclaimed “audiophiles” who demand only the clearest most efficient and, at times, the loudest audio systems available.

If you think you want to venture into the world of custom audio for your vehicle, there are some things you should know. First let’s start with the basics…the 3 components of your audio entertainment.

When looking for an after market system, you really need know what you are looking for: what type of sound, what features, what brand, are you going to need an amplifier…these are just a few of the questions you should ask before you make any purchase. There are any number of places you can go to research and get expert advice, including my dealership.

I guess the bottom line is, if we are going to be spending 541 hours in our cars every year, I for one am going to want the best possible audio system in my vehicle to keep my mind off the fact that I could be playing a lot Golf with those wasted hours.

Diagnose the 9 Most Common New Car Electrical Problems

I know, “It’s a new car, how can it have electrical problems?” Well, either that new car probably really isn’t as new as you think, or you have a valid issue. So, how can you tell the difference and what do you do about it?

The electrical systems in new cars have definitely made driving a lot easier over the decades. The seemingly endless innovations in electrical systems have helped us enjoy a more comfortable and easier drive. However, for every Yin, there’s a Yang.

Yin & Yang

Let’s say, you have problems starting your car and notice other problems with the electrical system. Let’s cover some of the issues that you could face with your new  vehicle’s electrical system:

Common Automobile Electrical System Problems Are : Car’s Battery Is Dead – This is the most common problem…and most obvious. Check your battery by engaging your headlights and judge by the illumination.

No Power Stored in the Battery – When you turn the key, what do you hear? A little click? Does it sound like it want’s to turn over? It is possible that your car’s battery does not have ample power to crank the starter. You need a new battery.

Alternator is Not Working – A damaged or broken alternator could be the culprit. No alternator? No battery recharge. If your car suddenly start to lose “juice” while drive, you’ll know it could be your new car’s alternator.

Problem with Starter or Solenoid – Good parts gone bad parts. If it’s the starter, it won’t turn over. If you have Solenoid issues, you might find it harder to brake.

Battery Cables Might Be The Problem – A loose cable might be the root of the problem…give them a wiggle before you run out and buy a replacement.

Electrical Fuses – Check for any blown fuses in your fuse box. Also, feel around for any loose wires.

Cracks In Alternator Belt – Too much or too little tension, as well as cracks in the alternator belt cause trouble.

Ignition System Has Problems – You have a busted ignition switch. Give your mechanic a call.

Loose Spark Plugs – Loose or old plugs will certainly affect the operation of your vehicle. Are you loosing power as gears change? Does it lurch as if the gears aren’t engaging? It might be the internal combustion and the culprit is usually the plugs and cables.

Now these are just guidelines you can crosscheck any issue you might have experienced. I you can talk with your mechanic about your new car logically by doing a little research, you help him help you even faster. If you have any questions, or you might think that you might need a great mechanic, I know where to find one.