Category Archives: Car Maintenance

Photo of Vehicle Facing Glowing Green Trees Lining Road

Steps to Making Your Car “Greener”

How to Make Your Car More Eco-Friendly

With a lot of car companies making strides toward creating greener cars – hybrids, electric, etc. – you may start to wonder how you can improve your vehicle’s impact on the earth. No matter what type of vehicle you are driving, there are steps you can take to make your car more environmentally friendly. But where do you start? Auto Simple is here to give you the steps you need to learn how to make your car more eco-friendly.

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What to Look Out for When Checking Your Tires

How Often Do You Need to Check Your Tires?

When it comes to checking your tires, proper pressure levels aren’t the only thing you should be looking for. Your vehicle’s tires face various terrains, weather conditions, obstacles, and more when you get behind the wheel. Checking in on the health of your tires is just as important as making sure your gas tank is full and your oil is changed. This guide from Auto Simple is here to teach you how often you need to check your tires and what you should be looking for.

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rear windshield wiper

That rear windshield isn’t washing itself!

How to refill rear windshield washer fluid

You’ll never know the convenience of a rear windshield wiper until you have one. It can be a real hazard when that back window gets covered in much and you can’t just pull over and wipe it down yourself. As you know from your front windshield, it helps to have window cleaner to wipe off grime. For this reason, you might be wondering how to refill your rear windshield washer fluid. Fortunately, it’s not hard. Why? Because there isn’t a separate reservoir. Read the rest of this entry >>

Man rolling a tire

What are Summer Tires?

Summer Tire Uses & Benefits

Vehicles are built to operate in all kinds of climates and conditions. Drivers who properly prepare their vehicle for the road conditions in their area will find an increase in efficiency and performance. Buying the right type of tires for summer driving is one way a driver can see an increase in traction. Let’s break down what you should know about summer tire uses and benefits. Read the rest of this entry >>

How to Avoid Getting Scammed by Mechanics

Avoid Getting Scammed By Mechanics and Auto Repair Shops

Whether it’s unfair pricing, shoddy workmanship, or improper diagnoses, don’t let auto mechanics take you for a ride.

Getting scammed is a fact of life. It happens to everyone. From health care to auto repair, upselling and overpricing can be found everywhere.

But the more you know, the less likely you are to be hoodwinked. Unfortunately, most people have very little car knowledge and experience. After you buy a car, it’s important to find an auto repair shop that you trust as soon as possible. This will give your mechanic time to get to know you and your vehicle. It will also help prevent breakdowns and save you a lot of money in the long run.

This article is all about how to avoid getting scammed by mechanics and auto repair shops, but the information can also help you develop a fraud firewall for all sorts of snake oil salesmanship.

How to Avoid Getting Scammed by Mechanics and Auto Repair Shops

In addition to online reviews and testimonials, ask your family and friends for recommendations. Finding a full-service repair shop is preferred, but there are four main types of shops:

  • Dealerships
  • Independents
  • Specialists
  • Auto Repair Chains

Once you find a shop, check for the following:

  • Years in Business – The longer the shop has been in business, the less likely you are to be scammed.
  • Better Business Bureau – Look up the business on the Better Business Bureau, state Department of Consumer Affairs, or the Attorney General’s office. It’s also a good idea to check social networks and online consumer sites.
  • Appearance and Amenities – A clean shop and professional appearance can be deceiving, but it can also give you a general idea of the shop’s attention to detail and customer service.
  • Posted Credentials – Look for ASE and AAA certifications in the shop or on their website. If they aren’t posted, ask about them.
  • Warranties – Reputable shops will offer parts and labor warranties on their work. Ask about warranty information before agreeing to any service or repairs.
  • Commissioned Employees – Avoid shops that pay their mechanics and employees based on commission. There is simply too much pressure to upsell and suggest repairs that aren’t necessary.
  1. Swing by Local Auto Parts Store for Free Check Engine Light Service

If your check engine warning light comes on, don’t automatically drive to a mechanic. They will most likely charge you an engine diagnostic fee and recommend services you may not need. Many auto parts stores will run a computer diagnostic test free of charge. The computer diagnostic test is a good way to get a quick and free assessment of your vehicle. Call the auto parts store before you go to see if they offer this service.

