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Headlights Maintenance 101

It’s dangerous enough just trying to fumble your way to the refrigerator in the middle of the night without lights to guide you, but the danger becomes very real very quickly when your car’s headlights aren’t functioning up to snuff.

Thankfully, making sure your headlights are in optimal condition isn’t that difficult. Here’s a quick, handy guide to making sure your headlights are equipped to keep you and your family safe on the roads at night.




1. Replace your headlights before they burn out

“Once they burn out” is the typical time most car owners replace their headlamps. Since it’s not something you check for regularly, a burnout might be the first time you even think about replacing a bulb.

However, even high-end headlight bulbs dim before they burn out. Dim headlights reduce a driver’s ability to see what’s in front of them and their visibility to other drivers coming from the opposite direction. This poses a risk to everyone.

Typical modern bulbs last anywhere from 500-2,000 hours with the average right in the middle. This means that bulbs should last two to three years of normal driving. It’s probably a good idea to replace your headlamp bulbs every two years at a minimum, and more often if you drive at night regularly.



2. Restore!

Over time, especially in more humid climates like down here in North Carolina where we’re located, your light covers might fog up. This reduces how powerful your headlights are and can seriously limit your nighttime visibility.

Fortunately it’s pretty simple to restore your headlamps by yourself. A number of companies make cleaning kits that make it simple, easy and effective to clear up your lights. Most of these kits have an additive in the cleaning product that protects your lights from UV rays. A good restoration job can increase the amount of light that actually makes it out of the headlights and onto the road by up the three times!



3. Replace in pairs

While headlights typically don’t burn out at the exact same time, it’s best to replace them simultaneously. They will tend to wear out at about the same rate so chances are if one has burned out or dimmed significantly, the other is not far behind.
In addition, uneven light coming from your headlights can create an uneven field of vision which can be a tremendous distraction and safety hazard for driving at night.

 



4. You can upgrade

Most people tend to think that a headlight is a headlight is a headlight and don’t know that they have options. However, manufacturers these days make a variety of different bulbs using different materials for filaments or bulb construction. Many of these vary greatly in the amount of light they put out.

 

Your vehicle, especially if it’s a little older, likely came with standard headlights. Any improvement on that standard bulb is going to make a world of difference. Do a little research online and see which bulbs offer the greatest downroad visibility for your vehicle. While they may cost a few more dollars, the extra stopping distance they afford you at night could be the difference between a wreck and arriving home safely.

 

 

5. Aim your lights

 

Minor accidents or even going over a big pothole can change the alignment of your headlights. It’s a good idea to check where your lights are pointing once every couple of months, or immediately after any kind of collision.

 

Make sure that your lights are pointing down at the road ahead and not too far down or so high up that they are pointing other drivers’ eyes. This is also a simple quick and easy fix to do at home.

 

6. DIY!

 

At Strutmasters we are all about the DIYer. Replacing headlight bulbs yourself is one of the easier jobs for the home mechanic and will save you quite a bit of money over taking it to the mechanic.

 

Here’s a handy general guide for replacing your headlamps at home, but YouTube has hundreds of videos that are specific to the make and model of the car. With a little patience and proper safety equipment (gloves and goggles always!) you should be able to install a new bulb in no time at all.

 

Keeping your car’s safety equipment in optimal condition benefits everyone. By properly maintaining your headlights, you are not only keeping you, your family and your car safe, you’re keeping everyone else on the road safe too.

 

Stay tuned to the Strutmasters knowledge base blog for more car care tips and explore our inventory if you’re giving some thought to replacing or repairing your suspension.

 

The 5-Point Home Car Inspection That Can Save You Thousands

The 5-Point Home Car Inspection That Can Save You Thousands

“An ounce of prevention saves a pound of cure” as the old adage goes. While this usually refers to keeping our bodies healthy, the same goes for your vehicle. Regular inspections of your car can help you spot problems before they become severe.

Often, if problems are spotted early, they are a quick and easy fix either at home or with minimal labor at the mechanic.

