Now that I’ve gotten your attention, I guess the first question that would come to your mind is; is this a repeat story or a typo? Well, it’s neither, it is the time of the season, which season you might ask, well let’s pick some.

First and foremost, it’s September and we’ve already seen many 100 degree days. What should we be looking for? I would guess that the cooling systems would be first on my preventive service list. We always see vehicles on the side of the road with their hoods up and the billowing plume of steam rising from the engine compartment. Belts and hoses are so forgotten and ignored these days, because of the changes made in their construction and appearance on the rare occasions that you can actually see them under the hood. A great rule of the thumb is that at 60,000 miles or 6 years pay special attention to these components, at 9 years or 90,000 miles change them period. This should include the belt you never see, the timing belt. Failure of this belt WILL ruin your engine. The second system that is pivotal in the summer is your air condition system. This is especially important if you have any respiratory issues. What is the preventive measures needed to keep the air conditioning system working properly? The very first and most important is to make sure that your cooling system is working properly. The second most important part of the air conditioning system is the cabin air filter. This filter which is usually buried somewhere under the dash and behind the glove box (which is ALWAYS crammed full of papers, bank statements, receipts, perfume, and assorted prescription drugs), ends up being dumped on the floor of the vehicle by the technician that has to remove the glove box to gain access to this filter. We have seen some really bad filters as you can see by the adjoining pictures. This is the stuff you are breathing people, it is lung disease looking for a place to happen. And last make sure that your air conditioning system is charged to the proper specifications. Too low of a charge creates excessive moisture that flood the evaporator case and makes it a breeding place for mold and mildew. The last preventive measure that you can take is to have the evaporator core flushed and cleaned with an active moldicide and freshener. 

The summer also is commonly known as the “rainy season”. Rain on the roads of southwest Florida have their own dangers. Most residents know the difference between an afternoon shower that may drop a half inch of rain in a half hour and a “frog drowner” that may drop up to 2-4 inches of rain in an hour or so. After a draught like the one we are experiencing now those rain showers are usually welcomed by the populace. But those quick rains bring up all of the oils that have accumulated in the roadbed, and since oil is lighter than water it floats on top of the rain making a slippery surface deadly, especially for those that travel on two wheels instead of four. Preventive issues for the rainy season? First how about a really good set of wiper blades! I mean a good set not the ones that you may buy in the Dollar Store. On top of that you should have your windshields cleaned regularly and water repellant installed on the windshield to help move the water off of the windshield and not smearing all of the crud from the atmosphere all over it so that you can’t see the front of the hood. In Florida it is law that if your wipers are on so must be your headlamps. Well just because your headlight switch is on it doesn’t count if your lamps are out or the lenses are so fogged up that you cannot see for 140 feet which is state law.

And of course last to check but most important is your tires. You know the saying when the rubber it’s the road. Check the tread depth frequently and also the tire pressures. Use the placard on the front left door pillar for the correct tire pressures and if your tires are over 5-7 years old check for dry rot. This looks like little cracks in the side wall or sometimes between the tread bars. A quick test for checking the tread depth is to put a dime in the groove and if you can See Roosevelt’s head it’s time for new tires.

Remember preventive maintenance saves you money and sometimes it could save your life!




Myths and truths have been around since the car has been rolling, so here are some questions, lets see how good you are.

Will driving with your windows down cause you to use more fuel than with the windows up and the A/C on?

Depending on the aerodynamics of the vehicle and the speed of which you are driving, having the window open without a way for it to escape can cause enough extra drag to make your engine have to work harder. Today’s vehicles A/C are so efficient now and the fuel trim so regulated that if you are driving at speeds over 55mph it would be more efficient to use the A/C.

Running with the blower motor at its highest speed is good to keep the A/C working best

Actually, by running with the fan speed at its highest speed you are causing a higher load on the engine thus making the charging system work harder to maintain the demand. Also by keeping the blower speed at it’s lowest level can actually gain you an additional 8-9 degrees of coldness from the center vent by allowing the air to stay in the evaporator case for a longer period of time to remove the heat from the air passing through it.

