Brakes and Rotors

Brakes and Rotors what do I really need?

If your wheels squeal like a pig on fire whenever you hit the brakes, you need to swap them out for a new set of brake pads. But with so many choices available, weighing the differences between ceramic and semi-metallic, or even organic, brake pads can be difficult. Especially since they all claim to provide the best stopping power available. Follow this simple shopping guide to make the whole process easier.

First, identify how you primarily use your vehicle


  • If you’re just driving around town, the performance of race brakes is probably not appropriate for your ride. If this describes your situation, then OEM-quality pads, ceramic or organic pads will provide the quiet and smooth stops you need so you can enjoy a simple turn about town as you commute to work or run errands
  • Basic, OEM quality rotors are all you will ever need for simply commuting. But once you load your car down with gear and passengers, you might notice your brakes getting a little hot and smelly on the way back from the mountains. If so, your car will benefit from a set of drilled rotors. Otherwise, high-quality conventional rotors should work just fine for the daily driver


  • When towing heavy loads, your truck will need heavy-duty brakes to cope with the extra heat that’s generated. Semi-metallic pads are brutally tough and great for this. And, since trailers make a ton of noise, slight squeaking from these aggressive pads won’t be as noticeable as they would be on a commuter car.
  • Add a few tons behind it and you end up with a boat-load of brake heat. Slotted or drilled rotors sweep away excessive heat, giving your braking power that lasts down the longest grade


  • Half of conquering the mountain is making it back down safely. Get your off-road rig back to camp in one piece with pads that provide plenty of hold — regardless of temperature. Heavy-duty semi-metallic or mild racing pads are great choices here.
  • Hot brakes are bad enough news on the road, so it’s not hard to imagine how unnerving spongy brakes can be when you’re zipping through the desert. Slotted and drilled rotors are a great choice for Pre-runner style driving, while high-quality OEM style rotors are better for mudding as slots and drilled holes can become clogged

Street Performance

  • Once you start cranking up your car’s horsepower with accessories, you need to ensure you can stop at a moment’s notice. Semi-metallic, select ceramic or organic pads — and even mild race pads — can be used to give your braking system a boost… withoutcommitting your ride to race-only status.
  • Power-adding accessories make your street terror downright scary when it comes time to stop. Slotted or drilled rotors are sure to keep your ride’s braking system cool as a cucumber during furious street driving



  • For racing applications, all the comforts of an OEM pad go out the window in favor of sheer stopping power. A race-ready brake system spends much of its time enduring intense heat, so it’s critical to use pads designed to work well at higher temperatures. Your best bet to beat the heat is a set of heavy-duty semi-metallic or dedicated racing brake pads.
  • Watch your favorite style of racing on T.V. and you’ll see brake rotors glowing cherry red as drivers attempt to contain a combination of monstrous horsepower and momentum. These cars depend on ultra-high performance rotors with 1 or 2-piece designs, specially-patterned slotted & drilled holes, and larger-than-stock sizes to boost braking power, while leaving excessive brake heat in the dust. Although they come at a greater price, 2- piece rotors offer lighter weight and greater thermal capacity.

Flush or Not?

To flush or not to flush? Car fluids you should really replace.

corroded rad


Should you listen to your service department's recommendation on fluid replacement? That depends

“Yes, Mr. Smith, we have your appointment confirmed for the 15th at 8:30 a.m., in addition to the oil change service you’ve requested, we’ve noted from your vehicle’s history files that it’s also due for a brake and steering fluid flush as well as a transmission oil service. Can we schedule your appointment to accommodate those required services?”

If you haven’t heard this from your automotive service consultant more than a few times, well, you haven’t been to a manufacturer’s dealership, independent garage, or auto service chain outlet in the last decade or so. The growth in this auto service segment has been ballooning over the last 15 to 20 years. If you’re a diligent consumer, you’ll oftenbook an appointment refer to your vehicle’s owner’s manual or maintenance guide to learn more about these services, but you won’t find any information on flush/treatment preventative maintenance in those publications. No automaker recommends them. Or perhaps you’ll ask your service consultant for the low-down or maybe just say “no, thanks” or just go along with the suggestions and try not to wince when your oil change invoice balloons to several hundred dollars.

