For Car Brake Work Done Right

For Car Brake Work Done Right South Denver AutoFor car brake work done right, come to South Denver Automotive in Denver. This is an area of car repair that you should never skimp on or opt for subpar work just to save a few dollars. You simply cannot take chances with your brakes. It’s one of the most important vehicle components for keeping you, your passengers and fellow motorists safe. The moment you start experiencing issues, simply come by the shop for quality repairs at honest prices.

Brake work might seem like a fairly straightforward job from your perspective as the customer. Either your brakes work right, or they don’t. But actually, there are quite a few different variables that can have a significant effect on the quality of brake repair work offered by a mechanic.

To help you be a savvy customer and for car brake work done right, we have put together a few things for you to be aware of. As a disclaimer, realize that you won’t become an expert on car brake repair just by reading this article, but these tips can help to ensure that you understand the job in more detail, so you know what to expect and what to look for when choosing a shop for a car, truck or SUV brake service here in Denver.

Brake Work Frequency

No magic interval gives you the right idea of how often your brakes need to be worked on. Wear and tear on your brakes varies dramatically from one car to another depending on how and where it is driven. One thing is for sure, if you even suspect that something is wrong with your brakes, you should have your car brakes checked immediately.

Also, don’t think that you can quickly examine them yourself. For car brake work done right, you need to first properly inspect the brakes. This requires the vehicle to be elevated, have the wheels taken off and perhaps even have the components of the braking system taken apart.

What Speeds Up Brake Wear?

The type of driving has a huge impact on the brakes. If you are continually hauling heavy loads, your brakes will wear out faster. They’ll also wear out more quickly if you spend a lot of time in stop and go traffic. Mountain roads and off-roading will also put more strain on your brakes and shorten their lifespan.

Another significant factor is the type of driver you are. If you drive fast and tailgate a lot, your brakes will wear out more quickly than if you leave a lot of space between you and the car in front of you and drive at a more modest pace.

The quality of the brakes also plays a role. If your car has cheap brake parts, they won’t last as long as more expensive, higher quality brake parts.

We hope this information has helped you understand a little about what affects brake wear. If you already know that your brakes are in need of some work, we’ve got a few tips on what to watch out for when choosing a mechanic.

The Cheapest Repair is not the Best Repair

For car brake work done right, why go with the lowest price? As with anything, if a mechanic gives you a ridiculously low quote for your brake work, we recommend going elsewhere.

Either the mechanic is not planning to provide you with quality brake services or is employing an often used technique of advertising a price to replace the brake pads only – also known as bait and switch. To someone who doesn’t know that much about cars, that lowball price might not raise any red flags. However, a proper brake service can include quite a bit more work. If the brake pads are completely worn out, chances are that other components need replacing. Old brake fluid may also need to be flushed, braking mechanisms adjusted and rotors resurfaced.

For car brake work done right, you need to know up front exactly what work will be completed, how much it will all cost and give your approval before any brake repairs are started. If you agreed to a lowball price that only covered brake pad replacement, you could be in for sticker shock when one of these shops gets their hands on your vehicle.

Time

In today’s fast-paced world, the phrase, “time is money” is more relevant than ever. A quality mechanic shop knows that you can’t be without your vehicle and will respect your time. Find out how soon they will be able to begin working on your car, ask if they offer same-day service and if necessary, inquire about complimentary shuttle services.

Quality Parts

Another good thing to find out is where the parts come from. For car brake work done right, the mechanic should have quality controls in place for receiving components. If the mechanic buys from an auto parts house, the parts are often sourced from whoever is offering a reasonable price at the time. Again, cheaper is not necessarily better when it comes to your brakes.

Thorough Work

When reputable mechanics perform brake repair services, they usually include a thorough brake inspection to check for other parts of the system that may also need to be repaired or adjusted to ensure quality performance. This is time-consuming work, as full disassembly is necessary to examine all the parts correctly. While it might add to your cost, it is worth it to have the peace of mind knowing that your brand new brakes won’t be undermined by an older component failing.

Straight Talk

You shouldn’t feel like your mechanic is dodging questions or only half answering them. Good, honest mechanics will be very open about their work and more than willing to explain everything that is included in the cost of your brake repair. They’ll even save and show you the old parts they pulled off and replaced. Here at South Denver Automotive, honesty is a standard operating procedure and one of many reasons why customers come to us for car brake work done right!

Common Repairs We See at South Denver Automotive

Common Repairs We See at South Denver AutomotiveThe idea of this list of the most common repairs we see at South Denver Automotive is to help our customers know what to be on the lookout for with their own vehicles. Car problems often get worse and more expensive to fix when they are ignored or not caught early on. Hopefully, with this information, you can avoid costly repairs and potentially dangerous situations. 

  1. Brakes

Your brakes constantly sustain a lot of wear and tear and if not maintained properly, will reach a point where it is dangerous to continue using them. Be sure to have your brakes checked regularly and the necessary maintenance completed as needed. 

  1. Oil Changes

Oil changes are an important part of routine maintenance on your vehicle. It helps the engine to last longer and can even increase the resale value of your car (keep your service records). 

  1. Cooling System

While sometimes radiator problems can be expensive to fix,they should never be ignored. If your engine overheats, the repair will be far more costly in the long run. Your car radiator should also be flushed regularly. 

