Don’t Start with That (Bad Starter Motor)December 19, 2021

We’ve all heard that expression, “That’s a non starter.” When it comes to your vehicle, that’s not music to a driver’s ears. That sickening sound when you start the ignition and instead of hearing the engine crank, you hear it slowly turn over and your dash lights go dim. 

There can be many reasons a vehicle won’t start, so here’s a little history of how the starter came to be an important component of modern vehicles.

You have to move the engine’s components to start it. The first cars had a crank that the driver would insert into the front, then start turning things over by hand.  When the engine started, you had to release that crank immediately or risk a broken arm.  Yes, it happened many times.  So, they came up with a better idea: an electric starter, which was a big advance in automotive technology.

With this system, an electric motor rotated a series of gears that turned the gasoline engine’s crankshaft so its pistons and parts moved and the engine drew in air.  While this happened, electricity went to the spark plugs and fuel headed to the cylinders.  When the gasoline engine caught, the starter quickly disengaged. Hey, no more broken arms!

Modern systems use the same principle, so when your vehicle won’t start, here are a few things to look out for that might point to the starter. 

If the engine turns over s-l-o-w-l-y, it may mean the electric starter motor may just be wearing out and doesn’t have enough cranking power.  Bushings, brushes, wire windings and a special switch called a commutator may be going bad.

If when you engage the ignition you hear a faint click, that could be a symptom one or more of the starter’s components have failed. If you hear a loud click, it could mean that an electrical switch called a solenoid may not be switching the motor on.

If you hear your engine start to turn over but then it stops and is followed by a grinding sound, some gears may not be meshing the way they should.

There may be many more causes (bad alternator, relay, battery, engine, key fob), so this is when it’s time to turn it over to your service facility.  Sometimes they can send out their own tow truck or recommend a reputable towing company.

But it’s best not to let it get to this point.  Starter problems often give you advance warning that there is a problem with “almost” not starting or “almost” not turning over.  So when you see that very first sign, “start” on over to talk this one over with your service advisor.  The opposite of a “non-starter” is a starter, and that is music to anyone’s ears.

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

The New Blade in TownDecember 12, 2021

If your windshield wipers are streaking and chattering when you turn them on in the rain or snow, it’s time for a little “blade renewal.” And when it comes to new wiper blades, there are some new designs that are worth a look.

One of the latest is called the beam blade.  It’s different than conventional blades you might be used to.  Instead of a metal frame and a rubber blade that slides in the frame on a track, the beam blades have an enclosed spring-steel band that allows the rubber wiper to conform to the windshield glass shape much more tightly. 

There are some key advantages to beam blades, which is why many vehicle manufacturers are making them standard on their latest models.  For one thing, they work well in all weather conditions, including the heat of summer and the icy, snowy cold of winter.  Since there is no separate frame, snow and ice can’t form in gaps like conventional wipers and prevent the blade from clearing your windshield. 

Many beam blades also have a mini “wing” on them. It uses the air moving over your windshield to create a little extra downward pressure that presses the blade even more tightly against the glass.  The faster you go, the more firmly the blade can sweep off moisture. That means a clearer view. 

Beam blades are an upgrade that can add to your vehicle’s overall safety with that increased visibility.  The best thing is to discuss wiper blades with your service advisor to see if it’s a good choice for you and your vehicle, keeping in mind the type of driving you do and the climate you live in.  Remember that when it comes to wipers, it’s important that you are using blades that are designed to fit your vehicle and that they are installed correctly. 

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

Steer Clear of Power Steering Problems (Power Steering Maintenance)December 5, 2021

We usually take our vehicle’s easy steering for granted until something goes wrong.  Power steering is what makes it almost effortless to turn the steering wheel, aiming your vehicle in the direction you want to go. Without the assistance of power from the engine, steering would be a laborious process, so you want to make sure the system is working well.

Power steering systems are usually one of two types, hydraulic and electric.  The hydraulic type uses a pump that is driven by either a belt or an electric motor.  This system uses hydraulic fluid to create pressure that gives your steering the power assist.  Since that pump is always working, time and distance traveled eventually take their toll, and these systems need to be periodically inspected.  Also, while that hydraulic fluid can last for years, it should be replaced periodically as it degrades over time. Your vehicle’s owner’s manual contains the manufacturer’s recommendations.

A technician can check for leaks in the hoses, pump housing or reservoir.  Also, the belts should be inspected and so should the pump, as these can fail.  Signs of a failing pump are a groaning noise when you turn the steering wheel, stiff steering, squealing noises when you first start your car and puddles of a reddish-brown fluid under your vehicle. 

