Lucas Auto Care Video Lessons
Blind spots may be a good thing when it comes to a spouse’s annoying habits, but when driving an automobile in Houston, they are definitely to be avoided. So, while it’s not good marital advice, it’s good auto advice to minimize your own blind spots and stay out of other Houston drivers’ blind spots, especially when it comes to large, heavy vehicles like trucks and buses.
First, minimize your own blind spots. Do this before you pull out of the driveway or parking space. Adjust your rearview mirror so that you see as much of the area behind you as possible. And, no, this doesn’t include the passengers in the back seat. The rearview mirror isn’t designed to be a baby monitor.
Next, lean to the side until your head almost touches the driver’s side window. Now adjust the driver’s side mirror so that it just catches the side of the European Car. Then, lean to the middle of the car and adjust the passenger’s side mirror in the same way. These adjustments will ensure you the widest possible view behind your vehicle.
Of course, you can’t eliminate blind spots entirely. There is always an area behind any vehicle where the driver just can’t see what’s there. The bigger the vehicle, the bigger the blind spot. Toddlers are just the right size to hide in a pickup’s or SUV’s blind spot. The blind spot on an RV or tractor-trailer can actually hide your crossover! You should always check behind any vehicle before getting in and backing up. And if you sit in the European Car for a few minutes before backing up, it is important to get out and check again, especially if you are pulling out of a neighborhood driveway in Houston. No precaution is too extreme if it saves the life of a child.
Once you have taken care of your own blind spots, be aware that other Houston drivers have them, too. And avoid them. Trucks and buses have large blind spots, and they have blind spots on all four sides, so they should always be given extra room on Spring roads. They are also heavy, which means they need more room to stop, and their length means they need a wider area for turns, and their large size makes them less maneuverable than a car.
Trucks may cause about 60% of the accidents involving a truck and a car, but 78% of fatalities in such accidents are with the smaller vehicle. The number of fatalities in TX, as well as the number of crashes, could be cut significantly if Houston auto owners learned to properly share TX roads with trucks.
Never follow a truck too closely. If you can’t see the driver’s face in his side mirror, then he can’t see you. If you need to pass a truck, it is important to make sure you give yourself enough time to pass the rig. Wait for the right opportunity rather than “cutting it close.” On a two-lane TX highway, it’s always a good idea to wait for a passing zone if they are available. A little patience could save your life or the lives of others. Turn on your turn signal so the truck knows what you’re planning, and pass on the left whenever possible. Remember those blind spots? They are much larger on the right side of a truck.
Once you’ve committed to passing the truck, don’t muck about. Pass it quickly and give yourself plenty of room to move back over. It is critical to wait until you can see both headlights in your rearview mirror before pulling back in front of the truck. Once again, use your European Car turn signals. After you pull in front of the truck, decelerate to the regulated driving speed slowly. Remember that the truck has a long stopping distance, which translates into a long slowing distance. And, since trucks are so big, we often perceive them as traveling more slowly than they really are. Trucks are a lot of weight moving at a high speed, and we need to treat them accordingly.
Never pull to the right of a truck at an intersection unless you are absolutely certain it is not going to turn. Check if its turn signals are on or if it has angled to the left or right. (Trucks often begin a right turn by angling to the left to widen their turning area.) Trucks need a lot of room on city streets, and they probably can’t see you if you pull along their right side. Too many cars have ended up in Houston body shops because the auto owners thought they could beat that truck to the right turn, or they only noticed the seemingly open lane, and not the truck angling into a turn.
While learning to share Houston area roads and interstates with trucks and other large vehicles may not seem like preventive auto maintenance, it does, in fact, go hand-in-hand with good Houston car care. Keeping your European Car out of the body shop can save you big bucks and prevent the stress of a major accident, along with the injuries that could come with it.
The team at Lucas Auto Care in Houston urges you to stay safe, and stay on the road!
Good brakes are obviously very important. If you’ve ever had your brakes go out while you’re driving around the Houston area, you’ll know how terrifying it can be. Today we’ll focus on how to tell when you have a brake problem, and how to make good repair choices.
Often, the first indication that something’s wrong with the brakes is an unusual sound. It could be a squeal, chatter or grinding sound.
Some brake pads have a little piece of metal embedded in them that will make a squeal or chirping sound when the brake pads have been worn down to the point that they need to be replaced. It’s an early warning indicator.
When you hear that sound, schedule an appointment at Lucas Auto Care soon.
Now a chattering sound is more urgent. That usually indicates that something is loose. It could be a brake pad or even the brake calipers. If one of those parts falls off, you could have some serious trouble stopping the vehicle. It would be a good idea to park it until you can get into the shop.
A grinding noise usually means that the brake pad is completely worn away and the metal parts of the brake are rubbing directly on the metal brake rotor. That means the rotor is being damaged and will need some work. More on that later.
Another warning sign is that your brake pedal may feel soft and spongy – or it may even feel very hard to push in. Both could mean trouble. And of course, you may get a dashboard brake warning light.
