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October 16, 2017

All About Your Car's Braking System

All About Your Car's Braking System Bowers Automotive Colorado SpringsAt Bowers Automotive in Colorado Springs, we can help you understand all about your car's braking system. Brakes are one of the most important components for vehicle control. If you experience a malfunction in your braking system, you will be unable to decelerate the vehicle and driving will become a dangerous and frightening experience. Keeping your brakes maintained is part of general vehicle upkeep. Our team of auto technicians offers repair and replacement of all types of brake systems.

How Do My Brakes Work?

The first step in understanding all about your car's braking system is to know how it works. Depending on your car, you will either have traditional hydraulic brakes or regenerative brakes. All braking systems have some components in common. To activate the brakes, the driver applies pressure to the brake pedal with their foot. The force applied by the foot is transferred proportionally by hydraulics or electronically to the wheels of your vehicle. Most drivers will be more familiar with hydraulic braking systems that incorporate either disc brakes or drum brakes to generate friction.

Hydraulic Brakes

Hydraulic technology in basic terms is using the movement of liquid in confined spaces to transfer force. In a typical hydraulic braking system, the force applied to the brake pedal by the driver's foot will cause a piston to slide into the master cylinder. The master cylinder converts non-hydraulic pressure into hydraulic pressure. It does so by pushing brake fluid along the brake lines and into one or more slave cylinders. In a vehicle usually, there will be four slave cylinders, one for each wheel.

Upon reaching the wheels of the car, the hydraulic pressure is converted back to mechanical pressure and used to apply friction to the moving wheels, slowing their rotation. By varying the diameter of the pistons pushed by the pressure of the liquid, the force can be multiplied many times. This is how a small force such as that of the driver's foot on the pedal can be harnessed and converted by hydraulic pressure into a force large enough to apply the necessary friction to slow down the momentum of a moving car.

Disc or Drum?

If you want to know all about your car's braking system, this is a key area. Your brakes work by creating friction between the brake pads and either a disc or drum. Disc brakes consist of a caliper clamp that is placed over the rotating disc attached to the wheel hub. When the brake is engaged, hydraulic pressure is converted into mechanical pressure in the caliper, and this closes onto the disc, applying pressure from both sides with the brake pads. Over time, both the rotary disc and the brake pads will wear down. Brake pads must be replaced regularly and the disc can either be resurfaced or completely replaced by a qualified auto technician, depending on the degree of wear.

Drum brakes are found on the rear wheels of some older vehicles, but they are no longer the industry standard. A drum brake consists of a hollow rotating drum attached to the wheel hub that is slowed down by pressure from brake shoes located inside the drum. A wheel cylinder converts hydraulic pressure into mechanical pressure, forcing the brake shoes outwards to push against the inner surface of the rotating drum. Brake shoes are covered in a hard-wearing friction material, similar to that of brake pads.

Regenerative Brakes

Even if you know all about your car's braking system, you may not know that hybrid and fully electric cars us a new type of braking system in order to maximize efficiency. These vehicles use an electric motor to convert electrical energy into mechanical energy to power the wheels. When such a motor is run in reverse, it is possible for mechanical energy to be converted to electrical energy and stored in a battery for later use. An electronic brake controller monitors the speed of the wheels, and when the driver engages the brake, reverses the motor, slowing the rotation of the wheels and collecting otherwise wasted mechanical energy from the momentum of the vehicle.

The electronic sensors and brake controller are vital in the successful operation of this system. If the brake controller detects insufficient power in the motor to handle the torque exerted by the rotating wheels, it will engage backup friction brakes to complete the deceleration. Taking advantage of this energy to keep the electric battery charge means that hybrids will rely less on their combustion engines and fully electric cars will be able to complete longer journeys between charging. Brake technology, in general, is moving away from being dependent on mechanical components and towards a 'brake by wire' system.

Troubleshooting Your Brakes

Once you understand all about your car's braking system, you’ll be able to detect tell-tale signs if all is not well with your braking system. If you experience any of the following, do not delay in taking your car to a qualified mechanic:

  • Brake pedal goes all the way to the floor. This is not normal, a lack of resistance from the brake pedal could indicate that you are leaking brake fluid.
  • The car takes longer than usual to stop. This problem could be a result of a fault in the hydraulics or the brake rotors and shouldn't be ignored.
  • If the steering wheel or brake pedal shakes when you engage the brake, you may need to replace warped brake rotors.
  • Squealing or grinding noises. These noises are your brake pads telling you that they are worn down to their limit. If they are not replaced soon, your braking will be less effective, and you can damage the disc.
  • Dashboard ABS light is on. This can mean that you are low on brake fluid or that there is a leak somewhere in your brake lines.
  • The car pulls to one side when braking. Your brakes are worn unevenly or misaligned. They will need to be adjusted by a technician.

