Lucas Auto Care Video Lessons

How Much is Enough for Houston Auto Owners? Tire Tread Depth

Most Houston motorists know that tires wear out and that the wear has to do with tread depth. Most of us have heard that “bald” tires are dangerous, but most of us picture a tire with no tread at all when we think of a bald tire. And when we take our vehicles in for preventive maintenance, the technician tells us they’re need to be replaced long before all the tread is worn off. Just how much tire tread wear is too much? And how can you tell? Tires are pricey and their condition is important to the safe handling of a vehicle, so it’s essential for Houston car owners to know the answers to these questions.

First of all, it’s important to understand that there may be a legal limit to tread wear. If your tires are worn past this limit, you have to replace them to be in compliance with TX auto safety laws. That’s why measuring your tread wear is part of a vehicle safety inspection.

In some jurisdictions, tread must be at least 1.6 millimeters or 2/32 of an inch thick. This standard has been in effect since 1968. But this standard has recently been called into question, and some Houston auto owners are arguing that it be changed.

The safety issue that has brought this standard under scrutiny is the ability of a vehicle to stop on a wet surface. When a vehicle has trouble stopping, most Houston drivers immediately look at the brakes as the source of the problem. But tires are crucial to safe stopping distances because they provide the traction required in a stop.

A tire’s contact with the road surface creates traction, which allows for effective braking. On a wet surface, a tire only has traction if it can get to the road’s surface. So tire tread is designed to channel water out from under the tire to allow it to stay in contact with the road. If the tire can’t shift the water, then it starts to “float.” This condition is called hydroplaning. It is very dangerous for Houston car owners since the vehicle won’t stop no matter how hard the driver presses the brakes. Steering control is also lost.

A recent study tested the stopping ability of a passenger car and a full-sized pick-up on a road surface covered with only a dime’s depth of water (less than a millimeter). The vehicles were traveling at 70 mph (112 kph) when they stopped on the wet surface. At 2/32 tread depth, the stopping distance was double that of a new tire. The passenger car was still traveling at 55 mph when it reached the stopping distance it experienced with new tires.

Let’s suppose that you’re on a busy Houston freeway in a light drizzle and a vehicle stops suddenly in front of you. You just bought new tires and you brake hard, missing the vehicle with only inches to spare. If you hadn’t bought those new tires, you would have crashed into that vehicle at 55 mph. That is a major difference.

What if your tires had a tread depth of 4/32? You would have crashed into that vehicle at 45 mph. Still not a good situation. But it’s better.

Now what if you were driving that pick-up truck? You wouldn’t have missed that vehicle in the first place, and you would have crashed at higher rates of speed in both of the other scenarios. The heavier your vehicle, the longer its stopping distance. It’s a matter of physics.

The results of this test has led Consumer Reports and others to ask that the standard for tread wear from 2/32 to 4/32. The increased standard will improve safety on the road and save lives here in TX and nationally.

Of course, until the standard changes, you’ll have to decide whether you’ll be willing to replace your tires a little sooner.

You can use a quarter to tell if your tread wear is down to 4/32. Place the quarter into the tread with George’s head toward the tire and his neck toward you. If the tread doesn’t cover George’s hairline, you’re under 4/32. With a Canadian quarter, the tread should cover the digits of the year.

You can measure the 2/32 tread wear with a penny. If the tread touches the top of Abe’s head, it’s at 2/32. Tires are a significant item for Houston auto owners when it comes to car care. But their condition has a major impact on safety. We need to decide whether to sacrifice safety for economy. Keeping our tread wear above 4/32 is good auto advice.

Spring Drivers: Is It Time To Replace Your PCV Valve?

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Improved fuel economy has two benefits for Houston car owners: less fuel is necessary and fewer emissions are released. Spring cars and trucks run cleaner than ever. Houston motorists may not realize that the first federally mandated pollution control device came out almost fifty years ago.