Some background may help to put things into perspective. Automakers, in a move to improve their market share, have leaned out their recommended service guides and stretched time and distance intervals to position their products in the “low-operation-costs” bracket. Improvements in materials and assembly for most mainstream vehicles have upped their reliability scale and this lends credence to the maker’s position. However, for all the advancements in late model technology and engineering, most of an average vehicle’s fluids haven’t evolved at the same rate.

different fluids

Dealership service departments were looking to expand their offerings as recent downturns in warranty and customer-pay repairs left them with spare capacity. They were also employing methods of retaining clients who might have moved to independent and chain shops after their relatively short automakers’ warranties expired. And they were pleased to be able to offer added value as several of the top treatment suppliers include extended auto component/system warranties to consumers who became regular users of their services. As the average Canadian vehicle owner operates his or her daily driver for a substantial amount of time and distance past manufacturer’s warranty coverage, being able to obtain a low price guarantee on some of the most expensive-to-repair components can be an attractive offer. Here’s a look at some of the most common “recommended” services.

Transmission flush services. Servicing an automatic transmission can be completed in two manners; removing the drain pan and replacing the fluid and filter or power flushing the fluid with specialized circulation equipment along with a filter replacement. Automakers only recommend the first method even though it only removes about half of the fluid. A great deal of the transmission’s fluid will remain in the torque convertor, and oil cooler and lines during a simple drain and refill process. A power flush will circulate all of the oil fluid out before pumping in new. The flush system will also remove more solid and metallic debris thus extending clutch plate and moving-component life. It also prevents oil cooler or line blockage. Carmakers recommend an auto transmission fluid change between 50,000 and 100,000 km on average.

Engine cooling system service. As many of today’s vehicles are using long-life or five- to 10-year coolant, its replacement interval has been substantially extended from what it was when ordinary green antifreeze was common. As with transmission fluid replacement, there are two main methods of replacement. And as with drain vs. power flush on transmissions, power flushing an engine’s cooling system will remove more of the old fluid and debris as well as introducing a water-pump lubricant into the system. Long life coolant service intervals are usually between 100,000 and 150,000 km for most makers and those still using the old-style green coolant should replace it around the 70,000 km mark. Individual manufacturer intervals may differ.

Brake fluid replacement. This fluid seldom has a recommended replacement interval with carmakers. The main concern that brake fluid replacement addresses is the reduction of the water content in the fluid. With age, water is introduced into brake lines and hoses via condensation on the steel portions of the lines and the cast metal parts of the wheel brake units. This accelerates corrosion leading to fluid leaks. One hidden benefit of this process is that every bleeder screw on the system must be opened to complete it therefore reducing the risk of them seizing with age leading to the replacement of a caliper or two down the road.

Power steering fluid service. This is another fluid that carmakers consider “lifetime” with no replacement recommendation. Power steering systems are rather simple in design with only engine bay heat and sub-zero winter temperatures to provide any extreme operating conditions. Flush treatment suppliers claim to reduce the risk of steering gear seals, pump and hose failures. Opting for a treatment supplier that provides a system warranty with purchase can help alleviate the often expensive and common repair costs of steering fluid leaks.

Fuel injection/intake service. There’s a multitude of opinions both pro and con on this service, only matched in numbers by the count of different treatment suppliers. Carmakers never recommend injector service or fuel system purges in their maintenance schedules. But many vehicles have been prone to carbon buildup on engine valves and varnish coatings on throttle plates. The two main reasons can be grouped into poor fuel quality and low-speed vehicle operation or stop/start driving on short trips. Repair shops can accurately predict the demand for this service based on fuel price increases. As the cost of fuel goes up, the weight of the driver’s gas foot gets considerably lighter. When high-efficiency engines, designed to run at higher RPMs are subjected to pokey driving and/or poor fuel, deposits will occur. A good quality fuel system cleaning treatment, when properly applied, can reduce these buildups.