Vacuum leaks in early fuel injected engines make the engines race because of the extra air in the combustion chambers

Todays newer and more controlled engines can compensate for the extra or unmetered air that enters the combustion chambers via the oxygen sensors and the fuel trim. They allow the injectors to add extra fuel to keep the engine running as smooth as possible and bring the idle down to its normal spot via the idle air control motors. Many times, the owners do not even know that the vehicle is running lean except for the check engine light that will show a lean code.

Synthetic oil is actually mineral oil that has been reengineered and synthesized with additives

True synthetic oil such as Mobil 1, Amsoil, Redline, and Royal Purple are truly synthetic. They are made from refined hydrocarbons such as animal fat, rapeseed oil methane and biomass by products. Because these molecules are combined and reengineered to be exactly the same size and identical in their lubricating qualities. Imagine that the molecules of oil are like little ball bearings chained together. Also because these molecules are identical and synthesized they have less of chance to join together and thicken the oil or turn to sludge. That doesn’t mean forever oil, just so you understand.

You should never let the pressure in your tires exceed the number stamped on the side of the tire no matter how hot that tire may be

The number stamped on the side of the tire is rated for a cold tire, meaning that it has sat for between 4 and 8 hours before being moved. Most new vehicles have the exact tire pressures posted on the front left door pillar. These are the pressures that the tires should be set at , once again cold. Expect those pressures to increase by up to 3 psi after the vehicle has been driven for even a short distance. This means that if you drove to a gas station that has a air compressor, lots of luck with that, armed with your credit card insert your card in the machine , read the tire pressure placard on the door panel, if it says 32 psi, inflate your tires to 35psi and you should be close. Or come to Gregg’s Automotive where we still do for you and it’s free.




If you have been reading my columns for any length of time you know that my favorite analogies are between your vehicle and your body. The fact of the matter is that there are so many symptoms and repairs that are so alike that it is impossible to deny the similarities.

Every morning when you first start up your vehicle it talks to you, very clearly and definitely. The problem is that very few people take the time to actually listen. The second problem is that very few people shut off their air conditioning or their radios or what ever other entertainment app that is available for your car. This practice of turning things off is not only a good practice but healthy for your car. When you get home from work do you immediately just dive into your next task or do you take a moment or two to decompress, maybe have a drink or a cup of coffee. Well your car needs that same decompression time too. Turn a off all the accessories like the air condition, radio etc., let that alternator spin down and if you have a turbo that needs to spin down also. The next morning when you wake up do you jump right out of bed right into your jogging shoes and do a quick 5k, or do you stretch, maybe take a quick shower and then have that first cup of coffee, listen to the news and then get ready for work. Your car needs that same type of gradual start up, to jump in the vehicle and start it up with the A/C going at full blast the radio at its highest volume, the rear defogger or wipers going at full blast is the worst possible thing to do for a vehicle, especially when this is the best time to listen to her talking to you.

Tomorrow morning when you start your vehicle without any accessories or radio going just roll down the window and listen. Do you hear a faint squeal on start up? Is there a tapping sound under the hood for the first few seconds, or maybe a deeper sounding thump? As you roll the first few feet down the driveway is the a really high-pitched squeak akin to running your fingernails across a blackboard? That is your car talking to you. In order of appearance we are talking about worn or dry drive belts or tensioner pulley bearing starting to fail. Tapping sounds can be low oil pressure or low oil level, the deeper thump may be engine bearing failure. The high-pitched squeak is the brake warning indicators letting you know that the brakes need to be inspected. You would be shocked at how many people come in with destroyed pads and rotors and never heard any noise. This took all of 45 seconds and gave you a clear look at the health of your vehicle. Now turn on the radio and your climate control, the engine has already reached almost operating temperature and the O2 sensors have been preheated and your fuel management system is ready to take control of your dive ability strategies.

Go a step further and listen to the wheels on the pavement, do they thump or run rough until the tires get warm? Is there a growl from one side of the vehicle that goes away when you switch lanes? Maybe the exhaust sounds louder when the vehicle is cold and quiets down as the car warms up.

These are all signs of imminent failure of tires, suspension and exhaust systems.

If you hear none of these things, smile and know that everything is probably in good shape.

It costs nothing, just a little common sense and a little patience.



In beautiful South West Florida, the span of time from June 1st to November 30th is known for two very distinct and different seasons. The first being Hurricane season which I’m sure that everyone is tired of hearing about and secondly is the “Rainy Season.”

