Our Current Blog Articles
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.
April 24, 2017
Hybrid Vehicle Repairs Don’t Have to be Done at a Dealership
Did you know that hybrid vehicle repairs don’t have to be done at a dealership? Instead, you can bring them to our technicians at Dakota Ridge Automotive in Littleton and we can do it all, from general maintenance to in-depth repairs.
You know us and trust us. Dakota Ridge is locally owned and part of your Littleton community. We always strive to be a friendly, honest, dependable auto shop, like the kind you grew up expecting. We focus on providing good, quality work at a very fair rate. So, if you’ve got a hybrid and it is still under warranty, you don’t have to take it to a dealership like many people think. You know we will take care of you and your hybrid. It’s what we’re all about.
Your basic hybrid warranty should cover everything for about eight years or 100,000 miles. If you bought a used hybrid the vehicle may almost be out of warranty. But that’s okay, we can provide the maintenance and repair that can keep your car running well. If you are interested, there is a certified used vehicle warranty from Toyota available that is extension coverage of the vehicle’s original factory warranty. It can protect you against mechanical failures and breakdowns.
If your car has problems, contact Dakota Ridge Automotive and our technicians can figure out what’s wrong and get it fixed quickly, with or without a warranty. We are conveniently located right here in Littleton. Not everyone can service hybrids, but we can. Hybrids have complex systems that need specialized experience, training, and expertise. Our certified technicians have been servicing hybrids since 2000. We offer bumper-to-bumper maintenance, diagnostics, and repairs to maximize efficiency and keep your hybrid safely on the road.
The Federal Trade Commission, our country’s consumer protection agency, says a dealer must honor the warranty that came with your new car even if someone else does the routine maintenance or repairs. A dealer can’t deny your warranty coverage because you had routine maintenance or repairs performed by another auto shop. In fact, that’s illegal.
One caution about hybrid service is be prepared for battery issues. Hybrids use a 12V battery like other cars and a costly Lithium-Ion or Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH) battery that can degrade over time. If you have a hybrid car and notice a loss of performance, come to our experts for hybrid battery reconditioning before spending thousands on a complete replacement that dealers often recommend.
Thinking about buying a hybrid? Let us inspect it first and provide you with peace of mind.
Hybrid cars are expensive to buy. New or used, these cars will cost you more upfront but in the long run you’ll save on gas, possibly vehicle insurance, taxes, and more.
So now you know that hybrid vehicle repairs don’t have to be done at a dealership. Our auto technicians at Dakota Ridge Automotive in Littleton can help you with any repairs or maintenance, with or without a warranty. Bring your car by the shop or make an appointment. Our team of professionals are right here in your neighborhood.
April 11, 2017
The Real Costs of Owning a Hybrid Vehicle
Today, our auto experts at Dakota Ridge Automotive in Littleton break down the real costs of owning a hybrid vehicle. You’ve probably heard by now that hybrids can save you money, but we want to show you the benefits and typical expenses in a little more detail.
Let’s take a look at how hybrids work and the cost savings to run it and to maintain it. A hybrid can be partially or wholly powered by electricity. Hybrid cars release fewer emissions and use less gas. This can be an advantage to the environment and your budget.
There are different kinds of hybrids.
There are conventional hybrids like the Toyota Prius with power sources that can work together or drive the car separately.
At low speeds, the engine turns off and the hybrid is only driven by the car’s electric motor. When you want higher speeds, both the engine and the motor work together. But what about the in-between stages? The excess power from the engine recharges the batteries that power the electric motor. Toyota also uses this hybrid system in the Yaris and Auris hatchbacks and Prius+ MPV hybrids. Hybrid cars from Audi, BMW, Citroen, Land Rover, Lexus, Peugeot, Porsche, Mercedes, and Volkswagen also work in the same way. With the Honda cars, there is a relatively small conventional engine that uses an electric motor to provide extra help when it needs it. But the electric motor doesn’t power the car by itself.
There is a different kind of hybrid called a plug-in hybrid. The plug-in hybrid vehicles combine an electric motor and battery with a gas engine. This kind of vehicle is plugged into an electric outlet so the batteries recharge and it can also recharge when the car is moving. The plug-in hybrids have a regular gas engine but they also have bigger batteries. The larger batteries allow them to go longer distances on electric power alone. It’s possible to drive up to 30 miles on electric power.
