The History of the Dashboard & Important Warning Lights to Watch For

The History of the Dashboard & Important Warning Lights to Watch For

Have you ever wondered why they call the part of your vehicle that sits behind the steering wheel the “dashboard?” It might surprise you to learn that the name comes from a time before cars were even invented. 

When people traveled by horse and buggy, the streets weren’t what they are today. Instead of smooth concrete or asphalt, the roads were rough and unpaved. It wasn’t unusual for mud and stones to get “dashed” (meaning knocked, thrown, or hurled) in the direction of the buggy. Because of this, carriage makers began installing a board to protect them—which became known as the dashboard. 

Eventually, the word carriage got shortened to car, and the dashboard was sometimes referred to as the “dash.” Today’s dashboards sit behind and below the windshield and are used to house a variety of controls and instruments. 

Modern Dashboards Have Become Essential

In addition to the speedometer, tachometer, and gas gauge, your instrument panel has warning lights that can alert you to a variety of issues. These are very important to pay attention to, as they can help you prevent breakdowns, damage to the various systems, and costly repairs. Here are a few of the most important dashboard warning lights to watch for:

Oil Pressure: Oil is essential; it keeps the moving parts of your engine well-lubricated, reduces friction on these parts that can lead to excessive wear and tear, and pulls heat away from the engine. When the oil pressure light comes on, it means there’s been a drop in oil pressure in the engine—so the parts aren’t getting the lubrication they need. Left too long, this can cause serious damage. Call your service advisor immediately and avoid driving until the issue has been resolved. 

Check Engine Light: If your check engine light is on, it means one or more sensors in your vehicle have detected an abnormal situation. This could be anything from a loose or faulty gas cap to a clogged sensor or severe engine misfires. Again, this should be checked out as soon as possible. Our technician will read the code stored in your vehicle to diagnose the issue. If the check engine light is flashing, this means the problem could cause serious damage—so don’t wait! Get it checked out right away. 

Brake Light: If this light is on, it could mean that you left your parking brake on, or there could be a more serious problem, like low brake fluid or hydraulic system issues. Check your parking brake first; if this isn’t on, and the light is on, make sure to get it diagnosed ASAP. 

Tire Pressure: Newer vehicles have a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) built in that will tell you if any of your tires are under or overinflated. Both conditions are a problem. Underinflated tires can affect your ability to handle the vehicle and brake safely, while overinflated tires are more prone to damage from debris, potholes, and other road conditions. If the light is flashing, it means the tire pressure monitoring system itself needs attention. 

Of course, there are many more warning lights in your vehicle. If you see any of the following, it’s best to have your vehicle towed to our shop:

  • Oil light
  • Temperature light
  • Charging (Batt) light
  • Brake light

These warning lights indicate issues that could cause serious engine damage, or leave you stranded or with unsafe brakes. 

Visit EuroCar Service for Reliable Car Diagnostics

Although things were simpler back in the horse and buggy days, today’s dashboard warning lights can tell you many things about the complexities of modern vehicles. At EuroCar Service, we want to make sure your driving experience is trouble- and worry-free! We offer reliable diagnostics services for all European makes, including BMWAudiLand RoverMercedesMini-CooperSaabJaguarVolkswagenVolvoSmart Car, and Fiat! Call us today at (206) 527-8828 or request an appointment online.  

Trouble Accelerating? It May Be the Throttle Position Sensor

Trouble Accelerating? It May Be the Throttle Position Sensor

When you step on the accelerator pedal, you expect your vehicle to speed up—not slow down. If it doesn’t, you may have a problem with the throttle position sensor (TPS). 

What is the Throttle Position Sensor?

The TPS is a sensor that helps determine the right mixture of fuel and air in the engine. When the engine needs more air to accelerate, the throttle opens; it closes when you need less. The sensor is responsible for sensing the position of the throttle. It sends that information, along with airflow measurements, to your vehicle’s onboard computer. 

The computer takes a variety of factors, such as the airflow and how fast the engine is turning over to determine how much fuel the engine needs. When everything is working properly, you’ll have good fuel economy and the acceleration you’d expect. If the TPS fails, you might notice the following symptoms:

  • Poor acceleration
  • Reduced engine power 
  • Your vehicle accelerates on its own
  • The check engine light is on
  • Stalling
  • A rough or slow idle
  • Your vehicle won’t shift up

If you notice any of the above signs, it’s best to schedule an appointment soon. A faulty or failing TPS can be a serious safety issue. 

