Cold Weather Vehicle No-Nos (Items to Avoid Storing in a Freezing Vehicle)February 20, 2022

It’s always easier to leave a few things in your vehicle so you’ll have them on hand.  But in cold weather, while it’s a good idea to carry items such as a phone charger, blanket and shovel, there are some things you shouldn’t store in your vehicle.

  • Medicines and drugs.  Cold temperatures can affect the chemical makeup of some drugs.  Avoid leaving them in a vehicle, especially those in a liquid form like insulin, eye drops and cough syrup.
  • Latex paint.  They are water based, and when they freeze, they get lumpy and lousy.  Your paint job will not be what you had in mind.
  • Cellphones and computers.  Most of these have lithium ion batteries.  If they get colder than freezing (0 degrees C, 32 degrees F), if you try to charge them, you’ll more than likely ruin the batteries. 
  • Bottled water, soda, wine or beer.  OK, here’s the scoop.  All of these can freeze and split the container they’re in.  Yes, soda, wine and beer will take a lower temperature to freeze than water, but all of these can easily freeze if the mercury plunges low enough.  The problem isn’t when they’re frozen; it’s when they unfreeze, drip out of their containers and leave you with a colossal mess. 
  • Musical instruments.  Guitars are made of wood.  When a guitar freezes and you bring it quickly into a warm room, you may hear cracking sounds that tell you that guitar will be not-so-gently weeping from the damage that can occur.  The same goes for wind instruments and others.  Don’t ever subject musical instruments to quick temperature extremes.

 

Take a little time and effort not to leave these things out in a frigid vehicle.  You’ll likely spend far more time and money tending to the resulting consequences than if you’d just brought them inside in the first place.

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

Move it or Lose It (Dormant Vehicles)February 13, 2022

When it comes to your vehicle, driving it too much can cause some issues.  But what about not driving a vehicle enough? That has consequences as well.

Here are a few things that can happen if a vehicle isn’t driven enough.  When the engine doesn’t operate, the oil isn’t lubricating. That means some mechanisms that need periodic lubrication aren’t getting it.  And oil that sits around breaks down over time.  In fact, some experts say you should change oil more often if your vehicle sits in the driveway than if you drive it regularly. 

You’ve heard that expression, “Take it on the highway and blow out the engine.” Well, carbon buildup used to be a problem in older vehicles.  But the real culprit these days is moisture that builds up from combustion if your vehicle never gets hot enough to burn it off. That water vapor can mix with oil and cause sludge to form. There are many vehicle systems (battery, exhaust system, engine seals, etc.) that benefit from driving your vehicle at its optimal operating temperature for a while.

Spark plugs can deteriorate unless they are fired up.  The gas tank can rust from the inside if the metal is exposed from not having fuel in it.  Rodents and insects may see a sitting vehicle as a luxury hotel.  Brakes can rust after sitting around without being used.  Seals and gaskets can dry out.

One wise thing to do is check the operating manual. Some will spell out a maintenance schedule for vehicles that aren’t driven regularly. 

One suggestion? Discuss your vehicle’s maintenance with your service advisor. Let him or her know how often you drive the vehicle and what you use it for.  Then, you can come up with a maintenance schedule tailored for you, one that might not be covered in the owner’s manual. 

If you do have a vehicle that’s been sitting around for a long time, it may be wise to have it towed to your service facility rather than trying to drive it with brakes that may not work, spark plugs that may not fire reliably and other systems that may compromise your safety and those of others on the road. 

You may think it’s great to have a low-mileage vehicle that you’ve barely driven, but a complicated, sophisticated machine such as a car, SUV or truck needs regular attention to keep it running safely… and reliably.

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

Stuck! (Vehicle Door Issues)February 6, 2022

This may have happened to you.  You drive somewhere and get out of your vehicle only to try closing the door and it just won’t stay closed!  What a helpless feeling.  You can’t lock it; you can’t leave it like it is. Or, let’s say you head down to your vehicle to head out to work in the morning and you can’t open the door.  What are you going to do now?

Vehicle doors take a lot of abuse.  They are opened and closed hundreds of times and we expect them to just keep working perfectly all the time.  They do require a bit of tender loving care.  Let’s take a look at two different scenarios of stuck doors.

First: the door that won’t close.  It’s a security issue.  It’s also a safety issue.  You can’t really safely drive a vehicle with a door that won’t close. What if you or a passenger is tossed out?  Sure, some people try to tie a stuck-open door closed or bungee it, but that’s dangerous.  It’s best to get that vehicle to the service repair facility as soon as you can, and having it towed is the safest way. 