  1. Always Deal with a Reputable Mechanic or Auto Shop

Recently, there was a story on WSMV Channel 4 about a Craigslist scam after a self-professed “mechanic” asked a car owner to buy $170 worth of parts only later to sell them at AutoZone.

If you didn’t already know, never turn to Craigslist for work on your car (or home for that matter). While you can still get scammed from mechanic and auto shops, there are more avenues for you to complain and get your money back if the job goes wrong, such as the Better Business Bureau.

When you are dealing with strangers, you have no idea who you are dealing with. Similarly, it’s also a bad idea to buy a used car from Craigslist or any other private seller. The lesson here to is always use a verified company for all of your car services.

One way to avoid a bad mechanic or auto repair shop is to ask your friends, family, and co-workers for recommendations. If they felt ripped off by a mechanic, it’s best to stay away.

  1. Look for an ASE (National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence) or AAA (American Automobile Association) Certification

Use the AAA approved auto repair facilities search to find information on over 7,000 AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities across North America. Also, visit for nearby AAA Approved Auto Repair Facilities.

Auto repair is an extremely demanding, and increasingly technological job that requires ongoing training and certification. In order to receive an ASE certification, mechanics must pass a written test and demonstrate a minimum two years on hands-on industry experience. Every five years, the technician must get retested to remain certified.

Those who pass all eight core tests of mechanical automotive repair are given the title of Certified Master Automobile Technician.

Usually, auto repair shops will post technician certifications and credentials in the shop or on their website for easy viewing. If you don’t see any certifications, ask about them. They should be happy to tell you all about their credentials. If you get a roundabout answer or unsatisfactory response, take your business elsewhere.

  1. Check Owner’s Manual for Maintenance Schedule

If you are wondering how often you should have your car serviced, don’t automatically trust your mechanic. The answer is very simple: CHECK THE OWNER’S MANUAL.

This alone can save you thousands of dollars in unnecessary repairs and service costs.

Your owner’s manual will also tell you where and how to change your windshield wiper fluid, coolant, and oil. If you want to save yourself some money and learn a little about how your vehicle works, check the owner’s manual for simple instructions on how to change the air filter, motor oil, tires, and much more.

  1. Shop Around – Go in for a Minor Job First

Don’t trust a major repair job to a mechanic or shop you don’t know. Like most things in life, it’s a good idea to shop around first before making a commitment.

After checking ASE/AAA certifications, social media, family, friends, and complaints on the internet, test the shop with a simple oil change or tire rotation. This will give you the opportunity to speak with the shop employees, inspect the shop, and get a general feel for their quality of work.

Be careful about the infamous upsells. Don’t go in for a simple oil change and leave with an engine flush, new fuel injectors or spark plugs.

  1. Be Prepared with Information Before You Go

For the best service from an auto repair shop, write down all of your symptoms and observations, including what you see, hear, smell, and feel. Unless you are familiar with cars, avoid any technical jargon. If you have ever listened to CarTalk with Click and Clack, you know that a simple description of symptoms, sounds, and smells can often yield a correct diagnosis.

Gather as much information as possible. Even if you think some observations may be irrelevant, list them anyway. Clear communication is key when it comes to receiving the best and most efficient automotive care.

Once you tell the mechanic what you have observed, ask them to explain their diagnosis. They should be able to give you details about the part in question and how the car is supposed to work. If they are having difficulties explaining how your car works, alarm bells should sound.

  1. Get Quotes in Writing (Upfront/Straightforward Pricing)

A reputable auto repair shop will always give you the price in writing before any work begins. If there are any unforeseen costs, they should always get your permission for the additional parts and labor costs.

After you get the quote, it’s a good idea to do your research before agreeing to the costs. Never agree to extra services without some research first. For instance, always compare the mechanic’s recommendations with the information in the owner’s manual.

A written quote also enables you to dispute the final cost if it is a different amount. If you don’t have this piece of paper, you are at the mechanic’s mercy.

