Tacky or Techie? The Tachometer.
Posted January 30, 2018 07:55 AM
There's a gauge that many vehicles have that says RPM on it. And there are a lot of people who either don't pay any attention to it or don't even know what it is. Here's why it's a good gauge to know about.
It's called a tachometer, and that "RPM" label means it is measuring how many revolutions per minute (RPM) the engine is turning. Automotive experts know that a vehicle's engine can be damaged if it turns too fast (revving too high) or too slowly ("lugging" the engine).
A tachometer (sometimes called a tach) is almost a "must-have" gauge for vehicles with a manual transmission; the driver has to manually change gears; the tach helps the driver know when revolutions are in the optimal range.
Some say you don't need a tachometer if you drive a vehicle with an automatic transmission. It's true that most drivers of automatics don't even look at it. But there are times when paying attention to the tach can help you prevent an expensive repair.
Here's a good example. Manufacturers now build many of their automatic transmission vehicles with shift paddles. They let you shift gears without a clutch. That's manual shifting, and drivers need to know they're not revving the engine too high. That's where the tachometer comes in, since it shows you visually when you are in the red zone (RPM too high).
Here's another way the tach can help you: fuel economy. Generally speaking, the lower the RPM, the better the fuel economy. It's not good to go too low, of course, and the tachometer will help you find that spot of maximum efficiency.
You can also spot problems by paying attention to the tach. When your vehicle stays in first gear longer than usual (higher reading on the tach), then the RPM dip lower than usual after shifting, it may be that your vehicle's transmission is skipping a gear. Plus, if your vehicle's RPM go up but your speed doesn't, it could mean your transmission is slipping. Either situation should be checked by a trained technician.
If your commute takes you down some long grades, you might like to put your vehicle in a lower gear to help slow down the car (and not burn up the brakes). Having a tachometer keeps tabs on when your engine is revving too high.
So, consider the tachometer a "bonus" gauge. It's one more helpful assistant that can help you spot and prevent problems in your vehicle.
Posted January 22, 2018 04:17 AM
Your cooling system is very important. It circulates coolant through the radiator and your engine to protect your vehicle from overheating. There are five main components to the cooling system:
- the radiator
- the radiator cap
- the hoses
- the thermostat
- the water pump
The water pump's like the heart of your cooling system, circulating the fluid throughout your vehicle. It's a small pump that's driven by the engine; usually by belt, but sometimes by a chain or gear.
The water pump only operates when the engine's running. Water pump failure is pretty routine. We see it often at West Texas Automotive. Some start failing at around 40,000 miles/64,000 km, but most fail by 100,000 miles/160,000 km. Consult your owner's manual or friendly and knowledgeable service advisor at West Texas Automotive to see what's recommended.
Since a water pump either works or it doesn't, you need to change it when it fails. Water pumps fail in one of two ways: the bearings fail or they begin to leak. It's possible to have a leak from a cracked water pump, but it usually leaks at the gasket where it attaches to the engine.
So how can Midland drivers tell when the water pump is failing? If you can hear a low-pitched grinding sound coming from the water pump, it's got a problem. If you can see coolant in that area, you've got a leak.
Some water pumps are driven off the timing belt. They might be under a plastic cover so you can't see the water pump. Look for coolant on the driveway. If you see some, have West Texas Automotive check it out.
Most timing belts need to be changed at 60,000 miles/97,000 km – some longer. It's a good idea to change your water pump at the same time if it's one of those that's driven off the timing belt. To start with, 90% of the work's already done with the timing belt change. And if you don't and develop a leak later, you'll have to change the belt again along with the water pump because the belt will have been contaminated by the leaking coolant.
West Texas Automotive can replace a failed water pump with a brand spankin' new one or with a rebuilt pump. Rebuilt will save you some money, but ask your service advisor at West Texas Automotive what he thinks. Don't feel too bad if your water pump gives out. They will all wear out eventually. We can get you back on the road and on with your life.
West Texas Automotive
4703 Andrews Hwy
Midland, Texas 79703
Go Big or Go Home: Upsize Your Wheels at West Texas Automotive
Posted January 15, 2018 09:27 AM
A lot of us Midland drivers like our vehicles to reflect our personalities. We're picky about color and body style. We'll customize anything from floor mats to window tints to license plates. One popular way for Texas motorists to customize a vehicle is to get new wheels.
Wheels come in thousands of designs. Custom wheels can add personality, style or sass to a vehicle. Many of these customizations involve getting a bigger wheel.