In the case of total TPS failure, most vehicles have what’s known as a “limp home” or “limp-in” mode. This is a security feature that’s activated when your vehicle’s computer detects an issue that could damage the engine. The less important features of your car will be switched off, and you’ll have reduced engine power and speed, but it’s enough to get you home or to the repair shop. 

Get Your TPS Repaired at EuroCar Service

Computers are an essential part of today’s vehicles, so it’s important to keep them—and the sensors that provide vital information—working properly. Our qualified technicians will diagnose and install the correct TPS replacement part. In some cases, it may also need to be reprogrammed, so it can work harmoniously with the other software in your vehicle. 

Whether you’re having acceleration issues or just need some general maintenance, EuroCar Service is here to keep your vehicle safe and reliable. We see all European makes, including AudiBMWMercedesLand RoverMini-CooperSmart CarVolvoSaabJaguarVolkswagen, and Fiat. Schedule an appointment today by calling (206) 527-8828 or request an appointment online.  

What is a TSB (Technical Service Bulletin)?

You probably know what a USB is, but have you ever heard of a TSB?

“TSB” stands for “Technical Service Bulletin”. After a new vehicle has been introduced and driven in the real world by actual consumers, certain design flaws or weaknesses that weren’t discovered during the design and engineering process are revealed. When this happens, automakers send out TSBs. Although they’re generally released when a vehicle is in its first model year, TSBs can be issued at any time as issues are discovered.

While these can be used to alert consumers, their main purpose is to let auto technicians know about problems to watch for. TSBs can be issued for a variety of flaws, including loud noises while the vehicle is turning or a power door that doesn’t close properly.

TSBs vs. Recalls

One important distinction about TSBs is that they’re not the same as a recall. Recalls are made when it’s discovered that a vehicle has some sort of defect that produces illegal emissions or could injure drivers and their passengers. With a recall, the manufacturer has to pay for the safety-related defect to be repaired, usually at a dealership.

When a TSB is issued, however, it’s essentially an acknowledgment that the vehicle’s manufacturer has noticed a pattern of something not working the way it should on a particular model. In a TSB, manufacturers will also suggest the proper way to repair these known issues. The cost for a repair listed in a TSB will usually only be covered by the manufacturer if the car is still under warranty.

If a problem with a vehicle is particularly widespread, the manufacturer may also send out an “Owner Notification” letter. When this happens, they generally have a good idea of the VIN numbers that are affected by the defects. Owner notifications will have time and mileage restrictions, and in some cases, these may extend beyond the warranty period. If your car isn’t covered by a warranty anymore, but a TSB has been issued for it, you can bring your vehicle to any service facility to have the problem repaired.

How to Find Out if Your Car Has a TSB

You can find out whether your car has had a TSB issued for free by visiting the National Highway Traffic Safety Institute’s Safety Issues & Recalls page. There, you can look up general safety issues and recalls by entering your car’s year, make, and model or searching your VIN. Or, feel free to ask your service advisor about any TSBs that may have been issued for your vehicle.

Although the issue that led to the release of a TSB may not pose any safety risks, it’s still a good idea to have it repaired, especially if your car is still under warranty. If you wait, it could affect the functionality of your vehicle, or lead to a more expensive repair. TSBs guide our technicians on the best repair procedure to get everything in your car working as it should.

At EuroCar Service, we’re committed to maintaining your car’s performance, safety, and fuel economy. We specialize in all European makes, including Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Land Rover, Fiat, Mini-Cooper, Smart Car, Volvo, Volkswagen, Jaguar, and Saab. To find out if a TSB has been issued for your vehicle, or schedule an appointment, call us today at 206-527-8828 or contact us online.

Don’t Overlook the Importance of Wheel Alignment

Wheel alignments are one of those maintenance items that often get overlooked, but they’re important for two primary reasons: safety and money. When your wheels are out of alignment, they can make your car pull to one side—sometimes very hard and abruptly. If you’re not paying attention or are in slick conditions, this could cause an accident. Bad alignment also causes your tires to wear much more quickly.