  1. Maintain Good Records

No matter where you get your car serviced, keep records of all your auto-related services and repair. This is a good idea for many reasons, including selling/trading in your vehicle at a later date and making sure all of your warranties remain valid.

  1. Keep Up On Regular Vehicle Maintenance 

Again, check your owner’s manual for your vehicle maintenance schedule. This includes regular oil changes, tire care, and other fluids and maintenance schedules.

By keeping up with your vehicle’s maintenance schedule, you can avoid expensive trips to the mechanic and be better able to detect scams.

  1. Voice Your Complaints

Speak out if you’ve been wronged. This can help others avoid a similar fate in addition to helping you get your money back. If you are dealing with a verified company, you can report your case to local and state consumer protection offices, the BBB, and the Federal Trade Commission.

When you appeal to these resources, there’s a good chance of getting some or all of your money back.

Auto Simple Mechanics

The in-house mechanics at Auto Simple know a thing or two about auto service and repair. We subject all of our vehicles to a thorough 180-point quality inspection. By controlling the quality levels and meticulously reconditioning our vehicles, we hope to exceed all your expectations.

We also offer FREE OIL CHANGES every 90 days for the life of your loan!*

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to speak with one of our car experts at Auto Simple:

Chattanooga, TN – (423) 551-3600

Cleveland, TN – (423) 472-2000

Dayton, TN – (423) 775-4600

Dalton, GA – (706) 217-2277

Follow us on social media for more useful information on buying, selling, and maintaining your vehicle: FacebookTwitterYouTube, and Google+.

How to Use a Portable Jump Starter

How to Use Portable Jump Starter and Battery Charger

Getting stranded in a dark parking lot or on the side of the road—a common trope in horror movies—can be terrifying. Roadside assistance and cell service aren’t always available. If you want to avoid being the star of a scary story, some basic preparation is necessary.

In addition to knowing how to change a tire and having emergency items in your vehicle, it’s a good idea to purchase and know how to use a portable jump starter (aka emergency battery booster or jump box). With a charged jump starter in your trunk, you’ll never have to worry about getting stranded with a dead battery.

Normally, when jump starting a vehicle, you would need to connect your dead battery to the working battery of a separate vehicle. But it can be frightening and risky to depend on the charity of a stranger to jump your car. First of all, not many people will stop; second of all, they may have ulterior motives.

With a portable jump starter kit, however, you can get your car running again without relying on a stranger’s help. To close out National Preparedness Month, let’s discuss how to use a portable jump starter.

Things to Look for in a Portable Jump Starter

In addition to jump starting a dead battery, portable battery jump starters also come with USB connections to charge all of your devices, important for emergencies and keeping the kids entertained. Some are even equipped with built-in air compressors to fill up tires that are low on air.

Here are some additional features to look out for:

  • Radios
  • Emergency Lights
  • 12-Volt Outlets/Receptacles
  • USB Chargers
  • Air Compressors
  • Inverters

Today’s jump starters function as compact charging stations for batteries, phones, laptops, and anything else that requires a charge. Keep in mind that this will drain the battery power. Remember to periodically charge your portable jump starter.

Is Your Battery Dead?

There are many signs of a weak battery—dim lights, electrical component issues, battery warning light—but if your engine won’t turn on at all, your battery is probably dead. This often happens when headlights or the ignition switch is left on while the car is not running.

The tell-tale sign that you have a dead battery is if the car makes a clicking noise when you turn the ignition, but it won’t start.

To make sure the battery is the culprit, inspect the headlights. If the headlights are dim or don’t turn on at all, the battery is probably dead. Bright headlights usually signify that something else is the problem.

If your radio, lights, windows, and other electrical components work perfectly, then the problem is usually with the starter, not the battery.

Still, dead batteries have some charge. If the dashboard lights don’t flicker or come on at all, your problem might be with the ignition switch.

It’s pretty easy to tell if you have a dead alternator versus a dead battery. Try jump starting the car and if the car dies again soon after, it’s probably the alternator.

Battery Chargers vs. Portable Jump Starters

It’s important to know the difference between battery chargers and portable jump starters. Vehicle battery chargers normally plug into a household outlet (110-120 volt AC) in order to recharge a battery. They normally take several hours to two days to get a full charge.

