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April 9, 2018

10 Basic Car Maintenance Tips Every Driver Should Know

basic car maintenanceAmerican motorists drove a record 3.22 trillion miles in 2015. Not only are Americans driving more miles, they're also keeping their vehicles longer than before. In fact, the average length of vehicle ownership increased by 60% in the last 10 years.

All this means that you'll need to keep on top of your car's maintenance needs to make sure it continues to serve your needs in the years to come. And the first step in keeping your car maintained is performing basic car maintenance.

Not sure how to perform basic maintenance on your car? Don't worry, we're here to help.

This is what you need to know about basic car maintenance.

What Basic Car Maintenance Does Your Vehicle Need?

Regardless of what car or vehicle you own, here are some basic maintenance tips which you should know.

1. Read the Owner's Manual

If you're like most people, you've never bothered to read the owner's manual that came with the car. This is a mistake; the manual contains a great deal of information about basic maintenance and how to perform it.

The manual will also tell you what things on your car you should check, as well as what symptoms indicate a problem with your vehicle. It will also tell you what the various warning lights on the dashboard mean which is important to know should they ever come on.

2. Inspect the Vehicle Regularly

You should routinely check your vehicle for signs of problems. From tires that are underinflated to spotting a fluid leak, identifying potential problems early is important for the safety of you and your family.

The owner's manual will cover what things to look for during an inspection. The inspection will not only identify problems at an early stage, it will let you get to know the various parts which make up your vehicle.

3. Check Your Tires

Having properly inflated tires is an important part of basic car maintenance which maximizes fuel economy and improves the steering and braking characteristics of the car. To make sure your tires are properly inflated, you'll need a tire pressure gauge to find out if the tires are inflated to the pressure recommended by the car manufacturer.

While you're checking the tire pressure, you'll also want to look at the tread depth to look for signs of wear. Worn tires will not perform well in wet or snowy conditions which could put you at risk during adverse weather.

4. Check Engine Oil Level

The vehicle's engine oil reduces friction in the engine as it operates and prevents excessive wear and tear. You'll want to follow the directions in the owner's manual to locate the dipstick and check the oil level to make sure the car has enough oil to do the job.

You should also look at the color of the oil on the dipstick. It should be amber in color. Darker oil typically indicates contaminated oil which needs to be changed.

5. Check Engine Coolant Level

Your vehicle's engine creates a lot of heat when it runs, and the engine coolant system makes sure it doesn't get too hot. The key to the cooling system is the engine coolant which dissipates the excessive heat.

Follow the instruction manual's directions to check the coolant reservoir and determine the engine coolant levels are proper when you perform your basic car maintenance.

6. Inspect the Engine Air Filter

Your vehicle's engine runs on a combination of fuel and air. To keep contaminants out of your engine, the air filter screens the air and removes dirt and debris which could be harmful to your vehicle's engine.

While the owner's manual will tell you how often to change the filter, it's important to inspect the air filter regularly. This is because excessive stop and go driving or dusty conditions can clog an air filter before the typical replacement mileage.

A visual inspection of the filter will allow you to see if your filter is getting dirty and needs replacement.

7. Using the Right Fuel

Your vehicle will have a recommended octane rating. You should always follow this rating when filling up.

Lower than recommended octane fuels may cause your vehicle's engine to run poorly and produce a 'knocking' sound. This will reduce the vehicle's performance.

At the same time, using a higher than recommended octane rating will not improve your vehicle's performance and will cost you more money.

8. Inspecting Light Bulbs

The lights on your vehicle serve an important purpose by making sure you can see the road at night and others can see you. Because light bulbs burn out, it's important to routinely check all the lights as part of basic car maintenance to make sure they are working.

Any broken bulbs can be replaced following the owner's manual instructions. It will identify the correct replacement bulb, as well as how to change the light.

9. Inspect Windshield Wipers

Windshield wipers perform a vital function by cleaning the windshield as you drive. Having windshield wipers that don't function properly can create a significant safety hazard during bad weather driving.

Inspecting the blades can identify worn wiper blades early on so you don't find out about the need to replace them during a long drive in bad weather.

10. Track Your Vehicle's Maintenance

Keeping track of when your car needs maintenance, whether it's an oil change, tire rotation, or other services, is important.

The manufacturer will provide recommended maintenance intervals for your vehicle. This information is found in the owner's manual.

There are many different apps that allow you to track your vehicle's maintenance and alert you when your vehicle is due for maintenance. Of course, you can also track the maintenance schedule using the chart in the owner's manual.

Keeping Your Car on The Road

Now you know what to look for when performing basic car maintenance.

Keeping your car running smoothly and safely is our top priority. When your car needs service, we've got a team of experts to take care of all your automotive service needs.