Whether or not you say yes or no to your service consultant’s flush recommendations depends on several things. Are you planning on keeping the vehicle long enough to warrant some additional warranty coverage that certain treatment suppliers offer? Is this coverage worthwhile/cost effective? Do you have faith in your service provider’s experience and opinions? Are you a preventative maintenance or drive-it-until-it-drops type of vehicle owner? Do you agree that improved design, engineering, and construction of today’s autos make them less reliant on routine maintenance in our often extreme climates and road conditions?

Auto repairs

Keep you ride right! Tips to keep running GREAT!

Auto repairs

Modern vehicles are expensive, but one way to avoid headaches and purchasing a new ride is by properly maintaining your existing car or truck. As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Not only can regular maintenance save you money but it can also prevent unexpected mechanical failures. Nobody wants to be stranded on the side of the road in the middle of the night during a thunderstorm. Keeping up with your vehicle’s needs is critical to a happy ownership experience and fortunately there’s quite a bit the average motorist can do to keep their ride running in tip-top shape.


Lubricating Door Latches

This maintenance tip won’t necessarily extend your vehicle’s lifespan very much but it sure can keep it from getting on your nerves. Squeaky hinges are irritating and can make doors book an appointmentand hatches difficult to open. Fortunately this problem is a snap to correct with a good spray lubricant, such as a lithium-based grease. Not only is this fix easy, it’s cheap, too.


Changing an Air Filter

Noisy hinges may be an insignificant maintenance item but one that’s much more important is your vehicle’s air filter. These elements prevent dust and grit from entering the delicate internals of your car or truck’s engine. Luckily these are generally simple and inexpensive to change.

Disposable paper filters can be purchased for as little as $20. Installing a new one is an easy way of insuring your engine has a good supply of fresh air. If you want a little extra performance and to help the environment you can invest in a washable, high-flow filter.


Checking Tire Pressure

Tires are the only part of your vehicle that ever touches the road — rather they’re the only part that SHOULD ever touch the road. Keeping your vehicle’s rubber properly inflated is critical to safe driving.

Traction and stability can be affected by tires that are either over or underinflated. Having a good pressure gauge is the only way of properly keeping tabs on this. You can get a simple analogue unit or even a battery-operated one with a digital display; either will do the deed without breaking the bank.


Tire Rotation

Of course there’s more the average motorist can do with his or her vehicle’s tires. Rotating them can increase the number of miles they last, saving money in the long run. All that’s needed for this task is a socket or tire iron for loosening the lug nuts, a good quality jack and some jack stands for safety, oh, and a bit of patience. Tire rotation involves removing every wheel.


Serpentine Belt

The serpentine belt is what powers all of your vehicle’s accessories. It takes the engine’s rotation from the crankshaft pulley and uses it to turn other things like the water pump, alternator and air-conditioning compressor. Without a belt your car or truck’s engine would likely overheat, its battery would die and you’d be terribly uncomfortable in summer heat.

Changing your serpentine belt can be accomplished with basic hand tools in just a few minutes. Additionally these rubber components are very affordable so there’s no excuse for not taking care of this maintenance item.


Replacing Spark-Plug Wires (if equipped)

Spark-plug wires are a critical engine component. They conduct tens of thousands of volts of electricity from your engine’s coil to its spark plugs. Over time heat and vibration can break these wires down, leading to potential drivability issues including misfires.

If your ride is equipped with plug wires it’s a good idea to change them when the manufacturer recommends. Luckily this is usually an easy task; if you can plug a lamp into a wall socket you can probably change these.


Swapping Spark Plugs

And while you’re under the hood it might be a good idea to change the spark plugs as well. This task is a little more challenging as they can be a bear to get at in some vehicles.

More adventuresome motorists that are up to the challenge may find the job rewarding, it can also improve performance and fuel economy. Many vehicles these days come with spark plugsthat are equipped with platinum-tipped electrodes. These are often rated to last for 100,000 miles so you don’t have to change them very often.


