Clean Slate (Protecting Vehicle’s Finish)March 15, 2020

Winter is one of the hardest times to keep your vehicle clean. But did you know neglecting to wash your vehicle in winter could cost you a significant amount of money in the long run? Here’s why.

Many areas deal with snow and ice in the winter, and the salt and sand that are used to keep the road surfaces from being slick are also super corrosive to a vehicle’s metal body and undercarriage.  That includes all the parts underneath that can be splashed with brine, saltwater and other road debris.  Winter is also tough on vehicles where there isn’t snow, sometimes from ocean salt or winter’s extra humidity and rain. 

If you have any breaks in your vehicle’s paint, whether it be from a little fender bender or a stone chip, that corrosive winter moisture can get through those cracks and start eating away at the metal underneath. 

If you can, you should get any dents or damage fixed as soon as possible so your vehicle has a protective layer of paint between road chemicals and the metal.  You may want to wait until the warmer weather, but while you’re waiting, the damage is getting worse.  If you’re not sure of a reputable body repair shop, check with the service advisor where you have mechanical work done.  They’re usually knowledgeable about who is good and not so good. 

You also may be tempted to skip the car wash during the winter since your vehicle is just going to get dirty fast anyway.  You may want to reconsider.  Many winter road treatments now use brine that gets in every nook and cranny of your vehicle.  It’s wise to clean that off regularly during the winter, and many washing facilities include a spray underneath that gets rid of that salt.  Your vehicle repair facility may even have its own car wash, a nice bonus when you take your vehicle in for repair or regular maintenance. 

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

Visibility Disaster! (Windshield Washer Pump Replacement)March 8, 2020

Let’s say you live in a cold climate where the snowy, icy weather challenges you to clear the salt and debris tossed up on your windshield.  You push your windshield washer switch expecting a good stream of fluid so the blades can wipe the glass clean. Yet nothing comes out.  Nada, zip.  What’s going on? You know you filled up the windshield washer reservoir within the last week or so. 

Well, there could be a few things causing your windshield washing system to fail.  One culprit? The hoses that are supposed to carry that fluid from the washer pump to the spray nozzles may be frozen, or maybe they’re cracked and leaking. It could be the nozzles themselves are stopped up, either iced up or jammed full of debris.  Your windshield wiper/washer switch could be worn out or the electrical system may not be conducting power to the washer pump. 

It’s important that this system work properly, especially on days when the sun may be in front of you and your windshield is covered with a cloudy, icy mess.  Seeing what’s going on in front of you may be like trying to peer through frosted glass, and that’s not a safe situation for you or the drivers around you. You need to have this checked out by a technician as soon as you can.

Let’s say the technician discovers it’s not any of those components.  Turns out it’s the electric windshield washer pump itself that’s failed. After replacing it, everything is working fine, and you can see again.  As so often is the case with today’s complex vehicles, figuring out the root cause of a problem can be tricky.  Rely on your vehicle service facility since they have the know how and diagnostic equipment to make sure your view of the road will always be crystal clear.

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

Thoughtful Gifts for the Winter DriverMarch 1, 2020

You may be one of those romantics who don’t like giving (or getting) practical gifts for special occasions.  Just wait until one of those gifts helps you out of a big predicament in cold weather, and you realize that practical gifts can be life savers.

Here are a few things you may give the cold-weather driver in your life—or suggest to someone else to give you!

