The Basics of Engine Cooling


Your engine is a metal box with explosions inside it. Thinking about it that way helps illustrate why the things get incredibly hot; were it not for proper cooling, your engine would literally melt together under its own heat and pressure!

Naturally, your car’s engine cooling is one of the most critical parts of its operation. Luckily, it’s typically obvious when something is wrong! Here’s a breakdown of how your car’s cooling system works and how to keep it in shape.

The Basics

So why does an engine generate heat? As stated previously, your car burns gasoline many, many times per second. The heat from that burning is typically absorbed by the engine block, the giant hunk of metal that forms the shell of your engine.

Though many classic cars were air-cooled – including Porsches until 1998 – modern engines require liquid cooling. Lots of tiny channels in your engine block are filled with antifreeze, which is specially engineered to soak up as much heat as possible.

That anti-freeze – driven by your car’s water pump ­– takes a lengthy journey through your engine before winding up in the radiator, typically on the front of your car. The radiator uses the natural airflow of your car’s movement (sometimes with a fan) to cool the liquid, before returning it to the block where the cycle begins anew.

Failure Points

Because liquid cooling systems have many different parts, there are a few frequent and obvious failure points.

  • The Water Pump: because the pump turns on a bearing, eventually that bearing will become worn out and seize up. When that happens, liquid can no longer move! The water pump should be changed out any time you get your timing belt changed to prevent this from happening.
  • The Radiator: because they take quite a beating from the elements, radiators can develop leaks over time. The more leaks there are, the faster you lose coolant, and the more likely you are to overheat.
  • Hoses: the many rubber hoses connected to the cooling system can crack and break, especially in colder temperatures.
  • Fluid: certain types of antifreeze degrade over time. Other types may not mesh well with your particular car, causing a buildup of brown gunk. Make sure you only use the brand of coolant recommended by your manufacturer.


The best way to maintain your cooling system is also the cheapest one: look! Check for puddles of coolant under your car, check hoses for obvious cracks, and open your radiator cap once in a while to monitor rust and gunk.

Need a professional to look at your cooling system? Bring your car in for an oil change at Fast Lube Plus, and while we’re at it we’ll take a look at your cooling system! We serve customers across the Triangle. Come in today, and let’s get you rolling!

Busting Winter Driving Myths and Misconceptions


Winter is coming! With the possibility of snow (or, here in the Triangle, mostly slush and ice) looming, you need to know how to get around responsibly. A lot of common sense advice applies for winter driving, but there are some special tricks to make it easier…and some that are merely myths or misconceptions.

Myth: All-Wheel Drive Is All You Need

Whether you have a tricked-out Jeep or a humble Subaru, the snow is a great chance to feel some well-earned smugness about your purchase. As others cower indoors, you take to the city streets without fear…right?

Well, sort of. All-wheel drive is unquestionably better in the snow for getting traction. However, it does not help you stop, which requires both driver skill and capable brakes. You can still skid on ice or lock up the brakes. Some vehicles with part-time all-wheel drive (like the Honda CR-V) are also not true AWD, and only engage it when a loss of traction is detected.

The big takeaway here? Enjoy your advantage, but be careful.pexels-photo-12875

Myth: Underinflate Your Tires for Better Traction

This myth is most amusing because it makes sense on paper. If your tires are less inflated, they’ll “sag” a bit, giving you a greater contact area with the road.

But like most armchair science, this doesn’t hold up in the real world. Where most of us live, the roads are plowed or at least pre-treated when snow’s in the forecast. So while that additional traction can help on gravel roads, even on a slightly icy road you actually lose that traction advantage. According to Car Talk, most modern tires are designed to cut through road snow at their proper inflation; underinflating them ruins that engineering and therefore their effectiveness.

Instead of DIY tricks, invest in a good pair of snow tires.

Myth: Always Warm Up Your Car

Do you let your car idle before you start it in the winter? Your heart is in the right place, but current technology means this is mostly unnecessary.

The myth comes from older cars with carburetors, devices that mix fuel and air for delivery to the engine. At chilly temperatures, carburetors could malfunction. Modern cars use fuel injection, which deals just fine with cold weather.

The myth also stems from oil circulation; many older engine oils were extra thick in the winter, and warming them up let them more evenly coat fragile engine parts. But newer oils are purposely designed for winter weather (that’s what the “W” in 10W-40 or 5W-30 means.) So while you should let your car idle for a little bit – maybe a minute – that’s all it needs. Just drive gently until the car is fully warmed up.

Caring For Your Car’s Interior


The average American commute is a painful 26.4 minutes long! That means lots of time in your driver’s seat, lots of oily fingers touching the dials, and plenty of dirt and grime from getting in and out.

