Articles:

Don't Neglect Your Spare (Spare Tire Care)

If you've ever had a flat tire, then you know welcome it is to have a spare tire that is properly inflated, in good shape and easy to get to.  Problem is many of us don't even give our spare tire (if we even have one) a second thought. If you have an SUV or truck with a spare, it may be mounted outside the vehicle, such as on the tailgate or underneath the vehicle.  All of them, especially those underneath, take the brunt of debris, moisture, salt and dirt from the road surface, a potpourri of corrosion potential.  The hardware that holds these on can rust into a solid mess, making it hard for you or even a roadside assistance service to get off.  If you have one of those, have it checked and maintained at your vehicle repair facility on a regular basis.  They should be lubricated and cleaned periodically, and some recommend doing this service every time you have your tires rotated.  If the spare is the same size as the tires on the vehicle, it may be a go ... read more

Categories:

Tires

Singing a Different Tune (Up) (Tune Ups)

Engines required a lot more maintenance in earlier times.  You'd have to have your spark plugs, wires, rotors, caps, distributor points, fuel and air filters changed periodically.  There were mechanical adjustments of a vehicle's timing, dwell, spark gap and idle mixture, too. Unless you like to tinker with old cars, a lot of those terms won't mean much to you.  That service was called a "tune up" back then, and you can see why.  But now, computers have reduced the number of maintenance items, and a tune up is a whole lot different than it used to be.  In fact, in some vehicle service facilities, that term is also a thing of the past.  A tune up of today would more accurately be called simply periodic maintenance. Now, most vehicles still have spark plugs and wires, fuel filters, air filters and PCV valves, and they should be inspected tested and/or replaced at regular intervals.  Your vehicle's manufacturer has made recommendations on how often that ... read more

Cool Running (Water Pump)

Your vehicle is like you in a way.  When it gets hot, it needs to be cooled down.  And one of the key parts to keeping it cool is the water pump. Now, that's a bit of a misnomer.  It IS a pump, but it's pumping coolant, not pure water.  Cooling off your engine is vital since it builds up heat when it creates power by burning fuel.  Your water pump acts as a way to recirculate that coolant.  It goes through a series of tubes and hoses through the engine where it picks up heat, then is sent off to the radiator to get rid of that heat.  Cooled off, the coolant is recycled through the water pump to start the journey again. The water pump works by taking mechanical power from the engine, usually from a belt.  Obviously, that belt has to be in good condition and adjusted properly or else the water pump won't be able to do its job. Here are some things to look for that will signal problems with your water pump.  If your heat gauge is erratic or sho ... read more

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Water Pump

Conventional or Synthetic? (Switching to Synthetic Oil)

If you keep up on technology trends, then you may be intrigued about synthetic motor oil.  It was introduced in the 1960s when Mobil came up with it.  Mobil's oil was different from conventional motor oil because it was first broken down to its basic molecules.  Then, Mobil removed additional impurities from crude oil and "tailored them to the demands of modern engines." Synthetic oil is becoming more popular now because of its advantages over conventional oil. It's more resistant to sludge forming in an engine.  It is more efficient and protects engines better under temperature extremes.  Because it allows drivers to go longer between oil changes, many feel it's more convenient.  The downside is that synthetic oil is more expensive, but because it doesn't need changing as often, the cost can be pretty comparable in the long run. Those who drive high performance vehicles (think Audi, BMW, Mercedes) are already using synthetic oil if they're following their ... read more

Categories:

Oil Change

Start Me Up (Ignition Systems)

When you start up your gasoline engine car, you may not know that it's using the same ignition principles as it has for decades.  You have spark plugs that require enough power so a spark can jump across a gap at its tip.  Years ago, a vehicle's 12-volt system had to produce 15,000-25,000 volts to do that, so engineers came up with something called an ignition coil that bumps up the voltage. It also has to be done at just the right interval called timing. The first systems had a distributor, a mechanical device with a rotating disc that switched the power to the ignition coil on and off.  That higher voltage then was sent to the spark plugs at the correct time interval. But the mechanical "points" had to be replaced and adjusted every 12,000 miles/20,000 kilometers.  Engineers later replaced the switching mechanism with solid state ones, but they still needed replacement after 120,000 miles/200,000 kilometers. The next evolution came in the 80's when the distributor ... read more

