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February 28, 2018

What Fluid Is Leaking from Your Car?

car towing Sundance Automotive DenverWhat fluid is leaking from your car? Here at Sundance Automotive in Westminster, we know that leaks can signal a problem with your vehicle, but figuring out what is leaking and where the leak is coming from can take a bit of investigative work. Leaks can be the start of trouble and if ignored, can be costly to you and dire for your vehicle.

Here are a few tips that can help you figure out what fluid is leaking from your car.

Engine Oil

The appearance of engine oil changes with age. After an oil change, new oil is light brown. Older engine oil will look black. If this fluid is leaking from your car, engine oil will leave an oil stain where it is parked. Engine oil has an greasy texture but each brand has a different smell so you may need to check out your dipstick and compare scents to confirm that your engine oil is the source of the leak.

Engine oil leaks can stem from the oil filter, the timing cover, sump pump, and head gasket. A small leak (like a few drops weekly) can be somewhat normal for vehicles with high mileage. It is a good idea to check the oil levels on such a vehicle and be sure the oil gets topped off when needed. Larger leaks will need a visit to your mechanic for repair.

Transmission Fluid

Depending on the age and condition of your transmission fluid, its appearance may be pink, red, or brown. Transmission fluid has an oily texture that is frequently mistaken for engine oil. Transmission fluid leaks are much more common in automatic transmissions than in manual transmissions. The output shaft and axle seal are common sources of transmission leaks, but having a professional examine your vehicle is helpful for finding the true problem.

Brake Fluid

If the fluid looks like cooking oil and is pale amber or clear, then it is likely brake fluid. It is the only vehicle fluid has this appearance. The master cylinder, brake caliper seals, and flex lines are the likely culprits.

Before driving your car to your mechanic, check your brake fluid level and top it off if needed. Start up your vehicle and pump your brakes while still in park. Turn your car off and check the level again to help you determine if you have a leak and how much of a problem it is. If you have a large leak, you may not be able to limp your car safely to the mechanic. You may need to have it towed.

If you suspect that you have a brake fluid leak or are leaking a different fluid, have a professional check out your car immediately for your safety while driving. If you need a mechanic to check your vehicle’s issue, contact us here at Sundance Automotive in Westminster. We can figure out what needs to be done to stop your fluid leak.


Coolant/anti-freeze is the easiest to identify because it is bright green or yellow and has a very distinct sweet odor. If this fluid is leaking from your car, there are a number of places that can be the source of a coolant/anti-freeze leak such as the radiator, water pump, freeze plugs, hoses, head gasket, and water core.


A water leak, particularly from the passenger side of your vehicle, is not something you need to worry about. Generally, your air conditioner was likely on when you parked your car and the condensed water from the air conditioning drained and left behind a small pool of water.

Power Steering Fluid

When power steering fluid is leaking from your car, it can sometimes be mistaken for transmission fluid. It appears to be reddish-brown but the difference is that the liquid is thinner in consistency and has a smell that is both sweet and burned at the same time. Finding a power steering leak is fairly rare, but it can happen. These leaks occur near the steering rack by the rack end seals and the pinion steering system.

How to Detect a Leak from Your Vehicle

Sometimes determining what fluid is leaking from your car is not so straightforward. Plus, you may know your car is leaking but be unclear as to where the leak is occurring. Finding the leak before it becomes a serious problem is important and we hope these tips will help.

  • Put cardboard or newspaper under your car. This is an easy way to determine that your car has a leak and will help you identify which fluid is the culprit. It is best to leave the car stationary for several hours or overnight. This gives the leak time to occur.
  • Search the components under your vehicle. If you are having trouble figuring out the source of your leak, you may need to jack the car up to look under it. Because of the airflow while your vehicle is in motion, the leak source will likely be forward of the spot with fluid remnants.
  • Spray on foot-powder will help you locate the source. If you know the general area but need to figure out the source more specifically, spray-on foot powder can help. It may seem odd, but it can easily highlight the source of your leak (you should be able to spot the drip in the white powder) and it is easy to clean off when done.
  • Be sure to park on a flat surface while looking for your leak. If your car is on a slight slope, tracking down your leak will be more difficult. Additionally, the levels of your fluids under the hood will be inaccurate, which may create further issues. 