Knowing that, shouldn’t you properly maintain your car’s interior? It’s easy, affordable, and anyone can do it! Not only does it make that commute more comfortable, but it helps the cabin materials last longer and look great.


Dashboards are typically made from either leather, vinyl, or plastic (or a combination of the three.) Each type of surface requires its own special care, but leather is the most fickle. Your owner’s manual will likely indicate if your dash has a special material.

For vinyl, use mild water and a clean microfiber cloth. While some people prefer the shiny aesthetic of Armor All, the greasy finish is unpleasant and it can crack thinner plastics. If you have to use something stronger than water, consider a diluted all-purpose cleaner or non-greasy Meguiar’s. Be extremely careful cleaning plastics around radios and HVAC controls, as they can scratch easily.

Leather – including seats – requires special care. Get leather cleaner from a trusted brand like Meguiar’s or Mother’s, and follow up with a high quality leather conditioner. As mentioned above, always read your manual for specific pointers!

Carpet and Upholstery

The obvious solution here is to vacuum thoroughly and often. Your corner store’s coin vac works well enough, but personal models offer variable speed control and the ability to spit air out. For vacuuming hard to reach places (especially under seats) it can help to blow debris out before vacuuming it up. You should also invest in a sturdy brush for foot wells and carpet mats. Be gentle, though!

Much as house carpet requires regular shampooing, your car’s upholstery sometimes needs to get wet. While professional detailers have steam machines, you can shampoo yourself with a gentle brush and the proper soap. Just allow plenty of time, because air drying takes a while.


Good ol’ Windex works wonders on car windows, but you can also use a mixture of water and vinegar. The real key lies in the applicator; use a soft, high quality microfiber towel for the best results. To reduce streaks, make sure you buff properly: firm, in a circular motion.

Does your car need under the hood maintenance? Fast Lube Plus offers oil changes, inspections, and other routine maintenance to drivers in Cary, Holly Springs, Fuquay-Varina, Apex, Morrisville, Garner and the greater Raleigh-Durham area. Contact us today and let’s keep your car running great!

Your NC Inspection: What We Do and Why it Matters


Taking your car for an inspection can feel like a hassle. But in reality, your yearly NC inspection is not just a legal todo: it’s essentially a check-up. It’s an important tool for identifying early signs of wear and tear and for scheduling needed maintenance.

When the skilled technicians at Fast Lube Plus inspect your vehicle, we look at two areas: safety and emissions. Today we’re going to clarify what that means and why it matters!

Safety Inspections

Your car’s most basic functions are boring compared to your in-dash GPS or leather seats, but they’re also the most important. Any vehicle on the road is expected to have a few key parts work perfectly:

  • Brakes (including the parking brake)
  • Headlights
  • Windshield wipers
  • Signal, brake, and plate illumination lights
  • Steering

A basic list, indeed. But the safety inspection serves a much more practical purpose of getting an experienced mechanic to look at your car, and in the process of the inspection they can notice items going bad. Things like your brakes, tires, and other wear items are best replaced before they break. If they get too far, you (and your wallet) could be in serious danger!

Avoid surprises by checking for those basic functions ahead of time. Listen for squealing brakes, and have a friend look at your tail and brake lights to make sure they work.

Emissions Inspections

This is where things get a bit more complicated. Since 1995, all new gas-powered cars have come with the OBDII (On-Board Diagnostics) system. This system can detect specific faults with your car – though not necessarily the cause – and store a code in its memory. A technician or off-the-shelf reader can read these codes.

When there’s a problem, your car’s check engine light comes on. Unfortunately, a CEL is a one-way ticket to a failed inspection! Many CELs are linked to unacceptable levels of certain gases in your exhaust, which is why it matters so much.

It’s easy to ignore a check engine light when your car runs normally, but it typically indicates a problem that will either a) get worse or b) cause a failed emissions inspection. Check it out early to prevent annoyances on inspection day!

Are you due? Fast Lube Plus performs certified North Carolina State Inspections at our locations in Apex, Fuquay-Varina, Cary, Garner, Holly Springs, and Morrisville. Drop by anytime and our experts will take care of you!

It’s easy to ignore a check engine light when your car runs normally, but it typically indicates a problem that will either a) get worse or b) cause a failed emissions inspection. Check it out early to prevent annoyances on inspection day!
Are you due? Fast Lube Plus performs certified North Carolina State Inspections at our locations in Apex, Fuquay-Varina, Cary, Garner, Holly Springs, and Morrisville. Drop by anytime and our experts will take care of you!

