Winter TiresOctober 23, 2012

What type of technology do you use? Do you prefer an 8-track tape or an iPod? When it comes to winter tires, much of the public’s perception dates back to when 8-track was the best way to listen to the Bee Gees.

Twenty years ago, winter tires differed from highway tires only in their tread design. We called them snow tires back then and they had big, knobby lugs that were designed to give good traction in deep snow. They had the same rubber compound as regular tires and they weren’t very good on ice, packed snow or wet roads. They were not even very good on dry roads. They really helped in deep or loose snow, but they did a poor job the rest of the time. They were loud and rode hard. You couldn’t wait to get them off in the spring.

Then all-season tires started to come along. All-season tires are really a compromise between summer and winter performance. They have acceptable hot weather ride and tread life, and you can get through mild winter road conditions OK. But there are some really good reasons to consider winter tires.

Modern winter tires do a terrific job in a wide range of winter conditions. First of all, below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, regular tires become hard and inflexible. That means they don’t provide the road grip you need. Even if you don’t live somewhere with a lot of snow, but it still gets below 45 degrees in the winter, you will be safer with winter tires.

In addition, they are specifically designed to more effectively move snow and water. That’s the key to traction on ice, packed snow and wet roads. They use a micro-pore compound that allows the tire to bite into ice and snow. They also use wider grooves that run around the circumference of the tread to expel snow from the tire better. The lugs and grooves on winter tires have a special shape that throws the packed snow out of the tread as the tire turns. The tread is then open when it comes back in contact with the road and can provide good traction.

Winter tires also have a lot of sipes. Sipes are thin slits in the tread. The edge of the sipes grab ice and packed snow to provide tons of traction and to expel water and slush out of the tread. winter tires have a rounder casing to cut into the snow’s surface. The treads on regular summer tires can actually get packed with snow instead and become very slick. winter tires offer 25% to 50% more traction than all-season tires. And when it comes to stopping power, all-season tires take 42% longer to stop than winter tires. Sometimes that’s the difference between getting home safely and spending the night in a snow bank.

Now back when the 8-track was king, you just put snow tires on the drive wheels. That worked out OK because the rubber compound was essentially the same. Now, winter tires provide so much more traction than all-season or summer tires, that there’s a huge difference between the traction at the front and rear ends of the car if you only put winter tires on the drive wheels.

For example: if you take a corner on an icy road and the rear end starts to slide out, essentially the rear is trying to pass the front because it’s going faster. If you have high traction winter tires only on the front, they are going to be much more effective at transferring cornering grip and stopping power to the front wheels. This will actually cause the rear end to whip out even more.

That’s why tire manufactures instruct their dealers that they must install winter tires on the rear wheels as well whenever they put winter tires on the front end of any vehicle. It’s a major safety concern. It’s strongly recommended that winter tires be installed on all four wheels on rear wheel drive vehicles as well. The front tires do most of the steering and braking work – it only makes sense that you provide the front end with the best traction you can.

People often assume that if they have four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive they don’t need winter tires on all four wheels. Would you intentionally disconnect the four-wheel drive in poor road conditions? Of course you wouldn’t, but that’s essentially what you do if you only put winter tires on one end. It only makes sense to have the same level of traction and control at all four corners.

The province of Quebec in Canada has issued a law requiring all passenger vehicles, taxis and rental cars with Quebec license plates to install a full set of four winter tires between November 15th and April 1. It’s that important.

Many modern cars have traction control and anti-lock brakes so people may think that they don’t need winter tires. But you need traction to accelerate, steer and stop. The tires provide the traction so that the traction control and anti-lock brakes have something to work with.

Look for tires with the symbol of a mountain with a snowflake in it. This means the tire complies with the severe snow standard. All-season tires will have an M&S, for mud and snow, on the sidewall.

So when the temperatures drop below 45 degrees, be sure you have a set of four winter tires for maximum performance in snow, packed snow, ice, wet and dry roads. Your tire professional can help you find the right winter tire for your vehicle and driving needs.

Fuel InjectorsOctober 23, 2012

The last new car sold with a carburetor in North America rolled out of the dealership in 1990. Since then, all new vehicles have had fuel injectors. In very simple terms, a fuel injector is a valve that squirts fuel into your engine. Your engine control computer tells the fuel injector how much gas to deliver as well as the precise time it should be delivered. Of course this happens thousands of times a minute. Fuel injection is a much more precise way of delivering fuel than carburetors. That translates into better fuel economy and power. Virtually all fuel injectors for gas engines are known as port fuel injectors because they deliver the fuel to a port just outside the cylinder. Port fuel injectors operate at about 40 to 80 pounds per square inch of pressure.

