E-85 Fuel Safety Advice From Lewis Complete Auto RepairOctober 18, 2013

Today at Lewis Complete Auto Repair we want to talk with you about a very important safety issue. This automotive safety warning is coming from a very unusual source: fire fighting experts. You’ve probably heard of E-85 gasoline being offered in the Rowlett area. Some newer vehicle models are specifically built to run on E-85 – the rest are not.

Does your vehicle use E-85 gasoline? Bring it down to Lewis Complete Auto Repair at 5110 Grisham Dr. in Rowlett, TX 75088 to find out, or give us a call to make an appointment by calling 972.475.4800.

E-85 gasoline has been developed to fight air pollution and reduce oil consumption. E-85 fuel is a mix of 85% ethanol, a grain-base alcohol, and 15% gasoline. So-called Flex-Fuel vehicles are designed to use either normal gasoline or E-85 gas. The result is lower harmful exhaust emissions to our local Rowlett community.

All gas engines can run with up to 10% ethanol and in fact a lot of gasoline sold in the Rowlett TX area does contain some ethanol. The problem comes when well meaning people without Flex Fuel certified vehicles put E-85 into the tank.

At a 15% concentration, the potential for problems arises. Because of the chemical differences between ethanol and gasoline, special seals and gaskets are needed for Flex Fuel vehicles in Rowlett TX. In a normal engine, the ethanol in E-85 gas will eat away important seals and gaskets. This leads to gas and oil leaks.

You can imagine the fire hazard caused by leaking gasoline. Fire fighting experts caution consumers to only use E-85 if they know they vehicle is certified to handle it. They expect vehicle fires to increase because of using the wrong fuel in non-Flex Fuel vehicles.

So are people who don’t have a Flex Fuel vehicle but use E-85 to help the environment actually putting themselves at risk? Yes. In fact, service and repair centers in Rowlett TX are being warned to purchase fire extinguishers that use the special foam needed to extinguish ethanol fires as a precaution in case starting-up an ethanol damaged engine leads to a fire.

Obviously, this isn’t something you want to have in your Rowlett TX garage at home, either. If you have a Flex-Fuel certified vehicle, feel free to protect the environment by using E-85 gasoline. If not – please do not use E-85 in an engine that’s designed to run on unleaded gasoline only. At Lewis Complete Auto Repair we are concerned about your safety. If you have questions or want to find out how to determine if your vehicle can safely use E-85, go to www.e85fuel.com for more resources.

Take a look at our attached auto safety tips video from Auto Tips Videos.

Timing Belt Replacement in RowlettOctober 8, 2013

Today we want to talk about timing belts. They’re something that many Rowlett drivers don’t know much about and yet your vehicle won’t run if it’s broken – and it could cause many thousands of dollars damage if it does break. A broken timing belt is usually a tale of woe. Even though timing belt replacement is scheduled in the owner’s manual, it’s not the kind of thing that most Rowlett car owners remember because it’s not well understood.

Let’s review what a timing belt does. As you know, the engine’s power is generated in the cylinders. A piston rides up and down in the cylinder. During the first down stroke, an intake valve at the top of the cylinder opens and air and fuel is drawn into the cylinder. Then the piston returns to the top, compressing the fuel and air mix. At the top, the spark plug fires, igniting the fuel pushing the piston down in the power stroke. As the piston once again returns up in the final stroke of the cycle, an exhaust valve opens at the top of the cylinder and the exhaust is pushed out. The timing belt is what coordinates the opening and closing of the intake and exhaust valves. It’s called a timing belt because the valves have to open and close at just the right time.

Now, not all Rockwall and Garland vehicles have timing belts. Some have timing chains. Like the name implies, they use a chain rather than a belt to perform the function. It used to be that most engines used timing chains, which are extremely durable. Manufacturers started using belts rather than chains to save money in the manufacturing process. So now we’re left with a component that can break. They sort of shifted the problem to us. There are two broad categories of engine design: interference and non-interference. If the timing belt on a non-interference engine breaks, the engine simply stops running. That could be very dangerous depending on where you are at the time, but it causes no internal engine damage.

Interference engines, on the other hand, will get real messed up when the timing belt breaks, because the valves will actually fall down into the path of the pistons. Things get chewed up when that happens and it’ll cost thousands to repair the engine.

So, what are the warning signs? Unfortunately, there really aren’t any. There aren’t tell-tale sounds. In some vehicles, a technician from Lewis Complete Auto Repair may be able to see part of the belt for a visual inspection, but many have a cover that’s in the way. The reality is that if the belt slips even one notch, it might as well be broken for all the damage it’ll cause. There’s no middle ground.

