What Do the Dashboard Indicator Lights Mean?

Nowadays, there’s a computer everywhere, including in your vehicle. Its microprocessors monitor all of your vehicle’s systems and display the results right there on your dashboard, telling you whether things are humming along well or in need of attention.  So, it’s important to understand what those dashboard indicator lights mean.

There are dozens of these helpful lights, and they vary by vehicle.  Mainly, though, there are two kinds: those that simply provide information about the current functions of the vehicle and those that give you urgent warnings about potential or detected problems. They may appear in the form of an icon or text. Here are some examples:

Informational Lights
These lights are often green or blue and notify you of the status of basic functions, such as “cruise control is activated” and “high beams are on.”

Warning Lights
As the computer monitors your vehicle, it will warn you if something needs addressed. The color is usually key to the severity of the issue. The light may be yellow or orange if something will soon need servicing but doesn’t interfere with immediate driving. A problem that could seriously affect the mechanics or safety of your vehicle right away will likely appear in red. Also note that if the light is flashing, it may be especially vital to take immediate corrective action, or it could indicate that there is a fault in the way the system is reporting.  Here are some warning lights and their meanings:

Check Engine Light:  In some vehicles it appearsas an engine symbol. There could be thousands of reasons why it would come on. The one you can check yourself is whether the gas cap is loose. If that isn’t the problem, service personnel will have to diagnose the cause.

Temperature Warning Light:  Your vehicle’s engine is running too hot. Whether you are low on water or oil, or if there is some other cause, be aware that serious damage can occur if you continue to drive.  Pull over safely, and call for assistance.

Brake Warning Light:  This could mean your emergency brake is engaged. If you check it and find that it is not on, then there could be serious trouble with your vehicle’s brakes. Do not continue to drive until you have them checked!

Oil Warning Light:  Check your oil right away. The oil level or oil pressure could be too low to drive without damaging your engine.

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Charging System Warning Light:  Your battery is dangerously low. Come to a stop as soon as you safely can and call for assistance.

 

Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) Indicator:  One or more of your tires may be low on air. Inspect all to determine the cause and needed action. The light can also indicate the need for a system reset if tires have recently been changed or rotated.

Tail Light Indicator:  Your vehicle has a tail light that is out. Replace the bulb as soon as possible.

 

Become very familiar with your owner’s manual’s explanations of your dashboard indicator lights. Prompt response to them could be vital to the operation of your vehicle, saving damage to systems and keeping you safe.

If you have any questions, just contact your local Best-One®.  As always, we’re happy to advise and provide the service you need.

By Larry Knicely, Best-One Tire & Service Expert Panelist

Dashboard Indicator Light symbols courtesy of dashboardsymbols.com.

My Check Engine Light Is On, But My Engine Is Running Fine …

You’re just cruising smoothly… then you notice a light on your dashboard that you haven’t seen before. It’s probably amber or red and shaped like your car’s battery; and it’s telling you to check your engine. But if the car’s humming along, what’s the problem?

Well, it could be one of hundreds of possibilities. Some are minor, some major. Modern cars have state-of-the-art computers that monitor all the systems in the vehicle. When the computer detects a problem somewhere, it will activate the warning light – the check engine light or sometimes it’s called the malfunction indicator lamp (MIL). The problem may be something as simple as a loose gas cap or as serious as a bad head gasket, which means pending major engine failure.

When any warning light is activated, immediately check your car’s temperature indicator gauge on your dashboard. If your car is running hotter than normal, pull over as soon as it’s safe to do so. Driving with a hot engine can cause irreparable damage. If your check engine light is flashing, you need to get your vehicle checked right away!  If it’s lit, but not flashing, and the car seems fine, you can try these steps:

  • As soon as possible, inspect the things you can easily take care of yourself. For example, is your gas cap secure? If you correct a problem and the light goes off, continue to be very alert to your car’s condition when you drive it.
  • Note what was happening when the check engine light came on. Were you accelerating? Braking?  Did you feel the car shake?  Was there any strange odor?  This information could be helpful to your mechanic.
  • If you can’t readily identify a problem, have your Best-One® dealer run a diagnostic check.

