Start Me Up (Ignition Systems)October 24, 2021

When you start up your gasoline engine car, you may not know that it’s using the same ignition principles as it has for decades.  You have spark plugs that require enough power so a spark can jump across a gap at its tip.  Years ago, a vehicle’s 12-volt system had to produce 15,000-25,000 volts to do that, so engineers came up with something called an ignition coil that bumps up the voltage. It also has to be done at just the right interval called timing.

The first systems had a distributor, a mechanical device with a rotating disc that switched the power to the ignition coil on and off.  That higher voltage then was sent to the spark plugs at the correct time interval. But the mechanical “points” had to be replaced and adjusted every 12,000 miles/20,000 kilometers.  Engineers later replaced the switching mechanism with solid state ones, but they still needed replacement after 120,000 miles/200,000 kilometers.

The next evolution came in the 80’s when the distributor was replaced with a couple of sensors which talked to a computer.  This “DIS” (distributor-less automotive ignition system) was a big advance.  Plus, it didn’t use just one ignition coil for all the cylinders.  It had coil “packs” that each provided spark to two cylinders.  That way, the voltage could be boosted even higher, to 30,000 volts, which helped engines be able to ignite a leaner fuel/air mixture.

Recently have come even more improvements.  Now instead of coil packs, there’s a coil that’s attached to each spark plug.  No more spark plug wires means less maintenance. Plus, a stronger, hotter spark of 50,000 volts can make an engine more reliable, increase fuel economy and reduce emissions.

No matter what ignition system your vehicle uses, your vehicle service facility has a staff of technicians trained to work on the latest technology.  Make sure to have your vehicle maintained regularly so you can take full advantage of these modern engineering marvels.

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

Positive and Negative (Battery Care)October 17, 2021

You notice when your smartphone’s battery starts to go weak on you.  It runs out of juice faster than it did when it was new.  Bet you pay attention to that pretty closely.

Unfortunately, many of us don’t pay the same attention to the battery in our vehicles. If your battery got you through the cold-weather months, you might be thinking you’re all set until next winter. But you might be surprised to learn this: Hot weather is harder on a battery than cold weather.  (Note: we’re talking about a conventional vehicle here, not an all-electric, plug-in one.)

 The way your vehicle’s battery holds a charge is that it has chemicals inside it, and they react with each other to produce electricity.  A vehicle battery discharges electricity and then needs to be recharged.  Unlike your smartphone that you plug in each night to charge, the way a vehicle’s battery gets recharged is by using the mechanical energy of the engine.  It’s a pretty cool system that’s been around for a while.  An alternator changes the mechanical energy into electricity that then charges the battery.  And your vehicle is designed to charge it just the right amount with a voltage regulator. If your battery constantly gets too much voltage, it could stop holding a charge. 

Another way a vehicle battery loses its ability to hold a charge is when it gets hot.  In warmer weather, some fluids in your battery evaporate which can damage some of its internal components.  Then, you’ve got a dead battery.

Back to your smartphone for a second, it probably has a little indicator or maybe an app that shows you how healthy it is or how much charge it’s holding.  Well, your service repair facility has equipment that can test your vehicle’s battery for the same things.  If that test shows you need a new battery, then it’s probably time to replace it.

A technician can also check to see your battery is being charged at the correct rate.  If you have a battery that is not sealed, a technician can check to see it needs more water added to it.  The technician will also make sure dirt or other contaminants aren’t acting as electrical conductors and discharging the battery.  Plus, your battery’s terminals may need cleaning.

Most people just forget about their vehicle’s battery until there’s a big problem with it. Here’s one rule of thumb: expect a battery’s life to be about 5 years. Just like you wouldn’t want your smartphone to leave you without any way to make phone calls or send texts, you wouldn’t want your vehicle to leave you stranded with no way to start it, would you?   

When it comes time to make that new battery choice, your service advisor can offer you some good options, taking into account the climate you drive in, what you use your vehicle for and what your budget is.  Hey, your smartphone’s battery is all charged up.  How about calling your service advisor for an appointment right now?

 

The Key Won’t Turn! (Ignition Problems)October 10, 2021

You’ve just arrived at the store shopping and you’re ready to head home.  You put your key in the ignition and… oh, no! The ignition won’t turn! What do you do now?

