Our Current Blog Articles
August 14, 2017
Handy Guide to Motor Oil
South Denver Automotive in Denver, Colorado has put together this handy guide to motor oil. We know that our customers are not expert car mechanics, nor do they want to be. That’s why we make it easy to figure out what is the best motor oil for your vehicle. And, of course, if you have any further questions we are always happy to help!
There are lots of different kinds of motor oil out there so it may seem like choosing the correct one for your vehicle is a bit overwhelming. We promise it isn’t as complicated as it seems, especially if you come to us for oil changes, you just need to know what to look for. Here’s your handy guide to motor oil.
The first thing you should note is if the oil you are considering has these two labels. The first, a starburst symbol indicating that the oil has met the American Petroleum Institute standards. The second indicates whether the oil meets the current SL service rating put out by the API, has passed the energy conserving test and gives you the viscosity number. Meeting the standards is straightforward, but what do you do with that viscosity number? Let’s look at that now in this handy guide to motor oil.
You may remember from a high school vocabulary quiz that viscosity refers to a fluid’s resistance to flow. If that sounds confusing, just think of it as the thickness of the liquid. Viscosity changes according to temperature (hotter equals less viscous) and motor oils are rated at two temperatures. The first is 0 degrees Fahrenheit (denoted by a number followed by W for winter) and the second is at 212 degrees Fahrenheit (the second number in the rating). Examples would be 10W-30 or 20W-50.
In general, thicker oil is better. The oil is better capable of sealing where it needs to seal and keep the moving parts well lubricated. However, as always there can be too much of a good thing. If the oil is too thick, the engine will have to work harder to move its moving parts, and it can even be difficult to get the car started--reducing the vehicle’s fuel economy.
So how do you decide on the correct oil viscosity for your engine? The easiest way is to check the owner's manual. There you will find the right viscosity rating for your engine and the season, as even the same motor can use a different viscosity depending on the outside temperature.
Synthetic vs. Conventional Motor Oil
Now that you have the right viscosity, the next decision you will make is whether to choose synthetic or conventional motor oil. There is no one right answer as oils are manufactured specifically for different purposes. For example, there are oils for use in high mileage vehicles, high-tech engines, new cars vs. old cars, or heavy-duty/off-roading vehicles. So, which should you choose? Let’s explain the differences next in our handy guide to motor oil.
Conventional Motor Oil
This is your standard motor oil that comes in new cars. There is a range of viscosities available but with just three ratings, 5W-20, 5W-30 and 10W-30, most every light-duty vehicle is covered. Don’t forget to change your oil frequently. No matter how good your oil is, you can’t skip this step. The absolute minimum amount that you should change your oil is twice a year, but a better rule of thumb is every 4,000 miles or roughly every four months. Some vehicles have an indicator on the dash; never ignore it!
Full Synthetic Motor Oil
This type of oil is used in high-tech engines. The oil is better than others, flowing better at lower temps without losing too much viscosity at higher temperatures. It performs better and longer and even offers better protection against deposits. If it’s so great, you may be wondering, why it isn’t more commonly used. The answer is it’s more expensive than conventional motor oil and unnecessary in many vehicles. In fact, it may not meet the needs of your car’s engine so always check your owner’s manual first.
Synthetic Motor Oil Blend
These oil types offer a middle ground between conventional and full synthetic. They tend not to be too much more expensive than conventional while still offering many of the great benefits of synthetic oils. They are popularly used in pickups and SUVs for their heavy load and high-temperature protections.
Today’s vehicles offer a lot in the mileage department. Many can easily run well past 100,000 miles, and many people are taking advantage of that. Oil manufacturers have taken note and have put extra effort into creating some impressive oils that can help your engine run smoothly even when parts start wearing out.
