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108 Weaver Dr. 

Dickson, TN 



Your Complete Automotive Service Center

Dickson's 1st Auto Repair Blog


Feeling Gassed at the pump?

Posted on March 6, 2012 at 11:07 PM Comments comments (50)
With todays price at the pump, many are looking for ways to increase fuel mileage and save on daily driving. Most fuel available contains ethanol as an additive. The ethanol content is required to be posted at the pump and its important to know what you are buying. Newer cars and trucks built have no problems performing on fuels containing 10% ethanol but many of the older vehicles are suffering from this additive . As the norm, you will see non-ethanol fuel costing 8 to 10 cents per gallon more but this is not always a bad thing. The addition of ethanol will decrease the efficiency of your vehicle, thus causing a drop in fuel mileage. In many cases you may actually spend more while paying less at the pump. While there are fewer alternatives available, the non- ethanol fuel will pay dividends in the end. Look for "non-branded" stations, meaning privately owned stores that do not fly  national brand signage. As by law these are the only ones allowed to carry non-ethanol fuel. Pay attention to the stickers on the pumps. Law also mandates if fuel has ethanol, it must be posted on the pump.
Ethanol-based fuel, or E85, is an increasingly common alternative fuel that more vehicles can use instead of gasoline. The E85 name comes from the ethanol content, which is 85 percent (the remaining 15 percent is gasoline). An E85-compatible vehicle can run on a full tank of the fuel, a full tank of gasoline or any mixture of the two. Ethanol is a domestically produced fuel derived from biomass. In the United States, that’s mostly corn today, but technologies are being developed that soon you may begin to see more E85 pumps at your local gas stations, your car can use it only if it was designed for it. A yellow gas cap indicates E85 compatibility and it’s very important to never fill up with ethanol if your car wasn’t designed for it. Ethanol delivers about 70 percent of the energy of an equivalent gallon of gasoline, so the miles per gallon performance when using E85 is a somewhat lower than with gas.
Keeping your vehicle tuned and serviced properly will help with maintain the best mileage. If you have previously been using fuel with an ethanol additive, it may be necessary to perform a fuel system service. Over the counter additives are good but do not do a thorough job of cleaning the complete system. Your service center will be glad to assist you in the proper way to clean your system based on type of vehicle you own. This will clean excess carbon and "gum" that builds up after extended use. Older vehicles, pre 2007 year models, we tend to see this build up causing a decrease in performance and mileage. Ethanol, being made from corn, creates a sticky residue inside the fuel system and this in turn will cause the engine to be less efficient if not service regularly.
In short, know your fuel, know your vehicle. This will assist you in saving on fuel cost in a time when we all need help anytime we can get it.

Hidden Danger. Do you have time?

Posted on January 24, 2012 at 11:34 PM Comments comments (173)
Many of today's vehicles use  engines with overhead camshafts. These engines use timing belts and have a limited life span. Car makers use these belts instead of more durable chains because chains are noisier, less efficient and cost more to manufacture.  Your vehicle owners manual will recommend at what mileage the timing belt must be replaced.  These intervals range from every 60,000 miles to every 100,000 miles.

The job of the timing belt is to turn the camshaft at  1/2 the speed of the crankshaft while maintaining a precise alignment.  This means that the crankshaft will make two revolutions for every revolution of the camshaft.  Engines will have at least one camshaft, or as many as four camshafts in some of the V-type engines.  The camshaft causes the intake and exhaust valves to open and close in time with the pistons which move up and down in the cylinders.  The valves must open and close at exactly the right time in relationship to the piston movement in order for the engine to run properly. 

There are two types of engines that use timing belts.  They are described as: "Interference Engines" and "Non-interference Engines"  The difference lies in the clearance between the valves and the pistons.  On an interference engine, if the timing belt slips even one notch, the piston can crash into an open valve causing serious engine damage by bending valves and breaking pistons.  Non-interference engines will usually not self destruct, but in either case if the belt fails, the engine will immediately shut down leaving you stranded. Ask your auto tech which category your car falls into.

