At Strutmasters, we believe in things that are time-tested. That’s why we prefer standard coilover struts and shocks to air suspension. It’s why we insist on making our products right here in the USA. It’s why we employ people right in North Carolina to answer our phones and help our customers. Call us crazy, or perhaps just a vintage-style company, but we think sometimes the old ways are best.
We fell in love with these vintage car ads. Maybe you will too.
Quick! Where is your power steering fluid and how often should you check it? Unless you’re one of the more dedicated car owners among us, you probably have to check your owner’s manual or Google for the answer. Don’t worry, it’s okay! We are here to the rescue with this handy guide on how and when to check your different fluids. Transmission Fluid In a car with an automatic transmission, the transmission fluid is what keeps the gears moving smoothly. The well for the fluid is located in a different place in each vehicle, so consult the internet or your owner’s manual to find it. It will have a dipstick, just like your engine oil. Since the transmission is a closed system, you aren’t checking for levels, but for the shape that the fluid is in. Healthy transmission fluid should be essentially odorless and have a pinkish-red hue to it. If the fluid appears brown, black or smells burnt it is time to replace it. How often to check: Once a month When to replace: Depending on the car and driver, between 50,000 to 100,000 miles or whenever the fluid appears brown or burnt, whichever comes first.
Brake Fluid Brake fluid, like transmission fluid, is within a closed system. If your levels are low, there is something seriously wrong and you should take your car to the mechanic. It is still important to keep an eye on it. If your brakes don’t feel like they are supposed to, the fluid is the first place to look. It’s probably the likeliest source of issue and certainly the cheapest and easiest to fix. The brake fluid should be visible in its container/well. Look at the color. It should be a slight golden color. If it is brown, it needs to be replaced. How often to check: Whenever you change your oil. When to replace: Every two years or 30,000 miles, whichever comes first.
Engine Oil This is probably the one you’re used to checking. By the time you own a car, someone should have drilled into your head that you need to check and change your oil regularly. Maybe you even know how to do it yourself.
But for those of you who don’t, the question has become a lot more complicated than it once was. It used to be that “every 3,000 miles or six months” was a standard, catch-all answer. Nowadays, different manufacturers have different recommendations for how often you should replace your oil and it’s important to follow their recommendation. While checking your oil every time you fill up with gas is a smart move, with newer cars you can probably get away with checking it less frequently. Engine oil exists in an open system, so it is likely it will fall below safe levels and need topping up from time to time. For that reason, it’s a good idea to keep a bottle or two on hand at home. How often to check: At least once a month, preferably more often. When to change: Consult your manufacturer’s recommendation.
Power Steering Fluid The power steering in your car ensures that steering is smooth an easy. Cars that are low on power steering fluid will start to make creaking sounds and the driver will notice a tactile difference when driving. The check for power steering fluid is a visual one, just pop the hood and look for the well, which should be clearly labeled. Consult your manual if you can’t see it right away. Power steering fluid should remain at relatively the same level at all times. If it is low, there is a good chance you have a leak. Take your car to your mechanic if this is the case. How often to check: Once a month When to replace: Maybe never. Consult your manual.
Coolant Take a wild guess at what this stuff does! Since you can probably guess what coolant does, you know how important it is. Like engine oil, the health of your car’s engine depends on this to function properly. Wait until your engine is cool to the touch to check the coolant. This is a simple one. Just unscrew the radiator cap and take a look. There should be a line or hash mark indicating the proper coolant level. If it needs topping up, go ahead and do it but be sure to use the same type of coolant that is already in the engine. If you have never replaced the coolant in your car, your manufacturer should have that information freely available. How often to check: At least twice a year: once before the beginning of spring and once before the beginning of fall. When to replace: Every two years.
