Our Current Blog Articles
February 17, 2017
Alternator Problems and Repair
Keeping your vehicle in good condition is the best way to avoid emergency breakdowns and reduce your yearly auto maintenance costs. Drivers should pay attention to their dashboard warning lights and keep up with factory scheduled maintenance. One component of your vehicle that you should be familiar with is the alternator or generator. Almost all vehicles encounter an issue with their alternator at some point. Bowers Automotive is here to give you some useful insights into alternator problems and repair.
What does the alternator do?
Before we get into the potential faults and defects of an alternator, we need to know what its function is. Your car is full of electrical components. Your lights, windshield wipers, sensors, ignition, AC, and radio all need electricity to work. A standard battery would quickly drain if it had to power all of these components simultaneously. This is where the alternator comes in.
The alternator converts mechanical energy from the engine into electrical energy which is stored in the car's battery. The serpentine belt, also known as the engine drive belt, is the key piece of machinery needed to convert this energy. While the car's engine is running, your battery is continuously charged by the alternator. This alternator or generator is responsible for keeping your car's battery running.
How do I recognize a problem with my alternator?
When an issue with your car's electrical system arises, it can be difficult to identify the source of the problem. If just one electrical component is failing, such as a single turn signal, or the windshield wipers, you probably don't need to look any further than that particular part. However, if all of your electrical systems fail simultaneously, it means you have an issue with the battery or the alternator.
Some classic signs of a fault in your alternator to watch out for include a squealing noise made by the serpentine belt or a noticeably loose belt. In order to efficiently convert energy, this belt must be properly adjusted to handle an enormous amount of tension and friction. If it is too taut, it can snap as it wears out. If too loose, it can flip or twist and fail to run smoothly. A quick visual inspection can be enough to notice an obvious problem with the serpentine belt.
Another clear sign of something wrong with the alternator is when your dashboard warning light for the alternator or battery illuminates. This alternator light is usually represented by three letters ALT or GEN, whereas a dedicated battery light will be the symbol of a battery with positive and negative terminals. If you notice either of these lights on, it is important to get your vehicle to a qualified mechanic without delay. Ignoring these lights means you will probably soon end up with a dead battery. In this case, you can ask another driver for a jump start, then get to your mechanic as soon as possible.
Other warning signs of trouble with your alternator are weaknesses in electrical systems. Dim or flickering lights can signal low battery power. If you cannot get your car to start, this could be because the battery has no power and is often due to a fault in the alternator. Of course, if you have left your car parked for a long time without turning the engine on, it is possible that the battery has simply drained.
Remember, your car's battery charges from the energy produced by your engine, and the battery doesn't store that energy forever. Complete draining of your battery can happen quickly if you accidently leave the lights or radio on while your car is parked. If you find yourself with a dead battery, you can try jump starting the battery with help from another driver. If the problem is just a drained battery, this will be enough to get you going and give the alternator a chance to start charging the battery again.
Diagnosing an alternator problem
It is possible for drivers to run some basic diagnostics on their battery and alternator before bringing it to a professional. To check the level of voltage your alternator is producing, you will need a digital volt-ohmmeter or multimeter. These are available online and from most large hardware stores. The first step is to test the voltage of your battery while the engine is off.
Take the red lead from your multimeter and place it on the positive terminal of your battery. Place the black lead on the negative terminal of the battery and set your multimeter to read DC volts. A fully charged battery will read above 12.65 volts. If your battery reads below this level, you may have a faulty battery or a problem with your alternator, and you should take your vehicle to a certified technician for further diagnosis.
If your battery reads above 12.65 volts, then continue to the next step. Remove the leads from the battery and turn on your engine. Carefully replace the red lead on the positive terminal and the black lead on the negative terminal of your battery. With the engine on and the alternator running, you should see a higher output of voltage from your battery. Typically, it will read between 13.5 and 14.5 volts.
If your reading is within the normal range, this indicates that the alternator is doing its job. Your vehicle's electrical failures may be due to a fault in the battery. If the reading shows the same voltage as the first test, then your alternator is not functioning as it should. Either way, you should take your car to an ASE certified technician for a professional diagnosis and repair.
Repairing your alternator
Alternator repairs often involve a simple replacement of the serpentine belt. The cost of this repair can vary between $60 and $200. While the replacement part itself is relatively inexpensive, most of the cost is due to labor. Replacing the belt involves disconnecting the battery, removing the belt, unbolting the alternator and removing the wire connectors. This can be a time-consuming process, and some models are more complex than others.
To ensure a quality alternator repair and a fair price, bring your vehicle to Bowers Automotive in Colorado Springs. Our technicians have over 26 years of experience in dealing with alternator problems and repair. When you entrust your vehicle to us, you can expect the highest standards and responsible workmanship. Our auto shop is fully stocked with the latest diagnostic tools and sensors for working on electrical systems. Ignition systems, batteries, alternators, and computer sensors in all makes and models of vehicles routinely repaired here. For more information and to schedule an appointment, visit our website today.
