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August 10, 2017
How Your Anti-Lock Brakes Work
You depend on your brakes to stop your car but do you how your anti-lock brakes work? Here at Dakota Ridge Automotive in Littleton, we provide complete anti-lock brake systems diagnosis and repair, so you can drive safely and not worry if your brakes will work. Today, we’ll get into more detail about this vital system so that you can better understand your vehicle basics and the work we do at the shop.
Brake failure can be a very scary and dangerous situation. If your brakes aren’t working right, you’re at risk of losing control of your vehicle, having a potentially serious accident. Brake-related problems are usually preventable with regular checks and timely brake repairs from our experts at Dakota Ridge Auto.
Here’s how your car’s anti-lock braking system (ABS) works. A skidding wheel has less traction than a non-skidding wheel. Anti-lock brakes were designed to keep wheels from skidding while the car slows down. This allows you to stop faster and more easily steer the vehicle until you get it stopped safely. In particular, your car’s anti-lock braking system (ABS) can save your life on a wet road. Anti-lock brakes stop the wheels from locking up and provide the shortest stopping distance on slippery surfaces.
Let’s take a look at how your anti-lock brakes work by explaining the four main components of an ABS system: the speed sensors, the pump, the valves and the controller.
The Speed Sensors
Located at each wheel, or in the differential, this component detects when the wheel is about to lock up.
Each brake controlled by the ABS has a valve. Many systems have a three-positions value. The first is when the valve is open and pressure from the master cylinder passes right through to the brake. In the second position the valve blocks the line that isolates the brake from the master cylinder, so the pressure doesn’t rise any further if the driver pushes the brake pedal harder. The third position allows the valve to release some of the pressure from the brake.
When the valves release pressure from the brakes, the pump gets the pressure back up.
The controller is a computer that watches the speed sensors and controls the valves.
Here’s how your anti-lock brakes work when all these parts work together. The controller constantly monitors the speed sensors. It checks for decelerations in the wheel that are not usual. Immediately before a wheel locks up, there will be a rapid deceleration. This is because the wheel stops faster than the car. Here’s an example, a car might take five seconds to stop from 60 mph under good conditions, but if a wheel locks up it could stop spinning in less than a second. That’s a big problem.
The anti-lock brake system controller adjusts for the fact that it can’t decelerate so rapidly. It reduces the pressure of the brake until it senses acceleration, then it increases the pressure until it senses the next deceleration. This is done very quickly, even before the tire can actually significantly change speed. So with ABS, the tire slows down at the same times as the car, and the brakes keep the tires from locking up. This offers the maximum braking power.
In this type of driving situation, you will feel a pulsing in the brake pedal, which comes from the rapid opening and closing of the valves. Some ABS systems can cycle up to 15 times per second. This is your car doing its job, so don’t let up or pump your brakes.
Anti-Lock Brake Types
ABS systems have variations and control algorithms depending on the type of brakes. They are referred to by the number of channels (how many valves are individually controlled) and speed sensors.
- Four-channel, four-sensor ABS
This system works the best because there is a speed sensor on all four wheels and a separate valve for all the wheels. The controller keeps track of every wheel, making sure it is achieving maximum braking force.
- Three-channel, three-sensor ABS
This system is often found on pickup trucks with four-wheel ABS and has both a speed sensor and a valve for each of the front wheels. It also has a valve and a sensor for the rear wheels. The speed sensor is on the rear axle for the rear wheels.
This system gives individual control of the front wheels, offering both maximum braking force. The rear wheels are monitored together. So, in the rear, they both have to start to lock up before the ABS will activate. Sometimes one of the rear wheels will lock up during a stop, which reduces the braking effectiveness.
- One-channel, one-sensor ABS
This system is usually seen on pickup trucks with rear-wheel ABS. It has one valve, which controls both rear wheels. It has a one-speed sensor, which is located in the rear axle. It works the same as the rear end of a three-channel system. The rear wheels are monitored together and must both begin to lock up before the ABS takes control. One of the rear wheels sometimes will lock, which reduces the braking effectiveness.