Stopping on a Dime: Your Car’s Brakes


So much of car discussion is focused around going. How fast is it What kind of gas mileage? What’s the fuel tank range? But just as getting there is important, so is arriving, and that requires good brakes!

Brakes are an often overlooked maintenance item. They’re put off and ignored until they become dangerous. Do yourself a favor: learn about your brakes and learn how to take care of them!

There are two primary types of brakes, each with differing maintenance needs.

Disc Brakes

Disc brakes are by far the most popular type of brake. Their mechanism of action is simple: friction. A pair of metal parts called calipers hold pads composed of various metal or ceramic materials. These calipers are connected by tubes to a reservoir of fluid under your hood. When you press the brake pedal, the fluid is pressurized, clamping the pads down on a shiny, silver disc called a rotor. Since the rotors are attached your axle, this stops your car.

The most obvious wear item for disc brakes is the pads. These wear out at different intervals depending on what they’re made of; ceramic brake pads are expensive, but usually last longer. You may also need to have your rotors turned, basically resurfaced on a machine to renew their stopping power.

It’s a common myth that brake pads only need to be replaced when they start squeaking. In reality, squealing may already mean that your brakes are damaged! Worn pads can damage the calipers themselves, which are far more expensive to replace. Have your brakes inspected during any routine service to save you money in the long run.

Drum Brakes

Drum brakes are a cheaper, older style of brake that have less stopping power than discs. On lower-end models, you will sometimes see them used on the rear wheels. Since the front brakes do most of the work, rear drums are a safe way to save money in economy cars.

They work on the same principle of friction. The difference is that they lay inside a closed metal drum. When you press the pedal, metal strips called shoes press on the inside of that drum, causing friction and slowing down the car.

Even though your front brakes do most of the work, your rear brakes have one very important function: your emergency brake! Though they will last longer than your front brakes, it’s important to have your brake shoes regularly inspected.

Need new pads, shoes, or a brake fluid change around the North Carolina Triangle? Fast Lube Plus offers prompt brake service at fair prices. Come in today and let’s get you taken care of!



Drivetrains: A Newbie’s Guide


Unless you have an off-road or 4×4 vehicle, you likely never think about how your car’s power gets to the road. This is called your drivetrain, and it describes which wheels on your car receive power in order to move it forward. It matters a lot for understanding car marketing, maintenance, and how to drive in severe weather!

The last part isn’t as much of a concern here in North Carolina’s triangle, but it’s still important for the occasional blizzard or downpour. The first two matter year round, and make you a smarter consumer! Today we’ll talk about major kinds of drivetrains.

Front-Wheel Drive

Front-wheel drive – or FWD – is by far the most common drivetrain. This layout connects your engine to your front wheels, with the rear wheels rotating freely. FWD emerged in the 70s and 80s due to the compact layout – perfect for small cars during the fuel crisis – and lower building costs.

FWD cars do not easily spin out, making them ideal for the average driver. Engine weight over the drive wheels also makes them better than rear-wheel drive for bad weather. However, FWD cars struggle with high power engines and precision turning, making them a poor choice for sports cars. Exceptions to this rule include “sport compact” cars like the Volkswagen GTI.

Front-wheel drive cars have one unique maintenance item: CV axles. These complex mechanisms can wear out over time, and cost several hundred dollars to replace.

Rear-Wheel Drive

Rear-wheel drive (RWD) cars are the oldest type of drivetrain. They send power through a fast-spinning driveshaft to a differential that drives the rear wheels. Your steering remains in the front.

Rear-wheel drive is capable of much more power than front-wheel drive. As a result, it’s the layout of choice for sports cars, luxury cars, and trucks. However, RWD cars do not have the traction benefits of FWD, making them exceptionally poor choices for severe weather.

Unique RWD maintenance is mainly centered on the differential. Its fluid may need to be regularly changed.

Four-Wheel and All-Wheel Drive

Four-wheel (4WD) and all-wheel drive (AWD) operate on the same principle: applying power to all four wheels of a car. They differ in their marketing. 4WD is usually a part-time feature that the driver can turn on or off, like in many SUVs. AWD is usually on full-time (as in most Subarus) or activates when the car detects a loss of traction (like in the Honda Pilot or Nissan Rogue).

AWD and 4WD have superior traction in bad weather, allowing even the weakest engine to work its way out of snow. However, full-time setups lessen gas mileage, and even part-time setups add fuel-guzzling weight.

Full-time AWD cars must have their tires rotated regularly; uneven tread can cause the drive system to break. All setups may require regular changing of differential fluid.

