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May 16, 2017

Alternator Problems and Repair

Alternator Problems and RepairGiven that we see a number of alternator issues at Sundance Automotive Repair in Lakewood, we want to share some information on alternator problems and repair that would be helpful to you as a vehicle owner. Issues with an alternator are common enough that at some point during the life of your vehicle, it will probably need a replacement. The alternator is part of your car’s charging system, which is essential to the workings of all things electric in your car. If it’s not working properly or fails, you will likely find yourself stranded on the side of the road.

Basics of How Your Alternator Works

The alternator helps maintain the battery of your car. Essentially, the alternator uses the engine’s power to create electricity then sends it to the battery to keep the battery charged.

The engine’s power arrives at the alternator via the serpentine belt, also known as the engine drive belt. Because of this, it is important to keep the belt tight and running well. This is also why you should replace this belt as soon as a new one is needed. Most people don’t realize that your car uses a great deal of electrical power: windshield wipers, lights, the radio, and other parts rely on and use a lot of electricity, especially when combined. If all these things are operating at the same time, it would drain the battery in your car fast. The alternator stops the battery from being run down and keeps it fully charged at all times.

Signs Your Alternator Might Have a Problem

It can be hard to diagnose an alternator problem without any tools. Problems with the battery are very similar to problems with the alternator and vice versa: for example, the car doesn’t start, your battery goes dead, the battery light goes on and the serpentine belt squeals. Other signs include: having to jump-start your car frequently and dimming lights while operating the vehicle. These are the most common signs that you might have an alternator problem or a potential battery problem. It is important to take care of this quickly because it can create problems and failures with other systems in your car.

Check Your Alternator Voltage

To confirm that the issue is a faulty alternator and not the battery, you will need to use a digital voltohmmeter or DVOM. The DVOM is also called a voltmeter. This tool will allow you to check quickly and easily to find out how much voltage your alternator is putting out.

  • The first step is turning your engine off. You will need to restart your vehicle later for another test, but for now, it needs to stay off.
  • The red lead of your voltmeter should be placed on the positive post of your battery and the black lead should be placed on the negative post.
  • Set your voltmeter to read DC volts if it is not already at this setting. The reading should be above 12.65 volts. This reading would confirm that the battery is fully charged. If the reading is less than 12.65 volts, then either your battery or alternator has an issue.
  • Next, take the leads off and start your car. Then, return the leads to the appropriate posts on your battery, being careful not to catch the leads on the serpentine belt or any other engine part. If you get a 13.5 to14.5-voltt range, then the alternator is probably not the issue. It is possible that the alternator is intermittently bad. That does happen on occasion, in which case, you would need to perform the test several times. If the volt range is consistently good, then you have a battery problem and it is time to get your battery tested.


Repairing a Defective Alternator

You can bring your vehicle and alternator into a repair shop, such as Sundance Automotive Repair in Lakewood, or you can perform the repair yourself if you have a bit of knowledge about your and car repairs in general. While swapping out your alternator for a new one isn’t very difficult, putting the serpentine belt on correctly definitely requires a diagram to ensure you replace it right. If it isn’t replaced just right, you’ll continue to experience issues with your electrical system, even damage or destroy the belt.

Diagnostic and repair information for your specific vehicle is imperative to alternator repair, as well as maintaining, troubleshooting, and fixing your vehicle yourself. To get the diagnostic and repair details specific to the year, make and model of your vehicle, ALLDATAdiy is a good online resource that will help you locate information for your vehicle. It’s also less expensive than buying a factory manual. Additionally, the site offers detailed diagrams and step-by-step instructions that are more thorough than what is available in most printed manuals.

To replace your alternator:

  • First, you need to disconnect the battery.
  • Next, take out the serpentine belt (be sure you have that diagram).
  • Finally, loosen and remove the bolts for the alternator and take off the wiring connectors.
  • To reinstall the new alternator, connect the wiring to the alternator and replace the bolts holding the alternator in place.
  • Follow the serpentine belt diagram carefully to replace the serpentine belt. Double check that the belt is put in place correctly.
  • Finally, reconnect the battery.


Alternatively, if you decide to have an auto-repair shop perform alternator repair, it is generally not one of the more expensive repairs and does not take very much time.

Ultimately, knowing more about how the alternator in your vehicle works in conjunction with the battery will help you understand better how to troubleshoot issues with your electrical system. Knowing more about alternator problems and repair will also help you determine if this is a project you want to undertake yourself or if it is something you would rather leave to the experts at Sundance Automotive Repair in Lakewood. If you decide to bring it to us, you can rest assured that we’ll provide quality work at a fair and honest price.