We had one customer who noticed his wheel alignment was off right before a road trip, but he didn’t think they were that bad and decided he’d take care of it after he got back. After a couple of long days of highway driving, his front tires were worn down to the cords! He had to take half a day out of his mountain vacation to find a rural town in NH that was large enough to have a tire service center. Needless to say, it would have been much easier—and safer—to have taken care of the alignment before leaving on his trip.

Signs You Need a Wheel Alignment

All four wheels are supposed to be lined up and pointing in the same direction. Sometimes one or more wheels will go out of alignment; when this happens, that wheel is essentially pulling against the rest of the team. Not only does this cause excessive tread wear, but it also hurts fuel economy.

In addition to pulling to one side, some common signs you need a wheel alignment include:

  • Uneven or rapid tire wear
  • A crooked steering wheel, even when you’re driving straight
  • Noisy steering
  • Squealing tires
  • Your vehicle shakes and vibrates as you drive, especially at higher speeds
  • Loose steering

Your owner’s manual will have recommendations on how often you should get an alignment, or we can look it up for you. Typically, wheel alignments are recommended every 2-3 years.

Visit EuroCar Service for All Your Maintenance and Repair Needs

If you’ve noticed any of the above signs, schedule an appointment at Euro Car Service. During your wheel alignment, we’ll also inspect the steering and suspension components; whatever caused your wheel alignment to be off in the first place may have also damaged other parts. As your local European vehicle experts, we specialize in maintenance and repairs for all European makes, including BMW, BMW, Audi, Land Rover, Mercedes, Mini-Cooper, Saab, Jaguar, Volkswagen, Volvo, Smart Car, and Fiat! Call us today at (206) 527-8828 or request an appointment online.

Get Your Windshield Washer Fluid Ready for the Rainy Season

Rainy weather will be upon us soon, so it’s the perfect time to talk about your windshield washer fluid. Windshield washer fluid is essential for keeping your windshield clear of grime that can be kicked up from wet winter roads—and it’s one of the easiest automotive fluids to maintain on your own. Here’s a look at how to check its level and select the right fluid for your driving conditions.

How to Check Your Windshield Washer Fluid

Many newer vehicles have a dashboard warning light that will come on when the washer fluid is low. You can also check the reservoir itself. Lift the hood and look for a black cap that has a symbol that looks like the shape of a windshield with dotted lines that look like a water spout. Some cars will have a translucent reservoir that makes it easy to see how much fluid you have left. Others have an opaque reservoir with a dipstick to check the level, like oil and transmission fluid.

If you have trouble finding the reservoir, let us know! We’d be happy to point it out to you at your next appointment.

Signs Your Windshield Washer Fluid is Low

If you have a dashboard warning light, it will come on once the washer fluid level gets low. Another sign that the fluid is getting low is a delay between when you try to get the fluid to spray and the fluid spraying on your windshield. If your washer fluid has been low for a while, air can get into the hoses. While this isn’t an issue, it does mean you’ll run out of fluid soon.

If the fluid has completely run out, nothing will come out when you try to clean your windshield. You may hear the sound of the pump as it tries to pump from an empty reservoir. If you keep making the pump come on without filling the reservoir, it can cause the pump to fail—so it’s a good idea to keep the fluid topped off whenever possible.

Open your bottle of washer fluid and pour it into the reservoir until it reaches the full line. Many cars have reservoirs that hold a gallon of fluid, while others have smaller reservoirs, so be careful not to overfill it. When you use your windshield washer fluid next, it will generally take a few seconds for the fluid to make its way through the pump before it will spray.

What Type of Windshield Washer Fluid Should You Use?

You’re probably already familiar with the standard blue washer fluid, but it may surprise you to learn that there are different types of fluid available for different driving conditions:

  • Standard blue washer fluid: this is the least expensive and all-purpose washer fluid you’ll find in auto parts stores.
  • Winter washer fluid: winter washer fluid is typically orange. While it’s more expensive than the standard blue fluid, the formulation includes antifreeze—which helps prevent the fluid from freezing in the reservoir and on the windshield.
  • Summer washer fluid: Summer fluid is typically green and contains special additives that help clean insects off your windshield better than the other types of washer fluid.
  • Water beading washer fluid: Water beading fluid includes an additive that helps the water bead off your windshield as you drive—especially at high speed. One nice benefit of this type of fluid during the rainy season is that you don’t have to use your wiper blades as much.