Again, you should not try and pump the brake pedal when stopping in slippery conditions if you have anti-lock brakes because pumping the brakes will just interfere with your braking and take longer to stop. With an anti-lock system, you should press the brake pedal firmly and hold it down, while the ABS does what it’s supposed to do. You will feel the pulsing in the pedal but that’s okay. Don't let your foot off the brake until you stop.
Now that you know how your anti-lock brakes work, come on in and let us do a brake check. Our auto technicians at Dakota Ridge Automotive in Littleton will make sure your brakes are working when you need them. If your brakes are failing, we will replace them, and get you back on the road knowing you can stop when you need to, so you and your passengers will be safe.
July 20, 2017
Your Car Engine Parts and How They Work
At Dakota Ridge Automotive in Littleton, we know that many people love their cars, but are you familiar with your car engine parts and how they work? Most people don’t, which is certainly understandable. There are hundreds of parts in your engine. Luckily, our expert technicians are here to help you with any problems your car has, and we’ll explain what’s going on so that you have a better understanding of your car engine.
So, let’s look at your car engine parts and how they work.
What is a gasoline car engine?
Just like it sounds, it converts gas burning inside the engine into motion and moves your car. It is an internal combustion engine.
The idea is to put high-energy fuel in a small, enclosed space and ignite it, creating an incredible amount of energy to propel the car. Most engines use a four-stroke combustion cycle to turn gas into motion:
- Intake stroke
- Compression stroke
- Combustion stroke
- Exhaust stroke
The piston moves up and down inside the cylinder.
Your car needs a spark to ignite the air and fuel mixture, so that combustion can occur. The spark plug is what gives that spark and it has to happen at just the right time for it to work.
The intake and exhaust valves open and let the air and fuel in, and let the exhaust out.
A piston is a cylindrical piece of metal that goes up and down inside the cylinder.
Piston rings work as a sliding seal between the outer edge of the piston and the inner edge of the cylinder.
The connecting rod connects the piston to the crankshaft. It rotates at both ends to change the angle as the piston moves and the crankshaft rotates.
The pistons are turned by the crankshaft, making them go up and down motion into a circular motion.
The sump is around the crankshaft and has oil, which collects in the bottom of the sump (the oil pan).
The engine has a number of systems that help it do its job of converting fuel into motion.
Engine Valve Train and Ignition Systems
The valves and a mechanism that opens and closes them are in the valve train. The opening and closing system is called a camshaft. The camshaft has lobes that allow the valves to move up and down.
The crankshaft is linked to the camshaft by the timing belt or timing chain links so that the valves are in line with the pistons. The camshaft turns at about one-half the rate of the crankshaft. Many high-performance engines have four valves per cylinder (two for intake, two for exhaust), or dual overhead cams.
The ignition system produces a high-voltage electrical charge and transmits it to the spark plugs with the ignition wires. The charge first goes to a distributor. The ignition wires send the charge to the spark plugs. The engine is timed so that each cylinder receives a spark from the distributor at a time.
Engine Cooling, Air-intake, and Starting Systems
The cooling system has a radiator and water pump. The water circulates around the cylinders and then goes through the radiator to cool it off.
In some cars, the engine is air-cooled instead. In most cars, the air flows through an air filter and then directly into the cylinders.
The starting system includes an electric starter motor and a starter solenoid. The ignition key turns and the starter motor spins the engine so that the combustion process begins.
Hundreds of amps of electricity has to flow into the starter motor. When you turn the ignition key, it activates the solenoid to power the motor.
Engine Lubrication, Fuel, Exhaust and Electrical Systems
The engine's fuel system pumps gas from the gas tank. It then mixes with the air so the right air and fuel mixture can go into the cylinders.
The lubrication system ensures that the moving parts in the engine get oil so that it can move easily. Oil is necessary for the pistons to allow them to slide easily in their cylinders and the bearings allow things like the crankshaft and camshafts to rotate. Usually, the oil is sucked out of the oil pan by the oil pump, run through the oil filter to remove any grit, and then squirted under high pressure onto bearings and the cylinder walls. The oil goes down into the sump. There it is collected and the cycle repeats.