Do yourself and your car a favor and check these seven points on your vehicle once a month or so:



1. Tires

Your tires are your first line of defense from wear and tear and dangerous road conditions. They also wear out faster and more regularly than any other component of your vehicle. Tires in poor condition are not only prone to slipping on the road, they also have a harder time absorbing bumps and dips in the road, passing that shock onto your struts and other components.

Use the “penny test” to gauge the tread level of your tires. This inspection is simple. Stick a penny in the tread with Abe’s head pointing downward. If you can see all of Honest Abe’s head, it’s time for new tires.

 

2. Oil

While the “every 3,000 miles” has become the standard for regular oil changes, it makes a lot of sense to spend a few minutes every few weeks checking your dipstick and seeing what kind of shape your oil is in.

A car in good running condition should maintain its oil level and the oil should remain relatively clean and clear. If your oil is low or looking especially black and dirty in between the 3,000 mile intervals, this is a sign that you may have a leak, a faulty filter or something even worse. If you discover during your inspection that your oil looks low or dirty, consider bringing the vehicle in ASAP for further diagnostics.



3. Brakes

Your car’s brakes are its most important safety feature. Many breaks come with built-in warning features (the screeching sound is actually a warning feature built into some cars to let you know it’s time to replace the pads).

Here’s a link to a handy video that shows you how to check your brakes without removing the wheel of your car:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sc1NJAbxIsU

 

 

4. Air struts

If your car features an air suspension, it is a matter of when and not if it will wear out and need replacing. Many times your onboard suspension warning system won’t detect problems with the air suspension until they are very severe.

Doing an inspection of your air suspension is easy. Get your car up on a lift and prepare a small cup of water and soap mixture. Use a brush to apply soapy water to all of the rubber and plastic components, but especially the air bags themselves. If you see any bubbles forming, you’ve spotted a leak.

This is only going to get worse from here, and other components will shortly follow. Here you have two choices: fix the faulty air suspension components and wait for the next ones to fail, or replace that faulty air suspension with a sturdy coil suspension conversion kit from Strutmasters. Chances are, there is a kit for your specific vehicle. Just use the handy search tool at www.strutmasters.com.

 

5. Coolant

The coolant in your car is essential to it functioning properly. Fortunately this is a pretty easy one to check.

Simply look at the coolant tank and see if the liquid goes up to the “Full” line. You should be able to tell from just looking at it, with no need to remove the cap.

If it’s not full, make a 50/50 mixture of coolant and water and fill it up to the “Full” line. Note that some coolants come “pre-diluted” or “pre-mixed” and you will not need to add any water. Make sure to consult your owner’s manual to get the right coolant for your vehicle.

 

 

At Strutmasters, there is nothing we love more than saving our customers money. That’s why our kits are designed to not only be a tremendous value for the money but also to be easy enough to install at home without having to pay mechanic labor fees.

Check our website www.strutmasters.com today or give us a call at (336) 597-2397 to have your car riding like a dream again!

Clay Does it Again! Millican Breaks His Own Top Fuel Record

NHRA fan favorite Clay Millican broke the Top Fuel national time record and took the top position this past Saturday at the Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals with a time of 3.628 seconds at 322.04 mph.

Millican also owned the previous record of 3.631 seconds, which he set the previous year in Madison, Illinois.

The Stringer Performance driver credited the people around him for the new record.

“My crew chief, David Grubnic, runs this car differently than anybody else out here, and he is just one of a kind,” said Millican.

Millican insists that he and the Stringer team aren’t done yet, despite the excitement over the new record.

“I knew it was a special run at the 330-foot mark, and I even shut the car off a bit early, so we know we can improve upon those numbers at some point.”

 


Strutmasters, always a champion of top-shelf performance, is a proud sponsor of Clay Millican and the Stringer Performance NHRA team.

5 Simple Steps for Spring Car Care

Ah, spring is in the air! The weather’s warming up, the flowers are starting to bloom and people are starting to get outside. Unfortunately, this also means the negative effects of winter will start to show up and you’ll be facing new challenges with your car.

