Author Archives: Don Lewis




* I don’t get to see this in person because our VERY CAPABLE office manager, Jimmy has banned me from the premises while the shop is open due to my age 74 and past cardiac arrest risk factors. However, the security cameras tell me our clients are compliant with mask, sanitation and social distance protocols. THANK YOU! We have kick-ass wi-fi and I wish our waiting room was available again for the occasional circumstance where “while-you-wait” is viable. Someday….


* Don’s Automotive has been proactive with rules to minimize risk long before any directives from our politicians. We have sanitizer, we have masks for the asking.


* Because I have been banned from public exposure I can not fill in for Jimmy on Friday and hours are 8:00- 6:30 Mon. – Thurs. at this time. Look forward to going back to 5 days/week with the men working four 11 hr. approx. days staggered as we did pre-Covid. Don’t forget to leave a voice message when we are closed as support and appointment setting will be available.


* If you believe wearing a mask is an infringement of your freedom, your are objecting to an infringment of your freedom to facilitate the spread of this horrible virus. You are welcome at Don’s Automotive regardless but safety protocols are non-negotiable.


* I am afraid we are in for a long haul. All we can do is be patient and consider the health of everybody. I have two family members who have survived Covid, but months later still have significant health issues.


* Again, I can not stress too much: THANKS FOR YOUR COOPERATION AND STAY SAFE!


* Donald Lewis, ornery owner.

PLEASE. your engine oil dipstick is not obsolete…(well with a few exceptions.)

“I have a check engine light on and my car is jerking when I try to accelerate.”

“Have you checked your dipstick to be sure your car is not running out of oil?”

“Oh, I had it changed just two months ago.”

Here at Don’s Automotive we certainly do not advocate ignoring this periodic maintenance item. .  However, far more critical than changing oil is making sure that the oil level is within safe limits.  If you own a Tesla there is no conventional engine and no engine oil level dipstick.  If you own certain luxury European vehicles oil level is monitored electronically.  Most everything else has a dipstick.   Engines develop oil leaks that can be small or large.  Engine burn some amount of oil with no external drips.  It is entirely possible and not that abnormal for an engine to need oil level topped off when only halfway or less to the time for an oil change.  Engines are destroyed if driven a mile or two with zero oil pressure due to lack of oil.  Modern engines have variable valve timing systems to optimize power and fuel efficiency.  The hydraulic engine controls for this system receive computer commands to operate valves and servos that are dependent on engine oil pressure. Hence as oil level drops and oil pressure drops out a check engine light and poor running is often the first sign of low oil.  Please do not wait that long.  Every year we inform more than one client that their engine suffered major damage from lack of oil and given the cost of engine replacement the car should go to a salvage yard.   Don’t let this be you!  Thanks from Don!

Extended Warranty Programs — NO!!!

These are additional profit for a dealer who sells them, pushed heavily because the profit involved in selling the warranty often exceeds the profit margin on the car.  Not surprising that they try to scare you with the possibility of expensive repairs.  They are pure profit for the those sold outside of a dealership, that is to say the those sold by sleazy companies that harass you on your smartphone.

Although it happens once in a blue moon, it is very rare that an extended warranty pays the car owner more in benefits than what the warranty costs over the years.  These companies exist for one reason and one reason only.  That is to take in as much as the market will bear and pay out little or nothing.  They are very skilled at finding ways to avoid paying anything.

A few months ago a customer was all set to get her alternator replaced on a Honda and then she mentioned she had an extended warranty.  She insisted that this company was different and paid with no hassle.  NOT QUITE!  Against my better judgement and against our long term policy of having nothing to do with these, I agreed to work with the warranty .  As was 100% predictable, the time spent dealing with getting the customer only a partial payment for her repair expense exceeded the time with hands on the car to repair it.  So the majority of the time spent on this repair ticket we never got paid for.

I am sorry if this causes disappointment, but I will not make that mistake again!

Thank you for your understanding, Don


I, (Don) have been away from the shop for quite some time.  The reason why is I had a left total knee replacement that was going great guns until I made an accidental bad move that opened the incision leading to infection.  That put me back way behind even where I started at.   The “revision” procedure involved removing the replacement knee because the metal harbors staph.  Then a temporary non-metallic spacer was installed which is minimally flexible and not intended for weight-bearing.  Next antibiotic IV drips three times a day for 6 weeks.  Yesterday I finished that regimen and left the skilled nursing facility where this was administered after I got out of St. David’s.    In about two weeks I will get the knee replacement all over again.  My stepson and partner, Tony, was able to recruit Jimmy Preston for the front desk and you would think he has been doing this all his life!  We have received glowing positive feedback on his ability and, to my knowledge, not one complaint.  Tony and James are absolutely kicking ass with a very busy summer schedule.  Nice to have the shop in such good hands when I am limited to checking voicemail and social media marketing and such remotely!  When I am back mobile I am seriously considering ramping up the level of my retirement to a few hours at the shop hours per week.  At age 73 I don’t do hands-on, I am sometimes a little absent-minded.  Please be assured you have a superb team with Tony, James and Jimmy.  I WILL be going back to the bike rides i have enjoyed so much and can find worthwhile things to occupy my time without three 10-12 hour days/week.  STAY TUNED and thank you for your loyalty and support!