The exhaust system has an exhaust pipe and a muffler which reduces the sound, and a catalytic converter.
The emission control system is made up of a catalytic converter, sensors, actuators, and a computer to monitor and adjust everything. The exhaust stream has an oxygen sensor that makes sure that there is enough oxygen for the catalyst to work and can adjust things if needed.
The electrical system is made up of a battery and an alternator. The alternator connects to the engine by a belt and generates electricity to recharge the battery. The battery makes 12-volt power available to everything in the car that needs electricity, including the headlights, windshield wipers, ignition system, radio, power windows and seats, computers, and all through the vehicle's wiring.
The difference between 4-cylinder and V6 engines
The number of cylinders (four or six) in an engine affects the performance of the engine. Each cylinder has a piston that pumps inside of it. The pistons connect and turn the crankshaft. The more pistons pumping, the more combustion and that gives more power in less time.
The 4-cylinder engines usually have straight (or inline) configurations while 6-cylinder engines have the more compact V shape, and so they are called V6 engines. American automakers have had a preference for the V6 engines in the past because they’re powerful and quiet but still light and compact enough to fit into most car designs. Recently, many Americans have come to appreciate the 4-cylinder engine for its fuel efficiency and lower emissions. Automakers are working hard to improve the overall performance of V6 engines. Many current V6 models come close to matching the gas mileage and emissions standards of the smaller, 4-cylinder engines.
So, there’s a quick explanation of your car engine parts and how they work. We are a mobile society and we love our vehicles. Keeping them well maintained and repaired is important because we depend on them so much. You don’t have to understand everything about how a car works because our technicians at Dakota Ridge Automotive in Littleton do. We’ll take great care of your vehicles.
June 15, 2017
Truck Repair for Fleets
Your company can keep costs down and employees safe with truck repair for fleets from our technicians at Dakota Ridge Automotive in Littleton. It’s a big task, but we’re up to it. We have trained fleet technicians that can help you control expenses with repairs so you don’t worry about it, which allows your drivers to focus on the road and you can focus on business.
We offer fleet maintenance and repair programs to fit your company’s needs and our goal is always to help fleet owners and managers cost-effectively maintain their vehicles in top performance. You want to be able to budget accurately and get rid of unexpected expenses. It is important so your company can work at peak performance, reaching high profits and keeping the fleet on the road safely.
In order to maintain your truck fleet, our mechanics will check common truck repairs, including servicing wheel bearing issues, brake failures and fluid leaks, U-joint failure, starter failure, and engine overheating, among others.
Wheel bearings keep the wheels moving with as little friction as possible. If your truck drivers hear noise coming from the wheel wells as they drive or the truck jerks or is unstable while driving, it could be the wheel bearings are being degraded. Our mechanics will check the truck’s wheel bearings for possible problems.
Brake Failures And Fluid Leaks
If your truck carries a large payload it can put pressure on the brakes. Brake fluid leaks are a common problem, that’s why truck brakes should be inspected regularly. If you don’t provide regular maintenance and brake repairs, the brakes can potentially fail.
U-joints transfer power from the transmission to the differential. They must be kept lubricated in order to reduce the wear and tear on the component. If the truck driver hears a clicking noise or the truck vibrates more at higher speeds, then the U-joint may be at the point of failing. The driver knows the truck the best, so if there are signs of a possible U-joint failure it should be replaced as soon as possible.
Part of the truck’s regular maintenance should be checking out the vehicle starter mechanism, particularly at the beginning of the winter season to see if it is working properly. The truck drivers should watch for any signs of ignition troubles. All truck drivers should have radios and other non-essential components switched off when they start the truck’s engine.
If your truck drivers report an overheated engine, the issue could be caused by a fuel leak or a blown gasket. You should not ignore this issue because if it is not checked out and repaired, it can lead to complete engine failure.
Regular maintenance and addressing common signs of possible problems can help keep your transportation costs down and your employees safe by paying attention to truck repair for fleets right away. Our technicians at Dakota Ridge Automotive in Littleton can help you track the fleets repairs and complete maintenance to keep your trucks on the road.