For example, over time and use, crankshaft seals harden and begin to lose their flexibility, causing leaks and maybe even breaking. This contributes to having to replace the oil more often as is often the case in older cars. However, a good high-mileage oil has seal conditioners in the mix that are designed to help restore the seal’s flexibility and shape, virtually eliminating leaks of this type. Of course, these ingredients have been chosen carefully, because some can cause over-swelling.
High-mileage oils also generally have higher viscosities designed to help reduce the effects of engine wear. High-mileage engines naturally have a lot more wear than new vehicles, and this characteristic comes in very handy. These oils also have other anti-wear additives added to their formulation to reduce the effects of wear further and cause your engine to run more smoothly. The great thing is, all these benefits aren’t too expensive. High-mileage oils still are more affordable than the average full-synthetic oil.
We hope that this handy guide to motor oil has been helpful to you. Of course, this is not an in-depth explanation, and there are still other factors that affect deciding the proper motor oil for your engine, but it is a good basic overview and can help you understand a little about the ins and outs of motor oil. For more expert advice, talk to one of our highly knowledgeable mechanics here at South Denver Automotive. We can help you pick the perfect motor oil for your engine’s needs.
July 18, 2017
Get to Know Your Car's Exhaust System
One of the ways to better understand how your car works is to get to know your car’s exhaust system. South Denver Automotive offers this guide to understanding how it works. Of course, you don’t have to become an expert, we’re here to help you out when your car is in trouble, but understanding a few things can save you time and money because you have a better idea when it is time to visit us.
The exhaust system performs an important function in your vehicle. Gases like carbon monoxide that are harmful to humans are produced within the engine as fuel combustion occurs. The exhaust system (when working correctly) safely vents gases so that they do not enter the passenger compartment. Of course, these gases aren’t so great for the environment either, but it is far better than breathing the gases in the small enclosed space of your vehicle.
Parts of the Exhaust System
The first step to get to know your car’s exhaust system is to learn about each of the parts and what they do. Let’s take a look at them and talk about their functions.
There is more than one area inside your engine where gases are produced, so it is necessary to condense them together into one pipe. The exhaust manifold performs this function by attaching to the cylinder head and combining the gases from each cylinder. The manifold itself is usually made from cast iron but can also be steel, stainless steel or even aluminum.
Modern fuel-injected cars utilize an oxygen sensor to monitor the level of oxygen in the exhaust. The right amount is essential to get the best fuel economy possible. The computer uses the information from the oxygen sensor to automatically make adjustments as necessary. The sensor is usually placed in the manifold or close to the exhaust pipe.
The catalytic converter performs the important function of reducing the number of harmful gases released into the atmosphere. It is located between the manifold and the muffler and converts harmful carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons to innocent water vapor and carbon dioxide. Some are also capable of reducing harmful nitrogen oxides.
A muffler does just what it sounds like it might do, it muffles noise. The combustion process is a series of explosions so you can imagine that left alone it’s a pretty noisy process. Mufflers typically use bafflers to bounce the exhaust around until the energy dissipates a bit and the noise lessens. There is also a type that utilizes fiberglass packing to absorb sound energy as the gases pass through and help quiet things even more.
The exhaust pipe ties everything all together. It goes from the manifold to the tail pipe and carries the gases safely out of your vehicle. Typically exhaust pipes are made of steel, but sometimes stainless steel or even aluminized steel tubing is used. Stainless steel has the best corrosion resistance, but it is more expensive. Aluminized steel is next and is often a nice middle point on both corrosion resistance and price.
So now you have an idea about how your car’s exhaust system works. It’s not that complicated, really, and is pretty easy to understand. Now let’s talk about some common issues that can arise with your exhaust system. Knowing about these problems and the preventative measures that you can take can end up saving you time and money--which is always a good thing!
Corrosion, or rust, is your exhaust system’s number one enemy. Water reacts with the iron in steel (remember that the exhaust pipe is usually made of steel?) to create iron oxide, more commonly known as rust.
