The Truth about Tire Pressure (Tire Inflation)April 11, 2021

Most light vehicles (under 10,000 pounds/4,500 kg) in North America sold from 2008 model year on have a feature that many people are confused about.  It’s the tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS).  You may have some experience with it yourself if you own a newer vehicle.  Vehicles with TPMS have sensors in each tire that are supposed to warn the driver when tire pressure gets dangerously low.  That’s important because tires that are significantly under-inflated can cause very serious accidents.

Unfortunately, many drivers think the TPMS does all the work keeping track of tire pressure. To them, as long as the warning light or gauge isn’t giving a warning, the tires must have the proper amount of air pressure in them.  That’s not the case.

Tire pressure monitoring systems aren’t all created equal.   Some give you a digital readout of the pressures in each individual tire.  But many simply have a warning light that looks like the cross section of a tire with an exclamation point in the middle.  If you don’t know what it is, it’s because it’s not instantly recognizable as a tire.  In fact, one company that makes TPMS, Schrader Performance Sensors, surveyed drivers.  Their study showed that more than 40 percent of drivers didn’t know that that warning light was. 

One out of 5 of the drivers who did know what the light was only looked at their tires after the light came on to see if they could see any that needed air; they never checked them with a tire gauge or had someone else do it.  Ten percent of them didn’t do anything when the light came on.

In most vehicles with TPMS, the warning comes on only when the tires are more than 25% underinflated.  The American Automobile Association says that’s under the pressure you need for safe vehicle operation.

The bottom line is once a month you should make sure your tires are inflated to the manufacturer’s recommendations.  That means each tire should be measured with an accurate, external tire gauge.  To be confident you are getting a correct reading, take your vehicle to a reputable service facility where their equipment is calibrated and they know what they’re doing.

Severely underinflated tires can contribute to an accident that kills or severely injures people.  The idea behind TPMS is well intended, but the system was never meant to replace regular inflation measurements and maintenance.  Periodically have your tires checked for proper inflation.

Lewis Complete Auto Repair
5110 Grisham Dr.
Rowlett, TX 75088
972.475.4800

Sounds Like a Hot Rod (Noisy Exhaust System)April 4, 2021

Driving along, your exhaust system’s rumbling so loud that people turn and stare at you pass by.  You’re wondering when the police are going to pull you over for illegal noise.

Your mind immediately thinks, aha! A broken muffler. 

Well, your exhaust system is composed of many more parts than just a muffler. 

Your engine makes power because of thousands of tiny explosions from detonating fuel.  Those explosions make a racket, so engineers came up with a system that acoustically dampens that sound in addition to getting rid of harmful exhaust.

In the engine is the exhaust manifold that looks like several pipes that join up into one pipe.  It directs exhaust to the catalytic converter. The catalytic converter converts harmful gases into less harmful gases using certain chemical reactions.  Then comes the muffler that has baffles inside to quiet the sounds of your engine noise.  Finally: the tailpipe.

All of those pipes and parts are joined together by clamps and held up by brackets, and they ride over some pretty bumpy roads.  They are also exposed to the elements, like salt, water, rocks and grit.  Chances are that one of those clamps or brackets has been weakened by corrosion.  When you hit a bump, bingo! The crack widens into a gap and there’s a spot for the engine noise to come roaring out instead of being directed into the muffler’s quieting chambers.

You might be surprised to know that the exhaust system can rust from inside out.  How? Moisture is one component of exhaust, and moisture on the inside can do the same kind of damage as moisture from the outside. 

It’s a good idea to have your exhaust system looked at regularly by a technician.  He or she can evaluate the condition of the metal and recommend when it might be time to replace parts before they break.

Then you’ll have a decision to make.  Newer exhaust systems are made out of stainless steel that is much less prone to corrosion issues.  Others are made of aluminized steel that also fights rust.  You’ve probably already guessed that they can cost more, but the extra price up front may give you an exhaust system that will last much longer. 

Sure, with a repaired exhaust system, you won’t have quite the head-turning vehicle you once had.  You’ll just have to live with all the quiet.

Lewis Complete Auto Repair
5110 Grisham Dr.
Rowlett, TX 75088
972.475.4800

Steering Clear in RowlettMarch 28, 2021

Those who know vehicles believe the steering system may be the most vital component of them all. Perhaps you’ve found over the years your steering has gotten loose. Or maybe suddenly, your steering wheel has gotten very hard to turn. Let’s steer you in the direction of understanding why this may be happening.

First, loose steering. This can likely be the result of wear and tear on the components that connect the steering mechanism with the wheels. Those parts can be ball joints, Pitman arms or tie rods. These parts take a lot of abuse on the road, thanks to railroad tracks, potholes, uneven surfaces: you name it. It’s important that they be checked regularly and maintained at Lewis Complete Auto Repair.