Our equipment can identify the fault code generated by your vehicle’s computer, and our excellent service personnel will provide a detailed diagnosis. The problem may be an easy, but important, fix or one that’s even covered by warranty!

By Nate Zolman, Best-One® Tire & Service Expert Panelist

What Are Tire Mileage Warranties?

When you buy a new set of tires, they come with a tire mileage warranty. The warranty is assigned by the manufacturer and serves as a basic guide regarding how long the tires are projected to last (under normal use) and what happens if that lifetime should turn out to be less than expected.

Warranties typically have a five or six year limit and a mileage range from 30,000 to 100,000 (depending on the type of tire). Most warranties apply only to the original owner and original vehicle, so it’s important that you keep your sales receipt. Your warranty may spare you from having to absorb the total cost of replacement if your tires’ longevity is diminished.

There are several variables that affect how long your tires will last:

  • The type of vehicle you have. Tire life varies by car, SUV, and truck model.
  • The amount of driving you do. Obviously, more driving wears out tread faster.
  • The surfaces you drive on. Rough roads and debris can cause damage.
  • Weather conditions. Extremes in temperature can decrease tire endurance.
  • How well you maintain your car. A car that runs smoothly and is in proper alignment greatly enhances the way tires wear. Be sure to keep records showing all vehicle and tire maintenance.
  • Whether you maintain the tires as advised. To make sure tires wear evenly, they need to be rotated around the vehicle with proper timing and placement. The correct inflation optimizes tire life.
  • The type of tire. All-season, winter, and high performance tire all come with varying mileage expectancies.
  • How long the tires have been on your vehicle. Even if you don’t drive often, tires have an end-date for the material’s durability.

Remember that good tread is vital to good traction on the road. Legally you must replace your tires when tread depth is down to 2/32nds of an inch, but for safety’s sake you may not want to wait until that point. If wear on your tires appears to be greater than you expect, you’ll want to consult your Best-One® dealer about your tire mileage warranty.

If your warranty is still active, the cost of new tires may be covered completely or prorated. Your Best-One professional will review your warranty and your vehicle’s maintenance to see if an adjustment can be made and will help you understand the warranty and select tires that will keep you motoring happily.

By John Miller, Director of Retail Development, Best-One Tire & Service

Why Should I and How Do I Check My Tire Pressure Level?

The safety of you and your passengers can depend on the pressure level of your vehicle’s tires! That’s because tires that are properly inflated are key to your vehicle’s handling, and under or over inflated tires can reduce stability and even cause a blowout.  How smooth the ride feels, how much mileage you get per gallon, and how long your tires last also depend on keeping the accurate pressure level. So, you’ll want to check the pressure in all your tires at least once a month. Here’s how:

Get a good tire gauge. The gauges at gas station air pumps are overused, so there’s a good chance they may not be accurate. It’s better to keep your own in your glove compartment. It’s well worth the small cost. Gauges run from about $6 for a reliable pencil-sized style with pressure-indicating notches, to about $10 – $16 and up for battery-operated digital models. Some of those are even programmable to “remember” the recommended pressure for your vehicle.

Find the recommended tire pressure level for your vehicle. This information is in your owner’s manual. Often, it’s on a sticker in the front door jamb on the driver’s side, too. The level is given in pounds per square inch (PSI). Also, tires usually have a recommended PSI number on them. If there’s a discrepancy between the vehicle manufacturer’s recommendation and the number on the tire, you can contact your Best-One store for guidance.

Let your vehicle “rest” from driving before measuring the tire pressure. Accurate readings depend on the air in the tires being cool, so it’s best to measure after your vehicle hasn’t been driven for a couple of hours. If that isn’t possible, give it at least 30 minutes.

To check the pressure, unscrew the cap on your tire’s valve stem, and press the gauge’s nozzle onto it evenly. You might hear a slight hiss as a bit of air escapes when you place the gauge on the valve stem, but that will stop when you push the gauge down firmly. It only takes a second or two for the gauge to register the current pressure by extending the stick on a pencil-type gauge or showing the number read-out on a digital style. As you check each tire, compare the results with the recommended level.

