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The Lexus IS250 and Winter Mountain Driving in Denver Colorado

I’m Saul Reisman here at Saul’s AUTOTEK and today we’re behind this 2006 Lexus IS250, to talk to you a little bit about mountain driving, how it affects your vehicle and the things you can do to be a better driver and keep your vehicle live as long as possible and keep you and your passengers safe the entire time.

Now we’re here servicing the brakes on this vehicle and we’ll talk to you a little bit about that. But the reason we’re replacing the brakes has to do with the transmission. The owner of this vehicle, while it is equipped with a six-speed automatic, knows that while going up and down in the mountains they can upshift or downshift using the paddles on the back of the steering wheel or using the shifter and it’s up and down pattern, in order to maintain speed.

We often think of the gas pedal is forgoing, the brake pedal is first stopping. The gears are very important and we really don’t use them that much but they’re for maintaining speed. Now if you are driving a semi and you needed to go up along grade a big hill, you would downshift and drop down one gear before you get to that big hill so that you’re in a power gear you got a lot of speed, a lot of power to push it and floor it up that hill and make sure you’re going to get up it. If you’re in too high a gear, overdrive or beyond, you might not have enough power to make it up that hill and you might start slowing down while going up that grade.

If that happens the time it takes you to downshift to the next gear and try and recover that speed, you’re already losing more speed. And not only is that unsafe if you’re a trucker carrying a heavy load but if you’re in a vehicle and that means you’re losing speed going up a mountain pass, it could be dangerous if there’s other traffic around you, especially if your vehicle is underpowered or simply an older car that doesn’t have quite enough chutzpah to get up and over that ill.

In the case of this guy, the vehicle itself makes a fair amount of power. However, the owner drives it on mountain driving up and down almost 50 miles every day and as a result has to exercise upshifting and downshifting on a consistent basis in order to keep the vehicle moving at a constant speed. That typically means fifth or sixth gear going downhill and maybe fourth gear going up to maintain those speeds. Now the manual transmission’s creed is go up, shift up, go down, shift down. While going downhill we want to use a low gear to maintain the vehicle speed even though the engine RPMs will be higher so we can use the resistance of the engine compression braking to slow the vehicle down instead of the brakes. Unfortunately for this vehicle, the engine itself is very high wound, it red lines in almost 7,000 RPMs and it doesn’t offer a fair amount of compression or resistance when braking.

What that means is if the owner is coming down a mountain at 70 miles an hour and puts it into fourth gear, the vehicle might not slow down. It might maintain its speed, but the owner may have to apply the brakes even on a fairly consistent basis to maintain the constant speed. If that’s the case, you’re either traveling at too fast a speed and need to slow down a little bit so the gear can hold you or you’re going to need this lower gear, which will also reduce your speed a little bit. For this vehicle owner, they’re a little aggressive, they like to drive it at speed and that means they use the brakes a little bit too much in those mountain driving. So we’re going to show you a few things that can be done to prevent further problems with the vehicle and help keep it alive as best as possible.

Now, while they do downshift when going down the hill so they don’t have to use the brakes as much, they’re still applying the brake a fair amount. These are the brake pads we just pulled off the vehicle and we’re going to show you two different things about it. One, we can see that one brake pad is completely degraded and the thickness of the pad is literally gone. It’s down to the two metal rivets and as we can see by the pattern on it, it has struck the rotor creating metal to metal friction, thus causing irreparable damage to the brake rotor. The other brake pad still has approximately 50% life, however, has a slightly uneven wear pattern it’s a little thinner at one end a little thicker at the other end. Now, these brake pads are pretty small they’re the rear of the car which are often undersides. So we’re going to do a couple things.

First and foremost, we’re going to upgrade this vehicle with a larger diameter brake rotor. Now typically your mechanic isn’t going to put a different part on your vehicle unless it makes a substantial upgrade or difference and at your request. In this case, Lexus makes three different sizes of sedans. The IS the GS and the LS. In this case, we took the IS, the smallest sedan and we put the brakes from a GS onto it. The GS is a substantially larger, heavier and full-bodied, full-size sedan and as a result, was equipped with a much larger brake. We’ve replaced the brake caliper, which has a larger displacement caliper fluid piston so that it gets greater force on it. We’ve upgraded the brake pads with a hotter material and then we’ve replaced it with the rotor from the GS series. Additionally, we’ve used a cross-drilled and slotted rotor so that it provides proper heat dissipation and ventilation for the vehicle.

What this means is that if the owner’s got to hit those brakes at speed, as long as they’re continuing to move and there’s airflow over them, the airflow is going to cool this brake rotor pretty quickly so that it can dissipate heat effectively and avoid warpage, crackage or issues down the road. Now, the reason that we’re so serious about this vehicle is that mountain driving is a serious task. Here in Colorado, we have very specific laws about how you can drive, what vehicles, what tires, what types of options you can have and what the safety conditions are around them. We see lots of tourist traffic and we want to keep you safe. We understand that not everybody driving on our mountain highways has the most experience and we want to do everything possible to protect you. In this case, this vehicle is actually my own personal vehicle and is going to my father here shortly.

The vehicle is being retired from my daily service and it’s time for my father to have a new vehicle in his life that he can run for another five to 10 years. One of the things we want to make sure we send him out with the protection and coverage of his brakes that can handle any situation. While I, as a younger person, might be able to think I can react quicker or stronger or a little bit faster than my old man, I want to make sure he’s protected no matter what. So here at Saul’s AUTOTEK, the same thing that we would do for our family is what we do for your family. If you bring your vehicle in and you tell us you drive in the mountains and you’re concerned that mom or dad might not be the best equipped for the roads that are going on and you want the best result for them and you want to guarantee that they’re going to be safe, consistent, predictable in the best car with the best equipment possible, come and see us.

We can offer solutions and upgrades that other mechanics might not even think about and if that means retrofitting a vehicle to use larger componentries so they can perform better but still maintains that it’s serviceable down the road because these are factory components they can be replaced by any auto repair shop around the country. We’re going to offer any and everything we can to keep you safe no matter what. If you’ve got concerns about yours, you’re worried about handing off that vehicle, whether it be to the parents, the grandparents, or even to the kids.

Give us a call (303) 290-9900 we’ll be here to help you stay on the road and to keep you and your family safe.

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About the Author

Picture of Saul Reisman

Saul Reisman

Saul Reisman has been helping the residents of the Centennial State with their automotive needs for over ten years now. He finished his Associate Degree in Physics at the Community College of Denver. Saul is an active member of the Specialty Equipment Market Association and a board member of the Young Executives Network. He undergoes constant educational training through GMC, MOPAR, Ford, Snap-On, Borg-Warner, and Ozark Automotive, with an emphasis on diagnosis, repair, and improvement.

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