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Brake Maintenance And Tips For Colorado Drivers

dangerousroadWe know how much you all like heading up into the mountains based on how often we perform brake maintenance and change out brake pads at the shop! It’s a simple fact of Colorado life that brakes need more attention because they get a lot more use.

6 Top Brake Issues

Brake warning lights. NEVER ignore a brake warning light, it can signal hydraulic leaks, worn brake pads or drums (depending on the type of brakes your car has,) warped rotors and more.
Worn out brake pads. Brake pads are found on disc brakes which are commonly used for front brakes in most passenger cars (some cars have drum brakes on the rear wheels.) As brake pads run down they wear even faster because of their inability to dissipate heat and they throw off more brake dust. If you notice your wheels are quickly covered in black it can be a sign your brake pads are getting low.  Squealing brakes, especially when your foot is off the brake pedal, is another sign of wear. Any noise from your brakes warrants your attention.
Warped rotors. Rotors can warp under stress which inhibits your brake pads from applying even pressure. This drastically increases how long it takes for you to stop your vehicle.  If your steering wheel shakes when you press the brake it’s likely you have a warped rotor.
Hydraulic leaks. Leaks of brake fluid can lead to sudden brake failure. If you notice a leak under your car or realize your brake pedal pushes to the floor there’s a good chance it’s a leak in the hydraulic brake system.  If you are concerned that you have a hydraulic brake leak, you should stop driving immediately and have it towed in for an inspection.
Emergency brake is on. This is an easy one to fix but it often happens that a driver forgets the emergency brake is on. If you feel your car is dragging check the emergency brake first. Driving with the brake on can quickly damage the emergency brake system.
Smoking brakes. Brakes smoke and/or smell when they are overheated and the main reason they get overheated is by constant application of brakes on descents of mountains and hills. If the brakes get to the smoking point, damage has likely occurred (or something is leaking onto your brakes – also bad as this causes the brake pads to glaze up.)

Common Brake Warning Lights – Don’t Ignore These!

Here are some common brake warning lights:

Brake fluid level warning light. Brake fluid is low.

Brake fluid level warning light. Brake fluid is low.

Anti-lock braking system warning light.

Anti-lock braking system warning light.

Fault in hydraulic system/brake fluid level dangerously low.

Fault in hydraulic system/brake fluid level dangerously low.

Parking (emergency brake) is on.

Parking (emergency brake) is on.

 

Brake Maintenance Tips

  1. Learn how to brake properly on mountain roads.
  2. Have brake fluid changed every 2 years (or sooner if the fluid looks brown) in order to protect your car’s critical brake components.
  3. Get your brake pads checked frequently, especially if you do a lot of mountain driving.
  4. Don’t ride your brake pedal.
  5. Avoid sudden braking by giving yourself more room between your car and the one in front of you.
  6. When your brake pads need replacing buy the highest quality pad you can afford. Be sure the new pads meet or exceed factory specs.

 

Pellman Family Favorite Colorado Road Trips: South Central Colorado

Summer is here, gas prices remain relatively low. It’s the perfect time to plan a Colorado road trip!
The itinerary for this trip is based on one of our favorite family vacations, way back when our kids were little in 1999. For fun, we dug out some old family photos to prove we were there. But don’t think this itinerary is just for kids, it’s easily adaptable for any age range.
Round trip from Boulder this itinerary will add 598 miles to your odometer. It’s an easy 5-6 day trip that allows you time to explore and can easily be expanded or shortened. The longest driving day is the haul down to the Sand Dunes, about 4-5 hours without stops.

Destination: Great Sand Dunes National Park

PellmansSandDunes

Gregory and Melissa floating in Medano Creek, 1999.

June is the perfect time to visit the sand dunes, before it gets too hot and while Medano Creek is in full-flow. Even long-time Colorado residents may not know about the rare surge flow of this creek. As it swells from the spring run-off the water rolls over the sand sheet creating the sounds of waves.
Happily for our readers, 5280 Magazine just published an excellent, in-depth article about Great Sand Dunes National Park. It’s chuck full of excellent tips, restaurant and lodging suggestions and does a great job of explaining the geology of the lower San Luis basin.