Replace the cap on the tire’s valve stem. Then follow up on getting those tires properly inflated!  Beyond the monthly check, it’s also a good idea to check before any trip that’s going to have you on the road for a while or if there’s been a sudden extreme change in the environmental temperature. Remember, if you need further information or help, just contact your local Best-One. We’re glad to be of service.

By Roger Clark, Best-One® Tire & Service Expert Panelist

I Had To Jump My Battery. Do I Need To Come In and Get It Checked?

Even if your car battery can be recharged after it had been drained, you really need to know exactly why it died, what condition it’s really in now and whether anything else could be wrong.

Your battery starts your car and also powers the headlights, flashers, interior lights, air conditioning, the radio, etc., when your car isn’t running. Leave a dome light on all night, and you could find a dead battery in the morning. We’ve all been there. Also, batteries don’t respond well to extremes. So, cold winter air temperatures, sitting for a long time in storage without being started, and lack of maintenance can lead to a dead battery.

In cases like these, connecting another car’s battery to yours for a “jump” will probably start your car. Once the car is running, the battery should recharge, if it isn’t too old. Usually, a battery lasts about three to five years. If your battery is getting old and worn out, it’s hard for it to hold a charge and could mean that it is time to replace it.

But here’s the critical question: What’s the condition of your alternator? When your car is running, its electrical systems and electronics are powered by the alternator (think: generator), and the alternator recharges the battery as you drive. If the alternator is failing, your car won’t run long, and even while it is running, the battery may not be recharged adequately. You may not drive far before becoming stranded. Or the next time you turn the car off, you’ll be stuck again with a dead battery and unable to start the engine.

If a newer battery drains because of lights being left on and recharges readily as your car runs, chances are the problem is solved. To be completely sure, though, you have to know the true condition of the battery and the alternator. Your Best-One dealer will be glad to test the battery to see how well it holds a charge, and we can check the alternator for you too. We’ll make sure the power sources for your vehicle are ready to go!

By Lindsey Beer, Best-One® Tire & Service Expert Panelist

 

What Are Fluid Exchange Services, and Why Are They Important?

This image is courtesy of Valvoline

One of the easiest ways to maintain your vehicle is with regular flushes.  Most people are aware of the importance of changing their car’s oil, but there are other fluids in your vehicle that are vital to its longevity and performance. These fluids can be evaluated during a fluid exchange service. During a fluid exchange service, a qualified technician will assess the quality of your vehicle’s fluids and replace them if necessary.  The technician will also check for leaks and ensure your fluids are at the right level. Let’s take a look at some of your vehicle’s essential fluids:

Transmission Fluid
Transmission fluid lubricates the moving parts of your vehicle’s transmission. Just like oil, consistent rubbing, heat, and contaminants can degrade this fluid and prevent it from effectively lubricating, cooling, and cleaning. To keep your transmission running smoothly, exchange your transmission fluid regularly based your vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations.  A common service interval is every 50,000.

Brake Fluid
Brake fluids guard against corrosion and lubricate your vehicle’s brake system. Brake fluids absorb moisture and dirt from the air.  This debris can build up and affect not only your brake system but many other systems as well.  Reference your owner’s manual for recommended brake fluid exchange intervals.

Cooling System Fluid
Cooling system fluids cool and prevent corrosion of the engine’s internal components and prevent it from overheating. Overexerting your cooling system could lead damage of your water pump, radiator, and heater core, which could ultimately lead to engine failure.  We recommend that you regularly service your cooling system, per manufacturer specifications, to keep you engine running at its optimal performance.

Power Steering Fluid
Your vehicle’s power steering helps you steer your vehicle, particularly when driving at a slow pace. These fluids transfer energy from one hydraulic cylinder to another. To keep you power steering functioning properly, power steering fluid should be exchanged per manufacturer specifications.

Have questions about how frequently to perform these fluid exchange services on your vehicle?  We’re here to help … Call or stop by a Best-One retailer today!  Also, be sure to ask a sales representative about the benefits of fluid exchange warranty programs through trusted our suppliers like Valvoline.