Mobil 1 motor oil, “Intel Inside,” “Die-Hard car batteries,” “The man from Orkin….” What do these have in common?

Triumph of prolonged consistent marketing has convinced the public these names signify top tier quality and value and products superior to others that are not as well known.  But do they?  The failure rate of Intel PC processors in miniscule.  The failure rate of PC processors made by AMD is equally miniscule and they cost less.  Is there any objective reason to trust the “Man from Orkin” more than any other exterminator?  A friend of mine was incredulous when I told him it sounded like the battery in his car had failed.  “It can’t be the battery!  It’s a Die-hard!  That’s supposed to be a good battery!”  There are only two automotive battery manufacturers of any significance in the United States.  Globe-Union and Johnson Controls make batteries for Sears, Interstate, and most everybody else.  Some batteries come from overseas.  Don’s Automotive buys batteries from a distributor who does not deal in sufficient volume to have a trade name like “Die-Hard” molded into the case.  You need the volume of somebody like Sears for that.  “Die-Hard” and Interstate “Mega-tron” batteries fail young in Texas heat just like any other.

Mobil 1 is a high quality motor oil that is 100% synthetic and is certified to meet the newest and most rigorous American Petroleum Institute standards and those of ILSAC: The International Lubricant Standardization and Advisory Committee.   So are many other brands of motor oil, many of which you have never heard of.

If you have a headache will it be reduced sooner with Bayer aspirin as opposed to HEB house brand aspirin at 25% the cost?

It pays to be cynical when it comes to massive advertising campaigns.

Don’s Automotive keeps Mobil 1 engine oil for those that request it.  We don’t consider it a great value and use full synthetic oil of other brands in our own cars.  I recently went online and verified that “Pureguard” motor oil is certified to meet the most rigorous API and ILSAC standards.

If the rack & pinion steering gear in your Camry starts to leak we could replace it with a genuine Toyota branded “remanufactured” part.  Or we could use a Maval “remanufactured” steering gear with a two year warranty — Toyota’s warranty is one year — for a lower cost.  Guess who supp[lies Toyota and Lexus with “remanufactured” steering gears?



KUT, The Battered Woman’s Center and many other organizations are very worthy causes.  So why not donate your tired car to one of these?  Well, because your car does not really go to one of these laudable organizations.  The car goes to a for-profit broker.  The broker auctions the car off to a salvage yard.  The worthy cause gets a small percentage of the proceeds.  For the worthy cause 5% of something is better than 0% of nothing and they need every dime they can get so they agree to let their name be used in the process.

You would come out ahead googling “Auto parts used” and getting bids from salvage yards for your tired vehicle.   By all means give half of what they pay you for it to KUT or the Battered Woman’s Center or your favorite cause.  Everybody comes out ahead except the for-profit junk vehicle broker.



Recalls, technical service bulletins, warranty extensions ARE ALL DIFFERENT,

  1.  Recall:  The vehicle is recalled to repair what has been determined, (usually by the federal government) to be a safety hazard or something causing emissions standards to be violated.  The manufacturer is obligated to pay 100% of the cost, but watch out for a dealer that uses the recall as an opportunity to recommend a huge list of services that will add up to considerable expense and all too often serve no purpose.  There is no time or mileage limitation on a safety recall.  “Salvage title” vehicles that should have gone to the scrapyard may not be covered.
  2. Technical Service Bulletin:  This is information published by the vehicle manufacturer as to what is a likely cause of a vehicle malfunction with recommendations on the course of repair.  The fact that a problem is described in a technical service bulletin does not obligate the vehicle manufacturer to cover the expense of the repair, although the manufacturer might volunteer to do so.  See below.
  3. Warranty Extension:  While this may have been negotiated as part of a recall — see #1 — it is typically an offer by the vehicle manufacturer to appease the public when there have been egregious failures in some part of the vehicle.  This could be something like covering the cost of an extremely expensive digital display screen for  a much longer period than it would be covered by the basic vehicle warranty.

When researching a vehicle problem on the internet, it frequently seems like “They all do that!” But the percentages are not what they seem.  Typically for everybody who posts a particular problem there are hundreds or thousands of owners of the same make and model who have not experienced the issue with their vehicle.


We try to maintain a schedule to minimize turnaround time to repair your vehicle.  If we put a repair on the schedule we have made a commitment to get it back to you ASAP, unless, of course, you specifically told us “no rush.”    Plans change so we ask you PLEASE to let us know if you will not be bringing in the vehicle as scheduled.  To facilitate communication voicemail switches on automatically when we are closed.and there is also  Thanks for your cooperation!  Don

I have been WAY behind the times — AMEX is now no problem.

For as long as I can remember AMEX fees to the merchant were exorbitant so I discouraged or outright refused to take the card.  Reviewing my CC processing fees  I find AMEX is now pretty much in line with all the others.  While it is inevitable that some car repairs will be expensive and we can only do so much about that, no need to be inflexible about method of payment!  Bring your AMEX card!

Which sequence makes sense?

1. Prepare an estimate first, diagnose later.
2. Diagnose first and then estimate.

The answer to this seems so obvious as to not be worthy of discussion but there are many who want the first option!

“Car won’t run so how much is a fuel pump replacement?” This question does NOT include a useful diagnosis.

For more on this topic see “What if?” post.