Although the alternator in your vehicle has the job of charging your battery, sometimes an additional battery charger is necessary. This can be important to have if you use your vehicle sporadically or only during certain times of the year. While pretty useless in the event of a roadside breakdown, they are able to charge up your battery when you get home, saving you money and inconvenience down the road.

Unlike a charger, portable jump starters (aka battery boosters, emergency boosters, battery jumpers, and jump boxes) can be used anywhere. They don’t need to be plugged into an outlet. They also don’t re-charge your battery, but rather provide the necessary amperage to crank the engine and start the vehicle. Once the engine is on, the alternator will charge the battery and power the electrical system.

We recommend having a portable jump starter so you can make it to your destination safely, but a plug-in type at home to fully recharge it. If you are only going to have one, get a portable unit; however, an at-home plug-in unit can be useful and cost effective.

How to Use a Portable Jump Starter

First, make sure your portable jump starter is fully charged.

Jump starters rely on a battery as their power source. As a result, they must be periodically recharged. Always recharge your portable jump starter/battery booster pack after each use and at least once every 6 months. These jump starter batteries will lose their charge more quickly if left in the car during hot and cold weather. We recommend charging your battery booster packs before going on a long trip.

Usually an indicator light on the jump starter tells you when a recharge is necessary. Simply insert the power adapter into an outlet and charge the battery until the light indicates a complete charge. Check the manufacturer instructions for specifics, including what the light indicator colors mean (usually red/orange for charging and green for completed charge).

What you need to use a portable jump starter:

  • Protective Clothing
  • Eye Protection
  • Owner’s Manual
  • Car Battery
  • Portable Jump Starter (aka Jump Box)
  • Jumper Cables (usually permanently connected to the jump starter)

WARNING: Jump starting a car can be very dangerous. If you are not 100% certain what you are doing, call roadside assistance or a towing service. And always read your owner’s manual first!

The steps for jump starting a car using a portable jump starter are very similar to using traditional jumper cables and a second car:

  1. Always read the owner’s manual! In the highly unlikely event that your vehicle has a positive ground (very rare), the jump starting instructions will be different. Also, some manufacturers do not allow jump-starts.
  2. Wear protective clothing and eye protection.
  3. Turn the car off and remove the keys from the ignition.
  4. Remove jewelry and never put your face near the battery.
  5. Make sure the vehicle is not near any flammable liquids or gases, including what may be on your hands.
  6. Keep the charger as far away from the battery as the lengths of the cables allow.
  7. Look up your battery charger’s voltage in the owner’s manual. Make sure it matches the jump starter’s output voltage. This is normally a 12-volt supply.
  8. Identify the positive (look for the “P,” “POS,” or “+” symbol) and negative terminals (look for the “N,” “NEG,” or “-“ symbol) on your car battery. Remove any excessive corrosion before attaching the cables.
  9. Identify the positive and negative clamps/clips on the portable jump starter. The positive charger clamp is red and the negative charger clamp is black.
  10. Make sure the jump starter is “off” before attempting to connect the jumper clamps to the vehicle’s battery.
  11. Do not allow positive and negative clamps to come into contact with each other.
  12. With both the car and jump starter turned off, connect the jumper cables to the appropriate terminals.
    • First connect the red clamp to the positive terminal on the battery.
    • Then, connect the black clamp to a clean, unpainted, and non-moving metal part. Choose an area on the car’s frame or engine block, far away from the battery, carburetor and fuel lines. Never use fuel lines, engine rocker covers, or the intake manifold as grounding points!
    • Make sure the clamps are solidly connected so they don’t get shaken loose.
  13. Once the jumper cables are firmly in place, you can turn on the portable jump starter.
  14. Now, you can try to turn the car on.
  15. Do not crank the engine for more than 5 seconds. If the car won’t turn on after the first attempt, wait around 2-3 minutes to try again. You may need a new battery if the car won’t start after 4 or 5 attempts.
  16. If you have to readjust the jumper clamps, turn the car and jump starter off first. Only then should you try to improve the connection.
  17. After the engine starts, turn the jump starter off.
  18. Then, remove the negative (black) clamp followed by the positive (red) clamp. Now, safely store the portable jump starter.
  19. You can remove those embarrassing protective glasses now.
  20. After the clamps have been removed, allow the vehicle to idle for several minutes before taking off. Now you can go home to safety.
  21. When you arrive back home, it’s important to recharge the jump starter as soon as you can. Most portable jump starters will plug directly into an AC outlet. Recharge the unit for at least 3 hours. Some units will require 12-24 hours for a complete charge.
  22. It’s also a good idea to have your vehicle battery checked by a local battery centers to see if a new battery is necessary and how long your battery can probably last.

