Why You Have an O2 Sensor (Oxygen Sensor)September 19, 2021

If someone asked you what gas made up the largest portion of the atmosphere, what would you guess? Well, it’s not oxygen; it only makes up 20.9 percent.  But since we’re talking about oxygen, you should know that your vehicle uses oxygen sensors to make sure your engine is running the way it should.

The oxygen sensors measure how much oxygen is in your exhaust.  If there’s too much, it means there’s a problem with the mixture of fuel and air.  The sensor sends signals to computers in your engine and adjusts the mixture so it maximizes performance and efficiency.  It does this constantly. 

Many vehicles have multiple oxygen sensors.  Some have one close to the engine, another close to the muffler.  Two measurements are better than one since they allow readings to be more accurate.  You may have a vehicle with a dual exhaust, so you’d have twice as many oxygen sensors.

Your oxygen sensors can fail.  One thing that can damage them is contamination from bad fuel.  The sensors can simply wear out, though they usually last a long time.  It’s not unusual for an oxygen sensor to last 100,000 miles/160,000 km. One more thing that can cause an oxygen sensor to fail is residue from an engine that’s burning oil.  Plus contaminants from the road like salt can also cause problems. 

Here are some signs that your oxygen sensors might be failing.

  • The Check Engine light goes on.  In this case, your service facility can plug in a device that will read the code in your engine’s computer to see if that’s the problem.
  • The engine is running roughly.
  • Black, sooty smoke is coming out of your tailpipe.
  • Your fuel economy is noticeably lower than it used to be.

Head to your service facility and tell your advisor what symptoms your vehicle is experiencing.  They have the equipment and training to track down the issue.  Note that simply replacing the oxygen sensor is often not enough since it doesn’t get to the root of the problem; other repairs may be needed. 

So make sure your oxygen sensors are working the way they should be.  Oh, and back to the question of what gas makes up most of the Earth’s air?  It’s nitrogen, which comprises 78 percent of the air we—and our engines—breathe.

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

Greeted by a Screech (Loud Noise when Starting Vehicle)September 12, 2021

No one likes to be greeted in the morning by having someone screech at you.  The same goes for a loud, high-pitched noise your vehicle greets you with every time you start the engine.  If you’re wondering if that’s normal, no, it isn’t.  And it is worth getting checked out.  The good news is that it might be nothing serious.  Then again, it may be.

The first things to suspect any time you hear a high-pitched sound coming from the engine are belts.  They have tension on them and they’re trying to turn lots of different pulleys, pumps and other equipment the engine needs to work properly.  The noise could come from the belts starting to wear out and dry out. If one of those belts breaks at an inopportune time, not only can it strand you somewhere, the damage to the engine could be very expensive to fix.

Other things that will cause a high-pitched sound are the pulleys and tensioners.  The tensioners keep the right amount of pressure on the belts and some pulleys contain rubber that dampens engine vibrations.  The rubber in the pulleys can crack or deform with age, which prevents them from working correctly and may cause your belts to wear out.

A technician will check to see if the belts are worn or cracked.  He or she will also check the tension on the belts, the condition of the pulleys and whether all  components are aligned the way they should be.

Sometimes, the noise is nothing major to worry about, but it’s still worthwhile to rule out any problems that have cropped up now or may appear in the future.  You’ll have a properly running vehicle that sounds like its engineers intended… quiet and smooth.

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

The Puzzling Puddle (Leaks Under Vehicle)September 5, 2021

Ever notice a little spot of liquid under your vehicle after you’ve parked in your driveway or garage? It may have been something as simple as water left from air conditioning condensation.  But then again, it could be a sign that there’s trouble brewing in one of your vehicle’s systems.

You can help your service facility diagnose the problem by getting a little sample of the drip.  At the same time, you may save yourself a tougher clean up task by preventing the leaky fluid from really messing up the driveway or garage floor.  The first thing is to put something under the vehicle. A flattened out cardboard box will do fine.  You may also want to slip a little disposable aluminum tray or pan under it to catch a bit of the fluid.  Chroma and consistency can help a technician quickly figure out what kind of fluid you’re dealing with.  You can take your sample with you when you go to your service facility.