Wiper fluid While “low windshield wiper fluid” doesn’t sound like an emergency, it’s an important one to keep an eye on. Visibility is one of the cornerstones of safety. If your windshield is dirty or obscured in any way, it puts you and everyone else on the road at risk. Good windshield wiper fluid cleans your windshield and decreases the friction between your wiper blades and your windshield, reducing wear and tear on both. Wiper fluid is usually the easiest of your car’s fluids to monitor and replace. Pop the hood and look for the reservoir and fill to the line if it’s not there yet. How often to check: Every time you fill your car up. When to replace: Top up as needed. Consider seasonal fluids which may perform better depending on weather conditions.
At Strutmasters, we want your driving experience to be as easy, inexpensive and pleasurable as possible. That’s why we make suspension conversion kits that save owners thousands and keep cars on the road longer than their original air suspensions. If your car is showing any warning signs of suspension failure, be sure to visit our website or call our suspension experts at (336) 597-2397 for a free consultation today.
On March 12th, the NHRA announced a rule change about drivers striking the timing blocks or crossing the centerline. This new rule adds to, rather than replaces the current centerline police of disqualifying runs. Drivers will receive additional penalties for crossing the the centerline or hitting the timing blocks during any elimination or qualifying round. The rule changes, which take effect immediately are as follows:
First Violation of the season will result in:
Loss of five (5) NHRA series points.
Second Violation of the season will result in:
Loss of ten (10) NHRA series points.
All Subsequent Violations of the season will result in:
Loss of fifteen (15) NHRA series points per violation.
These stiff penalties are designed to help keep drivers safe, in a season that has already seen a series of terrifying crashes from top names like John Force and his daughter Brittany. The NHRA also hopes that these rules reduce cleanup time between runs to keep events running smoothly. The new rules changes are in effect over the entire distance of the race, from the start line to the quarter-mile finish line. Funny Car and Top Fuel drivers which cross the centerline between the 1,000-foot finish line and the 1,320-foot finish line will result in a loss of points, but will NOT result in the standard disqualification or loss of time policy. If there is an oil-down and centerline or timing block violation within the same run, drivers will be assessed the oil-down points policy, along with a disqualification of the run. The points will not double up.
The NHRA does not consider crossing the centerline on a burnout a violation.
Strutmasters is a proud sponsor of Clay Millican and Stringer Performance and supporter of the NHRA.
Your car’s tires are the only component that touches the road. If that’s not the case, you have bigger problems (like maybe a worn-out suspension!) and you should get that car the shop as quickly as possible.
Back to the original point, your vehicle’s tires are what stands between the vehicle and the road surfaces over which it rolls. That makes them incredibly important. However, tires are also one of the main components people are willing to ignore as they don’t give any loud, noisy indicators that they have failed like your car’s mechanical components. Taking care of your tires is one of the most important ways to take care of your car. Here are a few tips you can follow to make sure you’re treating them, and by extension your vehicle, right. 1. Get (and use) a tire pressure gauge It is important to know how much air is in your tires. Just looking at them or kicking them from time to time isn’t going to tell you what you need to know. By the time you can actually see that they are underinflated, they are dangerously low. Similarly, it is nearly impossible to tell if tires are overinflated just by looking at them. Every car has a recommended tire pressure, and for good reason. This is the pressure that the manufacturer has determined to be optimal for your car. Many times there is a small difference in the recommended pressure between the front and the back. Fortunately, tire pressure gauges are incredibly cheap and sold at just about every auto parts store and even gas stations. There is simply no excuse to not have one in your vehicle. There is also no need for one of the fancier digital versions. The old school pop-ups do just fine. Make a habit of checking your tire’s pressure once a week or so, and every time there is a dramatic change in temperature. Under or overinflated tires wear out unevenly and seriously degrade your car’s handling ability, creating a safety hazard. 