So how can we avoid these problems? Simply replace the timing belt when your owner’s manual calls for it. It can be 60,000 miles; it might be 90,000 or 100,000 miles. The point is, if you have 60,000 or more miles, ask your Lewis Complete Auto Repair service advisor right away if your manufacturer requires a timing belt replacement.

Contact Lewis Complete Auto Repair to learn more about your car’s Timing Belt
You can find us at:
5110 Grisham Dr.
Rowlett, TX 75088
Or call us at 972.475.4800

Sometimes you can go quite a while without a failure, but we’ve seen them happen within a couple of oil changes of being due. It’s not worth the risk.

What does it cost to replace a timing belt in Garland or Sachse? Well, that really depends on what kind of car you have. I can tell you that it’s usually not very easy to get to the timing belt – you often have to remove some accessories to get at it. It isn’t a cheap procedure, but it’s a fraction of what it could cost to repair the damage caused by a failure.

At Lewis Complete Auto Repair we’re all about trying to prevent costly repairs, keeping you and your passengers safe and increasing your driving enjoyment. Thanks to AutoNetTV for their great auto video tips.

Air Conditioning Maintenance At Lewis Complete Auto Repair In RowlettOctober 4, 2013

Warm weather or cold, Rowlett drivers still need to think about their truck’s air conditioning. Most Rowlett people don’t service their air conditioning until after it fails. At Lewis Complete Auto Repair, we can advise you on your vehicle manufacturer’s preventive maintenance schedules for air conditioning service, just as we do for transmission service, oil changes and so on.

air conditioningMaintaining your air conditioning system means that you always have enough refrigerant to properly do the job. Small leaks in the truck’s air conditioning system allow the refrigerant to escape and the system can’t cool the air as well. We see that a lot at Lewis Complete Auto Repair in Rowlett.

The refrigerant also contains a special oil that lubricates air conditioning components, and keeps the seals resilient. Low refrigerant and lubricating oil means that the air conditioning parts will wear out prematurely, and all Rowlett car owners know that air conditioning repairs can be costly. At Lewis Complete Auto Repair, we recommended that the air conditioner be run regularly, even during winter months, to keep the parts and seals lubricated.

Corrosion is what leads to many air conditioning system failures for Rowlett motorists. The small leaks mentioned earlier also mean that air and water can leak into the air conditioning system. This can lead to rust and dirt in the internal workings of the air conditioning components. This greatly accelerates wear and, ultimately, failure.

Air conditioning service at Lewis Complete Auto Repair starts with a visual inspection of the components for signs of damage or leaks. The compressor is driven by a belt from the engine, most often the serpentine belt, so it’s inspected for cracks or wear. The air conditioning compressor and other components are checked for proper operation. Then comes the leak test. If a leak is detected, often in a hose or connection, it’s repaired and the system is retested.

Then the old refrigerant is evacuated and the system is recharged with clean, fresh refrigerant. A final test insures that the truck’s air conditioner is working, and you’re on your way.

How often this should be done varies from vehicle to vehicle. Your truck owner’s manual will have the manufacturer’s recommendation and, of course, your Lewis Complete Auto Repair service advisor can tell you. It’s typically every two years.

If you’re not getting enough cool air you know something’s wrong. Also, if you hear strange sounds when you turn the air on, there might be a problem with the compressor and you should get it checked out at Lewis Complete Auto Repair. Replacing a bad A/C clutch in a truck is cheaper than waiting for it to ruin the compressor.

Rowlett drivers need to be aware that there’s one more thing that isn’t directly related to air conditioning service, but does impact the quality of the air in your truck. And that’s your cabin air filter. This filter cleans dust, pollen, pollution and other impurities in the air that comes from the heater and air conditioner. The cabin air filter needs to be replaced when it’s dirty. If you don’t it’ll start to smell. Not all vehicles have one, so ask your Lewis Complete Auto Repair service advisor to check your cabin air filter at the same time they’re doing your air conditioning service.

Smooth Shifting in Rowlett TX: Transmission ServiceSeptember 26, 2013

So you have some exciting plans for the TX weekend. You’re going to take some of your Rowlett, TX friends out on the boat for some water skiing. Of course, you’ve gotten the boat all ready. And you haven’t forgotten about your tow vehicle. You’ve gassed it up and even vacuumed it out. However, there is something even more important than the cleanliness of the interior: you want to make sure that your truck maintenance is up to date.