The Third Brake Light (Third Brake Light Service)

So you thought you only had two brake lights.  Look again and you'll see one in the center at a higher level than the two on either side of the vehicle.  They're sometimes in the inside of the vehicle behind the back window, or they could be in the deck lid, on the roof or on the spare wheel carrier, But why is that third brake on your vehicle? Experts say it helps prevent rear end collisions. Tests done by installing the third brake light in taxis and fleet vehicles showed fewer rear end crashes in the ones that had the extra light. The third brake light was mandated in new passenger cars in 1986 in the US and Canada.  The requirement was added to new light trucks and vans in 1994. Sometimes it's difficult to know if your third brake light is even working.  Many vehicles have bulb warning systems that alert you to non-functional bulbs, but not all do. Your vehicle service facility will often check to see if all your turn signals, taillights and headlights are worki ... read more

See the Light (Automatic High Beam Dimmers)

It's happened to all of us.  We're driving down a highway at night and over a crest appears a car with its high beams blazing.  You are momentarily blinded, hoping the other driver will switch them to their low beam setting and restore your vision. Not only do we not appreciate being blinded, face it; we don’t want to be that other driver, either.  You know, the one who forgets to turn down their high beams. Why do we want high beams in the first place? They can improve safety when used correctly, giving drivers more reaction time since they can see farther down the road.  But research has found many drivers either don't use them or, when they do, they frequently forget to switch to low beams.  Enter the automatic high-beam dimmer. The quest for the perfect one began back in the 1950s, General Motors invented something it called the "Autronic Eye." It was a phototube which sat on the dashboard and turned down your beams when it saw other headlights.  ... read more

Categories:

Headlamps

Going (Lug) Nuts (Lug Nut Replacement)

Here's a part of your vehicle you probably don't think about much: lug nuts.  They're what fasten your wheels onto your axles.  Pretty important, right? In order to take the wheels off your vehicle to service the brakes, rotate the tires, etc., the lug nuts have to be in good shape so a wrench will grip them tightly.  Because lug nuts are on your wheels, they are exposed to all the elements of the road (salt, water, grime) and really take a beating. Unfortunately, some manufacturers have made them out of two different metals.  Underneath is the working part of the lug nut, made of steel.  On top is the decorative (the "good looking") part, made out of chrome, stainless steel or aluminum.  After a while, the steel part begins to corrode and expands.  That changes the shape of the outer cap, sometimes rounding off the hexagonal edges and making it hard (if not impossible) to either loosen or tighten the lug nuts since the wrench won't fit any more.  ... read more

'Tis the Season (Tires)

We all know about winter tires.  But did you know there is such a thing as summer tires? Most people have all-season tires on their vehicles.  They work pretty well in a variety of weather conditions.  But if you want better handling and performance, you might consider switching to summer tires.  Here are a few things you should know about them. Summer tires are good for high-performance vehicles like sports cars and luxury SUVs, but they don't have to be limited to those. They have a different tread pattern than all-season tires, with generally shallower grooves and more rubber that contacts the road.  The rubber is made of a stickier compound good for taking corners at higher speeds.  Plus it is engineered so it stays firmer the hotter the temperature gets.  Here's a bonus.  That design also works well in warm, wet weather.  It makes sense, since more the more rubber that's touching the concrete or asphalt when it's slippery out, the bette ... read more

Categories:

Tires

A Real "Pane" (Window Maintenance and Repair)

It's pretty frustrating when your driver's window won't work.  You can't get your food at the drive-thru without opening the door, have a tough time using the ATM from your vehicle, can't have that fresh breeze blowing through your hair as you listen to your favorite road tunes. Plus, there's a safety factor.  Your windows provide an escape route in case you need to get out and the doors won't work.  Let's take a look at what's going on when your window won't operate. Most vehicles these days have power windows.  They have an electric motor in each power window and sometimes those fail.  They often give you a warning that they're on their last legs by making a noise or hesitating, so if you get a sign like that, have a technician check it out. Loss of power can also be due to a blown fuse, a bad switch or faulty wiring. All windows have something called a regulator that moves the glass up and down.  They have a lot of moving parts in them which can break ... read more

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