Now that you know all about your car's braking system, you know what goes into keeping it well maintained. Remember that at Bower's Automotive, we can service all types of brake systems, from drums and discs to ABS electronic systems. As soon as you hear or feel signs of brake wear or malfunction, drop into our auto shop on Ford Street in Colorado Springs. Our team can get you back out on the road again as soon as possible.

September 15, 2017

Winter is Coming, Is Your Car Heater Working?

Winter is Coming, Is Your Car Heater Working? Bowers Automotive, Colorado Springs, ColoradoWinter is coming, is your car heater working? At Bowers Automotive in Colorado Springs, we recommend that you take the time to either thoroughly check your vehicle’s heating system or bring it to be serviced by our pros before the winter weather strikes. 

We’ve noticed that many of our customers experience more problems with their vehicles during the transition into the winter months. A sharp decrease in temperature can put a strain on your car's battery, lower the tire pressure and even freeze windshield wiper fluid and antifreeze. One of the most frustrating battles waged by drivers in winter is the struggle with their car heater. 

Now, that winter is coming, is your car heater working? Let’s take a look at potential issues you may experience. We recommend you don't wait until that first below freezing day to crank on the heating system, only to be sadly mistaken. Take the opportunity now to check the vehicle's heater and see what happens. Usually, there are three possibilities: 

  1. The heater springs to life immediately with a strong gust of warm air
  2. Air comes out of the heating vent, but it is not hot
  3. No air is circulated, and the heater appears to be dead 

Even if your test results in option one, keep the car heater on for the rest of the journey and turn it on once per week until you start needing it. This will give you a good chance to notice any abnormalities in its function. If you experience possibility number two, it might indicate that you have a problem in the heating core component. Option number three indicates an apparently dead heater system and has a number of different potential causes. 

Fortunately, car heaters are relatively simple structures that have not changed much over time. Most issues can be fixed quickly by an auto mechanic. Now, if you’re a car enthusiast with basic mechanical and electrical skills, you may be able to handle the easier repair jobs yourself. 

The first thing to do is to narrow down the cause of your car heater failure

Air Circulating, but No Heat

When you can feel cold air pushed out of the vents, this shows that the blower motor of your heating system is working just fine, but there is likely an issue with the heating core. The heating core has a similar structure and function as a radiator. Extremely hot anti-freeze fluid is continually passed through the heating core, so that air blown over the core by the blower fan, is warmed up before it enters the cabin and raises the temperature. If you have air, but no heat, it is likely that the flow of antifreeze through the heating core is insufficient in volume or blocked. 

If your antifreeze level is too low, there may not be enough circulating to produce heat in the heating core. With a cool engine, you can check the level of coolant by opening the hood and looking at the coolant reservoir. If it does not reach the 'full' line, you can top it off, then start your engine again and check if the heating system works. Low antifreeze levels or antifreeze with an unusual color or smell shouldn't be ignored. If you are regularly losing antifreeze, you probably have a leak in your system, or even worse, a blown head gasket

A blockage in the flow of antifreeze can be caused by a build-up of debris in the heater box, a stuck blend door, or a blocked valve. To diagnose exactly where the blockage has occurred, your auto technician will use a non-contact infrared thermometer to take the temperature at different spots along the heater core hoses where hot antifreeze leaves the engine and enters the heater core box. A point where the temperature of the hose drops dramatically is likely the site of the blockage. The tech will remove the blocked hose and either clean or replace it 

No Airflow and No Heat

If your heater produces neither airflow nor heat, you may have a bigger problem on your hands. No airflow means a problem with your blower motor. The possible reasons for this are many, but they include a blown fuse or other electrical problem, a build-up of dust and dirt in the motor causing it to malfunction, and a complete burnout of the motor. To access the blower motor, it may be necessary to remove part of the dash and open the heater box.

