Our Current Blog Articles
June 26, 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!
April 15, 2017
What's Going on When Your Car Won't Start
At 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?
Today, 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.
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 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!