Here are a few tips to help make sure you’re giving your vehicle the TLC it deserves this spring.


Check Your Tire Pressure

As we mentioned in our winter preparation guide, changing air temperatures can dramatically affect tire pressure. While tire pressure drops in colder weather, it increases in warmer weather.

Overinflated tires can be just as problematic and dangerous as underinflated ones. Driving on overinflated tires makes it more difficult for your car to handle rough road surfaces and curves and will cause uneven and rapid tire wear. It also increases the risk of blowouts.



Wax On, Wash Off

Your car’s paint has just been put through the wringer over the winter. From road salt to debris to just general ickyness, your paint job has a lot of enemies during the winter. Make sure to wash your car thoroughly as the weather begins to warm up in order to keep all that grime from settling in.

It is also a good time to give your car the waxing it deserves. Especially where we’re at in the southeast, areas tend to get blanketed with pollen this time of year. A nice well-applied coat of wax will do wonders in protecting your paint job.



Go See Your Mechanic (Or Check It Yourself!)

Spring is a great time to drop by your local mechanic and get your car checked out. Winter can cause all sorts of issues for vehicles and your mechanic will be able to spot them quickly.

For probably just an hour of labor, you can have a thorough check of your vehicle to see if there are any underlying issues. They will likely spend most of their time looking at your belts and fluids.


Check Those Wipers!

Winter weather does a number on wiper blades. Especially if you dealt with snow, ice or even really heavy frosts this winter, it is likely that at least one of your wiper blades needs to be replaced.

The cold air and changes in humidity are a recipe for a cracked wiper blade. With seasonal rains coming in over the next few months, you will undoubtedly be needing your wipers to be working at full strength.


Get Your Alignment Looked At

It doesn’t take long to do an alignment check. While you should already be getting this checked out every few months anyway, it is especially important to get your alignment looked at after winter, when it’s more likely that you’ve been driving in unfavorable conditions.



Check Your Air Suspension For Trouble

If your vehicle has an aging air suspension (60-70,000 miles) you might be starting to experience some signs of trouble. The cold, dry air of winter can be a serious challenge for the air suspension’s rubber components like the o-rings, hoses or air bags.

Get your mechanic to do a thorough check while you’ve got the car in. If you’d rather do it at home, you can apply some soapy water with a brush to the rubber or plastic components. Bubbles will appear at the site of any air leaks.


If you’re starting to experience some air suspension problems, this is just the beginning. Consider converting to a standard coilover suspension now before you’ve spent potentially thousands trying to fix it. Check our website to look for a kit for your vehicle here, or better yet call us on our hotline at (866) 984-1443.

To Treat Your Windows or Not?

Over the last 20 or so years the popularity of using chemical products to treat car windows and windshields has surged dramatically. Products like RainX or Aquapel form a hydrophobic layer on auto glass that wicks water off. The effectiveness and safety of these products, however, has been called into question.

Here we will explore some of the pros and cons of using these types of window treatments.


1. They do work as advertised

 

There is no doubt that these products do what they are intended to do, which is form a hydrophobic surface on your auto glass. This is similar to treatments or waxes which are used on tents and hiking gear like jackets and boots. When water touches these surfaces, it beads up and rolls away to a surface that is friendlier.

 

These products are remarkably effective at creating this hydrophobic layer.

2. That’s not always a good thing

 

So while these products do what their marketing says they do, that may not always be what you want.

 

When rain is anything more than “moderate,” it will pool up and roll off of your windshield, making the job of your wipers much easier. However, when rain is less than “moderate,” the small droplets have a tendency to bead up and sit in one place. Depending on the quality of your wipers, they may actually just spread these beads around and impair visibility, rather than help it.

3.  They can sometimes leave a residue

Much like a poorly-applied wax, these products can leave a misty residue on windshields that can be hard to get off. In more humid parts of the country such as the Southeast, this can create a dangerously foggy situation for the driver.