TX car owners that were around in the early 60′s may remember that the PCV Valve came out on 1964 model cars. PCV stand for Positive Crankcase Ventilation. Spring Drivers: Is It Time To Replace Your PCV Valve?The crankcase is the lower part of the engine where the crankshaft is housed and where the engine oil lives. The crankshaft is connected to the pistons that power the engine.

When fuel is burned in the European Car engine, it pushes the pistons down and the crankshaft rotates and sends power to the transmission. Some of the explosive gases from combustion squeeze past the pistons and down into the crankcase.

Now this gas is about 70% unburned fuel. If it were allowed to remain in the crankcase, it would contaminate the oil and quickly turn it to dangerous sludge. Sludge is like Vaseline and clogs passages in the engine leading to damage.

Also, the pressure build up would blow out seals and gaskets. So in the old days, there was just a hose that vented the crankcase out into the air. Obviously, not good for our air quality in Houston.

Enter the PCV valve. It’s a small, one-way valve that lets out the 
detrimental gases from the crankcase, and routes them back into the air intake system where they are re-burned in the engine. Fresh air comes into the crankcase through a breather tube. This makes for good circulation in the crankcase. And that gets the dangerous air out. As you can imagine, however, the valve gets gummed up over time.

Spring drivers that skip oil changes now and then will notice that the PCV valve gets gummed up even faster. If the PCV valve is sticking in your European Car, the gases won’t circulate as well, leading to increased pressure in the crankcase. That, in turn, can lead to oil leaks. Fortunately, the PCV valve is very inexpensive to replace at Lucas Auto Care in Houston. Some can even be checked by your honest Lucas Auto Care advisor.

Your European Car manufacturers usually recommend they be changed somewhere between twenty and fifty thousand miles. Unfortunately, PCV valve replacement is left out of some European Car owner’s manuals, but at Lucas Auto Care, we will make sure your PVC is replaced if needed.

All of us Spring car owners can do our part for the environment. Watch that lead foot, stay on top of our essential automotive maintenance and don’t forget to replace our PCV valve.

Cool Running In Houston

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Unless you live in Death Valley, you really don’t hear much any more about cars overheating. That’s because cooling systems in vehicles have been much improved. That doesn’t mean you can’t overheat your European Car engine, though. Without proper preventive maintenance, you could still find yourself on the side of the highway in Houston waiting for your European Car engine to cool down.

When you service your cooling system at Lucas Auto Care, your service professional will check the condition of the coolant. It can become corrosive over time, which can damage a radiator — leading to an overheated engine. Changing the coolant periodically is good car care. Your European Car owner’s manual can give you guidelines on how often to replace it.

If your engine overheated, your honest technician will also check your coolant system for leaks. Check the European Car radiator for cracks and the radiator hoses for leaks. He’ll also check your water pump. They don’t need to be replaced on a regular schedule, but they do need an inspection regularly. They can and do wear out.

The water pump is a critical component of your European Car cooling system. It pumps the coolant to keep it circulating through the engine. The coolant is cooled in the radiator, then it travels through the engine, where it absorbs heat, then it returns to the radiator, where it releases the heat. And so on. But a water pump is something of a misnomer. The fluid pumped through your European Car cooling system is not just water. It also contains coolant, which is actually poisonous. You should never consider your radiator as an emergency water supply.

There are many types of coolant. It varies from vehicle to vehicle, and using the wrong kind could damage your engine. Your service advisor will know which kind your vehicle’s manufacturer recommends. The team of automotive professionals at Lucas Auto Care is always a good source for auto advice. We’ve been providing quality automotive services at our convenient location in Houston for 10 years.

Keeping your cooling system in good repair will help keep your engine running well, and keep you out of the Houston repair shop. This means that a regular cooling system inspection should be on your schedule for routine preventive maintenance of your vehicle. Your owner’s manual will tell you how often you need to do this. It varies depending on what kind of car you drive, what type of driving you do and where you live in TX.