Timing belts fail without warning and on some vehicles, are almost as hard to check as they are to change.  In most cases, your only protection is to change the belt at the recommended intervals. Timing belt replacement is not a cheap job but it is far less costly than the alternative.
Many technicians  recommend that you replace the water pump during a timing belt job even if there is nothing wrong with it.  This is because 90% of the labor to change the water pump has already been done with the timing belt job and  it is good insurance to replace the pump at this time.  My feeling is that some water pumps can last the life of the car but many do fail and will cost big money to replace at a later date.  So ask your technician what his experience is with the water pump on your model car and look at how long you plan to keep the car. This way, at least you will be making an informed roll of the dice.

Conventional vs. synthetic oils

Posted on January 4, 2012 at 8:01 PM Comments comments (160)

Everyone knows, or seems to know, that synthetic oils are better than conventional oils, but do you know why?

The fact is synthetic oils have several material advantages over their non-synthetic counterparts. Synthetic oils are structured with very specific properties, which leads to stronger oxidative protection against breakdown and lower evaporation rates under high temperature conditions. Synthetics also excel at low temperature operation and provide superior film strength.

What do all of these features mean to the vehicle owner? Longer service life, excellent component protection, better fuel economy, enhanced performance and power, eased cold starting and quicker circulation during the initial warm-up period.
Unfortunately, due to high cost, full synthetic oils are still not the norm for most automakers. But, even synthetic blends, which can range on average at 20-50 percent synthetic base oil use, can offer substantial performance increases over non-synthetic versions.

Ready to make the switch?
Don't pop the hood yet. If your engine has been running on conventional oil for a while, don't switch to synthetic oil without proper preparation.
If you plan to switch over to full synthetic oil, prepare your engine with a Performance Oil Change Service,  with  a full synthetic oil, a engine flush to clean "sludge" from system and a de-carbonizer. Used together, these products will remove tough carbon deposits from the piston ring area as well as the rest of the oil system. Then your engine will be prepared for maximum efficiency.
So when it comes to conventional vs. synthetic oil, why should you switch? Because, price means nothing if performance doesn't follow. Synthetics offer benefits that are worth the higher price. With today's fuel prices, increased fuel economy alone will pay the difference. In many cases a increase of up to 3 mpg can be observed dependant upon driving habits. So in closing,  how much do you value your engine?

Your Car Battery Life

Posted on July 8, 2011 at 10:58 AM Comments comments (537)
Your car battery is fighting quite a battle, on one hand to live longer and on the other to power all the new contraptions that adorn your car these days. So while the car battery continues to become more and more equipped to handle more power, the increase in power consumption of a battery and the extensive use of cars these days, brings the whole battle back to square one.

But still, there are several factors that play their part in affecting the car battery life. The quality of the battery itself and the usage aside, a lot also depends on the overall maintenance of the car and the battery. Also the number of times that the driver sits idle loading the battery.

The average life of a car battery today is said to be around 5 years. How long does the battery in your car last? How many years can it go without giving you too much of a problem?  You never really ask yourselves these questions till that morning when you turn the key in the ignition and get no response. And then reality strikes you, Maybe the battery is dead. After all, my car is about 5-6 years old and you have forgotten to check the battery for a few years now! A large number of battery failures are due to extereme heat and not cold. With todays vehicles being controlled by onboard computer, your battery has to work even while you sleep to keep all systems active.
Overusing the car battery can dramatically shorten the car battery life span. So don't test it. Keep the  lights off when you don't need them, don't used unnecessary accessories too much and keep the AC and the stereo switched off when your car isn't running. Keeping all the battery operated parts of the car 'on' when the car  is not running, drains the battery a lot faster.

Regular battery maintenance goes a long way in improving the car battery life expectancy. The next time you send your automobile for servicing , make sure that the guys check your battery. The battery cables and  terminals need to be cleaned and maintained to optimally utilize it, so that it won't give any problems in the future.  Maintaining a battery goes a long way in increasing the life. 