Just give us a call or go online and we'll be happy to schedule an appointment today.

March 30, 2018

Emissions Test Information You Need to Know

exhaust repair Sundance Automotive DenverHere at Sundance Automotive in Lakewood, we want to share some of the emissions test information you need to know. In Colorado, all vehicle owners who are residents will need to go through a vehicle inspection at the DMV and some Colorado counties require an emissions test to ensure that cars that are operating on the roads are helping to control smog levels in our communities. Passing is required for those vehicles that must have a DMV vehicle inspection completed, with a few exceptions and exemptions.

Testing Rules in Colorado

In Colorado, emission tests vary based on the model year and fuel type of your vehicle which also determines the kind of vehicle inspection given. Colorado offers 5 different kinds of emissions tests:

  • Onboard Diagnostics (OBD): This test is given to vehicles that are hybrid vehicles that are over 8 years old, as well as gas-powered vehicles that are 8 to 11 years old because these vehicles have the same emissions standards. Those vehicles that have a check engine light on will automatically fail this test.
  • I/M 240 dynamometer (treadmill) test: This test is given to vehicles that are at least 12 years old but whose model year is not older than 1982. These vehicles may be able to pass inspection even if the check engine light is on.
  • Two-speed idle test: Gas fueled vehicles that are 1981 models and older are given this test.
  • RapidScreen Roadside Test: This test is used for vehicles that have very small amounts of emissions.
  • Diesel emissions tests: Owners of diesel-fueled vehicles will need to obtain independent smog certification from an approved provider. DMV smog test sites do not administer diesel emissions tests. 

If you need an emission repair so that your vehicle will pass the smog test, contact us here at Sundance Automotive in Lakewood.

Exemptions from Smog Checks in Colorado

Not all vehicles are required to have testing in the state of Colorado. Smog certification is required in specific counties and there are some exceptions for certain vehicles in all counties. The following counties require smog certification: Boulder County, Broomfield County, Denver County, Douglas County, Jefferson County, and some parts of Adams, Arapahoe, Larimer, and Weld County.

The following vehicles are exempt from emissions tests, regardless of which county they are registered in:

  • Motorcycles, farm vehicles, mopeds, horseless carriages
  • Models that are seven years old or less than seven years old
  • A collector’s vehicle model years 1975 and older
  • Fully electric vehicles (hybrids are not fully electric)

Out-of-State 

Colorado residents may be required to submit an emissions test even if the vehicle and owner are located temporarily in another state. Colorado will accept certifications from out-of-state, but a little extra paperwork is required. A smog test provider in their area must be used or alternatively, an inspection performed by a law enforcement officer is acceptable.

The results of the test/inspection must be sent to the Colorado DMV along with an Application for an Affidavit of Emissions that has been completed. If the test was performed in a state that does not offer DMV emissions test, a Verification of Vehicle Identification Number form must be additionally included.

Colorado Emission Waivers

There are some additional instances where vehicle owners can obtain a test waiver. If a vehicle owner has spent over $715 in professional repairs to pass the test and they have failed again, they may receive an inspection waiver. If the vehicle is from 1967 or earlier and did not pass the emissions inspection and the owner has spent more than $75 in professional repairs, the owner may be eligible for a waiver. The waiver is valid for one inspection.

People who are experiencing an economic hardship may also qualify for a waiver. Car owners who enroll in a financial aid program to pay for their emissions test repairs and who have no other means of transportation may qualify for a waiver. For this waiver, there is no minimum repair expenditure required.

Test Fees and Locations

Though the smog test varies depending on the model year of the vehicle, most smog tests will cost $25. Owners of diesel vehicles are subject to the emissions test price at Diesel Emission Testing Centers, which can be the equivalent of one hour of labor.

There are several emission testing locations for non-diesel vehicles located throughout the state of Colorado. Testing is available in Boulder, Denver, Castle Rock, and Fort Collins, as well as other locations. Each location is an official Colorado DMV testing provider and the tests are conducted by licensed professionals. These professionals will conduct appropriate tests for the type and model year of your vehicle.

Test centers are open Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Testing centers are not open on Sundays or holidays.

Failing an Emissions Test

Not all vehicles are going to pass. Typically, older vehicles that have never been tested are more likely to fail an emissions test. If your vehicle fails, the Vehicle Inspection Report given following the test should provide the reason for failing. Common reasons for failing the test include emitting too much carbon dioxide, unacceptable levels of smoke from the tailpipe, the check engine light is on, and the vehicle’s gas cap does not function properly.

To resolve your emission issue, take your report to a reputable auto repair shop and get the specific issues listed addressed. Once the problem has been fixed, you can then return to the appropriate testing facility for a re-test.