The other type is called EPS, or electric power steering, which is becoming more commonly used in the latest vehicles.  It only delivers power assist when you need it and has an electric motor that supplies that steering help.  It’s more efficient, accurate, compact and clean. And because it has a lot fewer components, it’s easier to maintain. 

If you have electric power steering, you may notice sometimes it’s hard to turn the wheel or your Check Engine light comes on.  Sometimes the power assist motor fails or there can be problems with electrical connections.  Any time you have symptoms, it’s important for your safety and that of drivers around you that you have a technician check them out.

Properly working brakes are essential for the safe operation of any vehicle.  Stop! And make sure yours are working properly.

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

Not Too Hot and Not Too Cold (Temperature Gauge)November 28, 2021

You know your body temperature is supposed to be 98.6 degrees F, 37 degrees C.  Your vehicle has a normal temperature, too, and if you pay attention to it, that can save you some big headaches down the road.

Many vehicles have a temperature gauge on the dash that takes the temperature of the engine’s coolant.  Some have a thermometer symbol, some read C-H (cold to hot). Many will have a red zone that shows when water temperature is getting into the danger zone.  Others are digital and have a red warning light that signals overheating.  And some vehicles have a light that goes on when the engine temperature is out of the normal range.

If your vehicle has a gauge, pay attention to it.  If you need help locating it, ask one of our Lewis Complete Auto Repair experts to give you a quick explanation.  Chances are when the vehicle has been running for 15 minutes or more, the temperature gauge will settle into its own “normal” zone, often just below the midway point.  If you have a digital readout, remember what that “normal” temperature is.  Here’s why.

At any point when you’re driving, the temperature gauge is the quickest way to get a sense that the engine is running the way it should, a quick health checkup, as it were. Say you’re on a 3-hour trip, glance at that gauge every hour or so.  It should always be in the same spot.  If it starts to move one way or the other, you may be able to catch a problem before it gets serious.

Pay special attention to it moving into the hot zone.  The needle on the gauge is the easiest and least distracting way to see an engine heating up, but on a digital gauge, start paying attention if the temperature reaches 240ºF/115ºC or more.

Remember, though, that just because the gauge reads “hot” doesn’t mean your engine is on the verge of burning up.  It could be a bad sensor and the engine will be at a normal temperature.  But it also could be a failing water pump, coolant leak or thermostat.  By pulling off the road and observing your engine, it will give you a pretty good idea if it’s running hot or not.

If the gauge is too “cold,” it could be a broken gauge or thermostat sticking open.  Usually being in the cold range isn’t as worrisome, but you should have it checked out since other systems may be affected.

Heat is one of a vehicle’s worst enemies, especially when it comes from within.  Know your vehicle’s normal temperature and keep an eye on it.

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

A Turn for the Worse (Using Turn Signals)November 21, 2021

Distracted driving is bad, you know that.  Daydreaming, talking on the cell phone, putting your makeup on in the rear view mirror.  All bad.  But there’s something else that causes more than twice as many accidents, according to a recent study.  And that’s people who don’t use their turn signals. 

Maybe you’re one of them.  One survey said nearly a quarter of drivers were just too lazy to use their turn signals.  Others said they didn’t use them because they weren’t really necessary.  Traffic laws may dictate otherwise, but statistics show police don’t write that many tickets for turn signal violations. 

You may have encountered the driver who cuts into your lane without signaling a change.  Often, that person does it deliberately to catch you off guard so you won’t invade his or her space.  And when it comes to young drivers using turn signals, one insurance company survey showed more than two-thirds of those they talked to admitted it wasn’t their regular practice.

Knowing that, you may wonder why you should use your turn signal.  The reason is simple.  It lets other drivers know what you plan to do.  Driving it tricky enough with all the moving parts on the road.  The more you know what other people are doing, the more you can prepare for that with the way you drive.

How many times have you seen someone turn left without putting their turn signal on?  That’s a leading cause of rear-end accidents. Not only does using your turn signal promote safety, it also shows courtesy to other drivers.

There are some drivers who don’t use turn signals because their turn signals don’t work.  What a lousy excuse! All of the safety equipment in your vehicle should be working; if it isn’t, head over to your repair facility.  Often it’s as simple as a burned out bulb or a broken wire. 

Finally, the number one reported reason for not using a turn signal is that drivers just forget to do it.  (And the ones who DO use their turn signals and forget they’re on?  We won’t even go there.)

Engineers put turn signals on vehicles for a reason.  They help drivers communicate with other drivers.  Using them could save accidents… and lives.

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