By David Mitchell, Best-One® Tire & Service Expert Panelist

What Is the Importance of Proper Tire Inflation?

You count on your tires to keep your car running safely and smoothly.  In order to optimize your tires’ fuel economy and performance, taking good care of your tires is crucial.  One way to do that is by maintaining your tires’ recommended tire inflation pressure.

Under-inflated tires can result in reduced gas mileage, faster tire wear, and loss of control.  Under-inflated tires do not hug the road properly, and when this happens, the excessive heat created can lead to tire failure and eventual vehicle damage.

What can you do to avoid serious damages and injuries that could result from under-inflated tires?
To be safe, check your tire pressure monthly and before taking long trips. Most vehicles will have the recommended tire pressure listed on the driver’s side door jam. If not found there, refer to the owner’s manual. Also, keep a tire pressure gauge in your vehicle’s glove box in order to be able to check tire pressure at a given moment.

In order to properly check your vehicle’s tire pressure, wait at least thirty minutes after you have driven your car to allow the tires to cool. Then, place the air pressure gauge onto the tire’s valve stem, which is located on the side of the tire. By placing the gauge evenly onto the valve stem, air will escape until pressure is pressed onto the gauge, which will give you the most accurate reading. Do this for each of your tires and compare to your recommended tire pressure.

For more information or for questions about your vehicle’s tire pressure, visit your local Best-One retailer for more details.

Lindsey Beer, Best-One® Tire & Service Expert Panelist

Help! My Car’s Air Conditioner Isn’t Working!

Perhaps you’ve found yourself in the following situation: You turn on your vehicle’s air conditioner, only to find that it’s blowing warm air, or no air at all. Not only is this frustrating, but it can be very uncomfortable. Problems with a vehicle’s air conditioning system can present themselves in a number of ways. Here are some of the questions we frequently receive:


Why is my car’s air conditioner blowing warm air?

This is likely happening because the air conditioning unit is low on refrigerant. When your system’s refrigerant is low, not only could it overheat, but it’s also not getting the lubrication it needs to function efficiently. Running a poorly functioning air condition system can cause serious damage, so be sure to leave it off until you can take your vehicle to a qualified Best-One® Tire & Service technician.

My air conditioner is working, but it produces a strange odor. Why?
Air conditioners, like most equipment, must be clean in order to function properly. Over time, bacteria and mold can accumulate in your system. When this happens, your local Best-One retailer can help you rectify the problem with a good cleaning.

When I turn on my air conditioner, I hear it running, but no cool air comes out.
This could be caused by a number of reasons: Your system could be low on refrigerant, or there could be a problem with the evaporator. Your local Best-One dealer can run specialized diagnostics tests to determine the problem’s source.

My car’s air conditioner is producing cold air, but it’s coming out the wrong vents.
When there is a problem with your car’s air distribution controls (which is the system that directs the air to either the dash, floor, or defrost vents), the air is directed to the floor or defrost vents by default. Typically, this happens when a vacuum line is loose, broken, or missing. A Best-One technician can help get your air conditioner running smoothly once again.

Do I need to recharge my A/C?

A car’s air conditioning system only needs to be recharged when the refrigerant is leaking. Over time, seals can dry out or break, especially if you do not use your air conditioning year round.  It’s important to remember that your air conditioning unit should not leak, and if a leak is found it needs to be addressed immediately.

How do I make sure my car’s air conditioner is ready for the summer?
Regular maintenance is key. In order to avoid air conditioning problems before they start, have your air conditioning system checked on a routine basis—roughly every two years. Call your local Best-One retailer today to schedule an appointment to keep your car’s air conditioner running smoothly.

Larry Knicely, Best-One Tire & Service Expert Panelist

What Is the Difference Between All-Season and Winter Tires?

Summer has arrived, and with it comes a break from sleet, snow, and ice. Before we know it, however, winter will return, and many parts of the country will once again deal with harsh winter weather. Whether you live in an area that receives occasional freezing rain or several feet of snow, being prepared with the right tires could help keep your family safe on the road.