Hopefully, this emission test information you need to know is useful and can provide you with the directions you need to get your vehicle tested. If you end up needing a repair on your vehicle to pass your smog test, contact us here at Sundance Automotive in Lakewood. We can provide needed repairs so that you can pass your vehicle emissions test.

February 28, 2018

What Fluid Is Leaking from Your Car?

car towing Sundance Automotive DenverWhat fluid is leaking from your car? Here at Sundance Automotive in Westminster, we know that leaks can signal a problem with your vehicle, but figuring out what is leaking and where the leak is coming from can take a bit of investigative work. Leaks can be the start of trouble and if ignored, can be costly to you and dire for your vehicle.

Here are a few tips that can help you figure out what fluid is leaking from your car.

Engine Oil

The appearance of engine oil changes with age. After an oil change, new oil is light brown. Older engine oil will look black. If this fluid is leaking from your car, engine oil will leave an oil stain where it is parked. Engine oil has an greasy texture but each brand has a different smell so you may need to check out your dipstick and compare scents to confirm that your engine oil is the source of the leak.

Engine oil leaks can stem from the oil filter, the timing cover, sump pump, and head gasket. A small leak (like a few drops weekly) can be somewhat normal for vehicles with high mileage. It is a good idea to check the oil levels on such a vehicle and be sure the oil gets topped off when needed. Larger leaks will need a visit to your mechanic for repair.

Transmission Fluid

Depending on the age and condition of your transmission fluid, its appearance may be pink, red, or brown. Transmission fluid has an oily texture that is frequently mistaken for engine oil. Transmission fluid leaks are much more common in automatic transmissions than in manual transmissions. The output shaft and axle seal are common sources of transmission leaks, but having a professional examine your vehicle is helpful for finding the true problem.

Brake Fluid

If the fluid looks like cooking oil and is pale amber or clear, then it is likely brake fluid. It is the only vehicle fluid has this appearance. The master cylinder, brake caliper seals, and flex lines are the likely culprits.

Before driving your car to your mechanic, check your brake fluid level and top it off if needed. Start up your vehicle and pump your brakes while still in park. Turn your car off and check the level again to help you determine if you have a leak and how much of a problem it is. If you have a large leak, you may not be able to limp your car safely to the mechanic. You may need to have it towed.

If you suspect that you have a brake fluid leak or are leaking a different fluid, have a professional check out your car immediately for your safety while driving. If you need a mechanic to check your vehicle’s issue, contact us here at Sundance Automotive in Westminster. We can figure out what needs to be done to stop your fluid leak.

Coolant

Coolant/anti-freeze is the easiest to identify because it is bright green or yellow and has a very distinct sweet odor. If this fluid is leaking from your car, there are a number of places that can be the source of a coolant/anti-freeze leak such as the radiator, water pump, freeze plugs, hoses, head gasket, and water core.

Water

A water leak, particularly from the passenger side of your vehicle, is not something you need to worry about. Generally, your air conditioner was likely on when you parked your car and the condensed water from the air conditioning drained and left behind a small pool of water.

Power Steering Fluid

When power steering fluid is leaking from your car, it can sometimes be mistaken for transmission fluid. It appears to be reddish-brown but the difference is that the liquid is thinner in consistency and has a smell that is both sweet and burned at the same time. Finding a power steering leak is fairly rare, but it can happen. These leaks occur near the steering rack by the rack end seals and the pinion steering system.

How to Detect a Leak from Your Vehicle

Sometimes determining what fluid is leaking from your car is not so straightforward. Plus, you may know your car is leaking but be unclear as to where the leak is occurring. Finding the leak before it becomes a serious problem is important and we hope these tips will help.

  • Put cardboard or newspaper under your car. This is an easy way to determine that your car has a leak and will help you identify which fluid is the culprit. It is best to leave the car stationary for several hours or overnight. This gives the leak time to occur.
  • Search the components under your vehicle. If you are having trouble figuring out the source of your leak, you may need to jack the car up to look under it. Because of the airflow while your vehicle is in motion, the leak source will likely be forward of the spot with fluid remnants.
  • Spray on foot-powder will help you locate the source. If you know the general area but need to figure out the source more specifically, spray-on foot powder can help. It may seem odd, but it can easily highlight the source of your leak (you should be able to spot the drip in the white powder) and it is easy to clean off when done.
  • Be sure to park on a flat surface while looking for your leak. If your car is on a slight slope, tracking down your leak will be more difficult. Additionally, the levels of your fluids under the hood will be inaccurate, which may create further issues. 

What fluid is leaking from your car? Now that we’ve pointed you in a few likely directions, you might need a mechanic to actually fix the problem. So, get in touch with us here at Sundance Automotive in Westminster. We can get your leak stopped and make sure your car is back to normal so that you can get back on the road.