For All Your Auto Care Questions, Turn to EuroCar Service

At EuroCar Service, we’re committed to your driving safety. If you need replacement wiper blades or recommendations on windshield wiper fluid, we’re always here to help. We can also make sure your washer mechanism is working properly. We don’t want you to be caught out in the elements with poor visibility! As your European vehicle experts, we offer comprehensive maintenance and repairs for all European makes, including Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Land Rover, Mini-Cooper, Smart Car, Saab, Jaguar, Volkswagen, Volvo, and Fiat.

Contact us today at 206-527-8828 or request an appointment online!

Fuel System Cleaning—Why it Matters

Many drivers neglect their fuel system, but keeping it clean will prolong the life of your car, increase power and performance, and improve the fuel economy and drivability.

Fuel, whether gasoline or diesel, is delivered to your engine to generate the power needed to keep your vehicle moving. Unfortunately, the fuel leaves a residue as it moves through the fuel system. Although this may not seem like a big deal, it can cause significant problems. Gum and varnish build up inside the fuel lines, your throttle body, and injectors—much the same way plaque builds up inside arteries—and restricts the free flow of fuel. It can also clog your fuel injectors.

In addition, carbon accumulates on the combustion chamber, pistons, and valves, which interferes with the mixture of fuel and air and can prevent the valves from sealing properly. This leads to reduced power, wasted fuel, and the engine running rough. Over enough time, it can also cause expensive engine damage.

What Does a Fuel System Cleaning Do?

A fuel system cleaning clears out the gum and varnish from the fuel system and helps your injectors work properly again. The carbon deposits get dissolved; afterward, your engine will run like new. In general, you should have your fuel system cleaned every 12,000 miles or once a year. Some signs you may need your fuel system cleaned include:

  • Engine misfires
  • Rough idling
  • Excessive gas consumption
  • The tachometer moves quickly from low to high RPMs
  • The engine won’t start
  • Lag in acceleration
  • Poor gas mileage
  • Engine knocking and pinging
  • Increased emissions

Schedule a Fuel Cleaning at EuroCar Service

If you’ve noticed any of the above signs, schedule a fuel cleaning at EuroCar Service! As your local European vehicle experts, we see all European makes and models, including Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Land Rover, Mini-Cooper, Saab, Jaguar, Volkswagen, Volvo, Smart Car, and Fiat. Call us today at (206) 527-8828 or request an appointment online.

Why Are Wheel Alignments Necessary?

There are two main reasons to keep up with wheel alignments: safety and money. When your wheels are out of alignment, they can make your vehicle pull to one side—sometimes abruptly. One moment of inattention could put you into oncoming traffic on a busy street or completely off the road. Not to mention, misalignment will also wear your tires much faster and speed up the replacement interval.

What is a Wheel Alignment?

All four of your wheels are supposed to be pointing straight, perpendicular to the ground, and parallel to each other. When your wheels are aligned, it keeps your vehicle tracking straight on the road and helps to maximize tire life.

Wheels can lose alignment for a variety of reasons: potholes, speedbumps, hitting curbs, and accidents. Normal driving conditions can also throw off your alignment over time. Sometimes only one wheel will be out of alignment and will pull against the other tires. Not only does this cause excessive tire wear, but it also hurts fuel economy.

During an alignment, we’ll adjust the various angles of your suspension system that are responsible for the position of the tires and movement. These are called the toe, thrust, camber, and caster. We’ll also inspect the steering and suspension components; whatever cause the wheels to be knocked out of alignment in the first place may have also damaged other parts. Depending on your model, we may also reset your car’s vehicle steering angle sensor.

The type of alignment you receive is also dependent on your model. Four-wheel alignments, which involve aligning both axles, are used for four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive vehicles with independent or adjustable rear suspensions. If you don’t have 4WD or AWD, your car will likely only need a front-end alignment or a thrust-angle alignment.

Your owner’s manual will have recommendations for how often you should have your alignment checked, or you can check with your service advisor. In general, it’s usually around every 6,000 miles, although this can vary based on the type of vehicle you own, typical driving conditions, and tire type. However, if you noticed signs that your alignment is off, it’s best to schedule an alignment sooner.

