Diagnosing Your Vehicle at Lewis Complete Auto Repair in RowlettDecember 10, 2017

When we Rowlett residents get a car repair bill, we really shouldn’t be surprised to find “diagnostic fees” as one of the line items. When we get a computer fixed, there is usually a charge for the time it takes to diagnose the problem. When we go to a medical doctor, most of his fee is for his ability to diagnose what’s wrong. It’s no different with our vehicles.

Some diagnoses are fairly simple. Brake repairs at Lewis Complete Auto Repair usually require only a visual inspection, for instance. But other problems are much more difficult to diagnose. An intermittent engine problem, for example, takes time and expertise to pinpoint.

Modern vehicles have multiple computers that monitor a variety of sensors throughout the vehicle. When one of those sensors has a reading that is higher or lower than the standard parameters, the computer turns on the Check Engine light. Technicians at a service center such as Lewis Complete Auto Repair in Rowlett can scan the engine’s computer for a trouble code. This code tells the technician which reading is too high or too low.

That’s where some Rowlett residents get confused. They think that this reading concludes the diagnosis, and they don’t understand why the diagnostic fee is as much as it is when all the technician did was to scan the computer. But the truth is the trouble code is only the beginning of the diagnostic procedure.

Remember, the trouble code only tells which reading is out of parameter. It doesn’t say what is causing the reading to be too high or too low. Your Lewis Complete Auto Repair service technician still has to find the underlying problem. It’s a lot like going to the doctor. He can take your temperature and discover that you have a fever, but that doesn’t tell him what is causing your fever.

Automotive diagnostic technology can cut down the time it takes to figure out what’s wrong with a vehicle that isn’t running right. But it doesn’t do away with the need for your friendly and knowledgeable Lewis Complete Auto Repair service technician to make a proper diagnosis. Car care, like medical care, still requires the human touch.

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

The Maintenance Free MythDecember 4, 2017

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Sometimes we hear people in Rowlett say, “What’s up with all this maintenance stuff? Modern cars just don’t break down.” While it is true that today’s vehicles are extremely reliable, they are also becoming increasingly complicated and use more exotic materials than ever before. All that complexity demands higher tolerances for everything. For example, most Rowlett drivers don’t realize how high tech automotive fluids have become,  fluids such as engine oil, transmission fluid, coolant and brake fluid.

Did you know that a modern engine would not run for more than a few months using motor oil formulas from 30 years ago? Today’s automotive fluids contain a much higher percentage of additives to protect your vehicle’s components from premature wear and corrosion. Time and distances march on for all of our cars. Please don’t think we’re using scare tactics to get you to take care of your maintenance – but here are some personal stories we’ve heard to emphasize and show how important it is to get things done when they are due. Names are withheld to avoid embarrassment to those who should know better. Even though they should know better, it usually comes down to real life: time and money. But they are tales of a stitch in time saves nine.

The first comes from someone who bought a used pick-up truck for his son. The oil was clean and all the fluids were topped off. A short time later, the truck overheated on a highway in TX and shut down. The repair shop diagnosed the problem: the radiator pan was corroded and dumped the coolant. Even though the coolant level was correct, it was clear that the coolant had never been completely replaced – just topped off from time to time. While this kept the engine cool, all of the anti-corrosion additives had worn out; the coolant became acidic and ate through the radiator pan. The cost: hundreds of dollars and four days in the shop. This demonstrates the need to get your coolant exchanged on schedule.

Another story involves the true cost of skipping an annual inspection. This guy took his SUV in for the TX safety inspection to renew his registration. At the Rowlett inspection station, he learned that the law had changed and that his newer rig only required an inspection every two years. He was very happy to save the money. The problem was, his rear brake pads were very worn. Two months later, it was bad enough that he could hear the grind – over the radio, DVD player and the kids. He took it in to get the bad news. Both of the rear brake rotors were damaged. The left one could be resurfaced. The right had to be replaced. So saving a little on his safety inspection turned into an extra $500 over what brake pad replacement would have been. Moral of the story for Rowlett drivers: don’t skip your annual inspections. The irony is that many Rowlett service centers would have done a brake inspection for free.

Next: a teenage daughter and a curb. Daddy’s little princess smacked a curb when she turned into a shopping center and popped the tire. The problem came when Dad didn’t get an alignment. The impact was hard enough to ruin the tire – so it was enough wreck the alignment. But instead of an alignment after the first tire, Papa ended up buying a second tire a few months later – and then an alignment.