So, what’s the difference between all season and winter tires?
All-season tires are designed to provide traction in a wide variety of weather conditions, while winter tires are specifically designed to perform on snow and ice. Studies have shown that winter tires increase traction by as much as 25-50%, reducing the chance of skidding or sliding in winter weather.

One major difference between all-season and winter tires is the tread design. The tread on winter tires is specifically fabricated to improve traction on snow and ice, and it achieves this by rounder casing designs, state-of-the-art sipe designs, smaller shoulder grooves, and silica based compounds. Basically, these tires pack snow and expel it as the tire rotates, helping the tire to grip the road. All-season tires, on the other hand, have a less aggressive, flatter tread design. This design may deliver a quieter, smoother drive in regular driving conditions, but it could potentially prevent the tire from packing and expelling snow as efficiently during winter conditions.

Another major difference in all-season and winter tires is the tread compound. Winter tires are made from unique, softer compounds that allow tires to keep their flexibility in cold temperatures, which gives the tire more traction and ultimately more control to the driver. This compound incorporates “soft stud” tread fibers that grip the road yet do not damage the driving surface. All-season tires, however, feature a denser compound designed to perform at all temperatures, making it attractive to customers in a wide variety of climates. But if the temperature drops below 45 degrees, the tires may harden, which causes a potential loss of traction.

If you have questions about whether or not winter tires are right for you and your vehicle, your local Best-One Tire & Service® location.

Here are a few more helpful tips about winter tires:

1. Winter tire recommendations can vary from vehicle to vehicle, so consult your local Best-One dealer or your owner’s manual before using winter tires.

2. Winter tires perform most effectively when applied to all four wheels, and all four winter tires need to be the same speed rating.

3. Winter tires may wear more rapidly if used during summer conditions. You should return to all-season tires in the spring and summer.

Nate Zolman, Best-One® Tire & Service Expert Panelist

What Are Run-Flat Tires, and How Do They Work?

When was the last time you had a flat tire? Where you driving in the city? The country? Did you run over a nail in a construction zone or rub against a curb on the side of the road? No matter when a flat tire strikes, it’s always an inconvenience. Not only must you stop immediately to address the situation, but you must either change the tire or wait for help to arrive.

Every driver will, at one point, encounter a flat tire. Don’t wait for this to happen to you – be prepared! Run-flat tires can help you be prepared the next time you get a flat tire.

What is a run-flat tire?
Run-flat tires are tires specifically designed to enable vehicles with a damaged tire to be driven at reduced speeds (about 55 mph) and limited distances (roughly 100-200 miles).

How do they work?
Run-flat tires have an extra lining below the surface that self-seals if the tire is punctured. Additionally, a support ring fixed to the wheel supports the vehicle’s weight, so if the tire loses air pressure due to a hole or a leak, the tire’s sidewalls will remain firm.
Since a run-flat tire’s sidewalls remain rigid, it can be difficult to tell if your run-flat tire has sustained damage. The easiest way to know if there is a problem with your run-flat tires is to watch for a warning from your car’s tire pressure monitoring system. If this warning light comes on, or if you see a nail or screw in your run-flat tire, take it in for service immediately. Continuing to drive on an impaired run-flat tire for long distances or at high speeds increases the risk of structural damage to your tire.

What are the advantages to run-flat tires?
The most obvious advantage to run-flat tires is that in the event of a flat, you can continue to drive on the your vehicle until you arrive at a safe and convenient place to address the damage. But there are several not-so-obvious advantages to these tire as well. Because of their structural material and additional mass, run-flat tires have a higher rolling resistance. Additionally, because of the internal bracing, flat-run tires tend to run more evenly and keep their shape, which improves fuel economy. With run-flat tires there is no need to carry a spare tire, which contributes to a lower vehicle weight, thus improving fuel consumption and performance and reducing exhaust emissions.

Are run-flat tires right for your vehicle? Ask the experts! Visit your local Best-One retailer today.

John Miller, Best-One® Tire & Service Expert Panelist