Doing a Brake Job

What good is a vehicle that goes but can’t stop? Everyone that’s ever had another car dart out in front of them knows that brakes are mission-critical to safe driving. Motorists that want to save some money can do their own brake jobs relatively easily with a few basic tools.

With proper instructions changing your car or truck’s rotors and pads, drums and shoes is affordable and relatively simple. What are you waiting for?


Fuel Filter

As previously mentioned, an abundant supply of clean air is important to efficient driving and the exact same is true of clean fuel. Replacing your car or truck’s fuel filter is a simply way of keeping it running properly.

Dirty filters can restrict flow and cause drivability issues. A damaged filter can even allow containments to enter your vehicle’s fuel injectors causing even more issues, leading to pricey repairs. Head off these woes by changing your fuel filter.


Oil Change

Changing your ride’s oil is one of the simplest and most effective ways of keeping it running well for years to come. A good quality lubricant will protect internal components from the damaging effects of friction, heat and other combustion byproducts. A premium filter will prevent any particles from damaging delicate internal components.


Coolant Flush

With large swaths of North America experiencing winter’s deep freeze keeping your car’s cooling system in order is critically important. Old, worn-out coolantwon’t protect against temperature extremes as well as fresh stuff will. Also, if you’ve never flushed out you vehicle’s cooling system it can be full of gunk and corrosion, which can plug the tiny openings in the radiator or block a thermostat, resulting in overheating.

Transmission Fluid and Filter Change

Now we’re getting really ambitious! Drivers that want to maximize their savings and do a whole lot of good for their vehicle can change its automatic transmission fluid and filter. Self-shifting gearboxes are some of the most complicated components found in modern cars and trucks. A clean, fresh supply of fluid is absolutely necessary to keep these components functioning properly.

With good instructions, a decent selection of hand tools and some patience you can change your vehicle’s transmission fluid and filter. Some manufacturers claim to offer transmissions that are “filled for life” but this is a little suspicious. Changing the fluid and filter every 30,000 to 50,000 miles cannot hurt and will most likely add years and tens of thousands of miles to your car or truck’s life expectancy.


Service Manual

Finally, one of the best recommendations we can make is picking up a good service manual. These books offer invaluable advice on how to repair and maintain your vehicle. They’ll walk you through even complicated procedures once step at a time so you can succeed in making necessary repairs. A service manual is a smart investment if you plan on keeping your ride after the factory warranty expires.

Top 8 Lemons

You may not be aware of the lemon laws. They are state laws that require that an automobile manufacturer provide restitution to owners of cars that have been deemed a lemon. The lemon classification is given to automobiles that have been found to be defective, with reoccurring problems that happen over a short period of time.

“Most states deem a vehicle a lemon when it has been out of service more than three or four times,” explained Steve Lehto, a lemon law attorney based in Michigan.

When a car is found to be a lemon, the automaker is required to reimburse the owner of his or her down payment, all monthly payments, the current registration fee, and any outstanding balance left on the loan of the vehicle. The vehicle is returned to the manufacturer who then brands the title as a lemon law buyback.

The editorial staff of, an automotive website that provides news and reviews of automobiles, has created its first annual Lemon List. The list identifies cars that have received the most reported lemon complaints. compiled the list based on members’ complaints submitted to more than 500 forums that are maintained by AutoGuide Group.

Gear Heads has done research and has identified the problems each car has based on state lemon law reviews.








Here are the 8 cars with the most reported lemon complaints.


1) Chevrolet Cruze. The 2011 Cruze was recalled because the steering wheel detached from the steering column while driving and spilled or dripped oil. In addition, Cruze models manufactured from 2009 to 2011 were recalled because the shaft to the steering gear input separated causing loss of steering control, the transmission shift linkage was not properly installed causing the car not to be able to restart and the vehicle to roll away after the driver exits the car, the fuel tank can come loose in a crash permitting fuel to leak from the tank, and the inability of a pump to activate causing intermittent reduction or loss of brake assist.