That Pesky Check Engine Lamp

Posted on June 23, 2011 at 4:46 PM Comments comments (47)
A malfunction indicator lamp (MIL), commonly referred to as the "Check Engine Light", is a warning lamp to indicate malfunction of a computerized engine management system. It is found on the instrument panel of most automobiles. When illuminated, it is typically either an amber or red color. On vehicles equipped with OBD II diagnostics, the light has two stages: steady indicating a minor fault such as a loose gas cap or failing sensor and flashing indicating a severe fault, that will eventually destroy the catalytic converter, such as a misfire. When the MIL is lit, the engine control module stores a fault code related to the malfunction, which can be retrieved with a diagnostic scan tool and used for further diagnosis. The malfunction indicator lamp usually bears the legend check engine, service engine soon, or a picture of an engine. 
If a fault occurs during a test cycle the lamp will illuminate. It takes 3 test cycles with a fault detected in each cycle to come on if failure is of a performance nature. The lamp will illuminate on 1 failure during a test cycle with a safety related fault. In some cases the is a warning indicator that may be of a more minor nature, however many cases delay in checking can result in a much more expensive repair in the future. Most repair facilitys offer an inexpensive test to inform you of your options. There are also auto parts stores that will "pull codes" for free but many times the individual doin this does not have the technical exspertise to understand what is found. Beware of the "free check" as it does in many cases become expensive.
If you MIL indicator is on, please don't just ignore. It has something really important to tell you. Your vehicles life may just depend on it.

"Risky" Oil Changes?

Posted on January 24, 2011 at 7:36 PM Comments comments (32)
With today's advancement, many are searching for ways to extend the time between services to save on vehicle costs. This can be a dangerous and sometimes costly practice. No any when you perform  an oil change as regular maintenance, you also inspect belts, hoses, filters and brakes. Also tires need a regular schedule for rotation to to ensure the maximum in life. Extending time between oil changes in theory seems like a great idea. But in fact it may cause harm in areas you do not even know your technician is looking.
Nothing in your engine workers harder than your oil.  With hundreds of moving parts, and thousands of explosions every minute, it’s no wonder that engine oil needs to be changed frequently!

You’ve probably heard the old rule of thumb: Change your oil every 3,000 miles or 3 months, whichever comes first. But some car manufacturers have introduced extended oil change intervals.  They figure that a modern vehicle driven under the right conditions can go for 5,000 miles or more between oil changes.

The key phrase here is “under the right conditions”. If you look at your owner’s manual, you’ll see two different maintenance schedules: one for “normal” driving conditions and one for “Severe Service”.  Severe service driving conditions include stop and go, short trips, towing, hauling, hot, cold, and dusty driving. That’s why at we often refer you to the severe service schedule in your owners’ manual, because, for most of us, that’s the way we use our cars in everyday life.

Recently, four of the largest auto manufacturers in the world have extended engine warranty coverage for engine damage caused by oil sludge resulting from longer oil change intervals.  They found that real-world conditions require more frequent oil changes than the 7,500mi interval they were recommending.  They subsequently recommended more frequent oil change intervals and proof of timely oil changes in order to qualify for the extended warranty.
Oil sludge is the culprit. Sludge is oil that has turned to a thick, jelly-like consistency.  Sludge can block passages in the engine, preventing oil from lubricating vital engine parts.  Parts wear more quickly and may fail prematurely.

Sludge is caused by several factors.  The first one is simply – time. The engine oil is contaminated by exhaust gas that eventually leads to sludge. That is where the recommendation to change your oil at least every three months comes from. Sludge can also come from oil that gets contaminated by water from normal condensation. A few minutes of driving at freeway speeds allows the oil to heat up enough for the water to evaporate. The problem is we often run errands or take other short trips that don’t allow the engine to warm up enough for the water to evaporate.  This is especially true in winter. Sludge also forms when the engine gets too hot, causing the oil to breakdown.  Stop and go summer driving, towing and hauling are all prime conditions for creating harmful sludge.  And every engine has hot spots that create sludge.
Given all of these factors, estimating when to change your oil is pretty complicated.