Destination: Colorado Gators Reptile Park

PellmansAlligator

Melissa and Gregory are getting to touch a baby alligator, with a little help from their Dad.

Young and old alike will get a kick out of  Colorado Gators which features not only alligators, but other exotic snakes, turtles, geckos and more. Youngsters can take a class to become a junior reptile handler and oldsters can learn how to wrestle a gator.
The reptile park is only 25 miles from the Sand Dunes making it an easy morning diversion from a few days camping at the Dunes or a stop as you head north towards Salida and Buena Vista.
Other Stops To Consider As You Head North

  • Curious about Colorado’s first green certified cemetery? You’ll find it in Crestone. It feels like a visit to the wild, wild west.
  • Like horseback riding and spectacular views? Granite Mountain Outfitters, located at the top of Poncha Pass, has beautiful guided trail rides giving you views of the San Luis valley to the south and South Park to the north.
  • Lunch in one of several friendly restaurants along the Arkansas River in downtown Salida. There’s also a lush, shady park for picnics and playtime.

Destination: Mt. Princeton Hot Springs Resort

Located 15 miles south of Buena Vista, in Nathrop, CO, is Mt. Princeton Hot Springs, a non I-70 alternative to Glenwood Springs with lovely accommodations and five non-sulfur geothermal pools. As a side trip, if you haven’t been into Buena Vista lately you should go. Downtown features brewpubs, interesting shops, good local coffee and more.

Destination: Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument and Cripple Creek

Florissant is home to one of the richest and diverse fossil deposits in the world (over 1700 species of animals and plants.) Learn what creatures lived in Colorado 34 million years ago. A visit to Florissant fossil beds is a day activity. There are no lodging/camping/restaurants in the park (stay in nearby Cripple Creek.) Visit the Florissant Fossil Beds website to get the most from your visit.

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You can’t be a true Colorado kid without a ride on one of our state’s old narrow gauge mining trains.

Twenty-five miles down the road is historic Cripple Creek, known for it’s role in the Gold Rush, for mining and gambling. There’s lots of Cripple Creek Events,with plenty of places to stay and eat, along with gambling for the “of age” crowd. Take of tour of the Molly Kathleen Gold Mine ride the Cripple Creek and Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad, and see the Cripple Creek donkey herd wander through town, direct descendants of the areas mining herds.

Destination: Garden Of The Gods

Wrap up your south central Colorado getaway at Garden Of the Gods, a National Natural Landmark, forty-five miles northeast from Cripple Creek, that is not to be missed. The park offers a wide variety of guided and self-guided nature walks, an interactive museum, and numerous other events each day. Spend a leisurely half day at the Garden and still be home in time for dinner.

How to Prepare Your Car for a Road Trip

BradDAnMake sure all major service and repair issues are taken care of before you go. If you schedule regular maintenance and mention you are preparing for a road trip we will give your car a thorough going over to be sure your car is trip ready. How easy is that? You don’t even have to read the rest of the article.
PLAN AHEAD: Summer is a busy time for car service. Make your appointment at least a week or two in advance of when you want to leave. If your car needs repairs and we have to order parts we can still get your car ready before your scheduled trip. It frustrates our clients and makes us feel bad when they call the day before they plan to leave and our schedule is booked.