 

4. They’re inexpensive

The relatively low cost of these window treatments (most can be purchased for around $5 at your local hardware or auto parts store) means that you can give them a try without much of a risk.

Many people use these products once and never look back. Others find that they don’t do what they want them to do. They may work differently depending on the shape of the windshield or the composition of the glass.

As inexpensive as they are, it’s worth giving these products a shot so you can see for yourself.

 

5 Tips for Driving in Heavy Rain

With spring showers just around the corner it’s a great time to brush up on some safety tips for driving in the rain. Heavy rain presents a number of challenges for you and other drivers on the road. Unfortunately, as opposed to heavy snow, heavy rain often doesn’t get you out of the things that you need to do.

Take a look at the following tips to keep you safe during the coming months:



1. Check your tires


Your tires are your number one defense against hydroplaning. Hydroplaning is when the vehicle is traveling too fast over a wet surface and the tires ride over a thin layer of water instead of making contact with the road. It is an extremely dangerous occasion where you lose control of the braking and steering of a car.

Tires with a proper amount of tread will handle most wet road situations with ease. To test if your tires are still good, pull out a penny and stick it into the tread with Honest Abe upside down. If the tread reaches the top of his head, you’re in the clear. If it doesn’t, get those tires replaced.

 

2. Slow down


While good tires are helpful, only reducing your speed will completely eliminate the chance of hydroplaning.

Roads also have a tremendous buildup of oils and fluids from cars, all of which rise to the surface during periods of heavy rain. This makes roads even more dangerous.

Make sure to leave ahead of time so that you can you maintain a safe speed getting wherever it is you need to go.

 

3. Turn your lights on


Visibility is a major issue during heavy rainfall. In order to make sure you are visible to other vehicles, turn your headlights on.

The use of headlights during inclement weather is actually a law in many states. However, beyond even your local laws keeping your lights on keeps you and other drivers safer.

4. Increase following distance


Rear-end collisions are much more common on wet roads. This is because cars take longer to stop than under normal conditions and many people are not prepared to stop in time.

Give the car in front of you an additional 1-2 car lengths of space. Lowered visibility means that cars may need to stop more suddenly also. Keeping extra distance between you and the next vehicle will ensure that you have enough time to come to a complete stop when you need to.

5. Check those struts

Your struts are instrumental in helping your vehicle maintain contact with the road. By reducing the bounciness of the car, they reduce the chance that the wheels lose contact with the road surface and the vehicle hydroplanes.

Does your car feel extra bouncy? Does it lean or sag to one side? Are you noticing strange noises coming from your compressor? If you notice any of these symptoms or suspect that your suspension may be compromised, make sure to have it checked. Your safety may depend on it.

If you are ready to replace your struts and shocks, consider a kit from Strutmasters. Made from high-quality materials right here in the United States of America, these suspension kits come with genuine Eibach springs and are specially designed and tuned for your vehicle. Search for a kit for your vehicle here.

7 Easy Steps to Winterize Your Vehicle This Year

 

 

  1. Ensure your tires have proper tread.

    Your tires can be your best friend or your worst enemy when winter weather hits the roads. Tires with proper tread will keep you rolling true in slippery conditions, but tires with uneven or excessive wear pose a serious sliding/slipping risk.

    An easy way to check this at home is to use the time-honored “penny test.” Simply take a penny, turn it upside down and facing you, and insert it into one of the treads of the tires. If you can see all of Honest Abe’s head, it’s time to replace.

    2. Change your oil.

 

Your motor oil expands and “loosens up” in warm weather and contracts and becomes a little more solid in winter. This can be exaggerated when that motor oil is dirty. The result is oil that won’t do its job the way it’s supposed to, taking longer and more energy to work its way through the components of your engine. This could lead to some very expensive and frustrating problems down the line.

Change your oil early on in winter, especially if you’re getting close to your manufacturer’s recommended interval.