Contact us today to schedule your appointment.

April 28, 2017

For Summer Oil Changes, Do You Need a Heavier Weight?

For Summer Oil Changes, Do You Need a Heavier Weight?For summer oil changes, do you need a heavier weight? With winter behind us, it’s time to get your car tuned up at Sundance Automotive Repair in Lakewood and this is a question we get often. And while using the right oil for your car is important, let’s look at whether there really are any benefits to using a heavier weight oil in the summer.

According to a Popular Mechanics article, the old wisdom for changing oil was to use a lighter oil weight in the winter and a heavier weight in the summer. But that was back when the oil formulations only had one viscosity, and the oil would thin out if it was heated in the summer weather. When it got cold in the winter the oil would become thick and the pumps couldn't properly lube the engine. To fix the problem, a lightweight oil such as 10-weight was used for cold weather, so it would flow. Then a heavier 30- or 40-weight oil was used in the summer months to stop the oil from breaking down in the hot weather.

But this is no longer the case when you come in for an oil change. You do not need to change your oil’s weight for the summer and winter because we now have multi-viscosity oil that flows when it’s cold, then thickens and protects better when it's hot. This handles the needs of both weather types and prevents the need for seasonal oil changes.

Not only has the oil become effective across temperatures, but new engines are also designed and tested to work specifically with only the type of oil listed in your owner's manual. If you have an older car you can still use the newer and better oils. In deciding which of the newer oils are best for the older cars, base the first viscosity on your climate, and use the original oil spec for the operating weight. Most older cars can perform fine with 10W30.

Newer synthetic oil has better and longer-lasting performance in all the critical areas. Synthetic oil gives better performance in extreme temperatures which makes cranking easier in the cold and gets lubrication to critical components faster. It flows better at freezing temperatures than conventional oil. It is more chemically stable and doesn't evaporate as easily or break down in the high heat from your vehicle engine. This lets it resist turning into sludge, which can cause engine problems. Synthetic oil has less evaporative loss, a higher viscosity index (resistance to thinning as temperatures rise is the viscosity index), and greater resistance to oxidation thermal breakdown and sludge problems.

While synthetic may cost more, it lasts longer so your vehicle doesn’t need an oil change as often. Your car may actually be able to last up to 7,000 to 10,000 miles between oil changes. Synthetics also have complex additive packages for improving performance in both normal and extreme conditions.

While you should always follow the manufacturer’s suggestions on what oil to use in your car, the answer to the question, for summer oil changes, do you need a heavier weight, is no. Bring your car into Sundance Automotive Repair in Lakewood for all your oil changes and tune-ups. We’ll take great care of your vehicle all year long, no matter the season.

April 16, 2017

Common Car Electrical Repairs

Common Car Electrical RepairsIf your vehicle needs some complicated but common car electrical repairs, bring it into our experts at Sundance Automotive Repair in Lakewood. Electrical systems are complicated and control everything in the car from the windows to starting the engine.

Let’s look at some typical problems you might experience with your vehicle’s electrical system.


If your car has trouble starting, it could be a defective component in the electrical system that’s draining your battery and stopping the starter from cranking the engine. You may notice the check engine light will be on in these circumstances.

Do you hear a clicking noise when you turn the key? If you do, it often means that the starter can’t get enough current flow in order to engage. Your starter may be the problem. If you hear a grinding noise while it’s cranking is may be caused by a bad starter or a flywheel ring gear.

The chance that the problem is the rotating electrical parts going bad increases if you have an older the car and higher mileage. Hard starting can also signal a problem with fuel injection delivery during cranking. Sometimes a regular fuel injection and throttle body cleaning will help get your engine started.


Your vehicle’s electrical system depends on the battery which stores the electrical energy for later use. You should replace a car battery every four years so your electrical system is always running at its best. Without a good battery, you may get stranded and need a tow. We can get you a new battery and recycle your old one. We can inspect your battery tray and cable terminal ends and evaluate the battery’s charging and starting system.

Our team at Sundance can check your electrical system instead of just the battery because it could be a bad battery cell or alternator that isn’t charging properly and stopping the car battery from staying charged fully which shortens the battery life.

We can check your battery’s cables for corrosion and to make sure there is a tight fit at the terminal ends. Corrosion creates resistance that stops the power from flowing through the electrical system. If they are corroded, we will remove them and clean them.


Do your headlights or brake lights dim? If so, it could be an indication of a charging malfunction, resistance in the electrical system, loose wires, a severely discharged battery or a problem with the alternator belt. A loose or cracked alternator belt can stop your alternator from working efficiently and maintaining the battery’s voltage.