A couple of manufacturers have computer programs built into their vehicles that record the number of cold starts, how many times the cylinders fire, engine temperature and other factors.  From that, the computer estimates when you should change your oil and flashes a warning.  But what if you do not have a vehicle with this feature? How do you know when to change your oil? We’re not sure you really can.  Which is why it is better to be safe than sorry.  3,000 mi/5,000 km or three months – whichever comes first . 

In short, There is no doubt that today's lubricants can and will hold up longer than ever before, but if your technician only sees your car every 6, 8 or 10,000 mile, there are a lot of things that may go unnoticed until its too late.

Top 10 "Car Killers"

Posted on January 20, 2011 at 10:37 PM Comments comments (32)
     It pays to beware of these 10 Most Wanted Car Killers, the corrosive agents of your car’s destruction from within. They tend to be stealthy killers, often escaping the notice of even the most careful car owners.
Thankfully there's a way to protect your car.  Get to know your car’s 10 worst enemies. Then ask your service advisor about Scheduled Maintenance. There’s a quality service specifically designed to protect your car from each one of the 10 Most Wanted Car Killers.

Oxidation of engine oil produces harmful sludge that can reduce engine cooling, accelerate component wear and plug passages necessary for proper oil circulation and lubrication. Abrasive material then accumulates within the engine, which can destroy bearings and promote seal leakage. Likewise, oxidative by-products of fuel reduce the volumetric efficiency of fuel pumps and filters, and can result in costly fuel injector failure. Higher tailpipe emissions and poor fuel economy always follow in the footsteps of damaging fuel deposits.
Heavy carbon residues build up on fuel injectors, thus reducing their optimal efficiency. This leads to a poor fuel spray pattern, reduced injector cooling and flow, and inefficient combustion. If left unattended, this condition can rob an engine of power and will produce excess exhaust gas smoke, poor power and fuel economy and shortened injector life.

Rear differential ring and pinion gears can suffer scoring, fretting  and pitting due to lack of lubrication and corrosion. Stress cracks may develop that serve to weaken the gear surface and promote further damage. Also, excessive gear and bearing noise may indicate that abrasive metallic wear is occurring within your gear set. Progressive gear wear within this unit will have a negative effect on seals, causing fluid leakage.

Gummy residues derived from residual fuel vapors have a tendency to accumulate within the air intake (plenum) over time. These deposits restrict air flow and disrupt combustion air swirl and dispersal. This all serves to decrease engine efficiency and fuel economy. Engine devices like MAF sensors, Idle Air Controllers and critical throttle plate clearances are also impeded by these gummy deposits.

Transmissions operate under widely adverse conditions and expose the transmission fluid to wide swings in temperature. As Automatic Transmission Fluid (ATF) ages, it forms sludge, which reduces fluid circulation and transmission cooling. Abrasive metal particles generated from aged ATF will ruin seals and cause irreversible damage to internal transmission components. A customer may eventually experience erratic shifting, excessive vibration or noise, or even transmission failure.

High pressure power steering units require excellent lubricants to function properly. Damage to gears, seals, O-rings, bearings and bushings, and spool valves are dramatically increased by poor quality lubricants. Critical brass and other soft alloys rely on the proper balance of lubricant additives to ensure long power steering life and trouble-free operation.

Minerals found in tap water have the tendency of combining with the additives found in automotive coolant. When this happens, they form a chemical complex called “phosphate scale,” which coats the heat transfer surfaces of the radiator and heads, resulting in decreased heat-transfer efficiency. When this occurs, your car will overheat and run much hotter than it was designed to. This scale can also lead to the destruction of water pump bearings.