Signs Your Wheel Alignment is Off

Here are some common signs it’s time to have your wheels aligned:

  • Noisy steering
  • Rapid or uneven tire wear
  • The steering wheel looks crooked, even though you’re driving straight
  • Your car pulls to the left or right
  • Squealing tires
  • Drifting to one side while driving
  • Loose or vibrating steering wheel

When you come in for an appointment, we may ask you some additional questions to help diagnose the issue faster. These include:

  1. When did you first notice the issue? Was it after hitting a curb? Or has it been gradual?
  2. How often does the issue happen? Is your vehicle only pulling on certain road conditions or during a turn?
  3. When was the last time you had your tires rotated? Have you kept your air pressure at the right level? Both of these factors can contribute to faster tire wear.
  4. Have you ever had your tires or steering components replaced?

The Benefits of a Wheel Alignment

Beyond safer driving and longer-lasting tires, wheel alignments offer several other benefits:

  • Better fuel efficiency. According to Investopedia, misaligned tires can reduce your fuel economy by as much as 10%.
  • A smoother, more comfortable ride. If your alignment is off, it can make your ride bumpy, jarring, or vibration-filled.
  • Fewer repairs. Misalignments can cause damage to your suspension system if you ignore them for too long. It’s far more cost-effective to keep up with alignments rather than waiting until you need a repair.

What’s the Difference Between a Wheel Alignment and Balancing?

It’s common for drivers to think wheel balancing is the same as wheel alignment, but these are two different services. Wheel (or tire) balancing corrects uneven weight distribution in the wheels. When your wheels aren’t properly balanced, it can lead to some of the same issues as misalignments: excessive tire wear, vibration, and damage to the suspension.

Regardless of what your vehicle needs, you can always rely on the skilled team at EuroCar Service to steer you straight. As your local European auto repair shop, we can help you with alignments, rotations, tire services, suspension repair, and more. We specialize in all European makes, including Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Land Rover, Mini Cooper, Smart-Car, Fiat, Jaguar, Volvo, Saab, and Volkswagen. Call us today at (206) 527-8828 or request an appointment online.

Which Type of Windshield Washer Fluid Do You Need?

Most drivers don’t think about their windshield washer fluid very much or realize there are specialized formulations to meet different needs. Although you might be tempted to pick up the cheapest washer fluid you can find, there might be a better choice available. Here’s a breakdown of the different types of washer fluids available and how to choose the right one for your driving needs.

Windshield Washer Fluid Types

First, it’s important to know that you should never refill the washer fluid reservoir with pure water. Cold temperatures can cause it to freeze and damage the lines. Spraying cold water on your windshield in freezing temperatures can also result in a layer of blinding ice that will obstruct your view.

There are many types of windshield washer fluids on the market, with different formulations for various climates. Many of them contain alcohol to prevent them from freezing. If you look at the label, it will usually let you know the lowest temperature the fluid can handle while still being able to work properly.

Some washer fluids will also have a detergent, which helps clean off contaminants. Other washer fluids are formulated to reduce streaking. Some windshield washer fluids are designed to be diluted; others are pre-mixed. If you purchase a pre-mixed fluid, it can be poured directly into the reservoir.

Here are the most common options you’ll find in an auto parts store:

  • Classic blue
    This is the standard windshield washer fluid. It’s generally all-purpose, so although it will work in most situations, it’s not ideal for extreme temperatures or cleaning off tougher debris or bugs.
  • De-icing
    This fluid is designed to keep your windshield frost-free. It typically works down to -25 degrees, so it’s a perfect choice if you plan to travel to areas that get really cold. If you only deal with ice on your windows on occasion, you can put some of this fluid in a spray bottle and apply it to your windows as needed.
  • Bug remover
    This type of fluid is generally marketed as “bug remover,” but it also works well for cleaning hard-to-remove contaminants off your windshield—like pollen, tree sap, and bird droppings. Although it costs more than the classic blue fluid, it’s great to have around, especially if you park your car under trees during the spring and summer months. Keep in mind that it typically freezes at 32 degrees, so it’s not a good choice for more extreme winter temperatures.
  • All-season
    If you don’t want to deal with the hassle of swapping out fluids throughout the year, you can’t go wrong with all-season windshield washer fluid. It handles it all—frost, snow, light ice, bugs, bird droppings, and other grime!

One of the most important things to remember is to keep your windshield washer fluid level up. Our technicians can help you keep it topped off with the right fluid for your driving needs. We’ll also make sure your washer mechanism is working properly so you stay safe on the road.