Situation: son and wife with cars from the same vehicle manufacturer with essentially the same engine. Our staffer checked the son’s maintenance schedule and saw that it needed a timing belt replacement at 90,000 miles/145,000 km. He had it done – it cost several hundred dollars. His wife’s car had about 60,000 miles/97,000 km, so it should be ok for a while. Right? Wrong. The problem was that the wife had the turbo charged version. Its belt was scheduled for replacement at 60,000 mi/97,000 km. At 63,000 mi./101,000 km, the belt snapped on the interstate. The valves all crashed down into the cylinders at high speed, the entire head was shredded and it had to be replaced. The cost: several thousand dollars. Does he wish he had checked the vehicle manufacturer’s maintenance schedule? You bet he does – every time he passes a big-screen TV.

The team at Lewis Complete Auto Repair in Rowlett recommends taking care of little things before they become big things. And when you take care of the little things, you can make your car run better.  Plus, it is more economical to operate in TX. Remember to save those maintenance records. It’ll show potential buyers that you’ve taken care of your vehicle and it will help you get a better price. Or when you buy a used car, check those records. If there aren’t any, assume that the maintenance hasn’t been done and take it to Lewis Complete Auto Repair in Rowlett for an inspection. Take care of unperformed routine maintenance sooner rather than later.

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

Improve Fuel Economy with Proper Maintenance at Lewis Complete Auto Repair in RowlettNovember 28, 2017

With Rowlett gas prices being what they are, many of us in TX are driving less and looking into purchasing smaller or more efficient vehicles. Rowlett area residents who have to drive a lot, have large families or need four-wheel drive are particularly hard hit by the cost of fuel in TX. But there are things all Rowlett drivers can do to save fuel: We can improve our driving habits and stay on top of preventive maintenance at Lewis Complete Auto Repair. These things make small savings possible, but they can really add up.

Let’s start with driving habits. One major gas-eater is jackrabbit starts. A smooth, gradual acceleration uses a lot less fuel. It’s also easier on your engine and drivetrain, so you’ll prolong their lives as well.

If you drive with one foot on the brake, stop. That creates drag, increasing fuel usage and reducing the useful life of your brakes.

Slowing down can really add up on gas savings over time for Rowlett drivers. Driving five to ten miles over the speed limit can use up 10 to 15% more gas. The time savings is only a few minutes per hour, so the cost per minute can be rather steep.

A little extra planning can save fuel for vehicle owners  in Rowlett as well. Leave a little early so you have time to slow down and still arrive on time. Also, plan errands ahead of time and group them as much as possible. Driving shorter distances is a great way to save fuel.

Using your cruise control where safe can save on fuel. Check your owner’s manual for guidelines on when cruise control is recommended and when it isn’t.

Clean out your trunk. Every ounce in your vehicle translates to a bit more fuel required to drive around Rowlett.

Many Rowlett residents let their car warm up during the winter – a major fuel drain. Your engine doesn’t benefit; modern engines don’t require a warm up to get up and running, although it’s best to take it easy on them for the first few miles.

Now that we’ve gone over a few tips for improving driving habits, let’s talk about the maintenance of our vehicle. Good car care at Lewis Complete Auto Repair in Rowlett actually pays for itself in fuel savings.

First, if your gas cap is leaking or worn, get a new one.

Second, keep your engine clean. Clogged fuel filters, dirty fuel injectors and plugged PCV valves all cost you in loss of fuel. Replacing them or cleaning them will both improve fuel economy and increase the power you’re getting from your engine.

Third, don’t ignore your Check Engine light. Problems that cause that light to come on usually affect your fuel efficiency.

Fourth, check your ‘s owner’s manual for service that should be regularly performed on your vehicle, and follow the schedule. Or talk to your friendly service advisor at Lewis Complete Auto Repair . Oil changes, transmission checks and cooling system service all improve fuel economy if they’re done when needed. Low fluids and dirty fluids also create conditions in your vehicle that require more fuel. So routine maintenance is a must to maintain fuel economy and save cash.

Last, keep your tires inflated. Underinflated tires increase your vehicle’s friction with the roadway, which increases the energy it takes to move. Keeping your tires properly inflated is great for saving gas as you drive around Rowlett.

So if the cost of gas in Rowlett has got you searching the sofa for extra pennies, you might want to start making a few changes in your driving habits and getting your vehicle the service it needs at Lewis Complete Auto Repair in Rowlett.