The rainy season basically is three to four months of sweltering temperatures with humidity levels of 100 or so percent. Almost every day the sky’s will open, and the rain will come sometimes on and off for an entire day and sometimes for minutes to hours of “Frog Drowning Torrential Rains,” so heavy that you can sometimes not even see the front of your car, much less the car in front of you. However, if you’re reading this in the weekly paper you already know all of this, if you’re reading online, take notes.

The first of the most important parts of your car when it’s raining like this both contain rubber. Small rubber first, your wiper blades. You should think of your wiper blades like dental visits, once every six months. During the dry season, the winter months, your wiper blades are parked on the windshield just baking onto the glass. With temperatures in the eighties and nineties every day these rubber inserts are practically melting onto the glass. And the few times that they are actually used they are dry and ragged from being dragged over a hot windshield that is loaded with bugs and or sand. By the time summer has come they are not worth the packaging that they came in. My advice is to change the blades on the winter solstice and again on the summer solstice, that June 21st and December 21st in case you didn’t remember. Also, and most important is when shopping for these blades you will come across multiple price levels, from $4.99 a pair to $30.00 each. Once again, I advise you purchase the most expensive of these blades but not too far the ladder. You’ll notice that the better the blade the more silicone is built into the wiping portion. You’ll also notice that the blades are flexible and contoured so that they will conform to the shape of the windshield giving you a streakless area of vision. One last note by installing a glass conditioner or wax such as Rain X or Propel the rain will sheet better making the blades able to glide over the windshield.

The largest part of the vehicle that is made of rubber is, of course, the tires. The tires are a wonderful invention of its own. We use them as insulators from Mother Earth the biggest ground of all. We expect them to give us a smooth rolling area and to grip the road for traction but to be able to slide slightly when in sand or debris yet to hold the road while driving at breakneck speeds in puddles of water. The design of the tread is unique onto itself so that while driving through water it can remove the water away from the tire contact yet allow the tire to grip the pavement to give the vehicle stability and sure-footedness so that the vehicle never leaves the surface of the road. That my friends called hydroplaning, one of the most unfriendly and scariest parts of driving because you no longer have control of anything. The vehicle is actually being carried on a sheet of water unable to correct itself. For you sailors out there, this is akin to being in a sailboat in high winds across the beam and trying to point into the wind without a keel. Scary isn’t it?

So the most important facts about tire condition, there must be at least 3/32’s of tread. If you don’t have a depth gauge use a dime and make sure that Roosevelt’s head is partially covered, the more the better. Make sure that your tires are inflated to the proper specifications, there should be a sticker on the driver’s door jamb to tell you what that number is. If you must guess anywhere between 32 and 35 psi is a good number. And most important is to make sure that the best tires are in the rear, because if the rear lifts up just a little it WILL hydroplane, and you will be doing loops down the interstate.

If you have any questions or thoughts, please do not hesitate to contact us at Gregg’s Automotive at 236 Tamiami Tr. Punta Gorda, 33950 or call us at 941-575-8868.

Remember this; it is always cheaper to maintain a vehicle than to repair it, ad it is always cheaper to repair a vehicle than to replace it.



Here we are in the middle of Hurricane Season 2017, Florida for the most part has thankfully been unscathed so far but just to our west, Texas has gotten hammered. When most folks see pictures of hurricane damaged vehicles, we see trees laying on them or vehicles that have been turned upside down or just hammered with debris flying through the skies. These vehicles are usually easily identified and if they had been “totaled” and then repaired they should in fact have a salvage title.

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It’s November, hurricane season is all but over, the weather is cooling and the wind is blowing cool sea breezes into open doors. The incessant hum of air conditioners is disappearing and our northern neighbors are slowing returning. This story is meant for those who are returning.

Hopefully you followed all the rules and ideas that I send out before you left. If you didn’t, this is to help you get your vehicle up and running with a minimum of effort and less chance of a break down.

#1: Check your battery

First thing first, you must make sure that you have enough volts and amps stored in your battery. The quickest and least invasive test is to open the door, check for interior lights and to give the horn a quick blast. Now if you had a battery buddy on the battery this is moot, but if you didn’t, and most people don’t, this is one of the most important sequences that you must follow. The horn should be loud and vibrant and the interior lamps should not dim when you engage it.