Does your SUV, sports car or family sedan need maintenance? Fast Lube Plus offers service to all vehicles in the Triangle area. Call us today or drop by!

Suspension Maintenance: Helping the Rubber Meet the Road

Car Steering and Suspension Unit by Kevin C. Hulsey

There’s a lot of talk about your car’s tires, and rightfully so. But that rubber is guided towards the road by a complicated assortment of joints, bolts, and metal pieces. It’s what keeps your car comfortable on the highway and on twisty mountain roads: your suspension.

As one of the most hidden parts of your car, suspension maintenance is easy to ignore. It’s also one of the hardest worked. Suspension maintenance isn’t as frequent as other parts, but it still pays to stay on top of it! Here are some parts of your suspension you should know about.

Axles and CV Joints

Own a front wheel drive car? Unless you have a truck or a sports car, you likely do. All front-wheel drive cars use a CV joint (sometimes called a CV axle) to transfer power from the transmission to the wheels. The unique layout of front-wheel drive cars requires a specialized axle with a very flexible joint system, covered by a rubber boot. Over time this rubber boot can crack, removing the joint’s lubrication. Not a good thing to happen while you’re driving!

Control Arms

Your wheel is connected to your car’s frame by a forked metal part called a control arm. As your wheel bounces across the road, the control arm rapidly moves up and down to compensate for the motion. Most control arms are long-lasting, and aside from excessive salt will last a long time. The weaknesses are the rubber and metal bushings that facilitate that motion; have your mechanic check them for wear and tear.


Shock absorbers live up to their name: they smooth the motion between your wheels and the body of your car, making bounces more graceful. But when they break, it’s more than an issue of comfort! Bad shocks cause premature tire wear, which gets expensive fast. They can also cause your car to sag, damaging your undercarriage during bumps.

Ball Joints

Your steering system’s final step is at your ball joints, small metal joints that allow steering knuckles to turn your wheels. When they break, you can lose control of your car! Signs of wear include a cracking or groaning sound when you turn the wheel. If you start hearing those noises, you need to have your ball joints checked as soon as possible.


Fast Lube Plus offers professional automotive guidance to residents of Cary, Fuquay-Varina, Holly Springs, Apex and Morrisville. Call us now or drop by one of our locations, and let’s get you back on the road!

Power and Efficiency: How Turbochargers Work


You’ve probably seen a lot more “turbo” emblems on the road lately. That sounds fast! What on earth is it doing on the back of a Hyundai?

Turbos are a great example of high-end technology for ordinary people. While they make Porsches and Ferraris go faster, they can also save your family sedan some serious gas. Today we’re going to talk about how turbos work and how to maintain them!

Bigger Isn’t Always Better

To understand a turbo, you first have to understand how a car engine works. Your engine is a giant air pump: air gets sucked in, explodes, and then gets spit out. That explosion makes a bunch of connected parts move around, moving your wheels.

With that in mind, engines are limited by how much air they can fit in themselves. This is a measure called displacement, and it’s usually measured in liters. You may recognize the Volkswagen 1.8, or the Mustang 5.0.

As the Mustang indicates, engines with higher displacement usually have more power. But remember that explosion that happens in there? Bigger engines require more gas to facilitate that explosion. That’s why your 7.0 Suburban gets 15 MPG!

Big Things in Small Packages

A turbo solves this problem by compressing the air that’s pushed into your engine. When air is compressed, you can fit more in a smaller engine. The turbo is effectively a self-sustaining system: it’s powered by your engine’s own exhaust. So the faster you’re going, the faster the turbo moves. This is why some turbo cars experience “lag” when you first hit the gas; the turbo has to have an initial supply of power to start working.

A small engine with a turbo is very appealing. You get the gas mileage of a little car with the power of a bigger car. That’s why Ford calls their turbo engines “EcoBoost:” it’s the best of both worlds. If you turbo a big engine…well, you get something like the Bugatti Veyron.

Your next car will likely have a turbo, and get better gas mileage than ever before.

Maintaining a Turbo

Most turbo cars – especially newer ones – don’t require any more maintenance than a normal car. But they do require you stay on top of regular maintenance! Your turbo uses the same fluids as the rest of your engine, including oil and coolant. Because turbos are complex and run very hot, being late on your fluid changes and inspections can seriously shorten their lifespan.

Is your turbocharged car due for maintenance! The experts at Fast Lube Plus can help! Contact us today and schedule your appointment.

