The strut assembly is a part of a ground-based vehicle that is fundamentally important to keep the vehicle drivable. Whether it is a truck or an SUV, a convertible, or a minivan, having a functioning strut assembly is how your vehicle can stay safe and comfortable on the road.

When driving, chances are you’re going to run into some potholes, bumps, and uneven surfaces. These bumps are absorbed by the suspension components. If the car’s suspension components are failing to work, you’re in for a rough, and potentially even risky, ride.

While the suspension assembly consists of several different components, the ones we’re going to be talking about today are the strut assembly. The strut assembly is made up of two main components: the coil spring, and the shock absorber. These components absorb bumps, stabilize the vehicle, and mitigate vibrations that would make the drive a lot less pleasant.

These components are not immune to being damaged or suffering wear and tear. When this happens, it makes being in the car a lot more bumpy and stressful, and also can lead to further decline with the suspension components, and create risky driving conditions.

The decline of your struts is something that can happen quickly, or over an extended period. It is important not to let the problem worsen because it can pose a serious long-term risk to you and your vehicle. Being proactive is key when addressing issues with your strut assembly, so if you are noticing some indicators that your strut assembly may be failing, you must take action.

If you’re unfamiliar with the signs to be on the lookout for, fear not. We’ve got you covered with a list of some of the biggest red flags and warning signs to pay attention to below.

Your Car Ride is a Bumpy Experience
This is the most obvious warning sign that your strut assembly is not doing so well. If you’re driving, and every bump feels like a major collision, and it is harder to stabilize following speed bumps or potholes, chances are the strut assembly can be to blame. This will be one of the first things you’ll take note of when your strut assembly is broken or is failing. If your strut assembly is fully finished, you’ll feel every change in texture you drive over, making for an extremely arduous trip. Several different components within the strut assembly can cause this problem, and the solution is an inspection and fix from Top Notch Automotive.

Irregular Tread Wear
Tires are what keeps your car moving, and they can also help indicate the condition of the strut assembly. Tires absorb some of the shocks of the car as well, and you can tell by looking at the wear and tear of the tire if the strut assembly is no longer functioning as it should be. The tires will be more worn if the strut assembly isn’t working properly, and the wear will be uneven. Keep your eyes on the condition of your tires to be sure your car is absorbing bumps well, and if it isn’t Top Notch Automotive is here to help.

Noises When Going Over Uneven Surfaces
Struts keep several different components of the car moving stably when the vehicle goes over an uneven surface. If the strut isn’t working as it is supposed to, you’ll know due to the loud noises that your car will be making. You’ll hear banging or knocking noises that will be hard to miss. These noises will be from your car struggling to absorb the shock that it is taking. If the strut’s components have worn down, you’ll hear a loud sound because the strut that should be supporting parts of the vehicle is no longer effective. If you hear this noise, it could spell trouble, so get in touch with Top Notch Automotive.

Unstable Front End 
This can be caused by other problems with your vehicle, but most commonly, if the front end of your car feels unstable, it is caused by a strut assembly that is past its prime. This can feel like the front part of your car is floating, or moving to one side. This is dangerous because drivers will try and correct, and could lead to accidents. Top Notch Automotive can help in this circumstance, so don’t hesitate to take action.

In these circumstances, taking action is of the utmost importance. Not only is a faulty strut assembly a problem for that specific area of your car, but the issue can also spread. As mentioned, it can lead to issues with your tires due to the car not being able to absorb shock as it is supposed to. It can also put stress on your car’s engine, and lead to damage that will be extremely trying to fix. Same with the transmission. If your car’s transmission and engine are damaged, it can be expensive and difficult to get your vehicle taken care of.

That’s why being proactive is important. The best way to be proactive is to contact Top Notch Automotive if you have any concerns. With vehicle inspections and repairs, Top Notch Automotive has the right team and equipment to handle any issues with your strut assembly and anything else you need repaired on your car or truck.

Reach out to Top Notch Automotive at (815) 526-3626 to set up an appointment today.



If your car’s air conditioning isn’t working, it will be difficult to ignore. You’ll be experiencing warm air blowing out of your car’s vents, which works in opposition to the purpose of air conditioning. This is a problem that ranges in size depending on the setting. If you live somewhere with intense heat, a broken AC system in your car could make road travel a wildly unpleasant experience.

ELECTRICAL PROBLEMS – There are many different types of problems cars air conditioning can run into, from electrical malfunctions to ventilation system failures, as well as leaks. One problem that many often are forced to deal with is when a car’s electrical fans don’t work. These electrical fans serve multiple roles within the car and are a pivotal part of keeping your interior and engine cool.

A reason the electrical fan might not be working is that their fuses blow, or the motor shorts and burns up. Typically though, the issue comes down to being an electrical fault. Electrical problems in your car are an anxiety-inducing issue and all-too-common with the AC system. What makes them all the more difficult to deal with is that a lot of electrical problems come and go.