One of the byproducts of combustion is water vapor. Remember, too, that the catalytic converter is turning harmful gases into water vapor. Well, water vapor may be harmless to you and the environment, but it is not harmless to your exhaust pipe. Water can also get into your pipe from the outside when it rains.
The point is that it is difficult to get away from having moisture in your exhaust pipe. This problem is compounded if you usually use your vehicle for short trips under 15 miles. The reason for this is that when you turn off your vehicle, whatever water vapor is in the system at the time condenses into water inside the pipe. If you constantly use your car for short trips, the pipe never heats up enough to evaporate that water and move it through the system. If this is your situation, it is a good idea to choose a stainless-steel pipe when your regular steel one inevitably rusts.
Another thing to keep in mind, if you live in an area where salt is used on the roads, the corrosion process moves faster. The best way to slow this down is to wash the salt off every few weeks. Make sure to run your engine for a while after getting it wet so that the excess water can evaporate and not cause more problems.
Gas Mileage Worsening
If you start noticing a decrease in your gas mileage, it could very well be that your oxygen sensor is going bad. It is a good idea to change it every 60,000 miles as inaccuracies can cause your car engine to burn more fuel than necessary to power your vehicle. It’s a fairly inexpensive repair, and your savings at the pump make it worth it.
Corrosion can also be a problem with the muffler. Usually, that’s the only thing that will go wrong with the muffler, but if the rust gets bad enough, you should definitely have the muffler replaced.
Catalytic Converter Issues
This is uncommon, but the catalytic converter can get clogged and need replacement. If your vehicle is having this problem, you may notice a loss of power, the floor of your car heating up, a sulfur smell, or a literally red-hot converter. Don’t just take it off without replacing it as that is illegal in most states.
We hope this article has helped you to get to know your car’s exhaust system a bit. Of course, nothing replaces the expertise of the friendly staff at South Denver Automotive, and we are happy to help whenever you are having problems with your exhaust system.
June 16, 2017
How Do I Know When to Replace Shock Absorbers?
How do I know when to replace shock absorbers? Here are a few tips from South Denver Automotive in Denver, Colorado to help you determine the answer to this question.
Shock absorbers don’t just make the ride in your vehicle more comfortable, they also serve an important function in your vehicle’s road holding and handling. When they start wearing down, your car becomes exposed to potentially dangerous swaying, deteriorated performance and even hydroplaning. Here are a few things to watch out for that will help determine when to replace shock absorbers.
Greater Stopping Distance
Using shock absorbers for more than 50,000 miles can lead to increased stopping distances of up to 10 feet. That’s a significant amount and can make a huge difference in avoiding a potential collision. Pay attention to how your vehicle is stopping, and if it seems sluggish, you might want to have the shock absorbers checked.
Swerves and Nose Dives When Braking
Also, when stopping, take note if your car wants to swerve a little or even take a sharp nose dive. These are both signs that your shock absorbers are not performing their road holding and handling functions well and can be especially dangerous in bad weather when the road is slick.
Take note of if you can feel vibrations in the steering wheel as you drive. Properly functioning shock absorbers will keep your tires firmly in contact with the road, and you shouldn’t feel excess vibrations.
Bad Handling in Windy Conditions
If your vehicle’s shock absorbers are worn, your car can slide around or swerve a bit in windy conditions. This is quite dangerous as your car could swerve unexpectedly into another lane at a very inopportune moment.
Excessive Rocking and Rattling
If it seems like you feel every bump, pothole, and rock that you drive over, it could be that your shock absorbers are in dire need of replacement. Not only is this uncomfortable for you and your passengers, but that much bumping and bouncing is putting extra stress on other components in your vehicle. You should definitely replace your shock absorbers soon!
Tires Wearing Unevenly
Shock absorbers help to keep your vehicle tires gripping the road correctly and evenly. If you notice bald patches or unevenly worn spots on your tires, it’s possible that your shock absorbers are too worn to perform this function correctly. This is dangerous as it negatively affects handling control and could even contribute to issues like hydroplaning. Better safe than sorry with a new set of shock absorbers.
