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May 16, 2017

How to Check for Problems with Belts and Hoses

How to Check for Problems with Belts and HosesToday, 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

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!

April 15, 2017

What's Going on When Your Car Won't Start

what’s going on when your car won’t startAt South Denver Automotive we know that as a car owner you may have been left wondering what’s going on when your car won’t start. Unfortunately, that is one of the not-so-pleasant aspects of car ownership. Every once in a while, something goes wrong, and your car doesn’t do what is needed.

Regular tune-ups and maintenance with a good mechanic like one of the experts here at South Denver Automotive can help keep these frustrating moments from happening. But even then, you may, at some point, find yourself with a car that won’t start.

The following list gives an idea of what to try, to get your car going again, depending on what it's doing. Sometimes, you will be able to find and fix the issue yourself or at least patch things up enough to get where you’re going, then take it to a mechanic later. Unfortunately, there are also sometimes when you can’t get it going again at all. That is what we’re here for, so feel free to make an appointment!

So now let’s take a look at what’s going on when your car won’t start. Your car may make a sound, start up and then shut off, or make no noise or indication whatsoever that you turned the key. Whatever your vehicle does, it gives you a hint at the problem.

You turn the key and hear nothing

Usually, if you turn the key and the car does nothing, especially completely out of the blue, your car is probably not getting juice from the battery. This could be because you left the lights or radio on and drained the battery’s energy or because the cables are corroded and dirty and are not making a good connection.

If you know you left something on, you can assume that is most likely the problem. It’s an easy fix, as long as you have a pair of jumper cables and a friend with a vehicle willing to give you a jump. Once your car is running, leave it on for a sufficient period of time so that the motor can recharge the battery enough so you won’t have trouble starting it again later in the day.

If the problem isn’t that the battery was drained, check the battery terminal connections. If they look dirty or corroded, this could be the problem. Find a screwdriver with an insulated handle, so you don’t end up shocking yourself and poke it between the terminal post and the connector. Try to start the engine. If it starts up, clean or replace the battery cables.

You turn the key and only hear a clicking sound--but it doesn’t start

Again, this often means a dead battery. In this case, try the steps we already mentioned to determine if the problem is a dead battery or dirty cables not transmitting power correctly. If neither of these seems to be the issue, try checking the wiring that goes to the starter and see if there is a loose connection.

The car engine turns over but doesn’t actually start

Another possibility of what's going on when your car won't start is that there's an issue with the fuel supply or the spark plugs. If you know how to check for these two issues, you can do it yourself. If the problem is simple, you may be able to fix it by cleaning a connection or making an adjustment. Unless you are car savvy, however, you will need a mechanic’s help with this one.

The engine starts but then immediately dies

In vehicles with a carburetor, check the adjustment of the carburetor and the choke. Again, you will need to know a bit about what you’re doing if adjustments need to be made here. In vehicles with fuel injection, you will definitely need to call a mechanic.

The engine won’t start when it’s cold outside

This usually has to do with the carburetor. If you know how to check the choke, see if that is the issue. Again, with a fuel injection vehicle, you will need professional auto repair.

Normally the engine starts, but on rainy days it doesn’t

Moisture is getting into the distributor cap. Remove the cap and clean it with mechanic’s solvent to dry up any moisture that might be inside. Use a lint-free rag to wipe it out and be very careful not to leave behind any dust or dirt as it can easily foul up the points.

The engine misses while idling

Maybe your engine does start up, but it skips or misses a little (or a lot) when idling. Now we’re getting into territory where many things could be wrong with your engine. At this point, you either need to know a lot about troubleshooting an engine or take it to the professionals to get it diagnosed and fixed.

Here is a list of things that could be wrong if the engine misses while idling: the points, spark plugs, fuel pump, fuel filter and or carburetor. The average person probably won’t have the knowledge necessary to check all these things properly, but that’s what auto mechanic professionals are for.

