the single most important thing you can do for your car

When I first started driving, my dad asked me the same question over and over about my car.

“When’s the last time you changed the oil in that thing?”

‘That thing’ was my first car, an avocado-green 1971 Oldsmobile Cutlass. My dad wanted me to change its oil and oil filter every couple of thousand miles. I have to admit that I wasn’t the most diligent oil-changer, which was why Dad stayed on me about changing it.

As a typical teenager, I dismissed the question as an annoying intrusion on my newfound car-centric ‘freedom’. But even into adulthood, I was never all that concerned about how often I changed my oil.

It really wasn’t until I bought lowell’s that I understood the true importance of Dad’s question.

A regular oil and filter change is the single most important thing you can do to help keep your car’s engine running longer.

Why your oil matters

Fresh oil keeps internal engine parts clean and lubricated, which prolongs the life of your engine.

Oil breaks down with exposure to the high temperatures of your engine. As it breaks down, your oil stops absorbing dust, moisture, and other contaminants. That means the oil won’t lubricate as well, causing engine parts to wear out faster.

What can go wrong

Because old oil stops lubricating as well, your engine parts rub together. This increased friction causes the parts to wear out faster and makes your engine hotter – which causes your oil to degrade even faster, triggering a downward spiral of deteriorating oil, heat, and engine wear.

Eventually, the oil can break down into sludge – a sticky, tar-like substance which clogs narrow passageways inside your engine – and oil can’t get where it is needed inside your clogged engine.

The increased heat and friction in your engine can also cause your engine to seize and need to be replaced.

What we do

We drain the old oil from your engine and replace it and the oil filter. We use only genuine Toyota oil filters with a double-stage filtering element and an anti-drainback valve.

We also perform a free Courtesy Check – a visual inspection of your belts, fluids, hoses, lights, tire pressures, and tire wear – with each service, which allows us to identify small problems before they become big problems.

What we do with the old stuff

We’ve contracted with a recycling service to pick up your old oil and oil filters. Once the dirt and other contaminants are removed, most of your old oil can be re-refined into high-grade motor oil.

When we recommend it

Our oil change recommendations depend on the type of engine your car has.

For engines using conventional motor oil (5W-20 or 5W-30 grade oil), we recommend changing your oil every 3,500 miles or every 6 months, whichever comes first. This applies to almost all 2009 and earlier Toyotas, and many vehicles made between 2010 and 2013.

For engines using full synthetic motor oil (0W-20 grade), we recommend changing your oil every 5,000 miles or every 6 months, whichever comes first. This applies to almost all 2014 and later Toyotas, and many vehicles made between 2010 and 2013.

So… When’s the last time you changed the oil in that thing?

new public art at lowell’s

In early October, local art group PRHBTN sponsored six new street art murals around Lexington.

One of the biggest new murals is right next to Lowell’s! We can see this huge, beautiful art from our front door, and we chronicled artists Yu-baba and Key Detail as they painted.

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We think that this new mural is part of what makes Lexington and our North Lime neighborhood such a great and unique place to live and work. Come down to lowell’s to see it!

 

north lime

This month, we’re updating our logo, our colors, and our design.

You’ll see these new colors, logo, and design first on our emails, website, and buildings (which are freshly painted), and we’ll continue to roll out the new design throughout all of our materials in the coming weeks.

One new element of the design is the ‘north lime’ designation which goes along with our logo. We are proud to be part of Lexington’s resurgent North Limestone neighborhood, and we wanted to celebrate that in our logo.

North Lime is where we work every day. It’s where we get to see you. We’ve been here for 37 years, and this neighborhood is in our blood.

We’re still here at 111 Mechanic Street, in the heart of North Lime. And we can’t wait to see you here soon!

don’t mind our mess

For the past few months, Mechanic Street and North Limestone have been under seemingly-endless construction as the water lines along our streets have been replaced. Initially only slated for a few weeks, the construction has dragged on – often with no apparent activity for days at a time.

At the same time, we’ve been repainting the outsides of our buildings at Lowell’s. This has included scraping nearly 70 years of paint off of our buildings (and making some interesting discoveries along the way), replacing much of the mortar along some walls, priming, and painting.

So, we’ve got holes, above-ground pipes, and piles of gravel in our street. And our building looks completely different on the outside.

But don’t let the mess put you off – we’re still ready to help with whatever your vehicle needs!

uncovering a bit of our history

As we peeled away some sixty to seventy years of paint, we started to make out faint outlines of block letters underneath all of those layers.

At first, all we could see was ‘ETE  HOME  F’. Then, below that, we could make out ‘LEXINGTON – DANVILLE’. At the top of the building, we could start to see ‘H & G’.

We were hooked. We wanted to know what was here before.

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We’ve often wondered about the origins of our buildings here on Mechanic Street. We’ve known that our main building was built in 1949, but we didn’t know what kind of building it was.

That changed as we prepared to paint our building this year.

As we scraped away more paint, we could find more clues, but the clues were never very clear. Eventually, it started to look like ‘H & G COMPLETE HOME FURNI’, and we were pretty sure we were dealing with some sort of furniture store. That seemed a little odd, given the structure of our building, but maybe our building was just a warehouse for the store.

Finally, with most of the paint removed, the top line looked a lot less like ‘H & G’ and much more like ‘BAUGH & GARNER’.

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Baugh & Garner Building, 1932 - The original 4-story Baugh & Garner building on the corner of North Limestone and Mechanic. Today, Lowell's stands where the 2 houses behind the B&G building (at the lower left of this picture) are.
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Several internet searches (mainly, the great historical images at the University of Kentucky’s ExploreUK) confirmed that our building was part of Baugh & Garner Incorporated, a furniture store on the corner of North Limestone and Mechanic Streets. The four-story building for the store was built in 1922, and our building at 111 Mechanic Street was built a quarter-century later as a warehouse for the store.