What fluid is leaking from your car? Now that we’ve pointed you in a few likely directions, you might need a mechanic to actually fix the problem. So, get in touch with us here at Sundance Automotive in Westminster. We can get your leak stopped and make sure your car is back to normal so that you can get back on the road.

January 21, 2018

Signs of Car Engine Trouble

Signs of Car Engine Trouble Sundance Automotive DenverKnowing the signs of car engine trouble can save you a great deal of money and time. Here at Sundance Automotive in Westminster, we want to help you save your engine so that your car troubles won’t break the bank.

Check Engine Light

Though a check engine light can mean so many things, it is never a good idea to ignore it. Hooking your car up to a scan tool is an easy way to quickly determine what the problem might be. Sometimes the trouble is something easy like the gas cap is not screwed on properly, but your check engine light can be a sign that something has gone much more wrong and needs immediate attention.

Jerking, Surging, Misfiring, or Hesitating

When your engine is functioning properly, everything runs smoothly. If your car surges or misfires, it may be a sign that your engine is running too hot. If there is hesitation when you press on the gas, you could have trouble such clogged fuel lines, bad spark plugs, or dirty air filters. Additionally, if your engine is revving high when it should be idling or if you experience sudden acceleration, you have an issue that should not be ignored.

If you are experiencing signs of car engine trouble, contact us at Sundance Automotive to make an appointment. We can get your engine running right so that you can avoid a more costly problem.

Odd Noises

If your car has started making odd noises, it is important to get them checked out right away. Grinding, tapping, or popping sounds are among the noises that can mean your engine is experiencing a problem. Try to track down where the noise is coming from as well as when it seems to occur so that you can relay specific information to your mechanic.

Strange Smells

It is never a good sign if a strange smell has made it to your car’s interior. Odd smells can be an indication of leaking from what is normally the closed loop system of your engine. Rubber and exhaust smells can also spell engine trouble. It is best to get those unexplained smells check out directly.


Smoke is never a good sign and most people understand that. If you notice smoke that looks like it is blue, this likely means you have an oil leak somewhere, whereas white smoke from your tailpipe means that antifreeze or water condensation is mixing with your fuel. To avoid overheating or other more significant problems, get your car to a mechanic quickly.

Excessive Oil

If you need to provide your vehicle with more oil regularly, you could have an oil leak and a potentially more serious problem as well. Getting your vehicle checked is a good way to avoid more trouble.

If you are experiencing signs of car engine trouble, contact us here at Sundance Automotive in Westminster for an appointment. We can get your problem solved and get you back on the road quickly with a car that is running properly.

January 7, 2018

Basics of Car Brake Repair

Basics of Car Brake Repair Sundance Automotive DenverKnowing the basics of car brake repair can be helpful when you have a brake issue. Here at Sundance Automotive in Westminster, we want to help our customers better understand their brakes. There are five main components of your brakes, knowing a bit about what each one does can help you understand when you have a problem.

Brakes Lines and the Master Cylinder

Today’s brakes work hydraulically. This means fluid is used to transfer the power of your foot on the brake pedal to the actual brakes on your wheels. The master cylinder is where it all begins. If your master cylinder is not functioning properly, it may not be able to push fluid to your brakes. This is why checking your brakes lines and master cylinder for damage is a good idea.

Calipers, Pads, and Rotors

The calipers, pads, and rotors all work in conjunction with each other to bring your vehicle to a stop. When you press your brake pedal, the master cylinder pushes fluid to your brake calipers. The calipers squeeze together, placing pressure on your brake pads. When the calipers press together, the brake pads clamp down on your rotors which in turn causes your car to slow down. If your calipers are damaged they may not be able to squeeze together effectively.