2. Balance and rotate often Depending on your vehicle’s drivetrain, the front and rear tires on your car will wear out at different rates. In addition, certain driving habits or transportation patterns might mean that the tires on the right side of your car may wear out sooner than those on the left, or vice versa. You should ideally be balancing and rotating your tires every 5,000 miles. Consider one of the many places that allow you to purchase a “lifetime balance and rotate” plan. Businesses like Discount Tire offer plans that will allow you to balance and rotate your tires whenever you want. Many of them throw this service in for free when you purchase tires from them. Consistently and frequently balancing and rotating your tires will help you get the maximum life out of those tires, saving you hundreds of dollars over time. 3. Drive easy Hard braking is the number one way your tires get worn down. Braking hard generates a lot of heat and friction, which wears rubber down quickly. The reason you see black tread marks after someone has “peeled out” is because they have left actual rubber on the asphalt. If you are the type of driver to accelerate hard and brake hard, consider teaching yourself to move a little more consistently. Not only will this save your tires, it will reduce wear and tear on your car and help your fuel economy. 4. Replace when needed Tires, especially good ones, aren’t cheap. So it’s no wonder many people wait longer than they should to replace them. However, in addition to being tremendously unsafe to drive on, bad tires reduce your fuel economy and increase the wear and tear on other components of your vehicle like your suspension. Any money you might save by stretching them out a few thousand extra miles you’ll lose in the extra costs that come with it. As we’ve mentioned before, there is a quick and easy “penny trick” to check to see if your tires treads are good to go. Simply put a penny upside down in the tread of your tire. If the tread reaches Lincoln’s head, you’ve still got life in those tires. If it doesn’t, it’s time to replace. As the suspension experts, we understand the relationship between properly-functioning tires and a healthy automobile. It is important to us that you keep you and your family as safe as possible on the road. It is also important to us that you save money wherever you can. Proper care might have small costs here and there, but it will save you hundreds, if not thousands, in the long run.
The 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season has gotten off to a rough start for the Force family. Sixteen-time Funny Car champ John Force had one of the scariest crashes in recent memory Sunday, February 25th at Wild Horse Motorsports Park. Force’s daughter, Brittany, also had an intense crash two weeks earlier.
But the rough start hasn’t deterred one of NHRA’s all-time greats for being optimistic going forward.
“I feel great,” Force said. “I was in the office at 7 a.m. Tuesday morning. Thanks to Simpson. The helmet protected me. I have no complaints. The race car protected me. We build good race cars and we can always try and build them better.” There is a lot of racing season left for Force and his team, who at 68 years old is still one of the sport’s household names. He wanted to clarify that while he was knocked unconscious in Phoenix, he was not, as was reported by some, knocked out at the season-opener in Phoenix. While daughter Brittany had said that she couldn’t bring herself to watch her own crash, the veteran elder Force said he went right into dissecting the footage of his crash. “I’ve watched it over and over trying to figure out what took place,” John Force said. “We were lucky we didn’t get into the other driver (Jonnie Lindberg). It dropped a hole early and was going perfectly straight, and in the heat of battle, you aren’t going to lift, I don’t think. You want to win, and it is going, and you think you are going to win.” While NHRA fans may still not be able to wipe the image of the horrific crash from their minds just yet, the racing legend isn’t worried. “John Force is good, I am healthy,” said Force. “I am going to get a couple of checkups to make sure I am OK. I was already goofy.”
The average American will receive around $3,100 in tax refunds this year. That’s no small chunk of change. If you’re like a lot of us, you’ve already spent that tax refund in your head before it arrived. Maybe there’s a brand new TV you’ve had your eyes on, or a vacation you’ve been wanting to take.
Investing that refund into your car, however, might be one of the best ways to use that money. Let’s take a look at how that can work for you.
1. Paying off any debt on your car will save you loads Chances are you got some help paying for your vehicle via a bank loan. Most of those loans carry interest. If you are still making payments on that loan, consider using some of your tax refund to pay off the balance. Any interest you pay is money that doesn’t contribute to the value of your car and instead lines the pockets of your banker.
Any time you get a big chunk of cash like a tax refund is a good time to pay down loans which are accruing interest. Paying off the balance of your loan could save you hundreds of dollars over the course of the loan.
2. Getting a thorough check-up is great preventative care There is a reason why many health insurance plans offer free preventative care visits–early detection of health problems can save thousands of dollars in care. This is the same for your car. Take your car to your mechanic and get them to spend an hour or so thoroughly checking over your vehicle to see if there’s anything that can be tightened up, cleaned or replaced before it becomes a problem. That small rattling noise from under the hood might be an annoyance now, but in a month it could be a blown gasket if left unattended. Spotting problems before they become major ones can result in thousands of dollars difference in the repair bill.
