Thursday, March 13, 2008

When lightning met Sally

Sometimes when you catch sight of your true love it grips your heart like a good set of tires grips the road.
That’s how it was for Sally and Me. When I saw those sleek low profile black wall tires of hers, I knew she was the car for me! She, well, sorta, kinda, fell for me in that court room, as she was trying to get me incarcerated.
When I’m not racing in the Piston Cup series, my favorite thing is for Sally and I to go for a little race. I mean drive through the same tight windy roads where we fell in love with each other.

If you’re like me, falling in love can leave you a little weak in the side walls.
When that feeling comes over me I TURN to my friend Luigi who runs the world famous tire shop Casa Della Tire right here in Radiator Springs. Luigi is so passionate about tires and he knows exactly which tire is needed for any situation. Why, if it wasn’t for Luigi and his dependable tire buster Guido being in my pit crew I would not have, almost, won the Piston Cup.

Give us your SPIN on the matter Luigi; “Tires and brakes are the most important part of your car, from a safety stand point. Since Luigi only sells tires, that’s what I’ll be talking about. To get the most out of your tires the air pressure should be checked on a regular basis, Luigi likes to recommend checking it monthly. The correct air pressure recommendation appears in your owner’s manual, the sticker on the doorjamb or glove compartment door. Use an accurate gauge to check the tire pressure. If the valve stem has a little green cap, then that the tire is filled with nitrogen. If the air pressure is low you will need to go back to a tire store to have nitrogen added.
Nitrogen helps your tires last longer and may help your vehicle get better fuel mileage.

Your vehicle tires should be rotated every 5,000 miles. The rear tires are brought to the front and the front tires are crossed before they are installed on the rear of the vehicle.
Luigi says nothing shows your tires love like keeping them filled with air and rotated.

This next step is a little tricky. You are going to need to get on your hands and knees and look at the tread of the tire. What you are looking for is that the very inside of the tire tread matches the very outside of the tread if one side is worn down more than the other, that indicates that the vehicle is out of alignment and its wrecking your beautiful tires, which Luigi thinks is criminal.
Rub your hand across the tread, it should feel concave and smooth, if it has cupping in it, that indicates your shocks or struts are worn out or your tires are out of balance. At this point the tires might be wrecked. You better get to Luigi’s Casa Della Tires pronto.
If the tire tread feels feathered, that means the steering angle called toe is out of specifications, and the vehicle is out of alignment.
Any bubbles or tread separation is a very dangerous condition, call Mater to install your spare or tow you to a tire store."

Thanks for the information Luigi. I have to ROLL! I am so going to take my favorite Porsche out to dinner. Ka-chow!

Next week we are going to help you get a winning pit crew. It is also the last episode in our “Cars” trilogy.

I hope this article helps you. I am Ken Levine, the owner of Ken’s Quality Auto Repair in Thousand Oaks, where we specialize in Lexus and Toyota vehicles. If you have any car questions please e-mail me at, visit or call 805-494-4344

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Rev up your motor with Lightning McQueen

Do you ever feel like you are not firing on all cylinders? Well, between me and you, I have to admit that I occasionally have that problem. It’s embarrassing because “I’m a precision instrument of speed and aerodynamics. I Am A Very Famous Race Car.”
When that feeling comes over me, I turn to my new friends from Radiator Springs to help me get passed the low power blues and back in the race of my life.
My best buddy, Mater, is always there to lend a helping hand, but when I need maximum power, I have him go fetch Dr. Hudson, Doctor of internal combustion, who just happens to be a wizard at tweaking engines to produce the best fuel mileage and lots of horse power.
You don’t become a three time winner of the prestigious Piston Cup without having a couple of tricks up your fender. I am going to have Doc fill us in.