Pre-Trip Car Inspection Checklist

Tires, Brakes & Wheel Alignment: Make sure your tires (including the spare) are in good condition (uneven wear, alignment issues and bulging are signs of potentially dangerous tires.) Fill your tires to the correct tire pressure. Many cars have two recommended ratings, one for light loads and one for heavy loads and/or high speeds. You will find this information in the owner’s manual or on a sticker in the doorjamb. Set the pressures when the tires are cold. Properly inflated tires keep you safer and improve gas mileage. Be sure all your tire-changing tools are in the trunk. (If your car has wheel locks, make sure you have the adapter for the lock nut.) Test your brakes, too.
Fluids. This includes oil, brake, power steering and transmission fluids, coolant (antifreeze) and windshield wiper solvent. It’s a good idea to replace filters associated with these fluids along with the fuel and engine air filters. At the shop we also check your cabin air filter (cleans the air circulating inside your car.)
Windshield wiper blades: Test, replace if necessary.
Belts and hoses. With today’s new technology it’s difficult to tell when belts and hoses wear down. We recommend you have a professional check them out.
Other. Test your lights and replace any burned out bulbs. If you haven’t had scheduled maintenance in a while consider chassis lubrication, inspecting your shocks, struts and exhaust system.

In your glovebox

Owner’s manual. If you can’t find it, check the manufacturer website.
Car registration and proof of insurance. Make sure these don’t expire during your trip. If you are towing a trailer or boat, include current registration and insurance information for them as well.
Consider load issues. Load evenly and carefully if you’re carrying lots of heavy objects. Position them forward in your car and distribute the weight evenly side to side. Cars don’t have unlimited carrying capacity, so don’t overload. The heavier your car is, the more fuel it will burn.

Consider a roadside assistance program

AAA is the most well known and provides broad coverage. They’ll tow your car if it breaks, change the tire if it goes flat, jump start the car if the battery dies, open the doors if you get locked out, and bring gas if you run out. An AAA membership will usually pay for itself the first time you run into trouble, plus you’ll get discounts at some roadside motels and restaurants.
When you purchase $25 or more in service from Pellman’s Automotive Service, Inc., you’re covered for 365 days when you need a tow-to-safety, lock-out aid, battery jump start, emergency fuel delivery, or flat tire changing assistance through TechNet.  Click here for more information or give us a call and we can tell you more about it.

Assemble your car emergency kit

Click here for a detailed list.

Games for Road Trips

AutoBingoWe thought you might enjoy some of our time-tested, Pellman family tried and true car games.
The Car Color Game
Every member of the family picks a color of car and counts the number they see pass by. We outlawed white, since that´s the most commonly colored car. You can set a time limit or a mileage limit and play this game over and over.
Alphabet Road Sign Game
Each person goes through the alphabet choosing letters off signs along the road. Whoever sees the letter first, gets it.

License Plate Games

Count the States
Easy to play as a family, everyone watches to see how many different state license plates they can spot.
Make Your Own License Plate Phrase
Make a fun phrase out of letters from a license plate. For example PPG 079 might be “Pugs Playing Games.” The first family member to come up with a phrase wins.

Other Family Activities for Road Trips

Books on Tape/CD/iPods.
We´ll date ourselves by saying when our kids were small we checked out books on tape at the library for our road trip vacations. Now there are all kinds of great options. But in any event, listening and talking about a book together is a wonderful family activity, and unlike movies and handheld electronic games, allows you to still see all of the great scenery you are traveling through.

For More Ideas

MomsMiniVan.com has a wonderful, long, list of more road trip game ideas and free printables for car bingo, tic-tac-toe, scavenger hunts and more.
From Kidventurous, here´s a review of various road trip games plus links with even more suggestions.
Edmunds, the car-buying site, offers this list of top 10 car games.

Summer Car Emergency Kit Checklist

Every car should have a good emergency kit in it. Here is a list of the things we think you should have on hand:

  • Flashlight (fresh batteries)
  • Road flares
  • Whistle
  • Blankets
  • First Aid Kit
  • Jumper cables
  • Rope
  • Cutting device (box cutter, pocket knife)
  • Duct tape
  • Gloves
  • Gallon of water
  • Basic tool kit (such as screwdrivers, wrenches and pliers)
  • Hand cleaner to get all the dirt/grease off that inevitably gets on you
  • Snack bars that do not go bad
  • Cell phone charger

And don’t forget a spare set of car keys!