At least now you have an idea what’s going on when your car won’t start. As you can see, there are instances in which you may be able to remedy the problem without needing to bring the car to a mechanic. But, for those instances when you don’t have the know-how or the right tools to get the job done, you can count on the friendly professionals here at South Denver Automotive to get your vehicle in good working order again.

We’ve been operating in the Denver area since 1990 and pride ourselves on offering top-notch service to our customers. We work hard to earn and maintain trust in the Denver area because we know just how important it is--and how difficult it is--to find a good, trustworthy auto mechanic. So, the next time your auto requires a tune up or you are running into car troubles, give us a call and we’ll help you out!

March 14, 2017

What's the Difference Between Drum and Disc Brakes?

what’s the difference between drum and disc brakesToday, South Denver Automotive is answering a frequently asked question, what’s the difference between drum and disc brakes? We’ll also explain a little bit about the dynamics of braking. As with anything in the automotive industry, car manufacturers are always seeking ways to improve braking systems and offer greater stopping power and safety in today’s vehicles. Since the 60s, however, there have been two main types of brakes used, drum brakes and disc brakes.

The goal of brake research and development has always been to improve stopping power and make vehicles safer to drive. It has been a constant quest for many years, and the designs have improved by the addition of better performing materials like sintered metal, carbon fiber, and a lightweight version of steel as well as the introduction of systems like ABS (although the effectiveness of that is still up for debate).

Through it all, however, one thing has remained constant. Disc brakes have always proven to be a more effective design than drum brakes. Now, of course, today’s drum brakes have been significantly improved over earlier models and are better than the early disc brake designs. However, the disc brake design has also improved proportionately, so it still comes out as the leader.

Now, if you know anything about cars you probably know that both types of brakes are in use today, which begs the question, if disc brakes are so much better why not just use them exclusively? The answer, quite simply, comes down to cost. Drum brakes are significantly cheaper to manufacture, and that makes it worth it both for manufacturers in their production costs and consumers with the resulting purchase price.

But should cost be such a concern when it comes to safety? Probably not, but everyone knows that in the real world, price still comes into play regardless. Plus, the way that drum brakes are incorporated into modern cars does not diminish their safety or braking ability by much.

What it boils down to is that between 60-90% of your stopping power comes from the front tires of your vehicle. So, it makes sense to put a set of disc brakes on the front wheels, and drum brakes on the back, to create a vehicle that’s both cost-effective and safe. In many high-performance cars, especially the type used for racing and activities of the like, it is worth it to install a four-disc brake system. However, four disc brakes are overkill and add unnecessary cost for the average everyday driver.

The Principles of Friction and Heat

Now that we have established that disc brakes offer more advanced stopping power than drum brakes, let’s talk about why. Both systems rely on friction and heat to slow your vehicle. Both designs use brake pads to apply resistance to the vehicle’s wheels, thereby creating friction that will eventually stop the vehicle. How quickly depends on a variety of factors including the vehicle’s weight, total braking surface area, braking force and heat transfer. The heat transfer part is important for us because that’s where the difference between drum and disc brakes comes in.

Now, as anyone who has taken a high-school science class can tell you, heat is a byproduct of friction. In autos, it's the reason why oil changes are so important, to keep engine parts lubed and moving freely instead of building up heat that can damage your car engine. So, when you are braking and applying all that resistance to the wheels and causing all that friction, the natural byproduct is heat. If that heat remains trapped near the wheel for long enough, the brakes will become too hot and start to fade. Stopping power will be significantly diminished as a result.

Now that you understand the importance of heat transfer, let’s look at the difference between drum and disc brake design. Even just a quick look will explain why disc brakes do their job so much better than drum brakes do.

Drum Brakes

Modern braking systems began with drum brakes. The oldest designs (after hand levers) incorporated drum brakes on all four wheels. They get their name from the drum-like housing in which resides the brake shoes. When you press on the brake pedal, hydraulic fluid is used to force the brake shoes against the drum and cause the wheel to slow down.