If you had the battery disconnected while you were gone, you should have had both cables off. Install the positive cable first and then the negative cable. Now is the most important step, you should have at least a small battery charger in the house, install it on the battery and set it to the lowest amp rating. That rating normally reads 2 amps or trickle charge.

Turn on the charger and watch the charge rate or the needle and see how high it goes up the scale, then just walk away. Stop by in a half an hour or so and check the charge rate. If it is still more than half way just walk away.

Do not amp up the charge rate and try to start the vehicle because you are doing the following things to your vehicle. First you are stressing the battery and these are not cheap anymore. Secondly by attempting to start a vehicle with an under charged battery you cause the starter to overheat and create pit marks on the armature. Starters are not cheap anymore running as high as $300.00 just for the parts. Last, by starting the vehicle with an undercharged battery causes the alternator to ramp up and try to maintain the vehicle loads and try to charge the battery to specs.

Contrary to popular belief alternators were never intended to charge the battery, otherwise it would have been called a battery charger. Making the alternator to work at top output and under what we call a full field makes the alternator overheat internally and melt critical solder joints and diodes.

#2: Check your air pressure

The best thing to do while waiting for the battery to charge is to check the air pressure in the tires. Once again if you follow the rules set on how to put your car to bed they should be overfull. Check the tire pressure placard on the door pillar and set the pressures to the indicated pressure. That being done it’s now time to check all your fluid levels, the oil, power steering, the brake fluid and coolant.

If everything is up to snuff its almost time to start her up. Once again the tank should be full of a tier one fuel.

#3: Prime the fuel pump

Now open the garage door and sit behind the wheel and prepare to start the car. First turn the key into the run position and listen for the fuel pump to start. After about 2 seconds it should stop running. Turn the key off and count to 10 then repeat the process. This is waking up the fuel pump and priming the injectors and fuel rail.

#4: Crank her up

Now comes the moment of truth, turn the key to start and listen to her crank up.
Now put on your seat belt, check the dash for any lights that shouldn’t be on and then check your mirrors and back her out into the driveway.

Welcome home to sunny southwest Florida, drive safe and observe all the changes that occurred while you were gone and remember this.


Gregg’s Automotive Maintenance & Repair Center

236 S. Tamiami Tr.
Punta Gorda, Fl. 33950
Auto Repair, A/C Repair, Oil Change, Brake Repair & Transmission Services


Car Care Basics


First things first, I have written many articles which have ranged from just fun to semi technical. It occurred to me that sometimes you just have to go back to basics.

You would never think about running a marathon if you hadn’t trained for it and gotten yourself in the best shape possible, yet people expect their vehicles to run efficiently and flawlessly without any sort of maintenance. I’ve yet to understand that concept, but it’s there none the less.

The object of owning a motor vehicle

So first things first. The object of owning a motor vehicle is to get from point A to point B in the quickest easiest and most economical way. The key to moving this box is the engine and or power plants, if you are the proud owner of a hybrid.

Internal combustion engine

Any internal combustion engine is like a giant air pump. Its job is to move air in and out. Ideally this needs to be done with as little restrictions as possible. Taking this air and putting it in an enclosed area adding some fuel and light a match. Of course that fuel is for the most part being gasoline and the match is a spark plug.

Air filters

Air enters the engine through an air filter and it only makes sense that having a clean and efficient design air filter allows the maximum amount of air into the combustion chamber. After the match is lit and the fuel mixture ignites, the burnt gasses need to be exhausted from the chamber as quickly as possible, so that the next fuel charge can be installed. This is the complete combustion cycle.

Now of course there has to be the correct ratio of air to fuel to effectively and efficiently burn thoroughly and completely so that there is no wasted energy. This ratio is known as the stoichiometric air fuel ratio. This ratio has been determined to be 14.7 parts of air to 1-part fuel. This needs to be ignited by an energy source that needs of the proper temperature and duration to ensure an efficient burn.

Getting this spent mixture out of the engine as quickly as possible is just as important as getting the air in. In older vehicles the first culprit and most common restriction was the heat riser valve. They had an uncanny ability to freeze up in a closed position effectively acting like a banana in an exhaust pipe. For you Eddie Murphy fans this should bring a small smile to your face.