Now when it comes time to replace your brake pads, you have a choice to make. You can get the same pads that came standard on your vehicle. You can expect the same performance and durability as with the pads that came on the car from the factory.
Now you can also get a budget brake pad. Sometimes drivers insist on lower cost pads. That’s OK if the budget demands it, but you need to be aware of the trade offs. Lower grade pads are usually noisier, so you’ll have to live with more noise when you apply the brakes. They also tend to generate a lot more brake dust, you know, that black dust that accumulates on your wheels. And they probably won’t last as long either. In our opinion, that’s a lot of compromise for just a few dollars in savings.
You can also choose to buy premium brakes pads. These perform at higher specifications than the factory pads. You can expect quieter operation, less brake dust and better stopping power.
Now, getting back to the rotors. The rotors are the discs that the brake pads clamp down on to stop the vehicle. If you’ve been driving with completely worn brake pads, you’ve scratched grooves into the rotors. If the grooves aren’t too deep, the rotor can be resurfaced. A thin layer of metal is cut off the surface of the rotor to make it smooth again.
Now, if the grooves are too deep or if the rotor has already be resurfaced before, there may not be enough material to resurface and still have a rotor that’s thick enough to safely stop the vehicle. In that case, the rotor will have to be replaced.
Something that’s often overlooked is the brake fluid. Your manufacturer has a recommended schedule for evacuating the old brake fluid, cleaning the system and refilling it with fresh brake fluid. This is really important to brake performance.
So here’s the bottom line: if you suspect, inspect. If you notice any of these warning signs, have your brakes inspected. Your advisor can help you make the repair decision that’s right for you.
For those of you in Houston TX who pay attention to these things, you may have been hearing about the new direct injection engines and want to learn more about them. Some deliver the power of a V8 with the economy of a V6.
For example, in one family of engines the conventional V6 makes about 250 horsepower. The direct injection version of the same engine makes over 300 horsepower and gets essentially the same gas mileage. The turbocharged version makes over 350 horsepower.
So what are the differences from a conventional engine?
The core difference is in the fuel injection system. The system most vehicles use now is called a port injection system. The fuel injector squirts fuel into a port just outside the cylinder where it’s then drawn into the engine with the air.
With a direct injection system, the injector squirts the fuel directly into the cylinder. The gain in power and economy come because fuel injected directly into the cylinder during the combustion cycle is burned much more efficiently.
First, the fuel is squirted in at hundreds of times more pressure, so it’s atomized much better and burns cleaner and stronger. The other big advance is in electronics. Faster engine management computers can control the additional precision required to manage direct fuel injection.
Fuel injectors are precision instruments. They have to deliver a precise amount of fuel at exactly the right time. The design of the engine also dictates a particular spray pattern for the fuel. If a fuel injector is dirty or gummed up, it can’t do its job as well. That means less power and worse fuel economy for your European Car and can lead to damaged fuel injectors.
Replacing fuel injectors isn’t cheap. Direct injection injectors are even more expensive because of the extremely high-pressure they use. Same thing for diesel fuel injectors; we’re talking mortgage payment-range to replace a set of diesel injectors.
A professional fuel system cleaning from Lucas Auto Care gets out the gum and varnish in the whole system, including the fuel injectors. Keep those injectors clean and they’ll last a long, long time.
There is a clear and vocal demand in Houston and nationally for a reduction in air pollution and our dependence on fossil fuels. This is what is driving the TX market for alternative fuel vehicles. There are a number of these vehicles on Houston area roads today, and many more being developed. Yet each of these vehicles has its own advantages and disadvantages. Houston drivers should learn what these advantages and disadvantages are before running out and purchasing one of these alternative fuel vehicles at your nearest Houston dealership.
Houston car owners should carefully research the car care before buying an alternative vehicle, as it may or may not coincide with the standards for gasoline vehicles. You should look at costs and gas mileage as well: these vehicles may help save our environment here in Houston, but that might not represent a savings to your wallet. You’ll need to decide what you can afford, and what will work for your lifestyle. Also, your choice of vehicle may be affected by what fuels are available in your Houston area. Switching to an alternative fuel vehicle is not a bad decision, but it should be a carefully considered one.
Flex Fuel Vehicles
Flex fuel vehicles can run on gasoline or on a combination of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline. Because of the 85% ethanol content, this fuel is commonly called E85 in TX.
Ethanol is made from corn. So flex fuel vehicles lessen our dependency on fossil fuels. But they also raise the price of corn, which is a basic foodstuff in some areas of the world. Whether replacing fossil fuels with corn is a good idea is hotly contested right now.
Flex fuel vehicles do have lower harmful exhaust emissions than gasoline-powered vehicles. And in Houston, E85 is usually lower in cost than regular gasoline. When gasoline prices fall in TX, however, they can drop below the price of E85. This is to Houston motorists’ advantage, since the vehicle can run on either fuel, but it negates the benefits of lowered exhaust emissions and lower consumption of fossil fuels.
One piece of Lucas Auto Care auto advice before we move on: do not put E85 into your European Car unless it has an engine designed for flex fuels. Because of the high ethanol content in E85, engines need special seals and gaskets to function properly on this fuel. Running an ordinary engine with E85 can lead to gas leaks and fires.