Again, always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for proper use.

How to charge a vehicle with a plug-in battery charger:

  1. Always read the owner’s manual and manufacturer instructions first!
  2. Turn the car off.
  3. Make sure the battery charger is off and unplugged.
  4. Connect the red clamp to the positive terminal.
  5. Connect the black clamp to a grounded metal, the car’s frame or engine block.
  6. Once both clamps are connected, plug in the charger to an outlet.
  7. Turn on the plug-in vehicle battery charger.
  8. The battery will start charging. Leave the charger on overnight.
  9. In the morning, turn off the charger.
  10. Turn on the car to see if it works.
  11. If the car still won’t turn on, you may need to replace the battery.

When charging your battery, make sure it isn’t at too high a rate. Always read the manufacturer instructions for proper use. If the battery is overheating, stop charging until it has had time to cool off. Overheating the battery can be dangerous and damaging.

Be extra careful and make sure the jumper cables are connected to the right areas! There is a risk of electrocution and battery explosions. Red = positive. Black = negative.

Related Resources:

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to speak with one of our car experts at Auto Simple:

Chattanooga, TN – (423) 551-3600

Cleveland, TN – (423) 472-2000

Dayton, TN – (423) 775-4600

Dalton, GA – (706) 217-2277

Follow us on social media for more useful information on buying, selling, and maintaining cars: FacebookTwitterYouTube, and Google+.

Four-Wheel Drive (4WD) Advantages and Disadvantages

4WD Advantages and Disadvantages - Auto Simple

Is more always better? When shopping around for a new or used vehicle, you will undoubtedly come across different drivetrain options, such two-wheel drive (2WD) and four-wheel drive (4WD).

But is 4WD always better? Is it worth the extra expense? Learn whether or not 4WD is right for you by going over the advantages and disadvantages.

First, what is a drivetrain?

The powertrain is everything that makes a vehicle move, including the engine and the drivetrain, while the drivetrain is everything that makes the wheels move minus the engine.

There are three common types of drivetrain arrangements: rear-wheel drivetrains, front-wheel drivetrains, and four-wheel/all-wheel drivetrains.

Four-Wheel Drivetrains (also known as Four by Four or 4×4)

Although 4WD and AWD are different, they both transfer power to your front and back wheels, which can be beneficial during muddy, snowy, rocky, and other difficult driving conditions.

You typically see 4WD systems on larger vehicles that are designed with all-terrain abilities, such as trucks, SUVS, and off-road vehicles.

4WD vs. AWD Drivetrains 

The main difference between 4WD and AWD is that four-wheel drive vehicles use two differentials and a transfer case while all-wheel drive vehicles employ a front, rear, and center differential.

Four-Wheel Drive (4WD)

When 4WD is engaged, the engine sends power to the transmission, which is then split into the front and wheel axles. The torque gets transferred to the wheels, but the wheels must have traction on the road in order for the vehicle to move anywhere. Otherwise the tires will merely spin as you have probably experienced when stuck in mud or sand.

Let’s say that you get your rear wheels stuck in mud. If you have two-wheel drive (2WD), then your wheels will probably spin and spin. In this case, it might be extremely useful to have four-wheel drive so that your front wheels could get some traction on the road. If power was transferred to the front wheels, where the traction is, you’ be able to successfully get your car out of a sticky situation.

This is essentially what four-wheel drive does. It gives you traction where and when you need it. Although 4WD is a bit more complicated than that, it’s essentially a way to increase traction and power on the road.