  1. Install winter wiper blades.

 

Your wipers do the important job of keeping your visibility as high as possible during inclement weather. “Year-round” blades aren’t well-equipped to handle extreme temperatures or the increased weight of snow and ice. Winter weather blades are stronger and more flexible. They also usually have a special coating that helps them perform better in snow and ice.

Winter weather wiper blades are built to be there when you need them the most. They can usually be found for less than $10 at your local auto parts store and are a breeze to install yourself.

 

  1. Keep your gas tank at least half full at all times.

    Did you know that condensation can often form inside your gas tank and fuel lines? In warmer weather that isn’t much of a problem. But in winter, that condensation can freeze and create blockages, making it difficult for your car to start or worse.

    The easiest way to avoid this is to keep your gas tank at least half full at all times during the winter. Gasoline will not ever freeze, so keeping your car’s fuel system filled up is an easy and effective solution to this winter problem.

    5. Check your tires often to ensure proper inflation.

    Treads are only half the battle when it comes to tires. While modern tires hold their air pressure under normal conditions, cold air molecules contract and become more dense, which can dramatically lower your tire pressure. Low tire pressure makes it more difficult for your car to maintain traction. In winter weather conditions that can spell disaster.

    Make sure to check your tire pressure every couple hundred miles in the winter, and be sure to pay attention to any tire pressure warnings your car might be sending. Another solution is to have your tires filled with nitrogen, which doesn’t fluctuate under changing temperatures. It also has shown to stay inflated properly for longer. While this used to be prohibitively expensive, many tire service companies offer this service now for less than $100.  

    6. Add antifreeze (especially in older cars).

    It says it right there in the name. Antifreeze is an additive that you mix in with your engine’s cooling system to lower its freezing point. As we mentioned before, water does some nasty things to car components, especially when it freezes.

    But there’s more. In addition to preventing freezing, antifreeze also raises the boiling point of your engine’s coolant to keep it from overheating. It also functions as a descaler, keeping hardened “junk” from building up inside the engine and other components.

    *Important note: Cars that were made after 1998 require silicate-free, organic acid antifreeze. Anything made before 1998 needs to use the traditional antifreeze which doesn’t contain silicate. Please, please heed this warning before putting the wrong antifreeze in your car.

 

  1. Pack an emergency kit.

 

No matter how prepared your car is to handle winter weather, sometimes circumstances are just out of your control. Even the most competent vehicles can slide off the road during inclement weather, and depending on where you are it may be an extended period of time before help can arrive.

 

At the very least, make sure your winter emergency kit includes the following, all of which should cost you less than about $125 in total:

 

  • Road flares
  • Tire repair kit
  • Battery-powered phone charger and cable
  • Jumper cables
  • Emergency blanket
  • First aid kit
  • Tire traction mats/Kitty litter
  • Water

6 Ways Winter Weather Can Hurt Your Vehicle

A blast of lower-than-average weather welcomed us here on the East coast into 2018. While the first snow of the year brings to mind sledding and school closings for some, for car owners it can also bring major frustration. Here are just five of the issues you might find with your vehicle this winter:

1. Your windshield cleaning equipment will fail

Winter weather takes a huge toll on windshield wipers. The blades get torn and the wiper transmissions will break when temperatures get lower than the freezing point of the fluid. The cold makes the rubber components more brittle and the weight of ice and snow can cause them to snap.

You may have seen people put their wipers up in preparation for a large snowfall. This is an excellent idea and a good way to prepare. Also make sure to clear all snow and ice out of your windshield gear before driving, so as not to suddenly need to use the wipers and have them locked by ice.

2. (Almost) all of your fluids will thicken

In general, fluids thicken as they get colder. This is especially true with conventional oils, which often contain paraffins. Paraffins crystallize in colder temperatures and make the problem even worse. In cold weather, fluids will move more slowly throughout the system and often fail to do the job they are supposed to.

Make sure to check your fluids regularly during cold spells. This is especially important for transmission fluid, which must flow quickly in order to be effective.

