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The Cable Guy (Battery Cables and Maintenance)

If you've ever noticed your vehicle's lights are dim or not working at all, the problem could be many things.  But one possibility is your battery cables aren't doing their job.  A power outage in your vehicle is similar to one in your house and needs to be repaired to get things back to normal. Battery cables connect your vehicle's battery to the vehicle itself.  There is a positive cable when provides the power and a negative cable that connects to the vehicle chassis and provides a ground for electrical components.  A failing battery cable may cause your vehicle not to start.  Your starter may turn over very slowly.  Or you may just hear a series of clicks.  One other clue is on your dash—the battery warning light.  There are many things that can cause power issues in a vehicle, but it's important to keep battery cables clean and maintained.  Salt and corrosion are enemies to any power system.  A technician can keep things in t ... read more

Categories:

Battery

Why You Have an O2 Sensor (Oxygen Sensor)

If someone asked you what gas made up the largest portion of the atmosphere, what would you guess? Well, it's not oxygen; it only makes up 20.9 percent.  But since we're talking about oxygen, you should know that your vehicle uses oxygen sensors to make sure your engine is running the way it should. The oxygen sensors measure how much oxygen is in your exhaust.  If there's too much, it means there's a problem with the mixture of fuel and air.  The sensor sends signals to computers in your engine and adjusts the mixture so it maximizes performance and efficiency.  It does this constantly.  Many vehicles have multiple oxygen sensors.  Some have one close to the engine, another close to the muffler.  Two measurements are better than one since they allow readings to be more accurate.  You may have a vehicle with a dual exhaust, so you'd have twice as many oxygen sensors. Your oxygen sensors can fail.  One thing that can damage them is contaminat ... read more

Don't Be Shocked (Shock Absorbers)

If you've ever ridden down a rough road on your bicycle, you know how hard a ride it can be.  Yet drive down the same road in your car, truck or SUV and it miraculously will smooth out the ride.  That's because it is equipped with shock absorbers.  They are built to dampen impacts from road irregularities.  But after taking hundreds of hits from potholes, railroad tracks and curbs, your shock absorbers can wear out.  Besides the rough ride that can cause, there are other ways your vehicle's performance can be affected. When it comes to braking for example, you may take a longer distance to stop.  That's because shocks help keep your tires in contact with the surface of the road.  If the shocks aren't working properly, the tires won't make contact like they should.  So when you slam on the brakes, your vehicle will take longer to stop. Consider what worn out shocks are doing to your tires.  Since the bumps aren't being dampened as much, your ... read more

Categories:

Shocks & Struts

No Strain, No Gain (The Basics of Oil Filters)

Ever wonder what one of the best things is to ever happen to your vehicle's engine?  It's the little thing that usually looks like a can, the oil filter. Just like your kitchen sink strainer filters out errant particles of food from clogging your drain, the oil filter cleans out small particles that could cause your engine harm. Your engine operates in a dirty, hot environment and gathers a lot of tiny contaminants like dirt, dust, little metal shards and unlucky bugs that get sucked in.  Get those things circulating in your engine and those little particles can cause friction, which starts wearing out those finely machined metal parts.  You know how important it is to change your oil regularly.  It's vital that you change your oil filter at the same time to keep the oil as close to brand new as possible. Most oil filters look like a metal can with some holes in the bottom.  Inside there are carefully chosen materials that can screen out the contaminants while ... read more

What's in a Number? (What Tire Numbers Mean)

You've probably never paid much attention to the writing on the sides of your tires, but they contain a wealth of information.  There's a long combination of letters and numbers that can tell you a whole lot about what tires your vehicle was designed to be riding on.  Let's check out this example found on an SUV: P245/70R17 108T. The first letter, P, means it's intended for passenger vehicles.  If there's no letter, it means it's a metric tire.  If there's an LT at the beginning or end that means a tire designed for light trucks. Moving on to our example, the 245 shows how wide the tire is in millimeters from sidewall to sidewall.  The number that follows in our example, 70, means the height of the tire is 70% of its width.  The letter after that in our example, R, describes the type of tire (on this vehicle, radial).  Following that is the diameter in inches, in our SUV example, 17 inches.  How much load the tires' sidewalls are designed to take ... read more

Categories:

Tires

The Part You've Never Seen (Flat Tires and Solutions)

They say your vehicle has one, but you've never seen it.  And you might not even know it if you stumbled on it accidentally. We're talking about the jack, that tool that allows you to lift one corner of the vehicle up so someone can change a flat tire. So you say you'd never try to change a flat anyway, so you don't care where it is.  But one day, you may find yourself in a spot where you're stranded with no cell service and you'll need to at least know the basics of what to do. Well, here's the ironic part.  Many of today's vehicles don't even have jacks and spares!  Recently, manufacturers have been saving weight by supplying another solution for a flat tire, such as an inflator kit that has a tire sealant in it, or a small compressor.  If your vehicle has one of those, it's a good idea to get to know how to use it before you need to use it.  Hopefully you'll be able to call roadside assistance and they can take care of things, but circumstances may prev ... read more

Your Vehicle is Talking to YOU (Service Warning Signs)

Your vehicle may be like that famous battery bunny, the one that just keeps going and going.  But while it may seem sometimes like you never need to take your vehicle in to be worked on, there are some things you should keep your eyes, ears and nose out for. They are warning you about something that needs attention at your vehicle service facility. If a warning light is on, don't ignore it; do something about it.  There are warning lights for battery, oil, engine heat, tire pressure… you name it.  And the manufacturer put them there for a reason.  They're telling you something isn't normal. So when one goes on, have it checked out soon, especially the blinking Check Engine light.  The earlier you have any warning light issue diagnosed, the more likely you are to avoid a more serious problem. If your vehicle is vibrating or shaking, it's not only annoying, it could signal trouble.  You can bet your vehicle didn't do that when it came out of the fact ... read more

Power Failure (Broken Power Seat)

Know anyone who doesn't love a power seat in an SUV, a car, truck or van? They're convenient and precise in their adjustments.  But when they break, oh, what a pain.  Not only is it inconvenient, it may leave your seat position too close to the steering wheel or too far from the pedals.  This is a must-fix problem. There are many things that cause a power seat to fail: Seat controls.  These are either at the side of the seat or in the door.  Both are places that can be exposed to moisture or other contaminants.  When the controls stop working, they usually need to be replaced. Seat motor.  Electric motors are what make a power seat move, and sometimes they fail.  Sometimes they just get worked to death and die of old age.  Replacement is the most common remedy. Fuses. A power seat is, after all, powered by electricity and all vehicle power systems have fuses to protect them.  A technician can determine which fuse may have blown and rep ... read more

Positive and Negative (Battery Care)

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 arou ... read more

Categories:

Battery

Don't Start with That (Bad Starter Motor)

We've all heard that expression, "That's a non starter." When it comes to your vehicle, that's not music to a driver's ears. That sickening sound when you start the ignition and instead of hearing the engine crank, you hear it slowly turn over and your dash lights go dim.  There can be many reasons a vehicle won't start, so here's a little history of how the starter came to be an important component of modern vehicles. You have to move the engine's components to start it. The first cars had a crank that the driver would insert into the front, then start turning things over by hand.  When the engine started, you had to release that crank immediately or risk a broken arm.  Yes, it happened many times.  So, they came up with a better idea: an electric starter, which was a big advance in automotive technology. With this system, an electric motor rotated a series of gears that turned the gasoline engine's crankshaft so its pistons and parts moved and the engine drew in a ... read more

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