It could also mean you have low system voltage. If that happens and the voltage drops below a certain level, then your safety systems like traction control may disable and eventually, your car will stop running altogether.


If you smell the odor of melting plastic or electrical insulation bring your vehicle into us. Every electrical circuit can carry a certain amount of current and when a wire or component shorts, the circuit draws more power than it can handle. We can fix these vehicle electrical problems before they become dangerous.


If a fuse is blown then an electrical device or wiring has drawn too much current. We need to find the problem that caused it to blow, then replace the fuse.

If you have any of these problems, we can take care of these common car electrical repairs, just bring it into our experts at Sundance Automotive Repair in Lakewood. Our goal is to handle problems before they become bigger problems.

March 14, 2017

Car AC Repair

car ac repairIf you need car AC repair or a performance check, bring your car, truck or SUV to our expert technicians at Sundance Automotive in Lakewood. We’ll help you get it taken care of before the heat of summer descends on Colorado, because there’s nothing worse than sitting in traffic and dripping with sweat while your fellow commuters are relaxing and enjoying their ice-cold AC.

Of course, the best protection from problems is prevention, including a complete air conditioning performance check by our technicians. If you skip your check-up, here are just a few problems that you may encounter, all of which require car AC repair.

Repair Problem 1: Black Death

Auto technicians describe what they call Black Death, which is the breakdown of the refrigerant-lubricant causing extreme wear inside the air conditioning compressor. This sends metal particles through the system, contaminating other components. When this happens, it will at least require a complete flushing and perhaps a replacement of the air conditioning system.

How it happens. It’s normal for a small amount of wear to occur inside the compressor because of the contact with all the moving metal parts. The refrigerant-lubricant reduces wear. The amount of wear increases when the compressor is operated on a low charge of the PAG (Poly Alkaline Glycol) oil or mineral oil which is recommended for specific air conditioning systems.

When an air conditioning system is operated under low-charge conditions, loose wear particles are circulated throughout the system which can produce damage. They lodge in various system components and frequently impede or even block the flow of the refrigerant-lubricant. If a new compressor is installed in a system that hasn’t been completely flushed, it’s likely that the new compressor will fail again, which could void the warranty and be a very expensive repair.

For the air conditioning system to be able to remove heat from the car’s interior, all the main system components need to be working and efficient. The contaminants from Black Death reduces the system’s efficiency and will eventually lock up the compressor or block the flow of the refrigerant-lubricant. Since refrigerant gives lubrication to protect the engine, if there is a breakdown with the refrigerant it will result in damage to the compressor.

The metal particles made during the compressor breakdown move through the rest of the air conditioning system, damaging the whole system. Symptoms of trouble include:

  • Your compressor is noisy during operation.
  • In turning the compressor clutch, you may feel hard spots.
  • The compressor may be totally frozen or locked up.
  • The orifice tube or the inlet and outlet ports may show signs of contamination when the hose manifold is removed.

Depending on how bad the damage is and the extent of the contamination from Black Death, car AC repair will require flushing the air conditioning system with solvents. During the flushing process, segments of the system have to be cleaned individually.

A new compressor, accumulator/drier and expansion device needs to be installed after the flushing. There are other components that also require replacement, including an accumulator, manifold, liquid line, condenser and orifice tube.

The Black Death gunk bonds to the components in the system. It’s hard to flush out because it’s inside. A flush gun, attached to your air compressor is not powerful enough to get rid of the Black Death material from components. Even a closed loop flush machine isn't always enough.

An expensive flush machine called the Rotunda is strong enough to break down the Black Death material into a flushable material. Many times, the best thing to do is just replace the whole AC system.

Repair Problem 2: Weak Airflow

If you notice your air conditioning has weak airflow, you should bring it to Sundance Automotive before any damage to your air conditioning system occurs. There are several reasons for weak airflow, including:

  • Mold or mildew is in the evaporator core caused from the residual moisture during the cooling process and air can’t reach your air vents.
  • A loose hose, usually the hose that supplies air to the blower unit.
  • The ventilation fan is broken.
  • Core case seals, blower house seals or evaporator core case seals have opened and compromised the system.

Repair Problem 3: Not Very Cold Air

If you notice that the air is too warm for air conditioning, let us take a look at it and provide car AC repair. It could be caused by several things, including:

  • A Freon leak from by a failed o-ring, seal, hose, or component.
  • A clogged expansion tube or refrigerant charging hose.
  • A failed compressor or compressor clutch.
  • A failed blower motor or blower motor resistor.
  • A failed or damaged condenser or evaporator.
  • A vacuum leak.
  • A broken switch, fuse, relay, control module, blend door or solenoid.