3. Your tires will lose pressure


As a general rule of thumb, most tires lose about one pound per square inch (PSI) with every drop of 10 degrees Farenheit. This means if your tire is fully inflated at 70 F, it will be four PSI under-inflated at 30 F. This can dramatically reduce the performance of your tires and cause a serious safety hazard, especially if icy or snowy roads are combined with the cold weather.


Even if your area doesn’t get much snow or ice, under-inflated tires still present a serious road hazard. Check them often and remember the simple calculation in your head to add air when appropriate.

4. Your battery might die unexpectedly

Extreme cold (anything lower than 30 degrees) can pull voltage from a battery, making it harder to start or function normally.

Batteries in good condition should be fine, especially in areas with moderate climates. However, a battery that is already weak may have trouble making it through an extremely cold night. Get your battery tested at least once every winter to ensure you don’t walk into that surprise.

5. Your spark plug might not work as well

As you may have noticed, cars start much harder in the winter. While a worn-out plug or old wiring may start perfectly fine in warm weather, the cold will severely impact the car’s ability to start in the winter.

If your car starts slowly in warmer weather, look to change the spark plug or wiring before freezing temperatures hit.

6. Your air shocks might start to fail

Cold air and moisture are brutal on rubber, and unfortunately that’s likely what the air bags in your air suspension are made of. Combine the brittling effect of cold air and frozen moisture on rubber with the task of supporting the weight of your vehicle and you have a recipe for air leaks.

Unfortunately there isn’t much you can do in the way of preparation. However, if winter weather has your car riding low or uneven, consider ditching that troublesome air suspension for a coil suspension that won’t fail in the cold. Strutmasters makes conversion kits for almost all makes of vehicles. Check the website to search for your car here.

All in all, while the cold and ice and snow can be rough on cars, a little prevention can ensure that you’ll make it through the winter relatively unscathed.

4 Car Components That Suffer From Driving on Bad Struts

A faulty air suspension is costly and dangerous in and of itself. But even beyond the struts and shocks themselves, driving a car on bad struts causes a ripple effect and putting stress on the rest of the car. This leads to extra expense and extra danger on the road. Here are just four of the components in your car that suffer from driving on bad struts:

 

 

 

 

1. Tires


While all tires eventually wear down and need replacing, the rate at which they lose their tread depends on how much friction there is with the road. Normal driving on well-maintained roads with a good suspension means there will be minimal up-and-down movement of the tires on the road. One of the primary tasks of your car’s suspension is to keep the tires in constant contact with the road, reducing the amount of bounciness.

When your suspension is underperforming, the tires will bounce up and down on the road more frequently, causing them to wear down more quickly and need to be replaced more often.



2. Joints

 

Vibration is the enemy of the joints in your car. It is motion and friction that wear out any mechanical parts. A car driving on bad struts exponentially increases the amount of vibration on the its frame.

The joints is where the brunt of this vibration is felt. Excessive vibration will cause the joints and bearings to wear down rapidly, needing replacement and exacerbating other problems in the vehicle.

3. Brakes

 

Struts absorb the force of the full weight of the car coming to a stop. Bad struts aren’t able to absorb as much force, putting excess strain on the brake pads and brake rotors.

This not only wears down the brake components quickly, it also increases stopping distance dramatically. At highway speeds, a car driving on struts at 50% effectiveness will take an additional 15-20 feet to stop. This can be the difference between avoiding an accident or facing serious injury.

 

4. Steering system

Your car’s suspension is vital to its ability to be steered. As a point of connection between the steering column and the wheels themselves, your struts help distribute the force of turning evenly throughout the body of the vehicle. This keeps your car stable and all four wheels on the ground.

A bad suspension means more force is required to steer the car, putting extra pressure on the power steering components and causing them to wear down rapidly. Bad steering components combined with a suspension that can’t absorb the force of turning is a recipe for danger.


When you’re ready to ditch that troublesome and costly air suspension in favor of a brand new, Made-in-the-USA coilover suspension, visit the Strutmasters website and find a kit that fits your car. Better yet, give us a call today at (866) 597-2397 and let one of our suspension experts do the work for you!