If you suspect a vehicle electrical problem is at fault, first, replace any potentially blown fuses, before looking at the relay switch and blower resistor. A blown fuse can often cause your whole heater system to shut down, and it is easy enough to fix. Just remember never to replace a blown fuse with a larger fuse. If your fuses continue to blow, this is an important warning sign that something is amiss in your electrical wiring.

If you experience trouble when attempting to diagnose the problem with your car's heating system, there is no need to hesitate before bringing it to Bower's Automotive in Colorado Springs. We can provide a complete diagnosis and repair service for your vehicle. Our team of certified mechanics will use the latest diagnostic tools to pinpoint the source of the problem quickly. Once the problem has been identified, we can work on carrying out the necessary repair work quickly and affordably.

In some cases, repairing the heater in your car is as easy as replacing a fuse or topping off your antifreeze. In other more complex cases, it is better to leave the vehicle with a professional and not risk causing any more damage by tinkering around with it. Now that winter is coming, is your car heater working? At Bowers Automotive, we are happy to give your vehicle a fall check-up and make sure all systems are ready to handle winter conditions. Contact us today to schedule your appointment or stop by the shop on Ford Street.

August 15, 2017

How to Replace a Clutch

How to Replace a ClutchThis week at Bowers Automotive of Colorado Springs, we want to talk about how to replace a clutch. Understanding the basic inner workings of your vehicle and getting it to an automotive professional on time can make a huge difference in the cost and simplicity of a repair job.

A failing clutch is a common enough problem that usually occurs when the clutch 'slips' or completely fails to engage or disengage. This issue can occur for a number of reasons which we will discuss in more detail, along with an explanation of the method used to replace the faulty components in a failing clutch.

How Does the Clutch Work?

The clutch in manual transmission vehicles is used to allow the driver to change gears. To understand how the entire clutch system works and be capable of repairing or replacing it, you must have a basic understanding of all the different components of the clutch system and how they interact with each other. The clutch pedal, when pressed down by the foot of the driver, will disengage the clutch and allow the car to freewheel from the engine. Slowly easing off the clutch pedal engages the engine to the transmission and allows the transfer of engine power to the wheels.

When the clutch pedal is pressed, the clutch master cylinder produces hydraulic pressure using brake fluid from its reservoir. The hydraulic pressure created controls the movement of the clutch slave cylinder which is located on the bell housing of the transmission. The clutch slave cylinder is responsible for pushing the throwout bearing against the clutch pressure plate. The clutch pressure plate is in turn connected to the engine's flywheel and crankshaft. Between the pressure plate and flywheel, there is located an asbestos-lined clutch disc which is used to create the necessary friction. 

The pressure of the throwout bearing causes the clutch disc to engage or disengage with the flywheel, allowing power to be transferred to the transmission input shaft. When the clutch pedal is engaged, and the engine is running, the clutch disc is stopped, while the flywheel and pressure plate are rotating at engine speed. This allows you to shift gears without grinding. It is the wearing down of the clutch disc surface that eventually causes the whole clutch to start 'slipping' over time. Other reasons for a faulty clutch include brake fluid leaks from the hydraulic components or faulty seals around the master and slave cylinders.

Servicing the Clutch

The most common reason for your vehicle to need a clutch service or replacement is a worn out clutch disc. The replacement components needed for this service include a new clutch disc, pressure plate, and throwout bearing. The first step in servicing the clutch is to jack up the vehicle and support it securely on jack stands. To reach the clutch system, the transmission must be removed first. In some models, it is also necessary to physically remove the exhaust system and drive shaft to access the transmission and clutch.

Once there is clear access to the clutch, the pressure plate can be removed from the flywheel. The pressure plate is securely bolted to the flywheel, and the clutch disc is held in place between them. As the bolts are undone, the pressure plate will move away from the fly disc, and the clutch disc must be supported to prevent it from falling out unexpectedly. When both the pressure plate and clutch disc have been worked free, it will be possible to inspect the surfaces for wear.

Inspecting the abrasive surfaces of a clutch disc usually reveals obvious signs of wear. Often, the asbestos or brake pad material used to coat the disc will be worn very thin, showing exposed metal. The surface of the flywheel can be examined for cracks and hot spots which may have appeared due to the intense friction. One important part of the clutch service is to re-machine the flywheel if it is not going to be replaced.