2) GMC Acadia. The vehicle suffers a number of problems including surging and stalling, cooling system overheating and/or leaks, loss of power or warning lights while driving, repeated dashboard warning displays, headlights not coming on and fuses burning out, “check engine” light problems, “service engine soon” light problems, consumed too much oil, suspension issues, engine misfiring and knocking, power steering problems, passenger seat airbag problems, problems with the transmission, traction control and stability control system problems, and “ABS brake warning light” problems.








3) Chevrolet Silverado. The 2016 Chevrolet Silverado was recalled because the mounting stud used to secure the air bag sensor and diagnostic module (SDM) may be incorrectly positioned possibly causing it to fracture allowing water into the module and causing it to malfunction and hinder deployment of the airbags in the event of a crash.






4) Dodge Challenger. The 2015 Dodge Challenger was recalled because the instrument cluster may fail that could cause the gauges to oscillate at zero and the “Vehicle Theft Alarm” light to remain illuminated increasing the risk of a crash, possible damage to the O-ring seal and fuel rail crossover hose can result in leaking of fuel and increase the risk of a fire, the driver’s side airbag inflated curtain (SABIC) may have a loose or missing rear mounting bolt that may alter the airbag inflated curtain deployment increasing the risk of injury, and the radio has software vulnerabilities that could permit third-party access to certain networked vehicle control systems.







5) Ford Focus. 2008-2013 Ford Focus models may include problems concerning the “check engine” warning light illumination; loss of power, hard-start, engine stalling, and no-start; suspension and brake problems; SYNC/MY TOUCH infotainment malfunction; warning light illumination problems; automatic transmission problems and transmission engagement and shifting problems; and steering, power steering, alignment and pulling problems.





6) Ford Escape. Complaints concerning 2008-2013 Ford Escape focused on “check engine” warning light illumination; loss of power, hard-start, engine stalling, and no-start; suspension and brake problems; air conditioning problems; SYN/MY TOUCH infotainment malfunction; “Tire pressure” warning light illumination or SRS/airbag warning lights illumination; and automatic transmission problems; steering, power steering, alignment and pulling problems.







7) Jeep Wrangler. There are a number of complaints concerning leaks through the doors, windows, vents and roof; vibration and noise at high speeds or while braking; and dashboard warning lights that do not turn off.






8) Jeep Cherokee. There are a number of complaints concerning airbag deployment; power liftgate control module short circuit due to water entering the module; radio with software issues that permit third-party access to networked vehicle control systems; possible misrouting of air conditioning suction and discharge hose causing the hose to contact the exhaust manifold causing the risk of a vehicle fire.



Pesky Engine Light On?

The Five Most Common Causes of a Check Engine Light and What You Should Do About Them

You're driving home from work one day when the car owner's worst nightmare happens: the check engine light pops on. It comes without warning and with no explanation. For most drivers, this means a trip to the mechanic, but it's not difficult to diagnose (and sometimes fix) yourself.

As Jalopnik recently pointed out, the check engine light is one of the most frustrating and confusing facets of owning a vehicle. It's just a light with no information telling you what the problem is. It's a cry from a baby with no explanation. But you can do a few things yourself before heading into the shop for costly repairs.

Unless your car starts smoking or stalls completely head over to an auto parts store and have them run a diagnostic to find the cause of the check engine light. Call ahead and make sure they can handle your make and model, since some cars have special computers. Once you're at the store, they'll come out and plug a small computer underneath your dashboard and read back a code stating what happened to the car.

According study conducted by CarMD, five common malfunctions cause the check engine light to come on, and several of them are simple to fix yourself. Let's take a look at the most common issues.

One: Replace Oxygen Sensor

An oxygen sensor is a part that monitors the unburned oxygen from the exhaust. It helps monitor how much fuel is burned. A faulty sensor means it's not providing the right data to the computer and causes a decrease in gas mileage. Most cars have between two and four oxygen sensors and the code you get from the scanner will tell you which one needs replacing.