Of course, the components are made of heat resistant and heat wicking materials that help to move heat away from the drum as quickly as possible. But it’s not perfect, and as we mentioned, once it gets too hot, the shoes begin to slip and your stopping power diminishes.

Under most normal conditions this is never a concern. But if you put your vehicle in a high-stress braking situation such as constantly braking as you drive down a very steep hill, or stopping from a high speed repeatedly, you will notice a marked decrease in braking performance.

Disc Brakes

Disc brakes operate on the same basic principles as drum brakes, but the structure is different. Instead of a drum, the disc brake has a rotor and a caliper. Two brake pads reside inside the caliper. When the brake pedal is pressed, hydraulic fluid is again used to move the brake pads and force them to clamp together.

This is where the difference comes in. In a drum, the brake pads and resulting heat buildup are all trapped inside the drum, slowing heat transfer dramatically. The rotor design, however, is more open and exposed to the surrounding air. That moving air carries away heat much faster, and therefore disc brakes have a much lower chance of overheating and fading.

Again, this is why it is not considered unsafe to use drum brakes on the rear wheels to cut costs. The brake is still a good design and will only fail in rather extreme conditions. The rear wheels are never subjected to as much force as the front wheels when it comes to stopping power, so it is unlikely they will ever overheat. Even if they do, the front brakes will most likely still be going strong, and you will have the stopping power you need to slow your vehicle safely.

We hope this article has been helpful and you now have a better understanding of what’s the difference between drum and disc brakes. Of course, you can always contact South Denver Automotive with any questions and our experts will be happy to answer them for you! Also, don’t forget to have your brakes checked once in a while to ensure that you are safe out there!

February 24, 2017

All about your car engine’s oil

All about your car engine’s oilMany people might not know all about your car engine’s oil, but they at least know that it performs a vital function. Responsible drivers are also aware that they need to have their oil changed every few thousand miles and keeping an eye on the oil level is one of many essential preventative maintenance measures that they can take. Letting a car engine run out of oil and having to pay the resulting repair bill is usually something you will only do once.

Here at South Denver Automotive, we know all about your car engine’s oil so you don’t. In today’s busy world, who has time to be worrying about pesky things like proper oil viscosity and performance? On the other hand, if your inquiring mind is curious to know all about your car engine’s oil then keep reading this article to pick up some interesting and even important pieces of information. 

What is the big deal about engine oil?

First of all, what makes your car engine’s oil so important? Why is it such an integral part of your cars preventative maintenance and what terrible thing will happen if you fail to provide adequate maintenance?

To answer this question, it is not necessary that you intimately understand all the inner workings of your car’s engine. Even if you have the most rudimentary understanding of motors, you probably know that as an engine works, many moving parts are involved in the combustion process that propels a vehicle.

High school science explains to us that when parts are moving around and against one another, friction is produced, which in turn produces excess heat. Just like when you rub your hands together on a cold day to warm them up. But engine parts are rubbing together a whole lot faster and producing a whole lot more heat. In addition to excess heat, parts constantly moving against one another will rapidly cause extensive wear and tear that will quickly destroy said parts and leave your engine crippled and you stranded on the side of the road somewhere.

That’s where the oil comes in. Engine oil is specially designed to thoroughly lubricate the moving parts inside your car’s engine, thereby drastically reducing both excessive wear and excess heat. Plus, as an added benefit, engine oil helps to keep your engine clean by washing away the chemicals and contaminants that naturally occur as a byproduct of the combustion process.

But don’t just buy any old engine oil. Not all oil is created equal, and you should be aware what type of oil is recommended for best results with your car’s engine. Of course, a reputable service center like South Denver Auto will be able to get that information for you if you don’t want to bother with searching for your engine manual. 

What is the API Certification Mark?