  1. Tires

Tires also receive a lot of wear and tear and will need repairs and replacement. Keep an eye on the air levels because a small hole is much less expensive to patch than having to replace the entire tire if driven it too much time on low air pressure, splitting the sidewall. 

  1. Ignition System

This system consists of the ignition, battery, and starter. Batteries need replacement every so often. Starter repairs can get expensive, but it’s best to get it fixed as soon as you start to notice something’s off. Otherwise, you could end up stuck somewhere with a car that won’t start! 

  1. Electrical System

Small things like blown fuses or light bulbs most car owners can handle on their own. More severe electrical issues, however, should be attended to by a professional. 

  1. Fuel System

Frequently driving with your gas tank at less than ¼ can cause the fuel pump to get clogged. Also, fuel filters need to be replaced as part of your regular maintenance. 

  1. Transmission

Car owners who need their transmissions worked on are usually not very happy campers as it can get expensive. However, remember that it can get more expensive if you ignore small issues. 

  1. Exhaust System

Like transmission repairs, exhaust system repairs can get expensive and are complicated. They should be attended to quickly. 

  1. Air Conditioning System

The heating and cooling system is not essential for your car’s function, but it’s certainly no fun driving to work in either a sweltering car interior, or during the winter, a freezing cold vehicle.

So now that you know the most common repairs we see at South Denver Automotive you can be watching for issues with these systems in your vehicle. The sooner you bring your car to us when it is having problems, generally the less expensive and more successful the repair. Let our experts take care of your vehicle, bumper to bumper.

End of Summer Car Care

End of Summer Car Care South Denver AutoLooking for great end of summer car care tips? Here’s a handy list from the experts at South Denver Automotive in Denver, Colorado. Use this list to get your vehicle ready for the cold and keep it running smoothly all winter long. The last thing you want is a breakdown on a winter day! 

Before you begin, be sure to check out the owner’s manual. There is a lot of great information in the manual plus you can find service schedules for your particular model.

Normally there will be two sets of manuals, one normal and one for severe driving conditions. They may also be labeled Schedule 1 and 2. While it might seem counterintuitive, “severe” can mean you take short trips, less than four miles or less than 10 in freezing temps, plus slower speeds or excessive stop and go driving, think Denver traffic! If you regularly tow a trailer or big loads, that also falls into the severe category. 

Once you know what driving category you fall into, you can get going on basic end of summer car care with things like oil changes and other factory scheduled maintenance. Here are a few more service items to consider before the chill finally arrives. 

The Engine

If your vehicle is having any engine issues (rough idling, hard starts, less power, stalling among others), it will only get worse with cold weather so get your engine check and repairs now. You should also replace the fuel and air filters and any other filters that may be dirty. 

Protect the Fuel Line

To keep excess moisture from freezing up the fuel line, add a bottle of fuel de-icer to your gas tank. Do so once a month for winter. 

Cooling System

Ensure that your cooling system has been flushed and refilled according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. It’s also a good idea to have all the drive belts, clamps, and hoses inspected by a certified technician.

Windshield Wipers

Windshield wipers are extremely important for visibility on day of inclement weather. Be sure that yours are strong enough to withstand ice.

Heater/Defroster

Nobody wants the heat to go out on a snowy day, and the defroster is invaluable for keeping the windows clear so have your entire AC system and heater checked as well.

Battery

End of summer car care should include making sure that your battery connections are free of corrosion. Also clean and tighten all of the connections that may have been jogged loose while driving.

Exhaust System

To properly inspect your exhaust system your vehicle needs to go up on a lift. While it’s up there, you should also have the trunk and floorboards inspected. Carbon monoxide poisoning can be more of a problem in the winter because people typically don’t have the windows down allowing for free air flow.

Tires

Check your tires to see how much tread remains. Old, worn tires are a big hazard on slick wintry roads. Change out and or rotate your tires as necessary.

Emergency Kit

Last but not least, prepare for the unexpected. Put together an emergency kit with things like extra warm clothes, boots, gloves, blankets, a small shovel, sand or kitty litter (use it to give your tires traction if you’re stuck in the mud), flashlight, tire chains, as well as food and water.

Doing these end of summer car care tasks will help to ensure that you don’t end up on the side of the road waiting for a tow truck this winter. For the professional stuff, be sure to give us a call here at South Denver Automotive. Our certified technicians will get your vehicle winter-ready.

Handy Guide to Motor Oil

South Denver Automotive in DenverHandy Guide to Motor Oil, 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.

Labels

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.

Viscosity

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.

High-Mileage Oil

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.

Get to Know Your Car’s Exhaust System

get to know your car’s exhaust systemOne 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.

Exhaust Manifold

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.

Oxygen Sensor

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.

Catalytic Converter

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.

Muffler

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.

Exhaust Pipe

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.

Common Problems

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

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.

Muffler Problems

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.

How Do I Know When to Replace Shock Absorbers?

How Do I Know When to Replace Shock AbsorbersHow 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.

Vibrations

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.

Basic Car Repair and Troubleshooting Transmissions

Basic Car Repair and Troubleshooting TransmissionsHere 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.

Random Noises

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.

Engine/Transmission Noises

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.

Chassis/Suspension Noises

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.

Body Noises

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.

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!

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!

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!