When to Refill Your Windshield Washer Fluid

Many newer vehicles display a warning light or message that will let you know when your windshield washer fluid is low. It usually looks like a windshield with water spraying on it or has a message that says something like “windshield washer fluid low.” If your car doesn’t have a warning light or message, you’ll need to check the level on occasion. The good news is that, unlike oil, washer fluid doesn’t break down over time.

If you’d prefer to refill the fluid yourself, it’s usually the same in most vehicles. You can find the location of the windshield wiper fluid reservoir in your owner’s manual, or we’re happy to show you. The reservoir will be translucent, with a cap that has an image of water spraying onto a windshield. To refill the fluid, you’ll open the cap and pour the fluid in until it reaches the fill line.

Important: if the reservoir is empty, be careful not to turn on your washer fluid system because this can cause the pump to overheat and fail.

Contact EuroCar Service for All Your Auto Care Needs

At EuroCar Service, we’re committed to your driving safety. If you have any questions about refilling your windshield washer fluid, which type to use, or problems with the system, we’re always here to help! We can also check your wiper blades to make sure they’re ready for winter weather and summer bugs!

In addition, we offer comprehensive auto care for all European models, including Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Land Rover, Fiat, Smart Car, Mini-Cooper, Jaguar, Volvo, Saab, and Volkswagen. Whether you need factory-scheduled maintenance, new tires, or a repair, you can rely on our ASE-certified technicians to get the job done right! Contact us today at (206) 527-8828.

Improve Your Vehicle’s Performance with a Fuel System Cleaning

Most drivers know that gas and diesel-powered vehicles burn fuel to generate the power needed to drive down the road. But did you know fuel leaves a residue behind as it moves through the fuel system? Over time, this residue can cause some major issues. Read on to learn more about how this affects your vehicle and why fuel system cleaning is so important.

Understanding the Fuel System

The fuel system consists of several parts: the gas tank, fuel injectors, fuel filter, fuel lines, fuel pumps, spark plugs, and a variety of sensors. The fuel injectors are small valves that are responsible for controlling the proper fuel-to-air ratio in the engine. If the fuel injectors become too dirty or clogged, it restricts how they function, as well as the flow of fuel through the system.

In addition, carbon from combustion starts to accumulate on your valves, inside the combustion chamber, and on your pistons. This interferes with the proper mixing of fuel and air and prevents your valves from sealing properly. This results in less power, excessive fuel consumption, and poor performance. Over time, it can even lead to expensive damage.

What is a Fuel System Cleaning?

A fuel system cleaning clears out the gum and varnish from your fuel system and gets your fuel injectors working properly. The carbon deposits are dissolved, allowing your engine to run like new again. During a fuel system cleaning, we inspect your system for any leaks or damage. Then we put a special cleaning additive in your gas tank and run a second chemical through the engine using a vacuum line attached to the fuel filter line.

Having your fuel system cleaned from time to time will help your car run efficiently, improve performance, increase fuel economy, and extend the life of your engine. How often you’ll need to do it depends on your vehicle. Most auto care experts recommend cleaning the fuel system every year or every 12,000 miles to prevent performance issues.

You can also check the manufacturer’s recommendations in your owner’s manual. Additionally, the fuel filter should be changed every 30,000 miles. If your fuel becomes contaminated, it’s best to have the fuel system flushed.

Signs You Need a Fuel System Cleaning

If your fuel system is dirty, you may not notice any issues early on. As the problem worsens, you may notice the following signs:

  • A rough idle
  • Decreased gas mileage
  • The RPM needle moves sporadically
  • Failed emissions test
  • Loss of performance
  • Engine stuttering, sputtering, or stalling
  • Engine misfires
  • A lag in acceleration

Visit EuroCar Service for Comprehensive Auto Repair & Maintenance

If you’ve noticed your engine seems less responsive or any of the above issues, you may need a fuel system cleaning. Your service advisor would be happy to help you find out when the service was last performed and whether your car is due.

At EuroCar Service, we provide comprehensive auto repair & maintenance to help your vehicle perform its best. We specialize in all European makes and models, including Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Fiat, Land Rover, Smart Car, Saab, Jaguar, Volvo, Volkswagen, and Mini-Cooper. Contact us today at (206) 527-8828 or request an appointment online.

