How Your Check Engine Light WorksAugust 16, 2013

Have you ever had an experience like this in Rowlett TX? You drive through the one of those automatic car washes. When you get to the end, where the dryer is blowing, your check engine light started flashing!

You fear the worst, but within a block or two, the light stopped flashing, but stayed on. By the next day, the light was off.

You wonder; “What was going on?” Well, it’s actually a good lesson in how the Check Engine light works.

Your air intake system has a sensor that measures how much air is coming through it. When you went under the high-speed dryer, all that air was blasting past the sensor. Your engine computer was saying, there shouldn’t be that much air when the engine is just idling. Something’s wrong. Whatever’s wrong could cause some serious engine damage.

Warning, warning! It flashes the check engine light, to alert you to take immediate action.

It stopped flashing because once you were out from under the dryer, the airflow returned to normal. Now the engine control computer says the danger is past, but I’m still concerned, I’ll keep this light on for now.

Then the Check Engine Light goes off in a day or two.

The condition never did recur, so the computer says whatever it was, it’s gone now. The danger is past, I’ll turn that light off.

Now a flashing check engine light is serious. You need to get it into our Rowlett TX shop as soon as possible. But if it stops flashing, so you have time to see if the problem will clear itself or if you need to get it checked. How does the computer know when to clear itself?

Think of it this way. The engine control computer is the brain that can make adjustments to manage the engine. Things like alter the air to fuel mix, spark advance, and so on. The computer relies on a series of sensors to get the information it needs to make decisions on what to do.

The computer knows what readings are in a normal range for various conditions. Get out of range, and it logs a trouble code and lights up the check engine warning.

The computer will then try to make adjustments if it can. If the computer can’t compensate for the problem, the check engine light stays on.

The computer logs a trouble code. Some people think the code will tell the technician exactly what’s wrong?

Actually, the code will tell the technician what sensor reading is out of parameters. It can’t really tell you why, because there could be any number of causes.

Let’s say you’re feeling hot. You get your heat sensor out – a thermometer – put it under our tongue and in a minute or two you learn that you have a fever of 104 degrees.

You know your symptom – a fever – but you don’t know what’s causing it. Is it the flu, a sinus infection or appendicitis?

You need more information than just that one sensor reading. But it does give you a place to start and narrows down the possible problems.

There are reports on the internet telling you that you can just go down to an auto parts store and get them to read your trouble code or buy a cheap scan tool to do it yourself.

There are two problems with that. First, the computer stores some trouble codes in short term memory, and some in permanent memory. Each manufacturer’s computer stores generic trouble codes, but they also store codes that are specific to their brand.

A cheap, generic scan tool, like you can buy or that the auto parts store uses, doesn’t have the ability to retrieve long-term storage or manufacturer specific codes. Your Rowlett TX service center has spent a lot of money on high-end scan tools and software to do a deep retrieval of information from your engine control computer.

The second problem is that once you’ve got the information, do you know what to do with it? For example, a very common trouble code comes up when the reading on the oxygen sensor is out of whack.

So the common solution is for the auto parts store to sell you a new oxygen sensor, which are not cheap, and send you off on your way. Now your oxygen sensor may indeed have been bad and needed replacing. But the error code could have come from any of a dozen of other problems.

How do you know the right solution? Back to the fever analogy, do you need surgery or an aspirin? Leave it to the pros at Lewis Complete Auto Repair. Give us a call at 972.475.4800 and let us help you resolve your check engine light issue.

Differential Service in Rowlett TX – What You Need To KnowAugust 7, 2013

Scratching your head? Don’t worry, if you don’t know what a differential is – you will in a moment. That fact is that if you drive a car anywhere in Rowlett, TX, you have a differential. Whether your vehicle is front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, you have a differential. You might even have two or three.

Not surprisingly, a differential’s job is to compensate for differences. Specifically the differences in wheel speed when turning. For instance, imagine taking a corner near your Rowlett, TX home. Your inside wheel has a shorter distance to travel than the outside wheel as you turn the corner. That means that your outside wheel has to turn faster to keep pace with the inside wheel.

The differential allows the wheels to turn at different speeds while still providing power to your vehicle. Without a differential, our tires would scrub and hop along the pavement during turns like the early cars.

Ever noticed the big bulge in the middle of the rear axle on trucks? That’s the differential. Rear-wheel drive vehicles have a differential in back. Most four-wheel drive trucks and SUVs will also have a similar differential on the front axle. Front-wheel drive vehicles’ differential is called a transaxle because it combines the differential and transmission in one unit. An all-wheel drive vehicle will have a differential or transfer case that adjusts for speed differences between the front and rear drive wheels.

It can seem a little complex to some Rowlett car owners – but you can see that all of the engine’s power is routed through your differentials. They’re strong enough to handle the work, but- we’ve said it before – they need to be properly lubricated in order to stay strong. So from time to time, you need to have your differential serviced at Lewis Complete Auto Repair. The used fluid is drained and replaced with clean fluid. Some vehicle manufacturers advise certain differentials to have special additives installed.

Get your differential serviced at our Rowlett automotive center:
Lewis Complete Auto Repair
5110 Grisham Dr.
Rowlett, TX 75088
972.475.4800

Recommendations for the time and mileage interval for servicing your differential, can vary greatly by vehicle. A front-wheel drive vehicle’s transaxle will need servicing more frequently than the rear differential on a pick-up truck, so check with your Rowlett, TX Lewis Complete Auto Repair technician or your vehicle manufacturers owner’s manual for recommendations.

How and where you drive in Rowlett will have an impact as well. If you drive on dirt roads or through streams around Rowlett, TX, you’ll need to service the differential much sooner than if you always stay on highways.