June 12, 2017
Do You Need Car AC Repair This Summer
Do you need car AC repair this summer from Dakota Ridge Automotive in Littleton? The snow has finally melted and the hot weather is here, so if any of these things are happening to your car, you may be having air conditioning problems.
Your Refrigerant Leaks
Your air conditioning compressor or one of the hoses may be leaking. You need to repair leaks quickly so moisture doesn’t get in the system and cause damage. When moisture is present, it can damage the accumulator, receiver-drier because these things remove moisture from the air conditioning system and break when they are exposed to a leak or a crack.
When moisture and refrigerant mix, corrosive acids destroy seals and components and cause 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. If your vehicle has never had a refrigerant refill or a flush, especially if your mileage is around 125,000 miles or more, then now is the perfect time to do it.
The AC Compressor Makes Noises
If you hear sounds when you turn on your AC, it might be a sign that you have a problem with the compressor. If the AC compressor is at fault, then this part will have to be replaced.
Sometimes metal particles are sent throughout the system, contaminating other components. The metal particles made during the compressor breakdown move through the rest of the air conditioning system, damaging the whole system. The breakdown of the refrigerant-lubricant can cause extreme wear inside the air conditioning compressor.
Symptoms of trouble with the compressor:
- Your compressor is noisy during operation
- The orifice tube or the inlet and outlet ports may show signs of contamination when the hose manifold is removed
- The compressor could be totally frozen or locked up
- In turning the compressor clutch, you may feel hard spots
When this happens it will require a complete flushing and usually a replacement of the air conditioning system. Depending on how bad the damage is and the extent of the contamination, it can sometimes be repaired by 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 need to be installed after the flushing. There are other components that also may require replacement, including an accumulator, manifold, liquid line, condenser and orifice tube. Many times the best thing to do is just replace the whole system.
The Air Smells Bad
If the air smells musty there are several things that could be causing it, including:
- An old air filter
- A moldy evaporator case
If water sits in the evaporator case because the case’s drain is blocked, mold can grow.
Airflow is Weak
If you notice your air conditioning has weak airflow, you should bring it in before there is any damage to your air conditioning system. 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
The Cold Air is Not Constant
If you notice that the air is not cold enough for air conditioning, it could be caused by several things, including:
- A failed or damaged condenser or evaporator
- A vacuum leak
- A failed compressor or compressor clutch
- A broken switch, fuse, relay, control module, blend door or solenoid
- A Freon leak from by a failed o-ring, seal, hose, or component
- A clogged expansion tube or refrigerant charging hose
- A failed blower motor or blower motor resistor
Electrical System Doesn’t Work
If your air conditioning isn’t working right, it could be a weak battery. The AC needs enough power to start your car and start the compressor.
The Cool Air Gets Warm
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.
Do you need car AC repair this summer? If you run into any of these problems let us know. We are also happy to do an air conditioning performance check by our technicians at Dakota Ridge Automotive in Littleton so you can head to the mountains or on that road trip with your family and know you will be cool from your air conditioning. Bring your vehicle in and get it taken care now.
May 9, 2017
What’s the Difference Between Drum and Disc Brakes?
It’s always good to know what’s the difference between drum and disc brakes and how it affects stopping distance and safety, but it’s also good to know that our technicians at Dakota Ridge Automotive in Littleton can repair and maintain either brake system.
According to an Edmunds article, manufacturers began switching from drum to disc brakes in the early 1970s. Most of a vehicle's stopping power is in the front wheels, so during this time, only the front brakes were upgraded to disc. Now, many car manufacturers have four-wheel disc brakes on their high-end and performance models as well as their economy cars.
There have been times like in 1999 when the Mazda Protege's manufacturer changed from the four-wheel disc to drum brakes for the rear wheels to cut both production costs and the purchase price. Brake technology has advanced with components like carbon fiber, sintered metal, and lightweight steel, along with the adoption of ABS, and have contributed to reduced stopping distances and generally safer vehicles.
