C&A Transmission and Auto Repair

Servicing Spring, Houston, and surrounding areas since 1988

C&A Transmission and Auto Repair - Servicing Spring, Houston, and surrounding areas since 1988

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

Most Houston car owners 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 costly and their condition is important to the safe handling of a vehicle, so it’s critical for Houston motorists to know the answers to these questions.

First of all, it’s essential 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 Spring drivers 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 Spring auto owners 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 Spring drivers 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 interstate 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 Spring 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.

Considering an Alternative Fuel Vehicle In Houston?

There is a clear and vocal demand in Spring 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. Spring motorists 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 MPG as well: these vehicles may help save our environment here in Spring, 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 Spring auto owners’ 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 C&A Transmission & Auto Repair auto advice before we move on: do not put E85 into your family 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 expressways, 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

Natural gas is less expensive than gasoline in Spring and burns more cleanly. Also, gasoline engines can be adapted to run on compressed natural gas, and many natural gas vehicles are already on Tomball 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 Spring, ask your C&A Transmission & Auto Repair 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 MPG. 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 Spring and around the country.

Electric Vehicles
Electric vehicles were all the rage in TX some years ago. But their limitations were quickly realized by Spring motorists. 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 Spring 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.

Blind Spot Safety For Spring Driving

Blind spots may be a good thing when it comes to a spouse’s annoying habits, but when driving an automobile in Spring, 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 family 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 family 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 Spring. 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 Spring motorists 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 Tomball 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 Spring drivers 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 vital 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 essential to wait until you can see both headlights in your rearview mirror before pulling back in front of the truck. Once again, use your family 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 Spring body shops because the drivers 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 Spring car care. Keeping your family 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 C&A Transmission & Auto Repair in Spring urges you to stay safe, and stay on the road!

Why A Trip Inspection Is A Good Idea

At C&A Transmission & Auto Repair we get a lot of Spring drivers asking about car trip preparation. That’s a big deal. You could be driving through mountains and deserts in some pretty lonely areas outside of Spring so it’s important to know that the car is up to the task and won’t leave you stranded.

Smart Houston motorists plan ahead for a major road trip – there are a lot of things to get ready. Where should you start? You could start with the tires. Look them over for tread wear and check to see that they are properly inflated. Take a quick test drive around Spring to see if you can feel any vibrations: are the wheels in balance? Is the car tracking straight? Is the alignment ok? Come to C&A Transmission & Auto Repair for a peace-of-mind trip inspection.

20336 Holzwarth Road
Spring, TX 77388

The next thing is a full service oil change to make sure all of your important fluids are topped off and you have fresh oil for the trip. And if your car has over 75,000 miles, you may consider putting in the high-mileage formulation to clean harmful sludge deposits in the engine. You may also need a new PCV valve and an engine air filter.

How about your transmission and brakes? Have you had your transmission and brakes inspected in the last six months?

How are your wiper blades? There’s nothing like not being able to get rid of the bug juice on a long road trip away from Spring.

Check your owners’ manual for any other critical recommended service and have C&A Transmission & Auto Repair in Spring do the multi-point inspection before you head out in TX.

Consider also having the coolant system serviced at C&A Transmission & Auto Repair – you want to stay within the automobile manufacturer’s recommendations. If you’re towing a trailer in Spring you’ll want to be keep in mind that you’ll be going a long way under severe conditions.

A lot of Spring folks overlook severe conditions like towing, or Spring summer heat, or driving on dirt roads in TX. Plan ahead for your next road trip – C&A Transmission & Auto Repair wants you to get there and back.