Get Where You’re Going With Power Steering Service In RowlettJuly 31, 2013

Today we’re going to talk about power steering service in Rowlett. If you took an informal poll around Rowlett you’d probably find that most have never heard of power steering service. That’s not surprising. Even though power steering is standard on every vehicle, most people in Rowlett aren’t aware that it needs periodic service.

If you’re younger than a certain age, you’ve probably never driven a car or truck without power steering. To get an idea of the difference; if you’ve ever cut a board with a hand saw, you know it’s a lot of work. Using a power saw is easy-peasy by comparison.

Without power steering, your arms have to do all the work to steer the wheels, and that’s hard, especially around downtown Rowlett. That’s why old cars had such big steering wheels; to get enough leverage to steer.

Steering Most vehicles in Rowlett have a hydraulic power steering system. The serpentine belt from the engine powers a pump. The pump pressurizes the power steering fluid. This actuates a hydraulic cylinder that provides power to help steer.

Some vehicles in Rowlett use an electric pump to pressurize the fluid rather than a belt driven pump. We’re also seeing vehicles with electric motors providing the power assist, not using power steering fluid at all. We’ll see a lot more electric systems as more hybrids and electric vehicles hit the market.

At least for now, the vast majority of power steering systems use power steering fluid that needs to be serviced. The fluid needs to be changed for a couple of reasons. For one, it attracts moisture. Water has different hydraulic qualities than power steering fluid, and that makes a difference in steering performance. Water is also corrosive and can damage power steering components. The fluid also just gets dirty and needs to be changed. Removing the old fluid and flushing out the system gets rid of dirt and deposits. The clean, fresh fluid lubricates and provides better corrosion protection.

So ask your Rowlett service advisor at Lewis Complete Auto Repair or check your owner’s manual to see when power steering service is recommended. It’ll extend the life of your power steering components.

Service to Improve Fuel EconomyJuly 23, 2013

The price of gas has got everyone talking. It seems that people who need a bigger vehicle to carry family and gear, or provide four wheel drive, are especially hit hard. That is why we thought it would be good to review some things that anyone can do to improve fuel economy.

First let’s start with how we drive. People may not realize that they can really save on gas by just changing a few driving habits. One of the biggest is jackrabbit starts – you know, flooring the gas as soon as the light turns green. That really wastes a lot of fuel. Building up your speed at a slower pace uses less fuel and is easier on your engine and drive train. And don’t drive with one foot on the brake. That’s also a drag on fuel economy, and it wears out your brakes faster too.

Another thing is to drive slower – but only when it’s safe. Sometimes on the highway we drive an extra five … ten . . . twenty … over the speed limit. We do it to save time, but it only saves a few minutes out of maybe an hour long drive, and we may use 10 to 15 % more gas. Just leave a little bit earlier, save some money and arrive more relaxed.

You can also try and group all of your errands for the day into just one trip, rather than several. If you can put off a trip today that can be combined with one tomorrow – you can save some time and money.

Using your cruise control can save money too. Driving at a constant speed really improves fuel economy. Be sure to only use your cruise control under safe conditions – you can look in your owner’s manual for some good tips on using your cruise control.

Did you know that reducing the weight in your vehicle saves gas? Clean out the trunk or back seat from time to time so that you are not paying to carry around a lot of stuff you do not need in the car. If you live where there is snow and ice, clear it off your car. They add weight and mess with aerodynamics too.

Another tip is to avoid long idle times, which includes warming it up when you start. Modern engines do not require a long warm up to get going – just take it easy for a couple of miles.

Be sure to get a new gas cap if yours leaks or is worn.

Now, let’s start talking mechanical. Bottom line – the better you maintain your vehicle, the less fuel you will use. It all adds up in a big way. For example, replacing your dirty engine air filter will pay for itself in fuel savings before your next oil change – and will keep saving you money after that.

A clean, well-maintained fuel system really pays big dividends. A clogged fuel filter wastes gas. So does a dirty fuel system, grimy fuel injectors and plugged up PCV valves. A fuel system service decreases the gas you use, and increases the power – so you can’t go wrong with that.

Some of us ignore our Check Engine light. But fixing the problem that caused the light to come on will usually save some fuel as well. It may be a bad oxygen sensor that can really rob your fuel economy.

And, it may be time for a tune-up. Tune-ups should improve your fuel economy. Don’t overlook the routine maintenance items, like scheduled oil changes, transmission and cooling system service. Dirty or low fluids actually use more fuel. Just look at your manufacturer’s recommended service intervals in the owner’s manual, or ask your Lewis Complete Auto Repair service advisor for the schedule.

Don’t forget your tires. Underinflated tires waste gas. And if your wheels are out of alignment you won’t get the economy you need.

None of these things are very complicated or expensive to stay on top of. When you maintain your car properly, you save gas today, and prevent costly repairs tomorrow.

Fuel Saving Tip: Auto Myths Around RowlettJuly 18, 2013

With high fuel prices in Rowlett TX comes lots of gas saving advice. Some of it, like what you hear on AutoNetTV, is really great. Some is myth. And some is just designed to prey on Rowlett TX people desperate to save some money on gas.

Auto Myths When you get one of those e-mails that’s going around telling you how to save gas, try to think it through.

Does it really make sense? Does it defy the laws of physics?

Do some research on the internet or ask your Rowlett TX service advisor at Lewis Complete Auto Repair.

There aren’t any magic pills you can drop in your gas tank and the government hasn’t suppressed a device you can clamp on your fuel line to make your car run on air. Not even in Rowlett!

So next time you get one of those e-mails, check it out with an automotive professional. You’ll get more bang for your buck with an oil change or an engine air filter replacement.

We’re Lewis Complete Auto Repair, give us a call at 972.475.4800 for good honest advice about your car.