The gradual deterioration of brake fluid over time happens by exposure to heat, pressure, and moisture contamination. As the brake fluid additives deplete, the fluid breaks down at an increased rate, resulting in corrosion of brake parts, poor compressibility and eventual loss of brake function.

Mildew, mold and spores can inhabit your automotive climate control system. The presence of moisture in air conditioning ducts is common since the air leaving the air conditioner evaporator is saturated with it. Air conditioning used continuously during hot weather provides little time for ducts to dry out. High moisture in ducts can cake with dirt and provide an environment for mold to grow. This situation leads to serious indoor air contamination problems, resulting in symptoms of illness such as headaches, watery eno, nausea, skin disorders and fatigue.

Slower than normal cranking may be a sign that your battery is holding less than it’s optimal electric charge. Oxidation of the battery terminals and build-up of exterior dirt and corrosion accelerate the loss of current through the case of the battery, thus prematurely discharging it.

Car Maintenance or Car Payment?

Posted on January 13, 2011 at 7:53 PM Comments comments (556)
     The pains many automobile owners are feeling at their local service station isn't just at the pump -- prices for general maintenance is also increasing. Petroleum based products, such as oil and tires, are heading north with the price of gasoline. Demand for steel has also pushed up prices on various automotive parts. That means consumers are seeing larger bills from their auto repair specialists, even when their exhaust doesn't require three people to install. Instead, many are choosing to squeeze pennies and skimp on elaborate repairs in order to stay on the road. AAA says  the average vehicle owner will spend $8,121 to operate their automobile. That is up nearly $300 from last year. 
     With prices trending upward,  regular maintenance can become an area easy to postpone. This practice can become  costly. A well maintained vehicle will operate more efficiently as well as last longer. With today's vehicles, it is not unusual to see mileage in excess of 300,000 miles. Just think, no car payment. Isn't that nice. In the United States, the average down payment for a car is $2,400, the average amount financed is $24,864 and the average monthly payment is $479, according to The most popular loan term is now a payment-stretching six years.    
     Annual mileage is going to be different for everyone. Granny  may only put 3,000 miles a year on her Buick driving to and from church, but a traveling businessperson could easily rack up 30,000 miles in a year.
 U.S. Census data lists passenger cars as traveling an average of 12,500 miles per year. Trucks, SUVs and vans come in at an average of 11,000 miles per year. These numbers are the most current ones from the government, but in recent headlines we’ve read reports of Americans driving less because of high gas prices and generation shifts.
     Using this data, keeping your vehicle maintained properly, can save you a bundle over the life of your car. Again just imagine, no car payment. What a thought. So why not spend $100 a month on service instead of $479 for a payment. I enjoy investing my money for myself, not for the loan officer.

Poor fuel economy got you down?

Posted on December 6, 2010 at 9:54 PM Comments comments (22)
Poor fuel economy can be caused by a multitude of problems. Driving habits and enviroments play a significant role in fuel economy. Prior to diagnosing this symptom, you should drive for at least two full tanks of gas to ensure there is a problem rather than an intermittent condition, such as mountainous driving. Poor fuel economy is usually the result of lack of routine maintenance.