January 30, 2017
Radiator Flush Helps Engine's Cooling System
If you have ever heard your mechanic recommending a radiator flush and wondered how a radiator flush helps your engine’s cooling system? At Bowers Automotive we love when our customers ask questions. We think every driver should have a basic understanding of their vehicle, but we know that some are too busy or embarrassed to ask us for thorough explanations of every service we offer. Here, we explain what you need to know about radiator flushes and how often it should be done.
Combustion engines, like those found in most vehicles driven today, need to burn fuel to produce energy and power the vehicle. In doing this, they produce more heat than is necessary. If the engine parts are exposed to an excess of heat, they can quickly become damaged and stop functioning. This is where your car cooling system comes in. A liquid coolant circulates around the engine and through the radiator, allowing excess heat to escape and preventing your engine from overheating.
The liquid coolant is made up of a mixture of water and antifreeze. Over time this coolant breaks down and becomes acidic. If not regularly changed, it can corrode the inside of the cooling system, causing permanent damage. A radiator flush involves removing the old coolant and replacing it with a fresh batch. Additionally, your mechanic may also use chemicals to clean out the build-up of waste and scale deposits from inside of the radiator and cooling system.
Regularly having the radiator flushed will ensure that the engine is kept cool. A failing cooling system can allow the engine to overheat, warping delicate components and causing your car to break down. Fresh liquid coolant contains the lubricants and additives needed to keep the entire cooling system running efficiently. A regularly scheduled radiator flush will maintain the water pump and radiator in good condition, thus extending the life of your engine's cooling system.
It is recommended to have your radiator flushed every 30,000 - 60,000 miles, however, check your owner's manual for specific guidelines. If the cooling system undergoes a major repair job, it is a good idea to have the whole system flushed to extend the lifetime of replacement parts. If you think your engine is running hotter than normal, or you notice any unusual smells or fluid leakages coming from the engine, this may indicate a problem with your cooling system.
If in doubt, do not hesitate to bring your vehicle in for diagnostics at Bowers Automotive. Our ASE certified technicians use modern diagnostic tools to pinpoint faults and quickly repair them. Hopefully, now you understand better how a radiator flush helps your engine's cooling system and why it is important to have it done regularly. Keeping your cooling system in a pristine state means you are less likely to break down and incur expensive repair costs down the road. If you have any inquiries about maintaining your vehicle in good condition, simply call us today!
January 15, 2017
Taking Care of Your Car's Engine
The engine is the most critical component of your vehicle, which is why Bowers Automotive is happy to share some tips on taking care of your car's engine. We know that when it fails, you must spend an immense amount of money to fix it – if it can be fixed at all. Many car owners simply do not realize that they can easily keep their engine in good condition with some simple maintenance and by not putting off taking their car to a qualified mechanic when the check engine light starts flashing.
Keeping your vehicle's engine in top condition is as easy as applying a degreaser and engine protector twice per year. This requires a minimal investment of money and time spent, but it makes a huge difference to the efficiency of your vehicle. A clean and protected engine will run cooler and be much more resistant to wear and tear. For newer engines with less than 75,000 miles, foamy engine cleaner is recommended. Older cars with more miles on them should be treated using original engine degreaser.
Cleaning Your Engine
Before you begin the cleaning process, shut off your engine and wait until it has completely cooled. Cover the engine’s electrical components with plastic bags. If your car engine has not been cleaned in a long time or looks particularly dirt-encrusted, start cleaning by using a hand-held vacuum to dislodge dust, dirt, and debris. You can also use compressed air for this task. Take your chosen engine cleaner and thoroughly spray the engine, ensuring you get it into all the nooks and crannies. Leave this to sit for around 30 minutes.
Protecting Your Engine
Once your engine has been treated with a degreaser for 30 minutes, spray the engine with water to rinse off the residue. Remember to keep the sensitive electrical components from getting wet. Once your engine is clean and dry, it’s ready to be treated with engine protector. Simply spray an even layer of the aerosol engine protector across all surfaces of the engine and allow it to sit for a few minutes. Use a towel to wipe down your engine, and you’re done. Taking care of your car’s engine is that easy.
This simple process will make your car's engine more resistant to damage from everyday exposure to sand, dirt, snow, tar, and salt. The products you need can be found readily in large supermarkets, hardware stores and automotive supply stores. For best results, clean and degrease your engine twice per year. If you can do it before bringing it into the car repair shop for diagnostics or repair, it will make things easier for your mechanic. And if you are planning on selling your car, a sparkling engine will impress picky potential buyers.
Gradual wear and tear is inevitable, but the process can be slowed significantly by taking care of your car’s engine regularly. For more tips on keeping your vehicle in pristine condition, talk to the qualified experts at Bowers Automotive today. If you don't have time to regularly clean and protect your car's engine, don't worry! We can take care of this for you, as well as provide any repairs you might need.
