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

The Cable Guy (Battery Cables and Maintenance)August 15, 2021

If you’ve ever noticed your vehicle’s lights are dim or not working at all, the problem could be many things.  But one possibility is your battery cables aren’t doing their job.  A power outage in your vehicle is similar to one in your house and needs to be repaired to get things back to normal.

Battery cables connect your vehicle’s battery to the vehicle itself.  There is a positive cable when provides the power and a negative cable that connects to the vehicle chassis and provides a ground for electrical components. 

A failing battery cable may cause your vehicle not to start.  Your starter may turn over very slowly.  Or you may just hear a series of clicks.  One other clue is on your dash—the battery warning light. 

There are many things that can cause power issues in a vehicle, but it’s important to keep battery cables clean and maintained.  Salt and corrosion are enemies to any power system.  A technician can keep things in top shape, disconnecting the cables, inspecting them and cleaning their ends and the battery terminals.  Cables, by the way, are often made up of smaller strands of wire.  If they are frayed, some of those smaller wires can touch metal parts of the vehicles that they shouldn’t.  The result? Electrical system malfunctions.

So if you see any of these signs that something is not quite right with the power in your vehicle, consult your service advisor and get it checked out.  Feel the power!

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

Mercury Rising (Hot Weather Vehicle Concerns)August 8, 2021

The heat is on, and your vehicle takes a beating when it is.  Several of your vehicle’s systems are under extra stress in hot weather, so here are a few to make sure are getting the care and maintenance they need.

It makes sense that the cooling system is one to make sure is in top shape.  Vehicle breakdowns in summer are often due to a problem with one of the cooling system’s components.  Coolant levels have to be up to specs, the ratio of coolant to water must be correct and the hoses, pumps, belts and radiator must all be working properly in order to prevent vehicle overheating.

Summer is also hard on your air conditioning system.  You might find that no air is blowing out of the vents or maybe only hot air is coming out.  Air conditioning equipment is best diagnosed and repaired by a trained and experienced technician.  The problem could be in any number of components, including the condenser, compressor or blower motor.

You may think the battery gets a break in the summer, but heat will shorten the life of your battery more quickly than cold.  Your service facility can analyze the condition of your battery and tell you whether it’s healthy or needs replacing.

Tires take a beating in heat, too.  Pavement can be scorching hot, and the sun’s rays break down the rubber.  Watch inflation pressure in hot weather, too, since air expands the hotter it gets.  Your technician can check air pressure, tread depth, cupping and other uneven wear and diagnose the source of any problems. 

And don’t forget brakes.  One video online says brakes on a car that were driven hard on a track reached temperatures as high as 500°C/932°F.  Heat can reduce stopping power.  A technician should periodically inspect pads, rotors, drums, lines and other components to find a problem before you lose the ability to stop.

Finally, engine oil is really put to the test when it gets hot.  Your vehicle service facility will make sure you have enough oil and the proper kind to keep your engine’s components properly lubricated.  Help your vehicle beat the heat.

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

Some New Boots (Suspension Maintenance)August 1, 2021

There are some boots that don’t come in a shoe box and aren’t worn on your feet.  They are called axle or CV boots, and they can be important parts for many vehicles.

That CV stands for constant velocity.  CV axles are mainly used in front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive vehicles. They’re also used in some rear-wheel drive vehicles with independent suspensions.  They have two CV joints, one inner and one outer, placed between the axle and the drive wheels.  That way the vehicle’s engine power can drive the wheels, no matter what angle they are.  They also adjust for the different speeds wheels turn as they go around corners. 

Because roads are full of all sorts of hazards (dirt, oil, water, grime), these CV joints need to be protected.  They also have grease in them to keep the bearings moving smoothly.  That’s the job of the rubber boots that are supposed to keep that debris out.  These CV or axle boots are made of rubber or plastic and usually last a long time without any problem.  But sometimes they fail, either from being hit by debris or age causing the rubber or plastic to deteriorate.  That can allow the grease to leak out of the joint and the moisture to get in.  And that’s where the trouble is.

So it’s important to have a vehicle’s CV boots checked periodically, especially when they begin to have more than 100,000 miles/160,000 kilometers on them.  A technician inspects them for tears or cracks.  Sometimes if the problems are found early enough, the boots can be replaced and the joints can be re-packed with grease. 

But sometimes the CV joint can wear out even though the boot is intact.  When the CV joint fails, you might hear a grinding, humming or clicking noise and feel vibration.

Some of these can be difficult to access for service, so many service advisors will recommend replacing the joints and boots at the same time.  Just remember, new CV boots won’t make a fashion statement, but they will keep your vehicle going down the road for years to come.

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

Singing a Different Tune (Up) (Tune Ups)July 25, 2021

Engines required a lot more maintenance in earlier times.  You’d have to have your spark plugs, wires, rotors, caps, distributor points, fuel and air filters changed periodically.  There were mechanical adjustments of a vehicle’s timing, dwell, spark gap and idle mixture, too. Unless you like to tinker with old cars, a lot of those terms won’t mean much to you. 

That service was called a “tune up” back then, and you can see why.  But now, computers have reduced the number of maintenance items, and a tune up is a whole lot different than it used to be.  In fact, in some vehicle service facilities, that term is also a thing of the past. 

A tune up of today would more accurately be called simply periodic maintenance. Now, most vehicles still have spark plugs and wires, fuel filters, air filters and PCV valves, and they should be inspected tested and/or replaced at regular intervals.  Your vehicle’s manufacturer has made recommendations on how often that should be. But it depends on your driving habits. Do you regularly tow a trailer? Do you drive on dusty roads often? Are you driving mostly stop and go in the city?  Depending on your answers, to those maintenance intervals might have to be more frequent.

Your service advisor will likely remind you about those “must check” items such as spark plugs and wires, air filter and oxygen sensor.  And now that the old-fashioned tune ups don’t require you to take your vehicle in for maintenance as often, you can get the same benefit from scheduled oil changes or tire rotations.  When your vehicle is in for those, a technician can keep an eye on your other systems (fuel, emissions, ignition) to make sure they are operating correctly.

One thing to remember.  When you take your vehicle in for regular service or a specific issue, don’t ever hesitate to ask you service advisor to explain what’s being done and why.  Hey, “In Sync” may have been a boy band of an earlier era, but it’s always good for you and your service advisor to be “in sync” when it comes to what maintenance is good for your vehicle.

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