3. Give the exterior some TLC, too While taking care of the mechanical side of your vehicle probably takes priority, making sure that your car’s exterior is in top shape will help preserve its value. You need look no further than the Kelly Blue Book website’s value calculator to understand how the outward appearance of your vehicle affects its selling price. In most places you can have your professionally washed, waxed and detailed for just a couple hundred dollars. Not only will it improve the value of your car, but chances are you’ll enjoy driving your spiffy like-new car much more too. 4. Look for air suspension problems (and you’ll probably find them) If you’ve got more than 50,000 miles on a vehicle with an air suspension, it’s a good time to start looking for small, underlying issues so that you can fix them before they get out of hand. The first components to go are usually the air bags. There is also a high probability of small holes or leaks in the hoses that deliver air from the compressor to those air bags, as they are prone to getting nicked by road rubble. To check for leaks, prepare a bucket of soapy water and apply it with a brush to your car’s plastic or rubber air suspension components. If you see bubbles forming at the surface, you’ve got a leak and you should consider replacing that component immediately. If the leak is in one of the air bags, you’ll want to consider replacing all of them as they do wear out at about the same rate. If endless air suspension repairs doesn’t sound like your idea of a good time or a good use of your money, consider replacing that faulty air suspension with standard coils using one of our conversion kits. They typically cost less than replacing just one of your air struts and should last you the remainder of your vehicle’s life. 5. Tires tires tires Whenever you have some spare cash to put into your car, make sure to look at your tires.. Worn down tires are going to cost you in operating costs and increased wear and tear on your vehicle. If the treads are alright, you’ll still want to balance and rotate them as uneven wear and tear costs you more to drive than evenly worn tires. Your car’s tires are its first line of defense from uneven road surfaces, and good ones will save you money in the long run. Consider premium tires, especially for older vehicles.
6. Get a good old-fashioned tune up Is it just us or does it seem like the tune-up is a lost art? Your vehicle is made up of dozens of moving parts, all which vibrate and shift over time. Parts being out of alignment seriously degrades the performance of your vehicle. It’s a little like walking around with your shoe untied. Sure, you can walk around just “fine” but it’s a lot less comfortable and there’s a higher chance you’ll injure yourself. With some of that extra refund cash, take your vehicle in to your mechanic and ask them to give it a once over with the wrench and some grease. It might cost you two to three hours of labor but you’ll save money in the short term on gas mileage and in the long term on the working life of your car’s components. There is nothing we love more than saving our customers money. When tax refunds come around, it’s a good opportunity to use that influx of cash wisely and take care of your vehicle so it can take care of you. Since the beginning, we here at Strutmasters have done everything we can to provide affordable, effective solutions for car owners. Visit our website or call us today at (336) 597-2397 to speak with one of our suspension experts about your vehicle.
Let’s face it, there is nothing tame about professional drag racing, but just three weekends into the 2018 NHRA season and it’s already been one for the history books. We’ve seen Clay Millican break his own Top Fuel record twice in one day. Then we saw Tony Schumacher break it the following week. Then Clay broke it again. Then Schumacher broke it again. On the opening weekend we saw Brittany Force crash badly, only to see her father, NHRA legend John, involved in one of the scariest crashes we’ve ever seen this past weekend at the Arizona Nationals.
However, another member of the Force family, Courtney, won the Funny Car finals that same day at the Arizona Nationals, beating out Tommy Johnson, Jr. with a 3.834-second run at 337.16 mph It isn’t even March and it has already been a wild and exciting year for drag racing. There’s no telling what the rest of this season has in store for all of us racing fans. Follow this link to the NHRA website to catch the dates for all of this season’s races: At Strutmasters, we are proud sponsors of Clay Millican and the Stringer Performance Top Fuel racing team.
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.
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 “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!