VENTILATION SYSTEM – A problem that similarly isn’t directly connected to your AC system is when the car’s ventilation system is malfunctioning. The ventilation system within your car is designed to help carry air throughout the vehicle, particularly warm air. If the ventilation system in your car is malfunctioning, it could be warming the cold air from the AC system. This could cause confusion, because you may suspect an AC problem when the problem truly resides with the ventilation system.

FAILED COMPRESSOR – The air conditioning system in your car can also stop working effectively due to a failed compressor. A compressor in your car’s AC system rarely fails, however, some situations can result in contamination that may make the likelihood of a failed compressor higher. If you open up the air conditioning system for whatever reason, it can make your compressor more vulnerable. You can tell whether a compressor is failed by measuring the pressure of the machine and compare it to what it is supposed to be according to factory specifications.

FAST/SLOW LEAK – The most common problem that occurs with a car’s air conditioning systems is a leak. Leaks occur when there are holes or cracks in the AC system. Fast leaks occur quickly and will break your car’s air conditioning in a matter of moments. The pressure on your car’s air conditioning will read zero psi.

Slow leaks occur much slower. The air coming out of the car’s AC system will still be cool, but it won’t be as cold as it should be. Slow leaks will take days and sometimes weeks to cause your system to fully lose effectiveness, making them harder to identify. There are different products, such as leak stoppers that you can add to your system to close the holes or cracks. The system will then need to be filled with refrigerant to get back to 100% optimum efficiency.

Air Conditioning Services at Top Notch Automotive
We are equipped to take care of all your air conditioning services from a simple recharge to a full system replacement and any part in between. Give our repair shop a call at (815) 526-3626 to schedule an appointment.



Changing spark plugs is an essential part of routine maintenance, but why is that?

Without properly functioning spark plugs, you can experience a wide range of problems, from poor gas mileage, rough performance to your car simply not starting. Here’s some knowledge on what spark plugs are, what they do, and the benefits of changing them out if it’s time to replace them.

A spark plug does exactly what its name suggests: It’s responsible for creating the spark that an internal combustion engine needs to start and run. When electrical voltage is sent to a spark plug, that electricity arcs the small gap between the two electrodes at the firing end, igniting the compressed fuel-air mixture inside the cylinder. Without a spark plug, there’s no ignition. Without ignition, your engine won’t start or run.

Over time, spark plugs can become covered with soot deposits, oil, fuel, or carbon. These deposits alter the timing of the spark, causing inefficient or poor performance. Another likely issue with spark plugs is their age. Each time a plug fires, a very small amount of metal is removed from the electrode. In turn, there is more electricity to create the necessary arc to fire a vehicle’s cylinder. Over time, the gap is so wide that it won’t arc at all. In either case, your engine will suffer.

When your spark plugs are failing, you will notice that your engine has a rough idle, has trouble starting, engine misfires, higher full consumption, and lack of acceleration.

Symptoms of Bad Spark Plugs
• Car won’t start or struggles to start
• The car idles rough
• Engine knocks or is pinging
• Lower fuel economy (mpg)
• Lack of acceleration

Most manufacturers recommend changing spark plugs every 30,000 to 90,000 miles, but there is no hard rule as to when they need servicing. It depends on if you feel the need to do the job more frequently — or less — depending on your make and model and your vehicle’s overall performance.

When they are changed, you might see the following benefits:

1. Reduced Emissions and Better Fuel Economy: Spark plugs that have outlived their useful life don’t properly fire and can cause poor fuel performance. Replacing them can improve your fuel economy and reduce your overall emissions.
2. Smooth Starts: Worn spark plugs cause slow or rough starts. Getting them replaced when necessary should eliminate this specific problem.
3. Improved Performance: Malfunctioning spark plugs throw off the manner that your engine is designed to perform. When you replace your spark plugs, you will notice right away that your vehicle feels more responsive. In all, new spark plugs keep your vehicle’s engine running at peak performance and efficiency.

Changing spark plugs is a key part of keeping your engine in good working order. If your vehicle is experiencing any of the previously mentioned symptoms, it may be time for new spark plugs. Be sure to get yours replaced at Top Notch Automotive, where our highly skilled technicians will follow the manufacturer’s recommended intervals to ensure your vehicle’s peak engine performance and long life. Our vehicle tune-ups include changing of spark plugs, so feel free to get an estimate for that as well.


As a family owned and operated Top Notch Auto Repair, we truly care about the level of customer service we provide. We promise that you’ll find friendly faces and competitive prices at our Crystal Lake based auto repair shop! It’s the Total Difference – the warm handshake, the friendly smile, the right diagnosis, all at a fair price.


Monday 8am – 5pm
Tuesday 8am – 5pm
Wednesday 8am – 5pm
Thursday 8am – 5pm
Friday 8am – 5pm
Saturday 8am – Noon


Covers Parts and Labor on Qualifying Repairs and Services for 24 Months/24,000 Miles.

There’s no greater peace of mind® than knowing you have one less worry by having your vehicles serviced by the professionals at Top Notch Auto, a NAPA AutoCare Center. We stand behind our work with the NAPA AutoCare Peace of Mind® Warranty.