  • A portable air compressor.  If you’ve ever had a flat and you can’t imagine trying to change a tire on a snowy, winter day, this may just get your tire pumped up enough to drive over to the repair facility.  Some are fancy and pricey, some are only a few bucks.  They plug into the cigarette lighter/12v outlet and will take a few minutes to pump up your tire. But it could save you a tow.
  • Portable jump starter. These are relatively small power units (they easily fit in a car trunk) that can jump start your vehicle that has a dead battery.  Some even have an air compressor built in.  If you’ve ever tried to use conventional jumper cables in freezing weather, they can be stiff and hard to manage.  Really handy when there are no other people or vehicles around and you need a jump.
  • Flares.  When bad winter weather reduces visibility to dangerously short distances, flares can make the difference between someone seeing you broken down at the side of the road and them ramming into you. Flares put out far more light than nearly every other warning device; just ask law enforcement officers who carry flares in their patrol vehicles. 
  • A good tire gauge.  Winter is when temperatures plunge.  When the temperature drops, so does your tire pressure, so it’s important to check your air pressure properly and accurately so you don’t wind up with one or more deflated (and flat) tires.  The proper time to check pressure is in the morning, before you hit the road and your tires heat up.  Properly inflated tires are important for safe traction, especially during winter.
  • Kitty litter.  The lowest-tech gift of all.  Keep a bag in your vehicle and it can provide much needed traction if you get stuck in the snow.

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

Why Alignment Matters (Vehicle Alignment Maintenance)February 23, 2020

It’s one of those things that can happen on a multi-day road adventure or a quick trip to the grocery store.  You hit a pothole, go too fast over a speed bump, nail a curb.  When it happens, you think, “I wonder if that was hard enough to do any damage?”  But things seem ok and you continue on your way. 

Keep in mind that any blow to your vehicle’s suspension can throw it out of alignment.  It can be a hard knock from the road or from another vehicle, such as being involved in a minor accident.  When your suspension is out of alignment, it means that the wheels aren’t all pointing where they should.  And after a while, it can make your tires wear unevenly and cause problems with steering and handling.

Let’s go back to that pothole or curb you hit hard.  Even though you think there was no damage done, if you wait until you see tire wear, you may need to replace all four tires, not an inexpensive proposition.

That’s why it’s a good idea to make sure your alignment is regularly checked by a qualified technician. If you get regular oil changes (a MUST!), consider having an alignment check while your vehicle is in.  That’s especially important if you drive roads that resemble the lunar surface.  If you buy new tires, it’s also strongly recommended that you have your alignment checked. 

You can have your front wheels aligned or all four, and if your vehicle is newer, it’s not a bad idea to spend a little extra for the four-wheel alignment check.  Good alignment pays off with better steering and handling, less tire wear and—BONUS—better fuel economy since aligned wheels offer less resistance when they roll on the road.

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

Wasteful ThinkingFebruary 16, 2020

With the weather getting colder, you might be tempted to start your vehicle up, let it idle for 15 or 20 minutes and then get in the nice, cozy cabin.  Some vehicles offer remote starting that let you do that from the comfort of your home or apartment.  But is letting your vehicle idle like that good for it?

Manufacturers say it doesn’t harm the vehicle.  They say it’s because modern vehicles are made differently from those in the past.  Just about all newer vehicles employ fuel injection which uses computers to adjust the amount of gasoline that goes into the cylinders.  The engine gets only the fuel it needs, taking conditions into account.

Older vehicles, on the other hand, used to use carburetors.  When you started a cold engine, the carburetor wasn’t able to adjust the gasoline amount depending on conditions.  Some of the gasoline would mix with oil and the pistons wouldn’t get the same lubrication as they would with undiluted oil.

So yes, you can warm up your newer vehicle for your own personal comfort.  But consider how much fuel you are wasting.  That is not only throwing away money, it’s a waste of natural resources.  And it puts more carbon into the atmosphere. 

Automakers have to be mindful of what fuel economy their vehicles can achieve.  So the flip side of the remote starts they offer is a “stop-start” feature.  When you stop your vehicle, even at a stoplight, your vehicle will turn the engine off.  When you take your foot off the brake and step on the accelerator, it starts up right away.  That feature can save as much as 10 percent of the fuel your vehicle uses. 

Your vehicle may not have that start-stop feature, but you can still save fuel by shutting off your engine manually if you are waiting somewhere, like a parking lot or perhaps sitting outside your child’s school waiting to pick him or her up.  It saves you money and contributes to a healthier atmosphere for our planet.

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