Tread Depth: Why It Matters and How to Measure It

When it comes to stopping power, many drivers tend to focus on their brakes. However, our tires are where the rubber meets the road. Having good brakes isn’t enough; we need to have tires with enough traction to turn braking power into actual stopping power. If the tire tread depth isn’t deep enough, your tires can lose their grip on the road, leading to longer stopping distances.

How Does Tire Tread Work?

To understand how tire tread works, let’s focus on how it helps you stop in wet conditions. To have good contact with the road, the tire has to be able to move the water out of the way. If it can’t, the tire will ride on top of the water’s surface, instead of the surface of the road. This can lead to “hydroplaning”, a potentially dangerous situation that reduces the ability to steer and brake.

Each tire has channels for the water to flow through, known as tread, which helps move the water out of the way. Take a look at your tires, and you’ll see the channels run around and across them. The tread is designed to direct water away from the tire so that the tire can grip the road better.

The deeper the channel, the more water it can move. Brand new tires have very deep channels, allowing them to move a good amount of water with ease. As the tire wears down, the channels become shallower and can move less water. Once they’re worn down enough, it can seriously affect your ability to stop on wet roads. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately 11,000 accidents occur annually from bald tires.

How Much Tread Should My Tires Have?

Since tire tread wears down, it’s important to monitor the tread depth of your tires. Washington state law requires drivers to have a tire tread depth of 2/32 of an inch or more. However, Consumer Reports and other advocate groups recommend replacing your tires when the tread is worn to 4/32 of an inch or 3.2 millimeters.

Once the tread depth is worn to 2/32 of an inch (1.6 millimeters), the tread wear bar will be visible. The recommended standard has twice the tread depth as a completely worn-out tire—and that additional tread makes a huge difference. A safe stopping distance from freeway speeds could result in a crash with bald tires.

4 Ways to Check Your Tire Tread

Fortunately, there are four quick and easy ways to check your tire tread, and they can all be done from home.

  • The Penny Test

Take a penny and insert it into the tread with Lincoln’s head upside down and facing you. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, it means you have less than 2/32 inches of tread left; it’s time to replace your tires.

  • The Quarter Test

The quarter test works exactly the same as the penny test. Put the quarter into the tread, with George Washington upside down and facing you. If the tread touches his head, you have at least 4/32 inches of tread left. If the tread doesn’t cover Washington’s hairline, schedule a tire replacement appointment.

  • The Tread Wear Bar Indicator

Most tires have tread wear bar indicators, which are evenly spaced through the main grooves in the tire’s tread. When the tread is worn down enough that it’s flush with the wear bars, the tires should be replaced.

If you use winter tires, it’s important to know that they have deeper tread depths than all-season or summer tires. The winter wear indicators help you see whether you have suitable tread depth for driving in the snow or other wet, slippery conditions. The wear bars will be visible once the tread has worn down to approximately 5/32 inches. Although the tires may have a legal amount of tread left, they may not provide the traction you need for winter driving.

  • Tread Depth Gauge

Tread depth gauges are an easy way to accurately measure your tire tread depth. You can find them in almost any auto parts store. To measure the depth of your tread, insert the gauge’s probe into the tire’s tread grooves; press the gauge down and then read the results.

In general, it’s recommended to check your tread depth every 3,000 miles or once the tread reaches 4/32 of an inch deep.

Since tires can wear unevenly, it’s always a good idea to check the tread depth at various spots on the tire. While checking your tread, make sure to inspect your tires, too. Pay attention to things like whether the wear is uniform or if there are any signs of damage, like cracking, bulging, or other signs of wear. Even if you have adequate tread depth, excessive wear can cause a tire to fail.

Time to Replace Your Tires? Head Over to EuroCar Service!

Replacing your tires as soon as they’re worn is the best way to protect yourself and your passengers from accidents or blowouts. At EuroCar Service, we offer a wide selection of tires to choose from. If you’re unsure whether you need new tires, we’re happy to take a look and give you recommendations.

We also offer every service you need to keep your vehicle’s wheels and tires in excellent shape, including new tire installation, balancing, rotations, and more. Our ASE-certified technicians specialize in all European makes, including Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Land Rover, Mini-Cooper, Saab, Jaguar, Volkswagen, Volvo, Smart Car, and Fiat. Call us today at 206-527-8828 or request an appointment online.