At Lucas Auto Care, we help you keep your cool which will keep you in the driving lane.

Engine Air Filter From Lucas Auto Care


Many Houston drivers have found themselves in the following situation: they go to get their oil changed and their honest Lucas Auto Care service specialist recommends a new engine air filter. They say yes, but don’t know what an air filter is or what it does.

If this has happened to you, rest assured that you did the right thing by getting a new one. But you should never be too embarrassed to ask your Lucas Auto Care tech for more information. It’s your bucks and you have a right to understand what you’re paying for.

Let’s review: “What does an air filter do??”:

Air is the focus of this discussion. What is the air like outside in Houston right now? Can you see any smog? Is it full of pollen? How about dust? Anyone in TX with hay fever can tell you that there’s plenty in the air that you can’t see. Well, the engine air filter’s essential job is to clean that air before it goes into your European Car engine, to mix with the fuel and be burned. Without an engine air filter, the inside of your European Car engine would be extremely dirty from all the gunk that was burned in the cylinders.

In fact, for every gallon of gas you burn, your European Car engine needs 12,000 gallons of air. That little filter does a very big job. It’s no wonder that the air filter gets dirty and needs to be replaced. Think about a vacuum cleaner. When the bag gets full of dust and dirt, the vacuum doesn’t clean as well. It can’t move enough air to create good suction. A clogged engine air filter is the same way – the European Car engine can’t get enough air to burn the fuel efficiently. That means less power and reduced fuel efficiency.

That’s why your car maker has recommended that you change your filter at regular intervals. Of course the Houston conditions you drive in will affect how quickly the filter gets dirty. If you drive in TX where it’s very dusty or where there’s lots of pollen or pollution, you may need to change the filter sooner. The filter is easy to check visually, so your honest Lucas Auto Care service advisor can quickly make the call. He might recommend immediate replacement, or simply let you know that it is getting close and that you’ll need to replace it soon – like at your next oil change.

Because a severely dirty European Car air filter hurts your fuel efficiency, many Houston motorists find that a new air filter pays for itself in better gas mileage before the next oil change. They also make premium air filters that have been proven to increase your horsepower and torque. If more power is important to you, a high performance air filter is some of the cheapest horsepower you can buy.

The better your car breathes, the better it runs – kind of like Houston people. And don’t worry – if you have a question or don’t understand a recommendation just ask your Lucas Auto Care service advisor.

12600 Grant Road
Houston, TX 77429
281.379.5800

All Lined Up: Wheel Alignment Service At Lucas Auto Care

When all of your vehicle’s wheels are lined up exactly with each other, your wheels are in alignment. Hitting a road hazard or even just the normal bumps and bounces of everyday driving in Houston can cause your European Car’s wheels to be out of alignment.

Driving for an extended time in Houston when your wheels are out of alignment results in uneven tire wear. This is dangerous … and expensive. Worst case scenario, you have a blowout on a crowded TX highway. It can also cause premature wear to your suspension system, which can be really expensive to repair. At the very least, you may have to replace your tires years too early.

Here are some alignment basics from Lucas Auto Care:

The first adjustment is called toe or do the wheels point in towards each other or away from each other at the front of the tire.
The next adjustment is called camber or do the wheels tip in or out at the top.
And finally, there is castor. Castor measures the angle where the front axles attach to the vehicle.

The ideal alignment for your European Car was designed by its engineers. Alignment service at Lucas Auto Care starts with an inspection of the steering and suspension – to see if anything’s bent or broken. Then your honest Lucas Auto Care technician will look at tire condition.

From there, the European Car is put on an alignment rack and an initial alignment reading is taken. The wheels are then aligned to European Car car makers’s specifications.

Your European Car owner’s manual probably has a recommendation for how often your alignment should be checked – usually every couple of years. If you suspect an alignment problem, get it checked at Lucas Auto Care before you suffer expensive tire or suspension damage.

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