A few auto makers have introduced gas direct injection systems on some engines recently. These systems inject the gas directly into the cylinders under very high pressure – hundreds of times the pressure of port injection systems. Although more complicated, direct injection technology promises greater power with improved fuel economy, so we can expect to see more of it in the future.

As you can see, the level of precision required of your fuel injectors is very high. They need to be operating properly in order for your car to run right.

High temperatures under your hood and variations in gas quality cause fuel injectors to become fouled with wax, dirt, and carbon. Injectors can become partially clogged, preventing them from delivering the proper amount of fuel at the correct pressure. The design of each engine requires a specific spray pattern from the fuel injector that might be altered when the injector is dirty. When injectors are dirty, the fuel doesn’t burn as efficiently resulting in poor fuel economy and loss of power. So it is important to keep your fuel injectors clean.

Skilled service technicians at Lewis Complete Auto Repair in Rowlett can perform a fuel system service for you. (Visit contact-us.) That is a fuel system service – not just fuel injector cleaning. That is because the fuel has a lot of ways to become dirty or contaminated between the gas tank and the fuel injector. A fuel system service starts with a fuel filter replacement. This filter cleans the gas as it leaves the tank. The various parts of the fuel intake system need to be cleaned from time to time to remove harmful gum, deposits and varnish. Finally, the fuel injectors are cleaned so that they operate properly and deliver the right amount of fuel at the right time.

Your Sachse area service center uses a process for cleaning your fuel system that includes state-of-the-art cleaning chemicals as well as some old fashioned scrubbing. Proper maintenance of your fuel system means that you will spend less on gas, enjoy strong performance and prevent costly repairs down the road.

Trip InspectionOctober 23, 2012

North Americans love their cars. And nothing goes with cars better than the road trip. Freedom from daily schedules, new sights and the open road – it’s great! But there’s nothing like car trouble to bring the fun to a grinding halt.

Now you can’t always avoid problems, but you can take steps to reduce the probability of getting sidelined on your trip. The first step is to look at your trip plan from your vehicle’s perspective. What kind of roads will you be traveling – winding byways or super-highways? Mountains or plains? What weather conditions are you likely to encounter? How many miles will you travel? How much weight will you be hauling – passengers and luggage? Lugging a trailer or roof top carrier? Will it be dusty?

Armed with the answers to these questions, you can start a trip inspection to help you prepare your Rowlett vehicle for your big adventure. A lot of our Rowlett customers prefer to go through this exercise with an automotive service advisor at Lewis Complete Auto Repair to get their input and make sure they haven’t left anything out.

A great place to start is with the tires. Inspect them for tread wear and proper inflation. Is it time to rotate your tires? Replace them? Are they up to the job – you wouldn’t want to drive regular highway tires on a muddy off-road adventure.

Shocks and struts play a major role in both driving comfort and safety. If they need to be replaced, you’ll really be glad you did once you hit the road. Is it time for a wheel alignment? Fighting a car that’s pulling to one side all day can be tiring and dangerous.

And don’t forget your brakes. Any strange noises, grabbing, soft or hard peddle feel? If there is any doubt, get a brake inspection before you leave.

Moving under the hood, have your belts and hoses inspected. If something is excessively worn or near failure, the stress of a long road trip might just be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Your engine air filter will be important. For every gallon of gas you burn, your car will filter and use 12,000 gallons of air. If the filter needs to be changed, you’ll notice the fuel savings on your trip.

How close are you to your next oil change? Will you be able to complete your trip before it’s due? If not, just get it taken care of before you go so that you don’t need to interrupt your trip. In fact, a full service oil change is a great idea because they will top off all your fluids and check to see if any other maintenance items are due, such as transmission or cooling system service.

Do you notice any unusual odors in your vehicle? If so, it could as harmless as a dirty cabin air filter. But if it’s an exhaust leak it could be fatal on a long trip. Of course you’ll want to be comfortable, so get an air conditioning service if you aren’t getting the cold air you used to.

Are you wiper blades still working well? If not, that is quick and inexpensive to fix. Headlamps are often overlooked when planning for a trip. If you haven’t changed the bulb in six months or so, replacement bulbs will really light up the night on your trip.

All the items mentioned are part of any good vehicle maintenance plan. These are things that you want to take care of anyway, but they all come into focus as you plan for your trip.

They will always save you money in the long run and may prevent inconvenient delays on your trip. After all, you wouldn’t want to miss the world’s largest ball of string, would you?

Differential ServiceOctober 23, 2012

Here at AutoNetTV, we have viewers, like you, from all across the country who write to us with questions or feedback. One common question we’re asked is: What is a differential and what does it do? You may have been told your differential needs service, or seen it as an option up on the service menu. Differential service covers a lot of things, so let’s first talk about what a differential does.