Don’t panic.  There are some things you can do to get going again.  The first thing to do is see if you have a locking steering wheel, an anti-theft feature that was introduced around 1970.  Sometimes it sticks.  Move the steering wheel side to side while you try to turn the key and you might be able to get it to release. 

Another thing to check is to see if your vehicle is in gear.  Most vehicles will only allow you to start the ignition if it’s in park or neutral.  If you have an automatic transmission vehicle and it is in park, try jiggling the shift lever and try the key again.  Sometimes the safety mechanism doesn’t properly make contact or gets a little sloppy. 

If both of these don’t work, it could be your vehicle’s battery is dead.  Some newer electronic systems require power so the key can turn. Others have alarm systems that detect if doors are open. 

Other issues that can cause key problems include something jammed in the lock cylinder.  Or some of the springs or pins inside may be stuck.  Consider that it may be the key itself.  Sometimes they get bent or simply wear out from the number of times they’ve been put in and taken out of the cylinder.

No matter what the cause, the first time this happens you should have your repair service facility check it out. That’s because if it happens once, it can happen again.  Even if you were able to get going again on your own, your ignition/key has warned you that something’s wrong.  Have it checked out by a pro so you’re not locked into a bad situation.

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

In a Fog (Fogged Windows in Cold Weather)October 3, 2021

It’s bad enough in cold weather when ice and snow block your visibility.  Add to that fog on the inside of your windows and you could be driving blind.  So here are a few tips on how to keep your windows from fogging up when there’s a chill in the air.

You probably know fog is really condensation, when moist, warm air meets a cold surface and turns to liquid.  If your windshield fogs up, you probably turn on your windshield defroster. Most defrosters blow heated air on the windshield glass to warm it up so it won’t condense the moisture.  Many also turn on the air conditioning to reduce the moisture. 

That same strategy can work on the rest of the windows.  First, turn up your heater’s temperature setting.  The hotter the air, the more moisture it will hold.  Also, turn off the “recirculating” setting since you want all outside air to come in. Then switch on the air conditioning.  It will remove the moisture from the outside  air that it’s blowing inside the cabin.  Try cracking a couple of windows to make it easier for the air to flow. This should do the trick pretty quickly. 

There’s one other thing to try.  Many vehicles have electric heater elements embedded in the rear window glass (the rear window defroster) and in the outside rearview mirror glass. Make sure to turn those on, too; sometimes they’re on the same switch.

For all of these things to work, of course, your vehicle’s components have to be maintained so they’ll do the things they’re designed to do.  And you didn’t think it was important to have your air conditioning working in the cold weather months! 

One final tip.  Keep the insides of your windows CLEAN.  Oil and dirt on the glass give the water molecules something to latch on to.  That ought to clear up this problem.

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

Don’t Be Shocked (Shock Absorbers)September 26, 2021

If you’ve ever ridden down a rough road on your bicycle, you know how hard a ride it can be.  Yet drive down the same road in your car, truck or SUV and it miraculously will smooth out the ride.  That’s because it is equipped with shock absorbers.  They are built to dampen impacts from road irregularities.  But after taking hundreds of hits from potholes, railroad tracks and curbs, your shock absorbers can wear out.  Besides the rough ride that can cause, there are other ways your vehicle’s performance can be affected.

When it comes to braking for example, you may take a longer distance to stop.  That’s because shocks help keep your tires in contact with the surface of the road.  If the shocks aren’t working properly, the tires won’t make contact like they should.  So when you slam on the brakes, your vehicle will take longer to stop.

Consider what worn out shocks are doing to your tires.  Since the bumps aren’t being dampened as much, your tires can bounce up and down more.  That can produce a problem of uneven wear called cupping.

And when you start out from a stop, your vehicle may not have the traction it should since the shocks aren’t keeping them down on the road as you accelerate.  If you have front wheel drive, you may lose some steering control on acceleration. Obviously, many of these things involve safety concerns.

Pay attention to any deterioration in your vehicle’s ride quality.  If your vehicle is starting to bounce up and down and its ride feels bumpier than before, head on over to your vehicle service facility and get your suspension checked out.  Do the same if steering response isn’t as good as it used to be.  Notice that your vehicle nose dives when you brake?  Are your tires wearing in an unusual manner? All are signs that your shocks may be on their last legs.

If the last time you replaced your shocks was 50,000 miles/80,000 kilometers ago, a technician should evaluate them.  Don’t be “shocked” if it’s time for new ones.

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