No matter what kind of hybrid you decide to drive, the engine and electric motor components require the same maintenance.
According to a Driverside article, your hybrid will require basic maintenance on the internal combustion engine just like a regular car. Your vehicle will still need oil changes and other routine maintenance. However, the good news is that you won’t need any service on your electric engine until about 80,000 miles or 4-5 years, longer than any standard car.
Because it is a hybrid, some maintenance and repairs are going to be more expensive. But will it be enough to make a real difference?
Did you know that a mechanic can only work on your hybrid if they have special training? It’s true and there aren’t many mechanics or auto shops that have the training and can provide hybrid maintenance. We do. Our auto technicians are hybrid trained.
Okay, so what about the hybrid’s cooling system? It is much more technical than a regular cooling system and it takes more time and training to replace. That’s going to mean a higher cost. On the good side, it won’t have to happen until you reach about 100,000 miles.
On the hybrid’s side, the regenerative braking system, which uses the electric motor to assist in stopping the car will last a long time before maintenance and repairs are needed. Hopefully, this will help you save money.
So, there are some differences in the expense for maintenance and repairs for hybrids. But when you get down to the real costs of owning a hybrid vehicle you can see overall the hybrid’s maintenance doesn’t seem that much more expensive because you get some reduced costs like in the regenerative braking and daily gas savings. You’re also in luck because our auto technicians at Dakota Ridge Automotive in Littleton are trained to maintain and repair your hybrid. Simply bring it in for expert maintenance and repairs.
March 28, 2017
The Preventative Maintenance You Need to Do on Your Car (and When)
Our technicians at Dakota Ridge Automotive in Littleton know that you should pay attention to the preventative maintenance you need to do on your car (and when). This is very crucial if you want your car to perform well and last a long time. By taking good care of your car now, it can help you reduce your repair costs. We can even help you plan any preventative maintenance that’s needed for your car or truck, complete with reminders.
When it comes to preventative maintenance, you should start by checking out your vehicle’s owner’s manual which will tell you how often you should change your car’s oil, filters, and timing belts and other maintenance schedules. It will also advise you about what kind of fuel to use. If you’ve lost your owner’s manual, you can usually find it online.
According to a Life Hacker article, maintaining your car will benefit you in the long run. The first thing to do is inspect your vehicle. Checking your car periodically allows you to find any concerns before they become big problems.
Your car’s cabin air filter should also be replaced periodically. It will allow you to enjoy being in the car. Consider replacing your car’s engine air filter to enhance your car’s performance, especially if you are in heavy traffic or sustained driving, the filter can get dirty quickly.
Checking your tire’s air pressure in your tires and fixing it if it is not correct, helps your car get better mileage and saves gas. Take a look your tire's treads. Without good tire treads, your car may be harder to handle. Your tires may need to be rotated and balanced and your alignment checked which will allow your tires to wear evenly, last longer, and give you a smooth ride.
From time to time, check your lights to make sure they are working. Make sure you regularly check your antifreeze, power steering, coolant, or wiper fluid and fill it if is running low or you might need to get it changed. If you notice a fluid leak, bring your vehicle in to us right away.
We can also schedule when you should replace the timing and serpentine belts. We will inspect your belts and if they show signs of wear, we can replace them for you. Replacing a belt is not very expensive and if you risk it, a bad belt can cause your car to break down and create additional damage.
Have you ever been in a rain storm and you turn on your wipers and you still can’t see? It can be very dangerous. Replace your windshield wipers if you have wiper streaks. It can save you in a very hazardous situation.
Checking your car’s oil level and the color of the oil is important. Your car manufacturer will recommend when the oil should be changed. Your battery should be checked and the battery contacts cleaned if there is mineral or other buildup. If your battery is leaking, let us know right away. We always recommend that you keep a set of jumper cables in your car.
The article in Life Hacker suggests checking your spark plugs if they become covered in buildup or just wear out. This can reduce your engine’s efficiency, increases fuel costs, and can lead to your car’s breakdown. We can help you replace your spark plugs.
These are some ways our technicians at Dakota Ridge Automotive in Littleton can help you decide the preventative maintenance you need to do on your car (and when) because if you don’t, it can lead to costly repairs that could’ve been avoided. We’re here to take great care of your car, so call or come by our location for better vehicle health and longevity.