As you drive through a turn, your outside wheels and inside wheels turn at different speeds. Kind of like the cars going around a race track – the ones driving in the outside lanes have a greater distance to travel than the cars in the inside lanes. The differential is what allows the outside and inside drive wheels to rotate at slightly different speeds so that the tires don’t hop or skip while taking corners, or lose traction in dirt or snow. Differentials have gears in them that transfer the power from the drive train to your wheels – which is why they’re often referred to as gear boxes. The gears need to be very strong to do this work, and they need to be properly protected so that they’ll last.

All vehicles have some form of differential. If you have a front-wheel drive car, your differential is often called a transaxle and is located in the front. If you have rear-wheel drive, the differential is in the back of the car. If you have a four-wheel drive vehicle, you will have a differential in the front and the back – and in the middle as well. The center differential adjusts for differences in speed between the front and rear wheels.

Differential fluid lubricates and cools the gears. Over time, the fluid can get dirty from bits of the gears grinding off. The additives that keep the fluid clean and protect the differential break down over time. So your vehicle manufacturer has scheduled intervals for you to have your differential fluid changed.

Differentials are hard working mechanisms, and, along with the gears in a manual transmission, need to be serviced regularly with high-quality, replacement fluid. Your Rowlett automotive service advisor can give you more information as to when your next differential service is recommended. You can also ask if they have a record of when the service was last completed.

As with most service intervals, if you are driving under more severe conditions, you will want to service your differential more frequently. “Severe service” conditions are defined in most owners’ manuals, and include: frequent starts and stops, short trips, cold weather, hot weather and towing. All these conditions add to the stress of the vehicle and its parts. Also, off-roading in TX can be especially hard on differentials, especially if you cross streams. Proper service will extend the life of your gears and keep them running more smoothly. If you have never had your differential checked, visit contact-us for more information.

Exhaust ServiceOctober 23, 2012

Whenever we talk about exhaust service, most people normally think about exhaust pipes and mufflers. Well, actually, exhaust service is a lot more comprehensive these days. For example, catalytic converters were mandated in 1976 and on-board emission control computers in 1990. Governmental emissions requirements have forced manufacturers to come up with much more sophisticated ways to comply with environmental regulations.

Exhaust service has really become exhaust and emissions service. High-tech computer controlled emissions devices are now a big part of exhaust service. Because it is so sophisticated, your vehicle manufacturer recommends you have your emission system checked out by a qualified Rowlett exhaust technician regularly to make sure everything is working right – usually every 6 months or 10,000 miles/16,000 kilometers.

If your Check Engine light comes on, especially if it’s flashing, get your car looked at right away. Technicians at Lewis Complete Auto Repair handle emission problems everyday. You might have exhaust or emissions trouble if your car is difficult to start, runs rough, is noisy or smoking. Call Lewis Complete Auto Repair at 972.475.4800 to schedule an appointment if you experience these problems.

Let’s review the exhaust system. We will start from the top and start with the exhaust manifold. That is the part that attaches to the engine and collects the exhaust from the cylinders and directs it into the exhaust pipe. Exhaust gaskets help seal the connection with the manifold and various other joints along the way. If the manifold is cracked or loose, or a gasket is leaking, dangerous gases could escape into the passenger compartment, where you ride. Carbon monoxide can be deadly, so it is important that your exhaust system doesn’t leak. The exhaust pipes connect the various components. They can rust or be damaged by a rock, so they need to be inspected periodically.

Next is the catalytic converter. This part looks like a muffler. It changes chemicals that are dangerous to your health and the environment into harmless carbon dioxide and water. It doesn’t require any maintenance itself. But eventually they wear out. You will find this out when your car fails an emissions inspection.

Now the muffler. Its main job is to quiet engine noises. Mufflers work by either absorbing or baffling sound. And you can actually customize your car’s sound with different mufflers – anything from whisper quiet to bad-boy rumbley. Rusted or road-damaged mufflers can leak and need to be replaced right away.

The exhaust system is attached to the car by a series of hangers and clamps. These fasteners hold the system in place. When hangers come loose or break, hot exhaust components can touch and melt wires, hoses and lines.

Finally, we end at the tailpipe. This is the final outlet for the exhaust. These can be plain-Jane or pretty flashy. Also, the oxygen sensors monitor the oxygen content of the exhaust so the engine control computer can adjust the fuel-to-air mix to keep the car running right.

Exhaust and emissions service covers plain old pipes and high-tech computers. It impacts everything from life and death safety due to exhaust leaks, to fine-tuning the sound of your ride.