In addition to ensuring that you choose the right type of oil for your car’s engine, you should also be aware of the API Certification Mark, also known as the starburst because of how the logo looks. In general, car manufacturers recommend that you look for this mark on the oil that you are considering putting into the engine. 

Why? The American Petroleum Institute, or API, only puts this mark on oils that meet the current engine protection standards and fuel economy requirements put forth by the International Lubricant Standardization and Approval Committee, or ILSAC. Both American and Japanese automobile manufacturers are behind the production of this committee’s standards. 

What is the API Service Symbol?

Another mark to watch out for is also issued by the API. This Service Symbol, or the Donut as it is called, contains three important parts.

  • The performance standard: A code depicting the particular API performance standard met by that oil. Codes beginning with ‘S’ refer to gasoline engines and codes beginning with ‘C’ refer to diesel engines.
  • The viscosity grade: Viscosity refers to the thickness of an oil and its ability to flow at differing temperatures. Each engine oil receives a different SAE number representing its viscosity. Be sure to use the oil viscosity that is recommended by your car manufacturer for best results.
  • Energy conserving: Oils that meet the energy conservation requirements for gasoline engines bear this part of the mark and could potentially mean savings for you in fuel economy. 

Why should you change your oil periodically?

As part of the process of performing this vital function of lubricating and cleaning your engine, elements of the engine oil are used up over time. The only way to replenish these necessary elements is to change the oil. Plus, remember that the oil is constantly cleaning the engine and flushing foreign contaminants from the engine. Those contaminants remain in the oil until it is drained and replenished, so it is important to do it regularly. 

How often should you change your oil?

That depends on a couple of factors, mainly the type of engine your car has and the driving that you typically do. If you often drive in severe driving conditions, you will have to replace your car engine’s oil more frequently. Check the manual for your vehicle’s engine to get the manufacturer’s recommendations as well as the definition of severe driving conditions for that vehicle.

To give you an idea, typical conditions that are considered severe include:

  • Extremely dusty conditions
  • Extreme temperatures, both hot and cold
  • Stop-and-go driving
  • Towing
  • High-speed driving

When in doubt it is always better to err on the side of caution and change your oil sooner rather than later. Engine oil is extremely inexpensive when compared to the cost of repairing damages caused by not changing your oil frequently enough.

Of course, you don’t need to be an expert in engine oil to work out the appropriate oil change schedule. Consulting with a reputable mechanic like South Denver Automotive is a great way to find out how often you should have your oil changed and what kind to use.

We’ve been providing full-service auto repair since 1990, and you can be sure that we know all about your car engine’s oil. We keep up to date with all the latest developments and yet have been around long enough to know what to do with older cars that come into our shop also. Whenever you need good all-around service that you can trust, be sure to bring your vehicle in for us to take a look, at South Denver Auto.

January 15, 2017

The Basics About Car Brakes

The Basics About Car BrakesAs a responsible car owner, it isn’t necessary that you understand the ins and outs of every component in your vehicle and how it functions. You just need experts like our team at South Denver Auto to help you when things are not quite right with your car. Of course, having some insight into your vehicle, such as knowing the basics about car brakes, can go a long way towards catching your car brake problems before they get to be too big, and in some cases even preventing a dangerous situation.

Your car’s braking system is a crucial aspect of safety. Brakes that suddenly stop performing well or go out completely at an inopportune moment (any moment, really) can put you and your passengers in a highly dangerous position. It might sound dramatic, but knowing the basics about car brakes may save your life. So, let’s get into your system and how it works.

The likelihood of your brakes suddenly going out is low, particularly if you are diligent about taking your car to a reputable shop like South Denver Automotive and having it checked periodically. In fact, preventative maintenance is the number one way of limiting the need for major, costly repairs and ensures that the necessary systems in your vehicle are running up to par. However, it is possible, and if you know the basics about car brakes, you will better understand the warning signs.