We hope these tips from the friendly professionals at South Denver Automotive have been helpful in answering the question, how do I know when to replace shock absorbers? If you’re still not too sure about how your shock absorbers are performing, or if you suspect an issue, don’t hesitate to give us a call. We are happy to inspect your shock absorbers and give you an honest opinion about whether they should be replaced. Remember these types of maintenance are essential in keeping you and your passengers safe in your vehicle.
June 14, 2017
Basic Car Repair and Troubleshooting Transmissions
Here at South Denver Automotive, we know that some customers enjoy knowing a bit about basic car repair and troubleshooting transmissions. Even though most people aren’t knowledgeable mechanics, it helps them to feel like their mechanic knows what he’s talking about when they know just enough to understand that he’s headed in the right direction. This article gives a bit of information about how mechanics troubleshoot problems.
Sometimes an experienced technician can hear a sound and know immediately what the problem most likely is. In this case, he will only have to do whatever is necessary to test his theory and get your car fixed up nice and quick. In other cases, the technician may not be able to pinpoint the source of the noise and will begin an auto repair troubleshooting process.
The first step is to see if the problem is already known. Using the manufacturer’s service information, the technician can check your engine to see if there is an issue commonly seen in your vehicle model.
If there is no information available, he can move on to using an automotive stethoscope to pinpoint exactly where the noise is coming from. He can also remove the drive belt, and if the noise disappears, that will confirm that the issue is in one of the belt driven parts (like the alternator or AC compressor).
Once the general area of noise is established, a technician will begin to take apart the engine to visually inspect each component and (hopefully) make the final determination of what is causing the noise.
Sometimes sounds are only heard at certain times, like when going over bumps, turning or at a particular speed. The technician will begin the same way, starting with his experience and the service information. If that doesn’t provide useful, he will start troubleshooting.
Noise issues with the suspension can often be heard by jouncing the car in the shop. One technician can bounce the vehicle and the other can use the stethoscope to find the particular trouble spot. If the sound can’t be initiated in the shop, technicians can use electronic microphones to pinpoint sounds while driving, although this technique is much more challenging than it sounds.
Noises in the body of the car most often originate at points where the metal is welded together. The techniques to diagnose this are similar to suspension. Once the technician has found the spot it typically just needs lubricant or maybe even just a jolt from a hammer. Wind noises in the body can be pinpointed by taping off sections of the car and listening for when the noise disappears.
We hope this information about basic car repair and troubleshooting transmissions has been helpful. Just remember when you need quality auto repair from experienced technicians you can always count on the folks at South Denver Automotive. Our years of experience means we can figure out your problem quickly and efficiently which translates into savings for you. Give us a call today and find out what that strange noise is you keep hearing in your vehicle.
May 16, 2017
How to Check for Problems with Belts and Hoses
Today, at South Denver Automotive would like to explain how to check for problems with belts and hoses. Most of our customers are not interested in being a car repair expert, and they don’t have to be, that’s what we’re here for! However, there are a few easy things that you might be interested in learning to facilitate a bit of do-it-yourself car repair.
A great place to start is learning to check for problems with car belts and hoses, after all, they are responsible for keeping much needed fluids like oil in your vehicle. Rubber wears out faster in high-temperature environments, and a car engine most certainly counts as such an environment. Checking hoses and belts is a simple chore and something that can save money and a lot of headaches.
For example, if a hose that is part of your cooling system develops a leak or the belt that turns the water pump breaks, your engine is left vulnerable to overheating. This is most commonly a danger during the hotter months of the year but if the problem becomes severe enough before you notice your engine can overheat at any time. Hoses and belts are inexpensive fixes, but a cracked engine head from overheating can cost hundreds of dollars to fix.