Fifteen or 16-inch wheels used to be the factory standard, but today, because a lot of Midland drivers like the look of larger wheels, many vehicles are available with 17 or 18-inch wheels. Optional wheel packages of 20 inches or more are also available in Midland.
If you want to upsize the wheels on your current vehicle, however, you should know it's not a do-it-yourself project. There are factors involved in ensuring your wheel change doesn't jeopardize the safety of your vehicle.
First of all, you need to understand rolling diameter. The rolling diameter is the overall height of a tire. If you increase the rolling diameter of your tires when you upsize your wheels, you may have to modify your suspension to make sure the larger tires fit in the space and don't rub in turns or over bumps. If that's more work than you're willing to do or pay for, then you need to maintain rolling diameter when you change your wheels.
It's not as hard as it sounds. Imagine a doughnut. That doughnut represents rolling diameter, so you can't make the doughnut bigger. However, you can increase the size of the doughnut hole. That gives you a bigger wheel. Tires with reduced sidewall on larger wheels will preserve your rolling diameter.
Rolling diameter is important because your wheels and tires still need to fit inside the wheel well. Also, your speedometer, odometer and anti-lock brakes are all programmed to work with a specific rolling diameter. You'll throw off the readings on your speedometer and odometer if you change your rolling diameter. And for your anti-lock brakes to work properly, your rolling diameter has to be within 3% of factory recommendations. While some Midland drivers who upsize may not be concerned about meter readings, throwing off the brake system is a serious safety hazard.
Further, many vehicles in Midland are now equipped with electronically controlled suspensions. Changing the rolling diameter will negatively affect this system as well, which can lead to a less smooth ride and lower handling performance as well as safety concerns.
Your friendly and knowledgeable West Texas Automotive tire professional may be able to reprogram your vehicle's computer to adjust for a larger (or smaller) rolling diameter.
So to maintain rolling diameter, you'll need tires with a shorter sidewall. These tires will be designed to give the sidewalls the strength they need to maintain ride quality. Consider that doughnut again. As the wheel (the doughnut hole) gets bigger, the sidewall of the tire (the width of remaining doughnut) gets shorter. That means the tire holds less air. The sidewalls have to be made stiffer to compensate for the decreased air capacity.
To improve their strength, the shorter tires will also be slightly wider than your previous tires. But this means you'll have a larger contact patch, or, in other words, a larger area of tire making contact with the road. This can actually increase your handling performance and decrease braking distances. Many Texas auto buffs customize their wheels just for this reason—they want the improved performance rather than looks or style. If you drive a truck or an SUV around Midland, you might be interested in the extra control an upsized wheel can provide.
Now, that larger contact patch still has to fit inside your wheel well without rubbing when cornering or when bouncing over bumps or potholes on Midland roads. This is termed fitment, and you may need a few adjustments so your new wheels will fit properly. You may need spacers so that your brakes will fit inside the new wheels, as well.
West Texas Automotive tire professionals are experts at mounting, adjusting and customizing wheels. They can give you a lot of good auto advice about wheels and tires and how they affect driving performance and car care. They can help you select wheels and tires that will suit your driving needs and habits.
For example, if you drive off-road around Midland, you should consider a higher profile tire. This type of tire will protect your rims from damage while you're bouncing over rocks. Or, if you tow a trailer or haul heavy loads around Texas, you'll want a tire with a load rating equal to your demands. Your friendly and knowledgeable West Texas Automotive tire professional can help you with these types of concerns.
Once you've got your new wheels, have your service advisor at West Texas Automotive see if you need an alignment. You don't want those new wheels and your higher performance compromised by poor alignment. Get the most out of your investment by getting the work done right at West Texas Automotive in Midland.
Last but not least, remember tire pressure. With larger wheels, your new tires will hold less air and they'll need slightly higher pressure. You'll need to stay on top of preventive maintenance and keep them properly inflated. Be sure to check their pressure at least once a week. If you don't keep your tires at their correct pressure, they will wear out really fast. It will also affect your braking and handling performance.
So smile and show off your vehicle around Texas. Make it all yours. Bumper stickers, vanity license plates, custom wheels — strut your stuff!
West Texas Automotive
4703 Andrews Hwy
Midland, Texas 79703
Fuel Injection Keeps Getting Better for Midland Motorists
Posted January 08, 2018 09:31 AM
Midland residents know that engines burn fuel to operate. Fuel is pumped from your fuel tank to your engine where it is squirted—or injected—into your engine's cylinders. This is the function of the fuel injectors.