Think about it – heavy expressway traffic on the way out of Rowlett. There’s hilly terrain as you get to the lake. Some dirt roads – and it’s going to be pretty hot in Rowlett this weekend. And all the time you’ll be towing around several thousand extra pounds. That all adds up a lot of severe strain on your engine, brakes and transmission.

Let’s just consider the transmission. It’s going to be working overtime, spending more time in lower gears. The internal transmission temperature is going to be much higher than normal. A fun little blast to the local TX lake for you is really severe duty for your transmission.

It’s critical to have enough transmission fluid. If it runs low, the transmission will run hotter and won’t have the protection it needs to cope with the added stress of towing. Transmission fluid breaks down and gets dirty over time. Whether you have an automatic or manual transmission, it’s critical for Rowlett motorists to have it serviced by automotive professionals like the team at Lewis Complete Auto Repair  to make sure it runs efficiently.

An automatic transmission contains a maze of passages through which the fluid must pass to keep it shifting smoothly. If you neglect regularly scheduled transmission service, the passages can get clogged up and you start to have problems.

Rowlett motorists who neglect their transmission for too long will eventually experience transmission failure. You really don’t want to pay for a major transmission repair.

This reminds us of how much of our driving around Rowlett, TX is under severe conditions. Towing or hauling a big load is obvious, but there are lots of other things that constitute severe driving conditions. Things like short trips, driving in very hot or very cold weather. Dusty roads and city driving around Rowlett, TX add to the strain. Basically, any driving that’s not at highway speeds or under ideal conditions.

While you have your vehicle in, ask for a trip inspection. Your service advisor at Lewis Complete Auto Repair will check your belts and hoses and let you know if your brakes are in good shape.

Now, don’t forget the sunscreen.

Keys to a Long Lasting VehicleSeptember 20, 2013

We’re living in a disposable society. Everything from elaborate packaging to our clothing. Even cell phones are disposable. When replacement is cheaper than repair, the term “built to last” goes by the wayside. An exception is our vehicles. They’re still a very big investment and we want to make them last as long as possible – and we want to make keeping them as cheap as possible. When talking cars, it’s all about preventive maintenance. There is an old saying that says, “a stitch in time saves nine” and that is really true when it comes to taking care of your car. A great example is coolant service.

Your coolant not only protects your engine from overheating and freezing – it must also protect cooling system components from corrosion. Over time, coolant becomes corrosive and actually starts to damage your radiator and other parts. That’s why you need to have your cooling system serviced on a regular schedule.

The same is true for your power steering system, brake fluid, air conditioning system, differential and transmission. And of course, don’t forget those oil changes right on schedule. Skipping even one change can start the build up of harmful oil sludge.

Our engines are full of gaskets and seals. Fresh fluids condition those gaskets and seals to keep them from drying out and leaking. Automotive fluids contain additives that help clean and lubricate the various systems they protect. Over time, the additives are used up and the fluid just does not provide the protection it did when it was fresh. And don’t forget the mechanical systems. Changing brake pads before they are worn to the point that they cause damage to rotors is a great way to keep your operating costs down.

Replacing serpentine belts and timing belts on schedule is much cheaper than repairing the damage that can be caused by failure. Also, air filters, fuel filters, PCV valves and batteries are all important. Regular wheel alignments, tire rotation and balancing will make your tires last longer. And don’t forget to replace your shocks and struts when they wear out. Your fuel system needs regular cleaning to keep running well, prevent mechanical damage and reduce fuel consumption.

Now this is a lot to remember – too much really. But it is your Rowlett automotive technician’s job to keep on top of this stuff. At Lewis Complete Auto Repair we can tell you what your manufacturer recommends and help you with a plan to take care of it. We can advise you about which maintenance schedule you should use – the regular schedule or the severe service schedule – depending on the kind of driving you do. We also know the right fluids for your vehicle and may even suggest higher mileage formulations for your older vehicle.

Bottom line – take care of this stuff on schedule and you will reduce operating costs, prevent costly damage and maintain your warranty coverage.

Of course, you want your car to look as good as it runs. Regular washing will prevent rust and protect your finish. Take advantage of cleaners, waxes and protectants for your interior and tires. Your vehicle will look great and you’ll be proud to drive it longer.

Most of us can’t afford to throw away our car when it breaks down. By budgeting for regular preventive maintenance, we can prevent many inconvenient – and expensive – problems down the road, and can keep driving “old faithful” for years to come.