January 21, 2018

Signs of Car Engine Trouble

Signs of Car Engine Trouble Sundance Automotive DenverKnowing the signs of car engine trouble can save you a great deal of money and time. Here at Sundance Automotive in Westminster, we want to help you save your engine so that your car troubles won’t break the bank.

Check Engine Light

Though a check engine light can mean so many things, it is never a good idea to ignore it. Hooking your car up to a scan tool is an easy way to quickly determine what the problem might be. Sometimes the trouble is something easy like the gas cap is not screwed on properly, but your check engine light can be a sign that something has gone much more wrong and needs immediate attention.

Jerking, Surging, Misfiring, or Hesitating

When your engine is functioning properly, everything runs smoothly. If your car surges or misfires, it may be a sign that your engine is running too hot. If there is hesitation when you press on the gas, you could have trouble such clogged fuel lines, bad spark plugs, or dirty air filters. Additionally, if your engine is revving high when it should be idling or if you experience sudden acceleration, you have an issue that should not be ignored.

If you are experiencing signs of car engine trouble, contact us at Sundance Automotive to make an appointment. We can get your engine running right so that you can avoid a more costly problem.

Odd Noises

If your car has started making odd noises, it is important to get them checked out right away. Grinding, tapping, or popping sounds are among the noises that can mean your engine is experiencing a problem. Try to track down where the noise is coming from as well as when it seems to occur so that you can relay specific information to your mechanic.

Strange Smells

It is never a good sign if a strange smell has made it to your car’s interior. Odd smells can be an indication of leaking from what is normally the closed loop system of your engine. Rubber and exhaust smells can also spell engine trouble. It is best to get those unexplained smells check out directly.

Smoke

Smoke is never a good sign and most people understand that. If you notice smoke that looks like it is blue, this likely means you have an oil leak somewhere, whereas white smoke from your tailpipe means that antifreeze or water condensation is mixing with your fuel. To avoid overheating or other more significant problems, get your car to a mechanic quickly.

Excessive Oil

If you need to provide your vehicle with more oil regularly, you could have an oil leak and a potentially more serious problem as well. Getting your vehicle checked is a good way to avoid more trouble.

If you are experiencing signs of car engine trouble, contact us here at Sundance Automotive in Westminster for an appointment. We can get your problem solved and get you back on the road quickly with a car that is running properly.

January 7, 2018

Basics of Car Brake Repair

Basics of Car Brake Repair Sundance Automotive DenverKnowing the basics of car brake repair can be helpful when you have a brake issue. Here at Sundance Automotive in Westminster, we want to help our customers better understand their brakes. There are five main components of your brakes, knowing a bit about what each one does can help you understand when you have a problem.

Brakes Lines and the Master Cylinder

Today’s brakes work hydraulically. This means fluid is used to transfer the power of your foot on the brake pedal to the actual brakes on your wheels. The master cylinder is where it all begins. If your master cylinder is not functioning properly, it may not be able to push fluid to your brakes. This is why checking your brakes lines and master cylinder for damage is a good idea.

Calipers, Pads, and Rotors

The calipers, pads, and rotors all work in conjunction with each other to bring your vehicle to a stop. When you press your brake pedal, the master cylinder pushes fluid to your brake calipers. The calipers squeeze together, placing pressure on your brake pads. When the calipers press together, the brake pads clamp down on your rotors which in turn causes your car to slow down. If your calipers are damaged they may not be able to squeeze together effectively.

It is also important to check your brake pads for wear. If your brake pads are worn down, they will not be able to connect smoothly. This uneven connection can damage your rotors and these can be expensive to repair.  Most brake pads today include wear indicators. These indicators squeal as a way to let you know it is time to get your pads replaced.

Stick to Your Maintenance Schedule

Use the guidelines in your owner’s manual to make sure regular maintenance and checks are performed on your brake system to avoid costly repair. If you are unsure about replacing the pads or brake fluid, you can stick to the basic guideline of checking every 12,000 miles.

If you are in need of brake system maintenance on your vehicle, contact us at Sundance Automotive to schedule an appointment. We can make sure your brakes are working properly and effectively.

Maintenance Cost

Regular maintenance is one of the basics of car brake repair and an excellent way to save you money. Getting your pads and fluid replaced regularly is much more cost effective than needing to replace the rotors or a full brake system repair. Preventative maintenance really can save you a great deal of money over time. Servicing your brake pads and replacing the fluid can cost you less than $100 (depending on the specific service needed) while needing rotor replacement may be ten times as much. It is an excellent idea to keep to the maintenance schedule for best results.

The basics of car brake repair are fairly straightforward. If you need your brakes serviced, contact us here at Sundance Automotive in Westminster for an appointment. We will help keep your brakes in good shape to help you avoid more expensive repairs.

 

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