Most of the time, all you need is 2WD. 2WD is used for regular road driving. When you need extra power and traction (deep mud, soft sand, ruts, steep inclines and declines, rocky surfaces, etc), you can engage 4WD by pressing a button. The process for engaging 4WD, however, depends on your vehicle.

What Kind of 4WD Do I Have?

It’s important to know exactly how your 4WD system works. For older vehicles, you may have come to a complete stop first and put your vehicle in neutral or park before engaging 4WD.

Newer vehicles, however, can normally activate 4WD with a simple push of a button. Some modern 4WD systems turn on automatically whenever it detects one or more of the wheels slipping.

Each system—part-time, full-time, manual shift, on-the-fly, and fully automatic—all have different requirements for engagement and disengagement. It’s important to check your owner’s manual, consult a dealership, or look up your vehicle online using its VIN.

When to Use 4WD?

Use 4WD in the following situations:

  • When you need additional torque/power, such as pulling heavy loads at slow speeds.
  • When you descending at slow speeds while hauling a heavy load.
  • When you are going over steep inclines and declines, such as rocky situations.
  • When you are stuck in snow, mud, or sand; however, stop immediately if your wheels are spinning and follow the advice in this article.

Four-Wheel Drive Advantages

The main benefits of 4WD are traction and power. Have you ever seen those commercials where the Jeep is climbing over boulders and rocks? That’s 4WD in action.

If you are climbing a steep hill or are off-roading, you will want increased power in order to get over obstacles and climb steep hills. While 2WD will get you over even the steepest hills of San Francisco, if you are off-roading you will probably want the extra power that comes with 4WD.

  • 4WD improves traction in dangerous driving conditions, such as snow, ice, rocks, and other scenarios that can make control difficult. By engaging both sets of wheels, traction and control improves.
  • Additional weight contributes to better grip on the road.
  • 4WD is great for those who like off-roading.

If you frequently drive in conditions where there is low traction, or if you enjoy off-roading, you will greatly benefit from four-wheel drive.

Four-Wheel Drive Disadvantages

In most cases, 4WD is not necessary. It uses more fuel and can also lead to overconfidence, leading to more situations where you can get stuck. Save money and fuel by only using 4WD when you need it.

  • The main disadvantage of 4WD is added cost for purchase, maintenance, and fuel. The extra equipment (differentials, transfer case, etc.) adds complexity and weight to the vehicle, increasing initial market value, tire wear, and the cost of repairs and maintenance.
  • The added power and weight of 4WD and AWD systems require more fuel, making them less efficient than their 2WD counterparts.
  • Added weight improves traction and control, but it also increases the braking distance required to make a complete stop. Lighter vehicles can avoid collision easier than heavier vehicles.
  • 4WD and AWD can cause overconfidence in drivers, ironically leading to more situations where you can become stuck.
  • Although 4WD improves traction, slow down and use extreme caution on icy, snowy, and slick roads. Overconfidence can lead to dangerous accidents.

4WD Tips and Tricks

  • 4WD vehicles work best when they are regularly used and maintained according to manufacturer recommendations. If you don’t use the 4WD system for extended periods of time, the seals can dry out. It’s best to keep the system lubricated by activating it at least once every few months.
  • Only use 4WD when you need it to save as much gas and money as possible. Driving 4WD on mild, dry conditions can do damage to your front axles, differential gears, and other parts. Always use 2WD on dry pavement.
  • If you get stuck, switch to 4WD and slowly depress the gas pedal to get yourself out. If the wheels start spinning, stop before you dig yourself a deeper hole. Learn how to get unstuck from any situation.

We sell a large inventory of front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, four-wheel drive, and all-wheel drive vehicles. Shop our complete online inventory.

If you have any questions about 4WD, AWD, or any other drivetrain setup, don’t hesitate to speak with one of our Online Specialists or give us a call:

Chattanooga, TN – (423) 551-3600

Cleveland, TN – (423) 472-2000

Dayton, TN – (423) 775-4600

Dalton, GA – (706) 217-2277

Follow us for more useful information on buying, selling, and maintaining cars: FacebookTwitterYouTube, and Google+.