“I hate to admit it, but these new fangled vehicles are superior to us older (more mature) models. They can go 4 times longer between tune-ups and use fewer parts, thanks to the use of on-board computers that precisely control the electronic fuel injection system.
In my day you were lucky to get 15,000 miles on a set of plugs. Today’s vehicles use precious metal in their spark plugs, either iridium or platinum, and they can last up to 120,000 miles before they need to be replaced. These motors usually have individual ignition coils which produce very high electrical voltage, but they make it harder for the technicians to gain access to the spark plugs.
A lot of clean air is needed inside the engine to mix with the gasoline. This air /fuel mixture is then ignited by an electrical spark from the spark plug. It is the job of the air filter to remove any dirt or contaminants from the air. The air filter should be replaced every 30,000 miles, or sooner, if the vehicle is driven in a dusty environment, like Radiator Springs.
The fuel injectors are made to such tight tolerances that even a little speck of dirt could wreak havoc on an injector. That’s why it’s so important to replace the fuel filter between 90,000 and 100,000 miles.
The last part of the tune-up is to connect a diagnostic computer to the vehicle’s computer and run a series of tests to check that the sensors on the motor are within factory specifications, and reset the maintenance light. That’s the business end of a tune-up, but what does that mean to you drivers? How about restoring the chirp in your tires and lowering tail pipe emissions which will help you get through that dreaded smog test. Ya’ll will be floating like a Cadillac, stinging like a Beemer. Aw, Shucks, I almost forgot, it will give you improved gas mileage, which now a days is huge, considering when I was a young hot-rod, premium was 20 cents a gallon!

There you have it. Whether you’re the rookie of the year, Lightning McQueen, who’s trying to win the Piston Cup or you’re just racing to get to work on time, you need your vehicle to run like a highly tuned racing machine.

“Remember it’s not just a race, it’s the Piston Cup.”

Stay TUNED until next week when romance is in the air.

I hope this article helps you. I am Ken Levine, the owner of Ken’s Quality Auto Repair in Thousand Oaks, where we specialize in Lexus and Toyota vehicles. If you have any car questions please e-mail me at, visit or call 805-494-4344

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Skidding into the Taillight Zone:

When you are in your car, do you hear noises that nobody else hears? If so, you might be stuck in an alternate automotive dimension, known as the Taillight Zone, where noises are not what they seem to be.

It’s been a long day at work. The only thing on your mind as you put your car keys in the ignition is getting home, eating dinner and relaxing. You turn the key, just like you have done hundreds of times in the past, yet today is different. A loud high pitched squealing sound jars you back to the reality of you and your vehicle sitting in the company parking lot. You immediately shut the motor off and look around hoping that horrid noise was coming from somebody else’s car. You gingerly turn the key and the motor literally starts screaming at you. You shut the car off and call for a tow truck. An hour goes by before the tow truck pulls into the parking lot and out hops a rather large man with the name ‘Bubba’ on his shirt. Your vehicle is hooked up to the tow truck and you two are off to the auto repair shop. You get to the auto shop just as the technician is about to leave for the evening. You tell him your story as Bubba unloads the car. The technician wanders over to the vehicle and turns the key. The motor starts right up without that horrid sound. What the heck is going on? After several tries the car is still starting up normally. The tow truck driver is looking at you as if you’re crazy, while you’re paying him. “Really, it was making a loud noise,” you exclaim. You decide to drive the car home. By the time you arrive home your dinner is cold and you are too up-tight to relax, so it’s off to bed.

It’s a beautiful day as you walk out to your car. The drama of last night has been all but forgotten as you turn the ignition key. Screeching comes from somewhere under the hood. The towing company is called again, and the car is headed back to the auto shop. You call your boss and explain why you’re going to be late to work. Upon arrival at the auto shop, last nights scene is re-played as the technician starts up the vehicle with no problems. Argh! Either your car is trying to push you over the edge, or you have entered that dreaded parallel universe, known as the Taillight Zone. Two days later, the auto repair shop calls you with the news that, after many tries, the technician was finally able to duplicate the noise. It turns out that the water pump bearings make a loud noise only on very cold start-ups, after the vehicle has not been used for over 8 hours. The technician replaces the water pump and the noise is gone.
Congratulations! You have successfully accelerated out of the Taillight Zone.

To be able to properly diagnose a noise from a vehicle, it is important to duplicate the exact conditions under which the noise occurs. If the noise is usually heard after the vehicle has been sitting all day or night, or when left outside in the cold, the same condition needs to be replicated by the technician. If perhaps it only happens when driving 65 mph on the freeway, the technician will have to take a test drive on the freeway to be able to duplicate the noise. Sometimes, there is more than one noise coming from a vehicle. To avoid having the technician spend a lot of time tracking down and repairing a different noise, it is best to either show the technician or take him for a test drive to make sure he hears the same noise you do.
Noises can be tricky to hear and isolate. Be prepared to leave you vehicle for a couple of days.

We have a special edition coming your way with Lightning McQueen and the whole gang from Radiator Springs.

I hope this article helps you. I am Ken Levine the owner of Ken’s Quality Auto Repair in Thousand Oaks, where we specialize in Lexus and Toyota vehicles. If you have any car questions, please e-mail me at, visit or call 805-494-4344