Ready, Set, COLD! (Getting Vehicle Ready for Winter)November 14, 2021

When the temperatures plunge, your vehicle better be ready because it faces a whole new set of challenges.  Rubber stiffens, glass fogs, fluids freeze.  Just thinking about it can get your heart beating faster.  So here are some tips for getting ready for those inevitable colder temperatures.

Make sure your tires are in good shape and properly inflated.  Traction can be less than ideal on slippery streets, so your tires must have enough tread to grip the road.  They should also be inflated properly, and inflation will change as the temperatures go down. One last thing on tires. Do you know how old yours are? They actually have a birthdate printed on them.  Old rubber can compromise drivability and handling.  Some tires look great but their rubber doesn’t handle stresses like it used to.  Have your vehicle service facility inspect all of these aspects of your tires so you are riding on tires that are fit to go.

Anyone who lives in an area where the temperatures get down to freezing knows frigid mornings can reveal an unhealthy battery at the most inopportune time.  Age also counts when it comes to batteries, so you should know how old and healthy yours is.  Special equipment at your service facility can let you know how much more life you can expect out of that battery.  It’s obviously better to have it replaced before rather than after it fails.

You have to see out your windows and windshield in order to drive safely, so now’s the time to have your heater and defroster checked out to make sure they can do their jobs.  A few tweaks here and there can make a big difference before you find yourself shivering and fogged up.

And finally, make sure you have some vital emergency supplies.  Yes, a blanket can save your life if you are stranded in cold weather.  A small shovel can help you dig out of a slippery spot.  And your survival may depend on having a little extra food and water on hand, so keep a little supply of bottled water and power bars stored away. Doesn’t hurt to have an extra cell phone charger in your vehicle, either.

You may have heard all of this before.  Well, trouble happens when you least expect it. Taking a few minutes now can make a huge difference when it rears its ugly head later.

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

The Flat Fix that Fits (Tire Repairs)November 7, 2021

Can you think of anyone who likes getting a flat tire?  Of course not.  But when one of your tires winds up with a flat or leak, whether it be from things like hitting a curb, running over a nail or picking up a sharp stone, it’s time to have someone who knows what they’re doing take care of it.

If you’re thinking you’d like to avoid having to buy a new tire, you wonder if a patch or plug will suffice.  It depends where the puncture is and how big the hole is.  Most tire experts will say if the hole in the tire is less than ¼ of an inch or 6 mm, a patch can work.  But a patch likely won’t work if the compromised part of the tire is on its shoulder or sidewall.

Here’s why.  The shoulder of a tire is the part between the sidewall and tread and it’s usually rounded.  It’s under a lot of pressure, more than even the sidewalls. And because of that curved shape, it’s hard to get a patch or plug to hold.

The sidewall is the side of the tire.  Sidewalls flex a lot when you drive, and the strain can cause a patch or plug to loosen up.  A weak spot in a sidewall is much more likely to fail and cause a blowout.  So if you have damage in the sidewall or shoulder, that tire is a good candidate for replacement, not repair.

If you have a cut or gash in your tire, it’s possible the cords that strengthen your tire have also been cut.  That weak spot can spell trouble, and this type of damage usually means you should get a new one.

Your service advisor can tell you what the appropriate action is to take when you have tire damage.  You may be able to get good results with a patch, or you may have to replace one or more tires.  Your safety is riding on them.

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

Follow the Bouncing Vehicle (Bad Struts and Shocks)October 31, 2021

If you hit a bump in the road and your vehicle just keeps bouncing up and down for a lot longer time than it used to, you may have bad struts and shocks.  They’re the things that help to keep your vehicle’s wheels and tires planted to the road surface.

But they don’t last forever.  With care and depending on where and how you drive, shocks and struts should be replaced at intervals ranging from 50,000 miles/80,000 km to 100,000 miles/160,000 km.  If you drive on bumpy roads with a lot of potholes, that interval will likely be shorter. Rough surfaces can take their toll.

But how do you know if your shocks and struts are doing their job properly? The best way is to have your vehicle checked by a technician.  He or she can inspect the shock absorbers and struts for leaks, corrosion and damage.  Mounts and bushings can also go bad and they should be evaluated as well.  A thorough examination by a technician will also include looking at other suspension parts. Some may contribute to making your vehicle behave the same way if they’re broken, corroded, worn or bent.     

If you need new shocks and struts, your service advisor will make sure that you get those that meet manufacturer’s specifications.  That’s important because they want to make sure you’re getting the handling and performance engineers designed your vehicle to have.

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

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?