Our Current Blog Articles
July 28, 2017
The Basics of Your Vehicle's Cooling System
Here at Sundance Automotive in Lakewood, we find it is helpful if you know the basics of your vehicle’s cooling system. Cooling systems are more likely to fail than any other mechanical system in your vehicle and yet, many owners pay very little attention to their cooling systems. Unfortunately, the main reason this system fails is neglect and failure to give the system the attention it needs. We hope the more you understand about the basics of your vehicle’s cooling system, the more you will follow the guidelines for preventative care to extend the life of your car.
It’s All About the Heat
Most car owners don’t realize that your engine can produce approximately 4,500 degrees of heat. The heat is so hot, that if not cooled, the pistons would be hot enough that the metal could melt, adhering itself to the inside on the cylinders. The engine would be ruined and a new one would cost you thousands of dollars. To stop this from happening, the water pump in your vehicle runs coolant through various passages to cool your engine and absorb the heat produced. At some point, your water pump will need to be replaced along with some of the belts associated with it. This cost is minimal in comparison to needing to repair the damage done from your engine seizing as a result of not caring for your cooling system.
And Yet, Freezing Can Be a Problem
The coolant in your vehicle serves many purposes. It is a mixture of ethylene glycol and water and is also commonly known as antifreeze. Antifreeze prevents freezing as the name implies. If there is not enough coolant in your system and your vehicle is sitting in particularly cold temperatures, you may experience freezing. Because liquid generally expands when it freezes, the force can be strong enough to crack the engine block. This is not a problem you want to experience. It can be quite expensive to fix. Always make sure your antifreeze or coolant is checked regularly to avoid issues. Your coolant should also be changed on a regular basis.
Your Thermostat is Important
The thermostat is a key component in your cooling system. It controls the flow of coolant based on the temperature of your engine. Sometimes, issues with your cooling system may point to a problem with your thermostat. A faulty thermostat can cause your engine to run too hot or too cold. Sometimes the thermostat fails while in an open position. This means coolant is flowing freely without any regulation and causes the engine to run too cold. On the other hand, the thermostat may fail while in the closed position. This means that no coolant may be flowing through and will cause your engine to overheat in short order. Functioning thermostats are key to a properly running cooling system.
Know about Your Hoses
Hoses keep everything flowing in your cooling system. Unfortunately, the hoses are rubber and over time they may develop cracks. Leaking hoses will cause problems with your cooling system because it will change the rate of flow of your fluid. Your hoses should be regularly checked for cracks and leaks to spot trouble before it becomes a more serious issue.
The Fan Belt
The fan belt drives the water pump and much like the hoses, it can crack or even break. Without a fan belt, no coolant runs through your system and your engine will quickly overheat. These belts are built to last, especially newer ones. Follow the recommendations for checking your fan belt in your owner’s manual. Regular inspections should spot trouble, which will allow you to get the belt replaced in advance of it actually breaking.
Remember Your Radiator Cap
One of the basics of your vehicle’s cooling system is a small and simple part. Your radiator cap is easy to overlook as a source of trouble. Your radiator cap helps control pressure in your radiator system. There is a spring-loaded plunger in the cap, which diverts coolant when the pressure is too high. Sometimes, the spring-loaded plunger gets stuck or jammed. If there is an issue with the cap, your temperature gauge will read normally but you may hear a boiling sound. Coolant may leak from the cap (though if you recently had the coolant filled this may occur as a result of overfilling the coolant). If you ever need to remove your radiator cap, do it only when your engine is completely cooled, otherwise, a rush of boiling fluid will spurt out and cause some very serious burns.
If the Needle is Moving to Red
If your engine temperature is reading more towards the red, there are a couple things you can do. Turn off your air conditioner or even run your heater on high. Turning off the air conditioner will lighten the strain on your engine. Running your heater allows your car to pull additional heat from the engine. Either of these or both may allow you to get to a place, like Sundance Automotive in Lakewood to get your car checked out. If the needle is actually in the red, you may need to pull over.
Regular Checks of Your Cooling System
To avoid serious problems, it is best to have your cooling system checked on a regular basis. If you check your system when you get your oil changed, this will get your cooling system checked on a regular enough basis to spot trouble before you have a serious problem on your hands.
Knowing the basics of your vehicle’s cooling system will hopefully help you understand the importance of paying attention to the system and all its components. If you want to get your cooling system checked over or if you are having issues with your cooling system or one of its components, come see us here at Sundance Automotive in Lakewood. We will take care of your vehicle’s cooling system and make sure your vehicle takes care of you while you are on the road.
June 16, 2017
Why is My Car Making that Noise?