December 23, 2016
How do I choose the right brake pads?
Our technicians at Bowers Automotive are the best source of reliable advice for all vehicle-related matters. This week we bring you a guide on, how do I choose the right brake pads?
There are many different types of brake pads available for your car or truck. Most drivers will rely on their mechanic to choose appropriate brake pads, but it's always a good idea to have basic knowledge about the parts needed for your vehicle.
A variety of different materials are used to make brake pads, each one with its own advantages and disadvantages. Brake pads made from organic composites are usually the cheapest available; however, they do not perform well when wet. It is unwise to choose these brake pads if your need to pull a trailer or do a lot of heavy downhill braking. Semi-metallic brake pads offer higher resistance than the organic ones and better performance in most conditions. If you must drive regularly in wet or snowy weather, these would be a better option than organic brake pads.
Fully metallic brake pads are tough wearing and will last considerably longer than either of the previous types mentioned. They are also more expensive. Ceramic brake pads are the costliest variety, but they offer the best overall performance, even when wet and extremely hot. If you plan to be putting a lot of stress on your brakes by driving on mountain roads with steep declines or pulling extra loads, you may want to consider investing in ceramic brake pads. They will provide consistently reliable braking under heavy use for the longest amount of time.
Brake pads vary in both their material and installation. You can buy brake pads riveted to the brake backing plate. The sturdy metal rivets will keep the brake pads firmly in place, but as the softer material eventually wears down over time, the rivets will encounter the brake rotor disc and make a loud screeching noise.
The other method of securing the brake pads is by directly bonding them using a strong adhesive. With either method, a clear signal telling you that it is time to change your brake pads will be the grinding sound of metal on metal.
Choosing the right brake pads involves thinking about your driving patterns, the weather conditions, and your budget. Somebody who drives an average car in a dry climate with little incline or decline may be able to use organic brake pads. Someone in a wetter climate who frequently gets stuck in traffic jams and uses their vehicle to tow a trailer will be better off with high-performance brake pads.
No matter what you choose, remember to be aware of the longevity of your brakes and listen out for grinding or squealing noises. Delaying getting your brake pads changed means that your brake rotor disc or drum will get worn down and possibly require a costlier replacement.
If you are unsure about the timing of changing your brake pads or choosing the right type, please feel free to contact Bowers Automotive in Colorado Springs. We are always ready to help our clients when they ask the question, how do I choose the right brake pads? Of course, we’ll also provide expert installs and repairs. Contact us today.
December 13, 2016
What is my car's TPMS system?
Drivers have a wealth of information available to them right on their dashboards. In addition to the check engine light and other warning lights for low oil pressure, ABS malfunctions, and missing fuel caps, the drivers of newer vehicles might notice the TPMS symbol. So what is my car's TPMS system and what should I do if this light turns on? At Bowers Automotive we welcome any queries from car owners who want to understand more about their vehicles.
Read more about your TPMS system here or call us to get the specific help you need.
TPMS stands for Tire Pressure Monitoring System. Vehicles with this system have sensors inside their tires that measure the air pressure. If the air pressure is either too low or too high in any of your tires, this integrated electronic system will send a warning to the driver by illuminating the TPMS light on the dashboard. Some systems display a gauge, showing whether the pressure is below or above the optimum level.
The advantages of having this system installed are many. Underinflated tires can cause bad fuel economy in a vehicle, over-wearing certain areas of the tire treads and causing overall instability. If your tires are overinflated, you may experience discomfort when driving over bumps and potholes in the road as well as increasing your risk of a blowout. For a safe and comfortable driving experience as well as good fuel economy, you should keep your vehicle's tires within 6psi of the advised inflation pressure.
If you see the TPMS light illuminate, this is your signal to get your tire pressure checked and adjusted. An ASE certified technician can carry out this service for you. Once you see the light turn on, do not delay in getting your tires checked. If you are far from an auto shop when you see the light, you can put extra air in your tires at any gas station as a temporary fix. A severely underinflated tire can cause sufficient instability to make you lose control of your vehicle and cause an accident.
If your TPMS light flashes, this indicates a problem with the TPMS system itself, often happening after you install a spare tire. If there is no detectable pressure sensor in the new tire the TPMS light may flash. Your local auto technician can configure the TPMS system when you get new tires or rotate your tires. Keeping your TPMS system well maintained and functioning makes your car safer to drive.
Some things that can damage your TPMS system include driving on bumpy roads, hitting potholes and curbs or letting your battery die. Keeping your tires well maintained is also vital in extending the life of your TPMS system. If you have any doubts about the function of your car's TPMS system, do not hesitate to visit an auto shop for a check-up.
Here at Bowers Automotive in Colorado Springs, we use modern diagnostic tools to perform quick analysis and tune-ups on the electrical systems found in all makes and models of vehicles. We hope we have thoroughly answered the question, what is my car's TPMS system, for you today. For questions, feel free to call or stop by the shop.