The next step in how to replace a clutch is to replace the pilot bearing. Over time this bearing can get worn out or lock up. If this happens, it is likely to allow the transmission's input shaft to wander too much and make it difficult to disengage the clutch. After replacing the pilot bearing it is time to match up the new clutch. Placing the old clutch beside the new clutch disc and line them up to check that they have the same diameter and that the surface area of the abrasive material is similar. If there is a significant difference, there may be trouble engaging or disengaging the clutch with the replacement disc.

When it comes to how to replace a clutch, the flywheel and pressure plate contact surfaces should first be degreased with brake cleaner. The clutch disc has one side that protrudes more than the other. The protruding side must face the pressure plate. The pressure plate and clutch disc can then be lined up with the alignment dowels of the resurfaced flywheel and bolted in by hand. Before tightening the bolts, a clutch alignment tool can be used to ensure the disc lines up perfectly with the pilot bearing.

The bolts can then be gradually tightened in a star pattern to add pressure evenly and gradually. Before finishing the job, it is recommended to replace the throwout bearing, as this component has a high rate of failure. If the throwout bearing is attached to the clutch slave cylinder, then both should be replaced as one unit. The transmission and other components can then be replaced in the reverse order to how they were removed. When driving the vehicle straight after a clutch service, shifting gears can feel a little clunky over the first few miles as the clutch goes through its 'breaking in' period before smoothing out.

Knowing how to replace a clutch can be useful, especially for car enthusiasts. To do the job yourself, you will need the right tools and suitable protective clothing and a mask for working with asbestos. To save yourself time and possible frustration, it is recommended that you allow our team at Bowers Automotive to take care of your car for you. We offer a full range of high quality and affordable auto repair services to the drivers of Colorado Springs. Come see us!

July 14, 2017

Warning Signs that Your Engine is Overheating

Warning Signs that Your Engine is OverheatingKnowing the warning signs that your engine is overheating can save you from seriously damaging your car. Bowers Automotive of Colorado Springs often receives vehicles that have been driven for too long with an overheated engine. When your engine overheats, the pistons powering your car can expand and seize in the cylinder bore. If you continue to run the engine in this state, you can end up cracking the engine block and cylinder heads, resulting in a very expensive trip to the mechanic.

Your engine can overheat for a number of reasons. Some of the most common causes of this are mechanical failures such as broken fans or blown head gaskets. Problems with your car's radiator and cooling systems, such as leaking coolant or a stuck thermostat can also result in your engine reaching a dangerously high temperature. Luckily, there are a number of warning signs that your engine is overheating. If you respond quickly, you will have the best chance of minimizing serious damage.

Hot Hood

When the engine is running, you can expect the hood to emit heat and feel warm to the touch. This is completely normal. If however, your car's hood is extremely hot, this could be cause for concern. You should be able to comfortably place your hand on the hood for 10 seconds without burning it.

Temperature Gauge or Light

On your dashboard, you should see a warning light or gauge indicating the temperature of your engine. If the light flashes on or the gauge reads near maximum, it means there is excessive heat generating in your engine. However, this warning light cannot always be trusted to alert you of an overheating engine. It functions by measuring the temperature of the coolant, so in the case of a huge coolant leak, there would be nothing for it to measure.

Ticking Noise

If your engine is making an audible ticking noise, it means that your engine oil is failing to lubricate the moving parts sufficiently. When engine oil is overheated, it loses its lubricating properties and behaves more like water than oil. At high temperatures, if the mechanical parts of your engine are clacking against each other audibly you can expect them to undergo wear and tear at a much higher rate than usual.

Coolant Leaking on the Ground

If you notice a puddle of coolant under your car, it could be a sign of a leak somewhere in your cooling system. It also could indicate that your engine has overheated and boiled the coolant within the radiator, causing the overflow tank to release excess liquid to relieve the high pressure created. In either situation, your car's cooling system no longer has the correct amount of coolant flowing through the engine, so it will be prone to overheating. 

Smells "Hot"

There is a distinctive odor emitted when the engine heats up enough to start burning oil. As the temperature increases, the rubber seals, plastic valves, and bits of resin holding the whole engine together may begin to melt, releasing fumes that you would not normally smell otherwise. Most people describe this unusual odor as a 'hot' smell. It's also possible that leaking coolant containing ethylene glycol will fill your car with sweet-smelling, but toxic fumes. Any unusual odors are a bad sign and should not be ignored. 

Steam Coming from the Hood

Steam billowing out from underneath your hood is a sure sign that your engine is overheating. As soon as you notice, pull over and turn off the engine. Coolant that has reached its boiling point will convert into steam and build pressure within the cooling system. When it escapes from your car’s radiator cap or coolant reservoir, you will see it coming out from the front and sides of the hood.