You should start your diagnosis by determining what service has been performed on the vehicle. Routine spark plug replacement is necessary to maintain good fuel economy. Spark plugs provide the ignition source to initiate the combustion process to burn the fuel. If the spark plugs are worn they will not provide a good ignition source for the fuel and can degrade the fuel economy. Dirty or improperly maintained fuel system will also degrade mileage. There are many additives sold for routine cleaning of fuel systems. While these are beneficial, these are not capable of complete system cleaning. This must be done by a professional with proper equipment. The air filter filters the air that enters the engine. It is designed to remove the harmful dust and debris that would otherwise enter the engine. An air filter that is only partially plugged can restrict the air entering the engine and reduce the fuel economy. Inspect the air filter and replace it even it is only moderately dirty. A new filter can go a long way in improving fuel economy. Do not attempt to blow out the filter with compressed air. New filters rely on small fibers to "grab" the incoming dirt particles. Blowing out the filter will remove these fibers and reduce the filters effectiveness. Tire inflation should be checked. Low tire pressure can reduce fuel economy drastically. Tires provide the necessary traction to prevent the vehicle from skidding and sliding. At the same time, tires provide a low rolling resistance so that the engine can easily propel the vehicle. If the tires are low, the rolling resistance is increased and will require the engine to consume more fuel to generate the same amount of power. You should ensure the tires are inflated evenly and to the proper pressure. Proper ignition timing is critical to maintain good fuel economy. Most newer vehicles have computer controlled ignition timing. On these systems, the timing is not adjustable. On vehicles that have adjustable ignition timing the timing should be checked. You should consult the under hood emission control label for instructions on ignition timing adjustments. Engine oil can also affect your vehicles fuel economy. You should ensure you are using a multi-viscosity oil as recommended by your vehicles manufacturer.

With today's fuels, good maintenance practices are a must. With the introduction of Ethanol fuel mileage suffers quickly. Attached is a short clip of an example service to help keep your mileage at its peak. For more information, gives us a call and we will be glad to help.

Winter and your coolant

Posted on December 2, 2010 at 6:17 PM Comments comments (122)
Cold weather is nearing. If you own a car, truck, or tractor, it*s time to check the freeze level of the coolant in the radiator and cooling system or replace with new coolant mixture if the mixture has not been changed according to your maintenance schedule.
Most of the antifreeze products on the market currently are ethylene glycol base material with additives to prevent corrosion, lubricate seals and water pumps and aid in heat transfer to the coolant from the metal of the engine. Antifreeze should be mixed with distilled water (tap water contains high amounts of minerals such as calcium and iron that can precipitate and coat internal parts) at the ratio of one part antifreeze to one part water. This gives freeze protection down to minus 34 degrees and boil-over protection up to +265 degrees. Never use pure antifreeze in a cooling system without using at least 30 percent water in the mixture. Most antifreeze products sold for the past several years have been the traditional "green" coolant. This type is good for two to three years and up to 30,000 miles. The green antifreeze contains silicates, phosphates and / or borates as corrosion inhibitors to keep the solution alkaline. As long as the solution remains alkaline, corrosion is controlled and the system is protected. Over time, the corrosion inhibitors will be depleted and the corrosion protection is lost. It is for this reason that green antifreeze should be changed every two years or so. Aluminum is especially vulnerable to corrosion and many vehicles have heads, radiators and other aluminum components in the cooling system. 
An alternative to tradition green antifreeze is. "Orange" antifreeze. An  extended life antifreeze is used to increase the life of engine coolant. It is ethylene glycol base as is the green antifreeze. The difference between the two colors is that orange antifreeze contains a different type of corrosion inhibitor that has a much longer service life than silicates, phosphates and borates. Orange antifreeze contains organic acids that protect engine parts from corrosion. Silicate (green) type antifreeze does not mix with orange type antifreeze. Never mix the two colors in a cooling system. The organic acids in orange types will cause precipitation of silicates in the green type and corrosion protection is greatly reduced. Orange type antifreezes are good for up to five years or 100,000 miles in newer vehicles. They can be used in many older vehicles  if all of the green mixture is flushed from the system and is replaced with the orange mixture. Useful life is about four years or 60,000 miles in older cars.
Toyota uses a red antifreeze  and should not be confused with the orange type long life antifreezes. It is basically  the green type of antifreeze that contains red dye to give it the red color. If you have doubts about switching from the red or green type of antifreeze to the new orange extended life antifreezes, call us and ask about compatibility with your engine parts and cooling system.
The freeze protection level of a coolant mix has little to do with the corrosion protection of the coolant mix. The freeze level of the mixture may test to a satisfactory level, but corrosion protection may have degraded. Change your coolant mix on a schedule based on the color of the antifreeze you are using. Severe corrosion to engine and cooling system components can occur with resulting expensive repairs