Coolant and Heater Hoses
When it comes to the cooling system, the hoses are most definitely the weakest link. These tubes are made from flexible rubber compounds and are designed to be able to handle pressurized engine coolant. However, they are also routinely exposed to extreme temperature fluctuations, oils, dirt, sludge and even atmospheric ozone--all of which are damaging to the rubber compounds.
The most damaging factor is also the hardest to detect. Referred to as Electrochemical Degradation, or ECD, this phenomenon attacks the hose from the inside and causes fine cracks which is why it is so difficult to detect. Then any acids or contaminants in the coolant further damage the structure until it either starts to leak or ruptures completely.
Maintenance Tips for Hoses
The good news is that there are some easy maintenance steps you can take to diminish the possibility of a complete rupture.
- Check the coolant-recovery tank: there is an easily accessible white tank on top of your engine where you can check the level of the coolant fluid. There are usually marks to indicate at what level the fluid should be. If you notice that it is constantly coming up low, that’s a good indication that you have a slow leak somewhere. You can also check for remnants of car fluids on the ground where you usually park your car.
- To check for signs of ECD, firmly squeeze the hoses near the clamps, which is where the earliest signs of ECD appear. They should feel firm but pliant. Soft and mushy indicates a problem. Be sure to do this with a cold engine.
- Check the entire hose for cracks, nicks or bulges. Pay particular attention to areas near connection points, areas where the hoses are bent, and watch out for a hardened, glassy surface, an indication of heat damage.
- Regularly service the system by flushing out the fluid and replacing it with clean fluid. This is the number one way to cut down on ECD issues.
- Also, remember never to remove the radiator cap while the engine in hot! The hot coolant is pressurized in there and can blow up in your face, a very unpleasant prospect to be sure. Another danger is the electric cooling fan that can come on automatically at any point so keep your fingers out of there.
Other Important Notes about Hoses
Note that the upper radiator hose fails the most frequently, so keep the closest eye on that one. As a general rule of thumb, replace the hoses about every four years. If one breaks, we recommend that you replace all of them because the rest are probably getting old enough to be a danger. Remember, replacing a hose is a lot less expensive than replacing the damage caused by an overheated engine.
When you do replace the hoses, be sure that the new hoses are ECD resistant ones. Most cars built after 1993 have ECD resistant hoses so be sure that any replacement ones are also up to current recommendations. Each manufacturer uses its own trademark, but you will find something ‘Type ECD’ that indicates its resistance. Alternatively, ask one of our experts here at South Denver Automotive.
Belts are also made from rubber compounds, so many of the same elements that attack hoses, such as ozone, heat, oil, etc., can attack belts. Newer cars are usually equipped with a single serpentine belt that drives various accessories like the alternator, water pump, air-conditioning compressor and power steering pump. It is recommended to change this belt out every 50,000 miles. Older model cars have separate belts known as V-belts. It is recommended that these belts be replaced every 36,000 miles.
Maintenance Tips for Belts
Just like with hoses, there are a few steps you can take to diminish your chances of having a belt snap while you are driving.
- Inspect each belt carefully for any signs of wear like cracks, fraying or splits
- Watch for glazing, a sign of heat damage that can cause the belt to slip, overheat or even snap
- Twist the serpentine belt to check the underside for any separation, cracks or pieces missing out of the grooves.
Other Important Notes about Belts
When replacing belts, be sure to use the exact same size. Check the length, width and number of grooves to ensure that each aspect is the same. Also, belts need to have the right tension otherwise they may slip, generate heat or flat out not turn the accessory they are attached to. If you notice a high-pitched whine or chirping sound or, excess vibration noises you may have a belt tension problem that should be looked at.
We hope that this guide on how to check for problems with belts and hoses has been helpful. If you are in doubt about any of these aspects or need help with the inspection, feel free to bring your vehicle to our friendly and knowledgeable mechanics here at South Denver Automotive today!