Thumping Noises

The thermostat in your cooling system controls the valve allowing the flow of coolant to the radiator, ensuring efficient engine function. If this valve gets stuck, the trapped coolant in the engine block will become superheated. When cold coolant comes into contact with the superheated coolant, you will hear a loud thumping noise coming from the engine area. Getting the thermostat replaced usually fixes this issue.

Reduced Engine Power

An overheated engine may not be able to deliver enough power to keep your car moving at the rate you want it to move. If you sense the power in your engine is lacking, pay close attention to odd smells or noises that can corroborate engine overheating. Keep an eye on the dashboard temperature gauge or light and pull over if you think the engine is struggling.

If you notice one or more of these signs, there is a high chance that your engine is overheating. The wisest thing to do in this situation is to safely pull over as quickly as possible and turn off your engine. This will allow the engine to cool down naturally and prevent further damage. If you are going to raise the hood to allow excess heat to escape, remember to do so with caution, as escaping steam can easily burn you.

It is best not to touch anything under the hood until the engine has fully cooled down. Attempting to check the coolant level will likely result in a bad burn if the pressure has built up from excess heat. As you wait for the engine to cool, call a trusted local mechanic for advice. With a description of the symptoms, they should be able to advise you on whether to bring the car in yourself or have roadside assistance pick it up.

At Bowers Automotive, we can offer a complete range of auto services including engine repair and replacement, cooling system diagnostics, and electrical repair. We urge our clients and all drivers to pay close attention to any warning signs that your engine is overheating. Promptly addressing the issue will usually allow you to avoid complete engine failure. Save time and money by keeping your car regularly maintained and if you do notice any of the signs, just bring your vehicle to the shop.

June 26, 2017

How to Make Your Tires Last 10 Years

How to Make Your Tires Last 10 YearsThe experts at Bowers Automotive in Colorado Springs have some advice on how to make your tires last 10 years. Most drivers have the idea that their tires should be changed around every two years, allowing some room for adjustment according to the road conditions and the frequency of use. It turns out that this rule of thumb is not as definite as you might think. The lifetime of a tire is highly dependent on where it is stored and how it is maintained.

It is true that the rubber material of tires does degrade over time, even without being in contact with the road. The main reasons for this are damage from ozone, temperature fluctuations, and UV rays. When stored indoors and at a stable temperature, you can prevent a lot of wear and tear on your tires. According to product specialists at Tire Rack, ordinary tires should last for six years of service and up to ten years total lifetime since manufacture.

So why do so many tires need to be changed at a much more frequent rate? The answer lies in the regular maintenance of your tires and better storage. To make the most of your tires and save money, you can follow these simple steps. Have your tire pressure checked and adjusted often. A typical tire will naturally lose 1 psi of pressure per month, and with every 10° increase or decrease of ambient temperature, you can expect to see a gain or loss of 1 psi.

Tires that are under or overinflated will suffer from an increased rate of wear and tear. If you can keep your pressure at the perfect level, you will slow down the wear of your tires significantly. The tire pressure monitoring systems in most vehicles will only alert you when the pressure has dropped below 75% of the recommended value. This is not sensitive enough to prevent damage to your tires and lower your fuel economy substantially. Checking the pressure with a gauge at ambient temperature every month and making necessary adjustments will make a big difference in the lifetime of your tires.

Keeping track of wear on your tire treads can save you some hassle in the future. When getting your vehicle serviced, make sure you have your tires rotated and balanced. This will ensure your tire treads wear down evenly and can elongate their lifetime. Depending on your daily driving conditions, weather and terrain quality, your tires may need replacing more often than every six years. Use the quarter test if in doubt. When you stick a quarter into the tread of your tire, if the top of Lincoln's head is visible, it's time for new tires!

It may not be possible for everyone to take advantage of these tips on how to make your tires last 10 years, but by taking these precautions, you will definitely extend their life and save money. Keeping your tires wearing evenly, balanced, and at the right pressure will keep them functioning safely for longer. Store your vehicle and any spare tires in an area away from direct sunlight and temperature fluctuations if possible. Bower's Automotive will gladly help you with a simple tire rotation and balance as well as complete vehicle evaluation and maintenance. Don't hesitate to call us with any questions about tire maintenance and replacement.


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