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

Serpentine Belt Service at Lewis Complete Auto RepairNovember 22, 2017

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Most Rowlett folks occasionally have days when they’ve got a bunch of errands to run. Yesterday was my day off and I needed to fill the gas tank, pick up some groceries at my Rowlett market, swing by the ATM and get the kids from school. I could have made four trips . . . but that would have been totally inefficient. Instead I got unusually organized and planned my stops. I hit the ATM first and got gas next. Then I went to the supermarket and picked up the kids on the way home. I was proud of my wise use of time and money.

What does this have to do with your car? Well, back in the day, each of your engine’s accessories, like the alternator and air conditioner, were powered by separate belts. A vehicle might have five or six belts. These days, vehicles have a single belt to run all the accessories. It’s called the serpentine belt. A pulley attached to the vehicle engine’s crank provides the power to turn the serpentine belt. On the engine in the video, the first accessory in line is the power steering pump, which makes it easier to steer your vehicle.

Next comes the alternator which powers the vehicle’s electrical system and charges the battery. Then the air conditioning compressor. This helps make cold air to keep you comfortable all summer long in Rowlett. Finally, we come to the belt tensioner. Its job is to apply pressure on the belt to keep it tight. Then, back home to the crank.

This is a pretty typical setup, but it can vary somewhat. In some vehicles the water pump or radiator fan or the power brakes are also run by the serpentine belt. Some even have two serpentine belts. No matter how your engine is laid out, you’re not going far without a serpentine belt. Your vehicle manufacturer has a recommended interval for replacing your belt and your Lewis Complete Auto Repair service technician can inspect it for damage or wear.

Several years ago, manufacturers started making serpentine belts out of a new material. It’s much more durable, but it’s harder to tell when the belt needs to be replaced. The old style belts would crack and chunks would fall off so you could easily see when you needed a new one.

On the new style belts, if the ribs wear too deep, it’s time to replace. Your Lewis Complete Auto Repair technician uses a simple gauge to tell when the belt is worn.

A worn belt stresses your vehicle engine’s expensive accessories and causes them to wear prematurely. So, change your serpentine belt and belt tensioner according to your manufacturer’s recommendations to extend the life of your accessories and to prevent future breakdowns.

Give us a call.

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

Training Received by Technicians in Rowlett, TXNovember 13, 2017

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When your vehicle breaks down in the Rowlett, TX, area, or just needs some routine service, it can make you a little nervous. Because your vehicle’s so important to your life, you need to be back on the road as soon as possible — with the problem fixed right the first time.

We’ve been checking into some of the training our Rowlett, TX, technicians receive, and we’re very impressed. It’s amazing how much knowledge and skill goes into diagnosing and repairing a modern vehicle. So it’s not like when your uncle worked on his hot rod over the weekend.

Today there are four-cylinder engines around Rowlett that make more power than the V-8’s in luxury cars did 20 years ago. A new V-6 Toyota Camry could beat Sonny Crocket’s Ferrari in a race to 60 mph/97 kph.

Our engines are more and more powerful. And they’re so reliable. This is all due to engineering. But the benefits come to Rowlett drivers at the price of simplicity. Modern cars are so much more complex from a mechanical standpoint that it makes your head spin.

Then there are the electronics. Some vehicles on TX roads have several networked computers controlling most of the engine functions and many other vehicle functions as well. Rowlett drivers take all of this sophistication for granted – but somebody has to fix it when it breaks.

It’s a real challenge for the pros at Lewis Complete Auto Repair and other Rowlett auto service centers to keep up. It requires a high level of commitment on the part of the auto technician and the service center. In addition to the training, there’s the financial commitment to purchase the diagnostic and repair tools as well.

So where do Rowlett technicians go for training? There are many sources. It’s usually a combination of formal classroom training, training provided in the service center by auto parts and equipment manufacturers, online courses and home study courses. There are many independent certifications available all the way up to Master Technician.

Service centers in Rowlett, TX, have a lot of other resources available.  No one can know everything, so service centers like Lewis Complete Auto Repair subscribe to data services, technical libraries and even online communities that can help them when they run into a difficult problem.

It’s like those medical diagnosis shows on TV. Here are the symptoms. What’s the diagnosis and treatment? Diagnosis is every bit as much an art as a science. Rowlett drivers want everything to be simple, straightforward and cheap – and sometimes it just isn’t.

So, be more relaxed next time you take your vehicle in. You can trust the professionals at Lewis Complete Auto Repair. You’re in good hands. The more you know, the more comfortable you can be with your automotive service decisions at Lewis Complete Auto Repair. 

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