There are two ways to inject fuel into an engine. Fuel needs air to burn, so in the first method, fuel is injected into a port and allowed to mix with air—and before it is drawn into the cylinders. In the second method, fuel is injected directly into the cylinders and mixes with air after it enters the engine.
Direct injection engines burn fuel more efficiently than conventional engines. Some models can deliver the power of a V8 with the economy of a V6.
For example, in one family of engines, the conventional version (a V6) delivers about 250 horsepower. The direct injection version delivers over 300 horsepower and gets about the same . The turbocharged version delivers 350 horsepower.
Why the big difference in power? Direct injection systems allow fuel to be squirted into the engine at hundreds of times the pressure of a conventional engine. This atomizes the fuel better (breaks it down into tinier droplets), which means more of it gets burned, which translates to more power for your engine. It also results in cleaner emissions and improved fuel economy.
Fuel injectors are precision instruments. They have to deliver the right amount of fuel at exactly the time the engine needs it. They are also engineered to inject fuel with a specific spray pattern. This spray pattern allows for maximum fuel efficiency and proper atomization.
Direct injection engines require a much higher degree of precision than conventional engines. For this reason, they are equipped with more sophisticated computers.
When fuel injectors get dirty, their precision drops off. The spray pattern won't be precise, and the timing of fuel delivery may be off. This decreases fuel efficiency and fuel economy for Midland drivers as well as delivering less power to the engine.
Fuel injectors are not cheap to replace. Direct injection fuel injectors are even more expensive. And we're talking a mortgage payment to buy a set of new fuel injectors for a diesel engine.
So keeping your fuel injectors clean is just good auto advice for Midland residents. The best way to do this is to change your air and fuel filters regularly and practice other habits of good vehicle care and preventive maintenance at West Texas Automotive in Midland. Cleaning additives in your fuel can also help.
If you do end up with gum or varnish in your fuel system, you'll need a professional fuel system cleaning. This will clean out your whole system, including the injectors. The good news is that with proper maintenance, your fuel injectors will last for a long time.
West Texas Automotive
4703 Andrews Hwy
Midland, Texas 79703
Keeping Your Car Young in Midland
Posted January 02, 2018 08:12 AM
As Midland consumers, we live in a disposable society. It's amazing all the stuff we throw away.
New stuff comes out so fast in Texas, and much of it is fairly cheap, so we just toss the old and move on. It seems like when we were kids our parents were real sticklers about taking care of our stuff - especially parents who grew up in the Depression. You know, hang up your clothes, polish your shoes, put away your toys. If something got lost or ruined by neglect, tough; we had to do without.
We couldn't afford new cars very often, so we tried to make them last as long as we could. It's a good thing that cars are more reliable these days. They just don't break down as often. And the good news for us Midland penny pinchers is that a modern car can easily go 200,000 miles (320,000 km) with proper care. The engineering's there and so is the manufacturing quality. The missing ingredient is us making sure we follow the vehicle manufacturer's maintenance schedules.
Is it really that bad for Midland motorists to get off schedule? Well, it all adds up. Every time you go a little longer than the recommended interval between oil changes, you've created an opportunity for sludge to form and clog passages. Then some parts don't get oiled and they start to wear out faster.
Skip a cooling system service, and the corrosion inhibitors become depleted; the radiator starts being damaged, one step closer to a failure. The same thing is true for transmission service, power brakes, fuel system cleaning – really everything on your schedule.
It's also even more important for older vehicles in the Midland area. Those engines and other systems have had more time to get dirty, so they're working harder anyway. But it's never too late for Midland drivers to get back on track with maintenance and to hold off further damage.
It's just another example of our parents knowing what's best. (Surprising how often that happens.) And it really does start with the oil change, just like Dad said. When you get a full service oil change they top off all your fluids and check for other items that are on your maintenance schedule. That's like your safety net; go in for oil changes on time, and let the pros at West Texas Automotive in Midland help you keep track of the rest.
Of course, it is inevitable for vehicles that some things are going to wear out along the way, like alternators, water pumps and such; they don't last forever. But that stuff is cheaper than a new car payment. And taking care of problems early means they have less time to cause other problems. It's like having high cholesterol; you don't want to wait for a heart attack before you address it.
4703 Andrews Hwy
Midland, Texas 79703