It is also important to check your brake pads for wear. If your brake pads are worn down, they will not be able to connect smoothly. This uneven connection can damage your rotors and these can be expensive to repair.  Most brake pads today include wear indicators. These indicators squeal as a way to let you know it is time to get your pads replaced.

Stick to Your Maintenance Schedule

Use the guidelines in your owner’s manual to make sure regular maintenance and checks are performed on your brake system to avoid costly repair. If you are unsure about replacing the pads or brake fluid, you can stick to the basic guideline of checking every 12,000 miles.

If you are in need of brake system maintenance on your vehicle, contact us at Sundance Automotive to schedule an appointment. We can make sure your brakes are working properly and effectively.

Maintenance Cost

Regular maintenance is one of the basics of car brake repair and an excellent way to save you money. Getting your pads and fluid replaced regularly is much more cost effective than needing to replace the rotors or a full brake system repair. Preventative maintenance really can save you a great deal of money over time. Servicing your brake pads and replacing the fluid can cost you less than $100 (depending on the specific service needed) while needing rotor replacement may be ten times as much. It is an excellent idea to keep to the maintenance schedule for best results.

The basics of car brake repair are fairly straightforward. If you need your brakes serviced, contact us here at Sundance Automotive in Westminster for an appointment. We will help keep your brakes in good shape to help you avoid more expensive repairs.

December 16, 2017

Causes of a Failed Emissions Test

Causes of a Failed Emissions Test Sundance Automotive DenverToday, the car experts at Sundance Automotive in Westminster want to cover the causes of a failed emissions test. This assessment checks for pollutants produced by the engine of a car. When a vehicle fails the test, it can be a source of frustration and even worry. We get a number of questions from stressed out customers who bring their vehicles in after failing this important test. However, knowing the common causes can help you better understand what may need to be done to get your vehicle to pass the emissions test.

Emissions Test Basics

Generally, in an emissions test, there are three different vehicle inspections that could point to a wide variety of causes of a failed emissions test.

  • The Acceleration Simulation (ASM) checks for dangerous gases like carbon monoxide.
  • The On-Board Diagnostics (OBD) monitors the performance and status of the emission control equipment and the ignition system.
  • The Two-Speed Idle (TSI) tests emission gases on older vehicles (those vehicles from 1995 or before).

Gas Analyzers

There are five gases that are monitored during emissions tests: carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, hydrocarbon, oxygen, and nitrogen oxides. A gas analyzer is put in a vehicle’s tailpipe to measure the emission of these gases. There are also portable gas analyzers which use infrared to measure the temperatures of the various gases. Additionally, diesel analyzers are used to monitor emissions for diesel engines.

DLC Scanner

The Diagnostic Link Connector (DLC) Scanner works with a Diagnostic Link Connector monitor. Sometimes a vehicle needs to be driven a distance in order for all the monitors of the DLC Scanner to work properly. This means that a car owner will be asked to drive an additional distance before returning so that the DLC Scanner can work properly.

Additionally, the DLC will check if the Malfunction Indicator Lamp (MIL) light is on or off. The MIL light is a signal warning for problems and malfunctions in the engine so it is very important that it be in proper working order and good condition. The MIL light uses the Check Engine Light (or other warning light) to help determine the engine’s status. Usually, the MIL light is turned on when the vehicle’s engine is causing issues that result in excessive emissions. The DLC Scanner also gets any fault codes that the vehicle currently has.

Emission Standards in the US

The US has different standards for each gas that is being monitored. Here are the levels that are used in your car’s emissions standards tests.

  • Hydrocarbons—In the atmosphere, hydrocarbons react to the nitrogen oxide and sunlight. The combination produces ozone. On the ground, ozone is a part of smog which is one of the worst offenders of air pollution. Smog can cause breathing problems, damage lungs, irritate eyes, and has even been found to cause cancer.