At Sundance Automotive in Lakewood, a common question we get here is, why is my car making that noise? Every car makes noise while operating such as the low hum of the wheels on the road, the slight squeak of the dashboard as pieces rub together, and more. Those harmless notes become background for everyone after a while. There are some noises though that are definitely out of the ordinary and are an indication that something is wrong.
It is important to pay attention (maybe turn down the stereo) and know when your car is making new noises or abnormal ones. Identifying the noise will help you track down the problem. Here are a few problematic car noises.
Clunking When Braking
If you step on the brake and a clunking noise occurs, this is a sign of an issue with your brakes. It could be an indicator that a brake caliper is damaged, missing, or improperly mounted. It could also be an issue with the related hardware of the brake.
Noise While Turning a Corner
If you hear odd noises while turning a corner, then the problem may be an indication of issues with the steering linkage. For example, the steering linkage may need lubrication. It may also need replacement.
If you hear a flapping noise while driving, there is a possibility that something is interfering with the fan. It could also be related to a belt disintegrating or a flat tire.
Grinding Noise While Shifting
With a manual transmission, if there is a grinding noise when you shift, this is likely a problem with the clutch. The clutch may be worn or may need to be adjusted. Grinding may also be an indication of a deeper issue within the transmission.
Sizzling or Hissing Under the Hood
If you hear sizzling or hissing immediately following turning off the vehicle, there is probably a leak. It could be coolant or possibly oil that is dripping on a heated portion of the engine. It is also possible that a vacuum line has a leak. This sound can also be an indicator that your engine is overheating.
Knocking Noise from the Engine
While many people understand that using a higher-octane fuel than your vehicle requires, produces no actual benefits to the running of your vehicle, some people fail to realize that using a lower than needed octane will likely produce a knocking noise from the engine. When it comes to fuel, oil, and air pressure, it is important to follow the owner’s manual closely.
If your car makes a small explosive noise from the rear, your car has likely backfired. This occurs when the air to fuel ratio is wrong. It can also be an indication of a problem with your catalytic converter.
Why is my car making that noise? Hopefully, you have a better understanding of what problems are frequently associated with the above problem noises. If you have a noise related issue, call us at Sundance Automotive so we can help get your car back to its less noisy-self.
June 13, 2017
If Your Car is Overheating, Here's What to Do Next
As you’re driving down the road, if your car is overheating, here’s what to do next (besides come see us at Sundance Automotive in Lakewood). Before we give you the run down on what to do when your vehicle overheats, let’s go over some basics.
Maintaining Your Cooling Systems in Advance
Your cooling system is one of the most important components to keeping your engine running well and avoiding overheating. There are four major parts to your cooling system: thermostat, water pump, radiator, and coolant.
- Thermostat: This regulates the coolant. Coolant is required when the engine is no longer running cool enough and it keeps the engine temperature at an ideal level. If the thermostat is not functioning properly, it may not read the temperature incorrectly and fail to send coolant to the engine at the right time. This could cause your engine to overheat.
- Water Pump: The water pump is responsible for moving coolant through the engine from the radiator. Early signs of water pump failure include smelling coolant while driving or seeing coolant puddles where your car has been parked.
- Radiator: The radiator consists of a series of channels. Coolant is cooled down while running through these channels. Be sure to check the hoses running in and out of the radiator. These hoses can become brittle and begin to leak and may need to be replaced. Also, your radiator should be inspected every so often to ensure that it doesn’t need to be flushed.
- Coolant: Coolant consists of Ethylene glycol and water. The ethylene glycol is what lubricates all the moving parts of your car as it moves through and is also what stops the water from freezing (making it an anti-freeze solution).
When Your Car is Overheating
First, pull over and turn off the engine. Allow the car to cool and wait for the temperature gauge to read cool before opening the hood. Find the tank for your coolant (antifreeze). Use your owner’s manual to help you and then check the coolant level.
Be sure the radiator cap has cooled before carefully using a cloth to remove it. Beware of any steam. If you do not wait for cooling of the car and the cap, there will be a lot of pressure created and liquid may spray out.
If you are in need of additional coolant, pour enough in to bring it up to the required level. Examine both the upper and lower radiator hoses for leaks and cracks. Attempt to restart your engine and slowly return to driving. Keep an eye on the temperature gauge and pull over as soon as the gauge crosses the optimal level and repeat the full process if necessary. If possible, you may want to have your car towed to your local shop immediately.
So, if your car is overheating, here’s what to do next: come see us at Sundance Automotive in Lakewood and we well get your car fixed up and get you on your way.
May 16, 2017
Alternator Problems and Repair
Given 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? 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.