Exhaust system

The second biggest restriction in the exhaust system is the catalytic converter. By not maintaining the air fuel ratio and by allowing debris and carbon deposits to enter the combustion chamber the converter which generates an enormous amount of heat, melts these impurities and blocks and then melts the honeycombs in the converter. The last restrictor is the muffler.

The muffler has to deal with burnt gases and heat and it develops water as a by-product of combustion. This water actually rusts the baffles within the muffler and the collapse upon themselves. Needless to say if you have a high mileage vehicle and you are developing some performance issues, this could very well be the problem.

Emerging technologies

New and emerging technologies that have been developed in the last few years have been designed to keep the very simple process of combustion even more efficient and cost effective.

Process’ such as high pressure fuel injection, and gas direct injection and variable valve timing, have allowed the manufacturers to maintain and even increase the amount of horsepower while using smaller power plants and electronically controlled transmissions, while using less and less fuel.


Gregg’s Automotive Maintenance & Repair Center

236 S. Tamiami Tr.
Punta Gorda, Fl. 33950
Auto Repair, A/C Repair, Oil Change, Brake Repair & Transmission Services


21605450 - closeup car timing belt in clean engine room

Timing Belts Revisited

Every year we do a story about timing belts, how they work, why they are necessary and how to keep your engine together before it self-destructs when the belt breaks.

The timing belt is the belt that you never get to see. That’s because it is usually behind the motor mount and the serpentine belts, the alternator and power steering pump, and of course under the timing covers, which are there to protect it from road debris and other malady’s. Like the name implies, its function is to time the top of the engine (which includes but is not restricted to) the valve train and camshafts, to the bottom of the engine which is the crankshaft.

As the newer vehicles have become more sophisticated and efficient, many of the tolerances and clearances have been made even tighter. Multiple camshafts have become the norm not the exception, so that these “timing” specifications have become even more important. Imagine as many as four valves opening and closing in sequence to a piston going up and down while hitting speeds of close to 2500 rpm’s.

Timing Belt Gallery

Now imagine those valves timing with each other so that the intake valve can open and close together so as to allow the fuel to enter the combustion chamber and then seal itself off so that combustion can occur and the exhaust valves to open to allow the expended fuel to expelled into the exhaust system and then closed in time to allow the fresh fuel charge to be sucked back in. Thus is the combustion cycle. In the industry this is referred as suck, push, blow and fart. Crude but descriptive.

Years ago this was all done with a chain, which had a pretty long service life so long as the lubrication system of the vehicle was well maintained. Chains were eventually taken out of the vehicles for a variety of reasons, most notable were cost, noise, and weight. They however starting to make a comeback in newer vehicles especially those vehicles with multiple cams and variable valve timing, but that is for another article.

So how does this giant rubber band play into today’s engines and what safeguards are there to protect them from breaking and making the engine self- destruct.

  1. First the advancement in the rubber compounds help keep the belt from deteriorating from not only use but from heat.
  2. The second advancement was in the new design incorporated in the cog, the part of the belt that is actually driven from the crankshaft and then drives the cams. To design a piece of rubber that is flexible enough to maneuver tight turns around pulley’s and resilient enough stand up to the torqued applied by the driving pulley (the crankshaft) and then to be able to drive at least one but usually two camshafts is a tribute to technology.

How can you as a consumer contribute to keeping your timing belt in good condition so that it will last at least 100,000 miles?

First timing belts hate oil, if you see any oil leaks developing around the valve covers and by the crankshaft, chances are that this oil residue is going to end up on your belt thus shortening its life. These leaks should be repaired as soon as possible. Belts also hate coolant which is in itself a petroleum product.

As most timing belts also drive the vehicles water pump repairing a water pump leak from the pump requires removing the belt anyway, but coolant leaks from the intake manifold or bypass hoses can also infiltrate the timing case and still contaminate the belt.

Finally, a positive lubrication policy is imperative. This is just a fancy way of saying keep your oil changes current and timely with the proper grade of oil and quality filters reduces friction and relieves stress on all moving parts. That in itself is just good old fashioned sense.


Gregg’s Automotive Maintenance & Repair Center

236 S. Tamiami Tr.
Punta Gorda, Fl. 33950
Auto Repair, A/C Repair, Oil Change, Brake Repair & Transmission Services