First off, it will be useful to learn a bit of vocabulary and better understand what different parts of the braking system are and how they are used. This, of course, will be especially useful for those who may not have a good understanding of car parts and or what they are called.

Brake Fluid: This is a vital part of the system. This type of hydraulic brake fluid is used primarily in cars and light trucks. It follows the same idea as anything hydraulic and is the fluid used to transfer force between the hydraulic lines and the braking mechanism. This fluid has to be able to withstand high temperatures as a vast amount of heat is produced during the braking process. Plus, your brakes must not solidify in freezing temperatures but continue to work well in the cold temperatures of winter.

Disc Pads: These consist of various types of compounds that are noted for their ability to create friction. These compounds are then attached to a metal plate.

Rotor: This is a metallic disc located inside the wheel and is able to rotate with the wheel. When the car brakes are used, the disc pads are pressed against the rotor, and the resulting friction is what slows or stops the vehicle.

Caliper Assembly: Caliper bolts are used to connect this assembly (which consists of the caliper piston, seal, and dust boot) to the steering assembly and align the brake housing correctly with the brake rotor. The hardware used also provides a surface over which the caliper can move across the bolt and keep the brakes together right where they should be.

Wheel Bearings: Keeps everything (the rotor, the disc pads, and the caliper assembly) aligned correctly and allows for the wheel to rotate freely.

Wheel Stud and Lug Nuts: Of course, you need to have the little hardware pieces that support the wheel and tire and keeps it securely connected to your vehicle.

Brake Drum: This is a metal cylinder inside the wheel, similar to a rotor. In this design, brake shoes are used to press against the drum and slow the vehicle. Brake shoes are also metal plates with various high friction materials like brake pads.

Wheel Cylinder: Consists of springs, seals, pistons and dust boots.

Backing plate: A surface for mounting the shoes and allowing them to slide. It also holds down hardware and the wheel cylinder.

Hardware and Springs: These are used to pull each part in the braking system back to where it should be, after releasing the brakes.

Now that we understand some terminology and the basics about car brakes a bit better, let’s look at the two main types of brakes, disc and drum brakes. Of course, all brakes perform the same function in the end, but there is a difference in how that function is performed. So, let’s take a moment and learn more about the two types. 

Disc Brakes

So called, because they consist of a disc or rotor with a caliper assembly, wheel bearings, disc brake pads and the other necessary items for mounting the parts on the vehicle and keeping everything where it should be. A network of tubes, hoses, and valves are used to connect the caliper to the master cylinder and conduct the necessary brake fluid through the system. 

Drum Brakes

These consist of the other components mentioned. The drum, brake shoes, wheel cylinder, backing plate, and springs. This type of system also has a network of tubes, hoses, and valves, that move the brake fluid through the system. 

Anti-lock Braking Systems

This is an important electronic braking system that is available for most vehicles. The function of this system is to aid in safe braking. While you apply pressure to the brake pedal, the ABS is monitoring each of the wheels. If it notices that one wheel starts to move slower than the others it lessens the pressure to that wheel. The wheel begins to speed up, and the ABS puts pressure on it again to prevent the wheel from moving too fast.

As you can imagine, this is immensely helpful in all driving conditions, but particularly in winter driving conditions. When one or more of your tires is hitting the ice, the ABS will help to keep even speed on all your wheels thereby preventing a spin out. These systems are extremely sophisticated and can make changes in pressure 20 times or more in a second. As a result, you might feel a pulsing sensation through the brake pedal while this system is engaging.

As mentioned previously, you don’t have to understand all the ins and outs of your vehicle intimately. The friendly experts here at South Denver Automotive are always willing to help you out with questions or examine your car if you think there might be something wrong. Knowing a few things, like the basics about car brakes, is helpful because you are the one driving your car every day and thereby the one who has the earliest and best chance of detecting an issue before it gets to be a serious problem.

 

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