Diesel engines are nothing new on TX freeways, and many get great MPG. Diesel fuel can now be made from vegetable oil and other renewable sources. A diesel fuel made from algae will soon be on the market in Houston.
Natural gas is less expensive than gasoline in Houston and burns more cleanly. Also, gasoline engines can be adapted to run on compressed natural gas, and many natural gas vehicles are already on Spring roads. You can even install a special pump in your home gas line to use to fuel your vehicle. If you are interested in converting your gasoline engine to run on CNG in Houston, ask your Lucas Auto Care tech about it.
On the other hand, an engine running on natural gas is not as powerful as one running on gasoline, and it will get lower gas mileage. Also, the tank you need to store natural gas is large—it takes up nearly the entire trunk of your car. Further, refueling stations are still few and far between in some TX areas, or even unavailable, in many parts of the country.
Another alternative fuel that has enjoyed a lot of hype in Houston is the hydrogen cell. The natural appeal is that the only exhaust is water vapor. In other words, hydrogen represents a truly clean-burning fuel. But hydrogen vehicles won’t come into widespread use until refueling stations become widely available here in Houston and around the country.
Electric vehicles were all the rage in TX some years ago. But their limitations were quickly realized by Houston car owners. These vehicles won’t come into their own until we find ways to improve their batteries. Currently, the cars have a short range before their power runs out, and can only be realistically used close to home. However, they are easy to recharge, since they can be plugged in at home, and there are many researchers working on improving the battery technology in these vehicles. They may yet be the vehicles of the future.
Hybrids have been one of the most successful alternative fuel vehicles here in Houston and throughout the county. A hybrid gets its name because it has both a gas or diesel engine and an electric motor.
There are two types of hybrids. The full-hybrid relies on the electric motor for power, but the gas (or diesel) engine generates power for the battery. Thus, while still consuming fossil fuels, it uses less of them than a standard automobile, and also reduces harmful pollutants. Also, it overcomes the range problem of the strictly electric vehicle.
In a mild hybrid, the electric motor assists the gas or diesel engine in powering the car. Thus, it uses more gasoline or diesel than full hybrids and has higher emissions. But mild hybrids are available in larger body models like full-size pickups and SUV’s.
A Note of Caution about Hybrid and Electric Vehicles
One last note before we leave the subject of alternative fuel vehicles. The battery in an electric or hybrid vehicle is not as tame as the one in a standard vehicle. They carry enough voltage to kill you. These are not do-it-yourself vehicles when it comes to preventive maintenance or car care. Only a trained technician should work under their hoods.
Having trouble with your fuel system? Bring your European Car into Lucas Auto Care for a check up.
12600 Grant Road
Houston, TX 77429
In today’s Lucas Auto Care auto post, we’re talking about fuel system cleaning. The first thing to know is how essential it is to have a clean fuel system. Houston drivers need fuel to go, and the cleaner the fuel system, the more efficiently the fuel will burn. That means more power and better MPG.
A clean fuel system saves money for Houston car owners at TX gas stations. We guess you could say, it all starts and ends at the pump. One of the most important things Houston drivers can do to keep their European Car fuel system clean is to buy good quality gas. Major brands have detergents that keep gum and varnish from rapidly building up in the fuel system.
So buying cheaper gas in TX can actually be more costly for Houston auto owners in the long run. Now, most cars on TX interstates are more than five or six years old. That means they’ve had time for some dirt and rust to start accumulating in the fuel tank. This junk needs to be filtered out of the fuel before it hits your European Car engine. That’s the fuel filter’s job.
When the fuel filter is clogged, the dirty fuel will bypass the filter and go on up to the engine where it can clog fuel injectors and get into the cylinders. That could be dangerous. So Houston auto owners should have their fuel filter changed when recommended. Check your owner’s manual or ask your honest Lucas Auto Care tech if your fuel filter is due for replacement.
The fuel then goes up into the throttle body. This is another area where varnish and gum can accumulate. A professional fuel system cleaning at Lucas Auto Care in Houston will use a combination of special cleaning chemicals and old fashioned swabbing to clean out the throttle body. Now, the fuel injectors are the last stop in the fuel delivery system.
It’s important for Houston motorists to keep those fuel injectors clean. The fuel injectors need to deliver a precise amount of fuel, at exactly the right time, in a particular spray pattern. They just can’t do that if they’re dirty. Dirty fuel injectors really rob power and hurt fuel economy.
It is important for the fuel system proper, but there are a couple other things that will help keep your European Car engine clean as well. Of course, air is mixed with the fuel before it’s burned. Dirty air means dirt gets into your engine, so you need to replace your engine air filter when it’s dirty.
The PCV value routes unburned fuel that escapes into the lower engine back up into the intake system to be burned. A sticky PCV valve needs to be replaced at Lucas Auto Care to make sure that system is working properly for Houston auto owners and the breather filter needs to be replaced if it’s dirty as well.
Do all these things and your European Car engine’s air and fuel will be as clean as possible. You’ll get much better MPG and better power.
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