Auto Warranty 101


Down the road when that new car smell fades away and it doesn’t quite drive like it used to, you’ll want to know the extent of your auto warranty coverage. Knowing what parts, tune-ups and repairs will be covered — and for how long — will give you a complete picture of how to minimize your costs and what kind of insurance you’ll need in the long run. Here’s what you need to know to save you money and get the best service for your car when you need it.

Auto warranty 101

An auto warranty is a promise made by a manufacturer or dealer to cover repairs and defects over the course of a certain amount of time and certain amount of mileage. Most basic warranties are guaranteed for at least three years or 36,000 miles, but may vary according to the manufacturer.

Warranties are essential a legally binding pledge to fix or replace any parts that have broken down or are inherently faulty, including defective parts. Warranties do not cover regular maintenance and will not cover breakdowns caused by accidents, acts of nature, lack of proper maintenance, contamination of fluids or fuels, collision, fire, theft, negligence or abuse.

There’s a basic checklist of questions all consumers should have answered before purchasing a car warranty, according to the Federal Trade Commission, including length of the warranty, the point of contact for service, what parts and repair problems are covered, as well as any conditions or limitations on the warranty.

What’s covered?

Different levels of warranty coverage exist, so it’s important to understand the limits and umbrella of coverage before purchasing. These are the most typical types of warranty your car dealer will offer: 

Basic “bumper-to-bumper” warranty: This is the most general coverage that pays to repair defects in factory-installed parts. 

Drivetrain/Powertrain warranty: Covers the engine, transmission and transaxle parts. This warranty tends to last longer than bumper-to-bumper.

Roadside assistance: Covers towing costs and tire changing if the car breaks down during travel.

Rust or corrosion warranty: Covers rust in sheet metal parts of the car. 

Federal emission warranty: Covers repairs needed to correct defects in parts that would cause the car not to meet Environmental Protection Agency standards.

How drivers can maintain their warranty

Regular car maintenance and inspections are necessary to guarantee that a warranty won’t be voided. Typically, routine maintenance includes oil changes, tire rotations, fluid checks and flushes, brake pads, belt replacement, etc. A warranty will remain valid no matter who performs the repairs, meaning you can use your own mechanic or shop — not just the dealer’s service department.

What does auto insurance do that car warranties don’t?

Under car warranties, the manufacturer makes a guarantee to the car buyer regarding the condition of its product. In case car parts do not function as intended, a warranty will cover the costs to repair or replace the part, as well as car rentals due to repairs, and potentially corrosion/rust.

Insurance, on the other hand, is an obligation on the part of the insurer to take on financial protection or reimbursement for the risks that are inherent with driving. Every state in the U.S. except for New Hampshire requires drivers to purchase some level of auto insurance to cover accidents, collisions, car rentals and possibly roadside assistance.

Service contracts or “extended warranties”

When a warranty runs out, car owners may choose to purchase a service contract to provide repairs or maintenance. Vehicle manufacturers, auto dealers and independent providers sell the contract separately from a warranty.

Service contracts will not provide benefits until after the initial warranty expires. Rates for these contracts depend on the life of the car — those with fewer miles and past repairs will get a better deal.

These contracts, while often referred to as “extended warranties,” are not actually warranties. Drivers who are interested in purchasing a service contract should practice due diligence to find the most trustworthy source, particularly from third-party companies.

However, since service contracts are optional and car warranties end, it’s most critical for car owners to purchase insurance that will be the most affordable, provide adequate coverage and be the best fit for their specific car.

Best and worst warranties on the market

There are three vehicle brands that standout for providing the best in basic and power train warranties: Hyundai, Mitsubishi and Kia. Each brand offers five years or 60,000 miles new vehicle limited warranties, and 10 years or 100,000 miles powertrain warranties.

Brands like BMW and Cadillac offer four years or 50,000 miles basic warranties and five years or 100,000 miles powertrain warranties. Other big brands such as Chrysler, Chevrolet and GMC all offer three years or 36,000 miles new vehicle limited warranty, and five years or 100,000 miles powertrain limited warranty

The most standard warranties on the market are offered by Honda, Nissan, Toyota, Ford, Mazda and Subaru with three years or 36,000 miles new vehicle limited warranty, and 5 years or 60,000 miles powertrain limited warranty.

Fast Lube Plus Loyalty Rewards Program

At Fast Lube Plus we make sure our customers feel appreciated. We’re loyal to you and we hope you will be loyal to us. So we have created a Fast Lube Plus Loyalty Rewards Program as a way of saying thanks for trusting us with your vehicles. For every 5 Full-Service oil changes you purchase we will give you your 6th oil change FREE as a way of saying thanks for your loyalty. More details on the program can be found below and you can sign up for the program during your next visit to any of our 6 locations throughout the Triangle.