What causes it: Over time, the sensor gets covered in oil ash and it reduces the sensors ability to change the oxygen and fuel mixture. A faulty sensor not only reduces gas mileage, it also increase emissions.

What you should do: Not replacing a broken oxygen sensor can eventually lead to a busted catalytic convertor which can cost upwards of $2,000. Taking your car into a shop will cost you around $200 depending on the car. However, an oxygen sensor is easy to replace on many cars and is usually detailed in the owner's manual. If you know where the sensor is, you only have to unclip the old sensor and replace it with a new one. Regardless of how you approach it, you should get this fixed right away.

Two: Loose or Faulty Gas Cap

You wouldn't think a gas cap would be that important, but it is. When it's loose or cracked, fuel vapors leak out and can throw the whole fuel system off. This causes a reduction in gas mileage and increases emissions.

Three: Replace Catalytic Convertor

The catalytic convertor works to reduce exhaust gases. It converts carbon monoxide and other harmful materials into harmless compounds. If your catalytic convertor is failing, you'll notice a decrease in gas mileage or your car won't go any faster when you push the gas.

What causes it: Catalytic convertors shouldn't fail if you're keeping up on regular maintenance. The main cause of failure is related to other items on this list, including a broken oxygen sensor or deteriorated spark plugs (we'll get to those in a second). When it fails, it stops converting carbon monoxide into less harmful emissions.

What you should do: If your catalytic convertor fails completely, you eventually won't be able to keep the car running. Your gas mileage will also be terrible, so you should try and fix it as soon as you can. Unfortunately, the average replacement cost is around $2,000 and you can't do it yourself unless you're an experienced mechanic.

Four: Replace Mass Airflow Sensor

The mass airflow sensor tells the car's computer to add the proper amount of fuel based on the air coming through to the engine. A faulty one can increase emissions, cause the car to stall, and decrease gas mileage.

What causes it: Most mass airflow sensors fail because of a improperly installed (or never replaced) air filter. You should replace the air filter at least once a year to help prevent the airflow sensor from failing.

What you should do: Theoretically you can drive for a few weeks or even months with a broken MAF sensor. You will notice a decrease in gas mileage and over time the car will eventually start stalling a lot. At a shop, the replacement cost is between $200-$300 depending on the car, but that's usually the cost of parts because the labor is relatively simple. It's not terribly difficult to do on your own, but the process is quick enough you may want to let a mechanic handle the project in case the sensor doesn't end up being the issue.

Five: Replace Spark Plugs and Wires

The spark plug seals the combustion chamber and provides a gab for a spark to jump across and initiates combustion in your engine. When the plugs are failing, the spark plugs misfire. You'll feel a little jolt in your car's acceleration when this happens.

What causes it: Most spark plugs in cars from before 1996 should be replaced every 25,000-30,000 miles. Newer ones can last up to 100,000 miles. Still, plugs fail over time and there's not much you can do about it.

What you should do: Get them replaced right away. It's easy and cheap and your car will run better for it. If your spark plugs fail and you've made your way to the auto parts store, you can replace them easily following the video above. Since this is part of your vehicles regular maintenance, the spark plugs are usually easily accessible from the hood of the car. It's simple enough that I've seen people doing this in the auto parts parking lot on several occasions.

Plenty of other possibilities for a check engine light are out there, but the above five are the most common. How long do you usually let the check engine light stay on before you do something about it?


What causes it: If you get an error pointing to the gas cap it means fuel vapors are leaking out of your cap. This means the cap is either cracked or just wasn't tightened well enough.

What you should do: If your car isn't feeling jerky or strange when the check engine light comes on the first you should check is the gas cap. Pull over, retighten it, and take a look at the cap to see if it has any cracks in it. Continue driving and see if the check engine light turns off. Alternately, you can purchase a gas cap for about $3 at an auto parts store. All you need to do is take the old one off and screw on the new one. If you've already made it to the store, you might as well just replace it. While not car-threatening, it's good to take care of this right away to improve gas mileage.