The amount of hydrocarbons from a passenger car that is a transitional low emission vehicle (TLEV) must be less than .156 g/mi. An ultra-low emission vehicle (ULEV) must have a level that is lower than .055 g/mi.

  • Nitrogen oxide—When oxygen and nitrogen combine a high pressure, nitrogen oxide is formed. Engines can be very high producers of nitrogen oxide. Nitrogen oxide is the primary cause of acid rain. The maximum nitrogen oxide level for emissions is .6 g/mi for a TLEV and .3 g/mi for a ULEV.
  • Carbon monoxide—When fuel is not completely oxidized to carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide forms. Carbon monoxide is toxic to human beings and it is one of the primary emissions from vehicles. The maximum amount of carbon monoxide for a TLEV is 4.2 g/mi and for a ULEV the maximum amount is 2.1 g/mi.
  • Carbon dioxide—This gas is one of the main greenhouse gases that contribute to the increase in the earth’s overall temperature.
  • Additional emissions—Some of the emissions are created by evaporation that occurs at higher temperatures. For example, gas vapors are vented at higher temperatures. For emissions testing, the emissions of gas vapors must be less than 2.0 g/test hour.
  • Additional standards—Each state has additional standards that must be met for emissions tests.

Common Failure Reasons

There are several causes of a failed emissions test. Here are a few of the more common reasons. If you need to have an emissions test or need a repair to pass your emissions test, contact us at Sundance Automotive in Westminster to make an appointment.

  • Fuel metering specification. Your vehicle could have a faulty computerized engine control, fuel injections unit, or carburetor that can cause your vehicle’s fuel metering to not meet specifications.
  • Faulty oxygen sensor. A faulty oxygen sensor is very common and can lead to other problems such as higher emissions, overheating, and loss of acceleration.
  • Defective ignition system. Generally, this means your car is emitting high amounts of hydrocarbons. It can be an indication of defective spark plug wires, worn out spark plugs, a worn distributor cap, or an ignition-timing problem.
  • Vacuum leaks. The MAP sensor not working properly can lead to a leak and be one of the causes of a failed emissions test.
  • Rich fuel mixture. A rich air/fuel mixture can be caused by a number of issues such as leaky injectors or excessive fuel pressure. This will cause high carbon monoxide levels as well as high carbon dioxide emissions.
  • Malfunction in the air injection system. This system reduces the emissions of hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide. The air injection system forces air into an engine’s exhaust. If this system is not working properly, the vehicle can emit large amounts of carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons.
  • Faulty evaporative emission control system. The evaporative emission control or EVAP system prevents gasoline vapors from being released into the atmosphere. Leaks in system hoses and vents are common reasons for this system to be problematic. It could also be related to a defective purge valve or a faulty gas cap.

Hopefully, now that you know the causes of a failed emissions test, you’ll be better prepared and a little less worried if and when your car experiences an issue. Most importantly, you can always bring it to Sundance Automotive in Westminster to get the repairs handled by the pros. Contact us today for your appointment and we’ll make sure your car aces the test next time around.

November 18, 2017

Does a Nail Puncture Require New Tires?

Does a Nail Puncture Require New Tires Sundance Automotive DenverNew tires can be expensive, so does a nail puncture require new tires? Here at Sundance Automotive in Westminster, the first step in answering this question for you is to perform an assessment. We’ll look at where the puncture is and how much damage has been caused before determining next steps. If a new tire is needed, you can trust our shop to give you a great price for quality tires and installation.

The Nail Location

If you're wondering does a nail puncture require new tires, it's all about location. Unfortunately, if a screw or nail has punctured the sidewall, you will need new tires. These types of punctures simply cannot be repaired. If the nail or screw is along the shoulder of the tire, that also will require a replacement. However, if the center of the tread is where the nail or screw entered, you are in luck, and we can provide tire repair services.