Also note how much of the substance is there over what period of time, when you started to notice it and its location relative to the vehicle.  Is it on the passenger’s or driver’s side? Front, middle or back? Vehicle’s have different designs, so where their equipment is located will depend on make and model. 

The leaky fluid will have a certain look to it and consistency.  If it’s blue, it may be windshield washer fluid and a sign that your washer fluid tank has a leak.  If it’s green, it could be antifreeze.  Orange may mean rusty water or transmission fluid.  Brown? Might be oil.

There should be no leaks in your powertrain if things are maintained properly.  A small leak may not seem like a big deal, but sometimes they can get much bigger quickly.  A coolant leak, for example, may suddenly go from pinhole to flood, draining your cooling system and putting your engine in danger of overheating. 

It is a really good idea to have a professional check out your leaks as soon as you notice them.  And the more clues you can provide, the happier the technician will be as the search for the problem gets underway.

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

Poor Reflections (Door Mirror Problems)August 29, 2021

Mirror, mirror on the door, why is my vision there so poor? Well, you could have a broken outside rearview mirror that’s disabled your blind spot vision there and endangering your ability to see some of the traffic around you. 

Outside rearview (or door) mirrors are important safety devices that are thoughtfully designed to help drivers see.  And there are a variety of ways those door mirrors can develop problems.

One is when the glass is broken in them.  Sometimes it’s caused by an accident or vandalism.  But without your ability to see in that mirror, you could be driving blind, unable to see drivers approaching from the rear in adjacent lanes.  Sometimes it’s as simple as having the glass replaced.  You’ll greatly enhance your safety if you do.

Then there’s the door mirror that you can’t adjust.  First, let’s look at a common scenario in later models, the power mirror.  They’re great when they’re working, awful when they’re not.  Sometimes the motor fails, the switch goes bad or the wiring fails to deliver power.

Or how about the manually-adjusted door mirror that has either frozen up or just flops around? In this case, the mechanism has corroded, jammed up or a part has broken.  In both power- and manually-adjusted door mirrors, it sometimes can be hard to keep them in the right position.  Plus, every time there’s a driver change, it may be hard to adjust those broken mechanisms by hand.

Finally, heated door mirrors can be extraordinarily useful in eliminating fogging or icing up in certain weather conditions.  But those heating elements can fail, switches can break or wiring can go bad.  Suddenly your fogged over, frozen mirrors aren’t doing you any good at all. 

Good drivers use those outside rearview mirrors all the time.  They should be working the way designers intended, to provide the driver with vital traffic position information.  That’s the kind of safety device you should get fixed or replaced sooner rather than later.  It’s well worth it if you prevent even one little accident. 

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

Have a Ball! Know your Ball Joints (Ball Joints)August 22, 2021

We all have joints in our own skeletal system, but did you know your vehicle has some joints of its own? One of the most important is called a ball joint.

One of the interesting things is that it’s somewhat similar to the ball and socket joints we have in our hips and shoulders.  A ball joint allows two parts it joins together to move in more than one direction at the same time.

Think about your wheels.  They have to move up and down when there are bumps in the road but in sideways directions when you are making a turn. As you can see, the ball joints are important for your steering and handling to work correctly.

Since ball joints do so much, they can wear out and become loose.  When the ball wears down or the socket gets worn, there can be too much play in them.  It can get so bad that the ball can come out of the socket and your wheel can fall off, a dangerous situation.  Ball joints can also seize up.  Some of them are sealed and never require maintenance; others require periodic lubrication.

Here are some signs that your ball joints are going bad:

  • Your vehicle pulls to one side
  • You can hear a clunking noise coming from a wheel area
  • Your tires are wearing unevenly, especially on the inside

The earlier a failing ball joint is discovered, the better. The best way is to have regular inspections by a technician.  Your service facility will periodically check ball joints at intervals recommended by the manufacturer. The cost to replace them can vary widely depending on whether you have a vehicle with a 2-ball or 4-ball configuration.  Also, sometimes just the joints can be replaced, but other times they are part of a larger control arm assembly that has to have all the parts replaced at the same time. 

Your vehicle’s proper steering, handling and tire wear all contribute to a better, safer driving experience.  Make sure your ball joints are up to the job.

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