Second, the hard-to-turn wheel. Virtually all vehicles on the road have power steering. There are a couple of different types, though, so let’s deal with each. By the way, when they fail, your vehicle’s steering can suddenly go from easy peasy to really hard to control.

Some vehicles have hydraulic power steering. It uses a hydraulic fluid that can either leak out or become contaminated. When that happens, you can lose that power assist. There’s also a belt involved, and if it becomes worn, stretched or cracked (or even breaks), you’ll find yourself struggling with the wheel. If you hear a loud whine coming from the area in the engine compartment when you are steering, that could mean your power steering pump is failing. The best way to avoid these problems is regular maintenance.

Recently, manufacturers have been using electric power steering systems that have some advantages over hydraulic systems. They have electric motors that—like everything mechanical—can fail. Sometimes a fuse to the power steering motor will blow, but simply replacing the fuse often doesn’t get to the root cause of the problem. A Lewis Complete Auto Repair technician can evaluate the system and recommend a solution.

Steering issues are all about safety and should be addressed as soon as possible. When you tell your service advisor, try to be specific about the signs and symptoms. It’s one way to steer clear of trouble on the road.

Lewis Complete Auto Repair
5110 Grisham Dr.
Rowlett, TX 75088
972.475.4800

Out with the Old (Vehicle Parts that Wear Out)March 21, 2021

Some drivers don’t pay any attention to their vehicles until something breaks.  Others take them into their service repair facility for maintenance even before a problem develops.  Still, even if you fit into the second group, there are some parts on a vehicle that will simply wear out over time.

Your vehicle has gaskets in several places.  They use a flexible material to seal the gaps between metal parts that fit together. After time, that material shrinks or gets brittle and fails.  Eventually, after time, you will have to get gaskets replaced.

Same goes for belts.  Your engine has belts that help take the mechanical energy of the engine to drive other parts such as the generator and air conditioner.  Heat and age will eventually cause these belts to wear out or break, so you’ll need new ones at some point.

You’ll also find yourself buying brake pads.  As much as you may try to go easy on them, brake pads work by wearing off a little bit of them each time they help you stop your vehicle.  Do a lot of stop-and-go driving and you’ll hasten the process.

No battery lasts forever, and your vehicle’s battery is no exception.  It can only charge and discharge electricity so many times.  Count on getting no more than 4 or 5 years out of a battery, fewer if you live in a very hot spot.

Other parts that don’t age well? Tires.  They can have plenty of tread left on them, but rubber gets old and loses its flexibility. Tires have their date of manufacturer stamped on them for a reason.

Finally, your muffler is being subject to moisture from inside and out: inside because of moisture-containing exhaust and outside from the elements outdoors. Stainless steel or other alloys will last longer, but after a while, either the moisture or constant pounding from vibrations will take their toll.

That’s why it’s important to maintain every part on your vehicle. You can’t wave a magic wand and make everything last forever, but take care of your vehicle and it’ll take care of you.

Lewis Complete Auto Repair
5110 Grisham Dr.
Rowlett, TX 75088
972.475.4800

The Light Nobody Wants to See (Check Engine Light)March 14, 2021

You’ve probably had your Check Engine Light go on.  Then it goes off and you figure, hey, whatever the problem was, it’s gone now and I don’t have to worry about it.  Well, the problem may have gone away and it may not have.

Your vehicle likely has one of these warning lights on the instrument panel: an amber light that looks like an engine or reads “Check Engine” or “Service Vehicle Soon.”  If that light comes on and stays on, it usually means there’s something amiss but not urgently in need of service.  (Now if it’s blinking, that’s another story that we’ll deal with in a minute.)

Sometimes when it comes on and stays steadily lit, the problem will go away and the light will go out.  Sometimes it will stay on until you get the problem fixed.  Either way, the engine’s computer will store a code that can provide clues to what’s not working—or wasn’t working—the way it’s supposed to.

If you are just dying to know what that code is, you can buy a little code reader or take your vehicle to an auto parts store and they’ll read it.  Problem is, the code offers so many options that unless you are a trained technician, you probably won’t have a clue what those codes mean. 

So if you want to be sure, take it to your vehicle repair facility and have them check it.  Technicians are trained to decipher the codes and, using their experience and other diagnostic equipment, can get to the root of the problem and fix it. 

As we mentioned before, if that Check Engine light comes on and is blinking, it means a more serious engine malfunction that can damage expensive components such as the catalytic converter and even the engine itself.  It’s important to have that checked by a professional as soon as possible. 

Lewis Complete Auto Repair
5110 Grisham Dr.
Rowlett, TX 75088
972.475.4800