Exceptions that will typically require tire replacement:

  • Cuts, slices, or larger punctures, regardless of location
  • If your tire has been patched at some other time
  • Any tire that no longer has a tread depth of at least 2/32”

Leaking Puncture

If the puncture is slowly leaking or if it is not yet leaking at all, you should be able to drive it to the shop to get your tire repaired. If the air is quickly escaping, then driving on the tire is not recommended. You could wind up creating all new problems.

Put your hand on the area that is punctured and feel for air. You can also spray soapy water on the puncture. If it bubbles, air is escaping. You may even hear the air leaking. If you can hear the air escaping, you should not drive any further on the tire. Additionally, if your car has a tire pressure monitor, you may be able to see how quickly air is escaping by watching the monitor. Do not drive until you’ve performed an assessment and only found a slow leak.

Flat Tires

If your wheel appears to be resting on the fold or if your tire is clearly flat from a puncture, do not drive on it. If you drive on a completely flat tire, it will be damaged internally and the tire will need to be replaced regardless of where the puncture is. If you have a spare tire, you should change it before proceeding to a repair shop or tire store.

Your vehicle may be equipped with “run flat” tires. Run-flat tires are intended to support the weight of your car when your tire is flat or punctured. With a run-flat tire, you may not even realize that your tire has lost all its pressure. The sidewalls of run-flat tires have been reinforced so that the tire’s internal structures are not quickly ruined while driving with a flat tire. You can drive around 50 miles at a maximum of 50 mph, depending on your run flat tire. It is best to check the specifications on your tire to know for sure.

When You Can’t Drive on a Tire
  • Donuts or Space-Saver Tires

Donut tires or space-saver tires are much like run flats. They are not designed to travel very long distances. In general, an average space-saver tire or donut will also travel 50 miles at 50 mph. Just make sure you get to Sundance for tire repair or replacement services.

  • Spare Tires

Full-size spares are just like your normal tires so they can be driven any needed distance. You will still want to get the original tire replaced as soon as possible because it will not wear at the same rate as your regular tires. This can eventually lead to unsafe handling while driving your vehicle.

A Few Items to Note if You Have Tire Trouble

Not a DIY Project

Tire repair involves fixing the hole from the inside, as well as the outside. The wheel must be taken from the vehicle and the tire must be removed from the wheel. The process also involves special tools, so tire repair should be left to professionals. If you have a tire puncture that needs repair, contact us here at Sundance Automotive in Westminster. We can get the repair done and get you back on your way.


General vehicle warranties do not cover your tires. There are third parties that sell tire specific warranties. If you purchased one of these warranties, be sure to have proof of your coverage with you. New cars also offer tire insurance and warranties and insurance may be available to you when you purchase new tires.

Be Prepared

It is always best to be prepared for life’s little annoyances and a flat tire from a nail or screw can be quite frustrating. It is best to be prepared for such an event. First, it is important to know whether you have a spare, a replacement tire, or a run-flat. Finding out when you experience an issue can be a huge inconvenience.

Additionally, some cars have an air pump that may also be able to pump a fix-a-flat chemical. These chemicals have expiration dates and will not work on larger holes. Also, if left in your tire for an extended period, these chemicals can damage your Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) if you have one on your vehicle. If you know what you have with you ahead of an emergency, you will be better prepared for an actual emergency.

If your car is not equipped with a spare, you may want to carry one for such a situation. It is also good to understand how to use the equipment that is included with your car. Additionally, everyone should know how to change a tire in emergency situations, particularly, if you get stuck in a location without cell service. Though less and less common, there are many locations where you may not be able to get roadside assistance due to a lack of service or due to your location. It is important to prepare for a variety of situations.

Does a nail puncture require new tires? It all really depends. But if you need your tires repaired, contact us at Sundance Automotive in Westminster for your tire repair needs.


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