We can’t find any contemporaneous pictures of our building when it was part of the store, but we do have some good pictures of the store itself from 1921, 1932, and 1933.

We’d love to know more about Baugh and Garner – when it started, who ran it, when it went out of business, when the old building was torn down, etc.  If you can share any additional details, please let us know!

 

 

 

Lowell’s wins 2015 Angie’s List Award

We are extremely humbled by the awards that customers have chosen for us over the years.

We have won 8 Readers’ Choice Awards from Herald-Leader readers as Favorite Auto Repair Shop. We’ve also won 9 Ace Magazine Best in Lex Awards as Favorite Mechanic. We are Lexington’s first and only RepairPal Certified mechanic.

And now, for the third year in a row, we’ve also been recognized by Angie’s List.

Lowell’s has earned the Angie’s List 2015 Super Service Award for the outstanding things our customers have said about our service on Angie’s List.

Angie’s List collects reviews from real people on a variety of services, including reviews of auto repair service in Lexington.

According to Angie’s List, “winners of this award have met strict eligibility requirements, which include an ‘A’ rating in overall grade, recent grade, and review period grade; the company must be in good standing with Angie’s List, have a fully complete profile, pass a background check and abide by Angie’s List operational guidelines.”

We are so honored to serve great customers and to have had those customers make this award happen for us. Thanks for all of the wonderful things you say and do for Lowell’s!

Lowell’s wins 2014 Angie’s List Award

We are extremely humbled by the awards that customers have chosen for us over the years.

We have won 8 Readers’ Choice Awards from Herald-Leader readers as Favorite Auto Repair Shop. We’ve also won 9 Ace Magazine Best in Lex Awards as Favorite Mechanic. We are Lexington’s only RepairPal Certified mechanic.

And now, for the second year in a row, we’ve also been recognized by Angie’s List.AngiesList2013-2014

Lowell’s has earned the Angie’s List 2014 Super Service Award for the outstanding things our customers have said about our service on Angie’s List.

Angie’s List collects reviews from real people on a variety of services, including reviews of auto repair service in Lexington.

According to Angie’s List, “winners of this award have met strict eligibility requirements, which include an ‘A’ rating in overall grade, recent grade, and review period grade; the company must be in good standing with Angie’s List, have a fully complete profile, pass a background check and abide by Angie’s List operational guidelines.”

We are so honored to serve great customers and to have had those customers make this award happen for us. Thanks for all of the wonderful things you say and do for Lowell’s!

Deflategate and your car

DeflateGate

Whether you are a football fan or not, you’ve probably heard about the accusations that the New England Patriots under-inflated their footballs to gain an advantage in a cold, rainy AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts.

Dubbed ‘DeflateGate’, the controversy swelled in the leadup to the Super Bowl on February 1st (which the Patriots happened to win).

We won’t delve into every detail of that controversy here (for that, we suggest checking out the Deflategate entry on Wikipedia to start).

Instead, we’ll provide a brief overview and then focus on one particular aspect of Deflategate which relates directly to problems we see here at the shop.

In the NFL, each team is allowed to ‘work in’ the footballs they use on the field. Each team provided 12 footballs for the game. Equipment managers are allowed to rub and scuff the surface of each football for their team so that it is easier to grip. (New football surfaces can be too slick.) The equipment managers are also allowed to inflate the footballs to between 12.5 and 13.5 pounds per square inch (PSI – a measure of air pressure). Then, they bring the footballs from the locker room to the field for the game.

During the game, one of the Colts players noticed that one of the Patriots’ footballs seemed underinflated. After league officials measured the pressure in the other Patriots footballs, they noted that most of them were under the 12.5 PSI minimum threshold. The one that the Colts player noticed was underinflated by almost 2 pounds.

Much of the initial media coverage focused on possible wrongdoing by the Patriots.

But here at Lowell’s, we recognized the underinflation as something we see quite often – only with cars.

Whenever the temperature drops, our customers come into the shop because the tire pressure light on their dash came on. They are often worried about leaks.

In most cases, however, they aren’t losing any air. Instead, the air in their tires has cooled, and has lost energy in the process. And with lower energy, the pressure inside the tires drops.

Toyota has a service bulletin (see Figure 1, below) which addresses this very issue. When the temperature in the repair shop is significantly higher than the weather outside, Toyota recommends over-inflating the tires in the shop to get the right tire pressures when you go back outside.

Tire Pressure Chart

On a very cold winter day, for example, we may inflate your tires to 38 PSI inside our warm shop, so that you get the proper 32 PSI when you are driving outside.

If we inflated to the correct pressure while inside the shop, your tire pressure would fall well below specifications when you left.

And here, we see the direct analogy to Deflategate. If the Patriots equipment manager inflated the footballs properly in a relatively warm locker room, and then brought them to a cold, rainy field for a couple of hours, we should expect the pressures to drop substantially.

Did the Patriots try to cheat by underinflating their footballs? We don’t know.

From our experience with tire inflation, however, we aren’t too surprised to see football pressures fall given the drop in temperatures that day.

If your tire pressure light comes on when the temperature drops, bring your vehicle in to Lowell’s. We’ll be happy to top off your tire pressures at no charge.

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Deflategate Analysis from Khan Academy – watch this video from Sal Khan for a much more comprehensive and scientific analysis of how temperature drops may have played a role in the underinflation of the footballs for the AFC Championship.

Extra Table: Recommended tire pressure levels at different outdoor temperatures.