Second: the door that won’t open.  There are many reasons this can happen.  Freezing weather is one, a misaligned door is another.  There could be electrical issues.  Corrosion could have broken a part inside the door.  The possibilities, unfortunately, are numerous.

If you can’t get into your vehicle’s driver’s door, with any luck another door might open and you can climb into the driver’s seat and head on to the repair facility.  A lot of people may be tempted to try to fix a stuck door themselves, but many wind up causing more damage to the door and have to have a trained technician step in to repair the mess.

One way to minimize the possibility of having a door stick open or closed is to make sure it gets regular maintenance.  Door locks, hinges and latches should be lubricated at certain intervals.  Locks should be kept clean.  While many vehicles now have electronic locks, sometimes an electrical failure in the vehicle or key fob can inadvertently lock you out.  Nearly every vehicle has a mechanical key in case that happens; if you don’t know how that works, have your service advisor show you how. 

Also, you technician can make sure your doors are properly aligned and aren’t sagging. All of these things can help you keep your doors opening and closing the way they were designed to. Your next trip may “hinge” on your doors being in top condition.

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

See the Light (Automatic High Beam Dimmers)January 30, 2022

It’s happened to all of us.  We’re driving down a highway at night and over a crest appears a car with its high beams blazing.  You are momentarily blinded, hoping the other driver will switch them to their low beam setting and restore your vision.

Not only do we not appreciate being blinded, face it; we don’t want to be that other driver, either.  You know, the one who forgets to turn down their high beams.

Why do we want high beams in the first place? They can improve safety when used correctly, giving drivers more reaction time since they can see farther down the road.  But research has found many drivers either don’t use them or, when they do, they frequently forget to switch to low beams.  Enter the automatic high-beam dimmer.

The quest for the perfect one began back in the 1950s, General Motors invented something it called the “Autronic Eye.” It was a phototube which sat on the dashboard and turned down your beams when it saw other headlights.  While touted as being the biggest advance in night driving safety in 30 years, it didn’t work all that well.  But as technology got more advanced, systems improved.

Today’s automatic high beam dimmers usually have a camera in the rear view mirror (pointing forward).  When the camera sees lights, software in the system’s computer attempts to determine the source of the light, whether it is an oncoming vehicle, taillights, ambient city lights, street lights or the reflection off of a street sign.  It then adjusts the headlights to operate high beams if appropriate or a less-blinding mode if they’re not.

Some automakers are striving to make their headlight systems smarter and safer by developing lamps that can avoid blinding oncoming drivers by means other than simply dimming them. One idea? Splitting the beams so they will block just the portion that shines into the eyes of oncoming drivers.

It’s a long way from the Autronic Eye. 

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

Lean Times (Shocks and Springs)January 23, 2022

You may have noticed your vehicle going through lean times.  By that, we mean it’s literally leaning to one side.  When you notice that, you should get it checked out at your service facility soon because you could have a serious problem.

Many things can cause a vehicle to lean.  You may have problems with your struts, shocks or springs.  They all work in tandem to make your ride more comfortable.  The struts bear the weight of the vehicle’s body, the shock absorbers employ a piston that keeps your tires in contact with the road and controls movement of the vehicle’s body.  Springs also absorb impacts from uneven road surfaces.

If these components get stuck, either too high or too low, they cause your vehicle to lean.  That’s because that side of the vehicle isn’t at the height it is designed to be.  A technician will determine where the problem is.  Outside elements such as moisture plus hard knocks to these components can weaken them, eventually resulting in a failure.  The metal can get so fatigued that it breaks.  Often when one side of a vehicle is too high or too low, your service advisor will advise you to have the other side done as well.  That’s because if only one side has new parts installed, it won’t be level with the side that has old parts. 

There are a couple of other reasons vehicles can lean.  One is that the suspension can be bent or the chassis twisted, again due to wear and tear by driving on rough roads, over badly maintained railroad tracks or in deep potholes. 

Another reason your vehicle may lean is that the tires and/or wheels aren’t all the same size.  Or one side might have drastically over or underinflated tires.  This can be a dangerous condition since the imbalance can affect steering and handling.

Considering what drivers put suspension parts, tires and wheels through, it’s not surprising that they can be punished so much that they don’t hold up like we want them to.  A level-headed driver will make sure to be driving a level vehicle by making sure these components are maintained in good condition.

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