Let’s examine the difference between drum brakes and disc brakes.
How Do Friction and Heat Stop the Car?
It’s important to understand how drum and disc brakes use friction and heat to stop your car. By applying resistance, which is friction, to a turning wheel, your car’s brakes cause the wheel to slow down and stop, creating heat as a result.
How much the car weighs, the total braking surface area, and the braking force all determine the rate at which a wheel can be slowed. It also relies on how well your braking system converts wheel movement into heat from friction and then how quickly this heat is removed from the brake components. This is where you can see the biggest difference between drum brakes and disc brakes.
Let’s compare the two types of brakes.
What are Drum Brakes?
The Edmonds article explains, after the early times of using hand levers to brake, cars moved to a drum design at all four wheels for a braking system. The components are housed in a round drum that rotates along with the wheel. Inside is a set of shoes. As you push on the brake pedal, it forces the shoes against the drum and slows the wheel down.
Fluid is used to transfer the movement of the brake pedal into the brake shoes movement. The shoes are made of a heat-resistant friction material similar to that used on clutch plates.
The drum brake design worked most of the time but during high braking conditions, like going down a steep hill with a heavy load or repeated high-speed slow downs, the drum brakes would regularly fade and lose effectiveness. Most of the time, this fading was the consequence of too much heat build-up within the drum.
Braking involves turning kinetic energy, the wheel movement, into thermal energy which is heat. Drum brakes can only work as long as they can absorb the heat generated by slowing a vehicle's wheels. However, once the brake components become saturated with heat, they lose the ability to halt a vehicle. This can create a very dangerous situation.
What are Disc Brakes?
Disc brakes also use friction and heat to slow your car, but the disc brake design is much better than the drum brake design. With disc brakes, instead of housing the major components within a metal drum, they use a slim rotor and small caliper to stop the wheel movement.
Inside the caliper are two brake pads, one on each side of the rotor, which clamps together when you push the brake pedal. Fluid is also used to transfer the movement of the brake pedal into the movement of the brake pads.
Disc brakes are different from drum brakes, which allow heat to build up inside the drum during heavy braking. Instead, the rotor used in disc brakes is fully exposed to outside air. This constantly cools the rotor, which decreases overheating and fading.
These differences are shown during car racing. Racers with disc brake systems are able to carry their speed deeper into a corner and apply greater braking force at the last possible second without overheating the car’s components. This improvement in technology demonstrated by racing performance soon was used by other cars outside of racing.
Which One is Better?
Today it’s common to see four-wheel disc brakes as standard equipment on medium-priced, non-performance models. But a lot of new vehicles still use the front disc and rear drum combination brake setup.
Some people criticize the choice of car manufacturers for not using four-wheel disc brakes in all cars, saying that it compromises car safety just to save a few dollars by only installing disc brakes on only the front wheels. But according to the Edmonds article, the combination of disc and drum brake design is good enough for most new cars. Both designs have been vastly improved over the last 20 years, so much so, that today’s rear drum brakes provide better stopping power than the 1970s disc brakes.
It’s generally accepted that most of a car’s stopping power comes from the front wheels which are the disc brakes and provide exceptional stopping response and the advanced drum brakes are sufficient for the rear wheel brakes.
The Edmonds article points out there are some high-performance cars often used for racing, like the Viper, 911, and Corvette that do need a four-wheel disc brake system, but for most cars, the dual brake system is good enough. If all cars came with the four-wheel disc brake system, it would significantly increase the car’s purchase price.
It’s good to know what’s the difference between drum and disc brakes and how it affects stopping distance and safety, but it’s also good to know that our technicians at Dakota Ridge Automotive in Littleton can repair and maintain either brake system. If you notice any of these symptoms or have other problems coming to a stop, Dakota Ridge Auto in Littleton is your trusted source for new brake pads and rotors, as well as repairs for any other issues your braking system might be having. We perform complete anti-lock brake diagnosis and repair, as well as provide on-site machining of rotors and drums to help get you back on the road quickly. If you have brake problems, we can help you.