Repair Problem 4: AC Leaks

If your air conditioning system has a leak, it’s called an open system. If a leak isn’t repaired quickly moisture will enter the system and cause damage.

Here are some possible causes. When moisture and refrigerant mix, corrosive acids destroy seals and components, leading to a leak. Rubber seals and hoses can also lose their elasticity over time and break down allowing Freon to escape and moisture to enter your vehicle’s air conditioning system.

Once moisture is present, it can damage the accumulator, receiver or drier because these things remove moisture from the air conditioning system and break when they are exposed to a leak or a crack.

Repair Problem 5: Cooling then Warming

If your air loses its cool temperature quickly you could have a number of problems, including:

  • A clogged expansion valve.
  • A faulty compressor clutch.
  • A blown fuse.

Repair Problem 6: Bad Smells

If the air smells like a musty gym locker several things could be causing it, including an old air cabin filter. It could also be a moldy evaporator case. If water sits in the evaporator case because the case’s drain is blocked, mold can grow.

If you need car AC repair or a performance check, bring your vehicle into our technicians at Sundance Automotive in Lakewood. Get it taken care of before the hot summer comes. It may save you from problems like Black Death, weak air flow, a leak, warm air, and a bad smell.

February 24, 2017

What is My Car’s TPMS system?

What is My Car’s TPMS system?Good tires that are inflated correctly are vital for your safety. If you have a newer car, you’re in luck because it probably has a tire pressure monitoring system or what is known as a TPMS. You might wonder what is my car’s TPMS system? A TPMS is an electronic system located inside your tire that actually monitors the air pressure in your tires. Our Sundance Automotive technicians in Lakewood can make sure your tires are inflated correctly because having the correct tire pressure is important for braking, gripping the road, and the longevity of your tires.

If your tires are incorrectly inflated, the TPMS will send an alert with a warning light on your car’s dashboard. If there is a steady warning light, you need to get your tire pressure checked, but if the warning light is flashing, it means your TPMS may not be working right.

According to a Popular Mechanics article, a Department of Transportation study from 2001 reports that 60 to 80 percent of cars on the road are driving with tires that are under-inflated by as much as 10 percent. It also reports that 20 to 50 percent of cars have tires that may be under-inflated by as much as 20 percent. But here’s what you want to consider, your TPMS warning light will only go on when your tire pressure is less than 25 percent. And that may be too late. When it gets to that level, it will reduce your car’s fuel economy, not be able to grip the road (particularly in wet conditions), and the tires may run hotter. So even if your car has TPMS, you should bring it to our auto technicians to make sure the tires are inflated correctly.

The Popular Mechanics article also explains how your vehicle may have either a direct-reading or an indirect TPMS. Let’s take a look at the difference between the two.

Indirect TPMS

An indirect TPMS system uses software and readouts given by the car’s wheel-speed sensors from the vehicle’s antilock brake system. If all of the tires are inflated properly, they will rotate the same number of revolutions. However, if one tire rotates more, then the sensor knows it has a shorter rolling radius because of low tire pressure. This system is cheaper because it just has a display on the dash and some extra code in the operating system.

This can be a concern if your tires are unevenly worn, or if you replace only two tires instead of all four tires. You can try to reset the system to allow for wear when all the tire pressures are correct. TPMS warning lights can be triggered after a normal tire rotation, or if you're replacing tires of a different size from the previous ones.

The TPMS senders are generally attached to the valve stem or the wheel's drop center. The metal stem of the sender is usually made of aluminum which can strip the threads if its overtightened. So, bring your vehicle into our trained auto technicians so the senders don’t get damaged from tire mounting machines.

Direct-Reading TPMS

This type of TPMS comes from a more expensive technology that is used to monitor tire pressure, however, it is usually more effective.

These battery-powered sensors are mounted inside the tire and communicate with the TPMS through small antennas in each wheel well. They receive a tire pressure reading and transfer the message to the in-car display. The individual senders have a unique serial number that transmits it to the vehicle so it reads the right tires. Some vehicles even have a sender on the spare tire.

You should resynchronize the TPMS if you rotate the tires or you get a flat. You will need a special tool to communicate with the vehicle and the senders. That’s another reason why it’s important to let us do it for you.

Want to know about maintaining proper tire pressure and driving safely? Bring your car in and our Sundance Automotive technicians in Lakewood can answer your questions about what is my car’s TPMS system more fully and examine your tires to make sure they are inflated correctly. It’s an important safety check that shouldn’t be forgotten.


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