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Borgman How To: The Tao of Towing

July 3rd, 2018

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Simple Guide to Towing Trailers, Boats, and Campers Across West Michigan

One of the best parts of driving a larger Ford Truck or SUV in West Michigan is being able to tow heavier toys along on your next adventure. Whether you’re towing a boat, a trailer loaded with dirt bikes or ATVs, campers, or even snowmobiles, there’s a rugged Ford vehicle that’s more than up to the task. Although, if you’re new to towing, you might have some questions about all the ins and outs. In this latest Borgman How To, we’ll cover some important mechanical, safety, and operating tips to get you towing like a pro in no time!

Be Kind To Your Powertrain!

This first part is very important: when you’re towing something, your vehicle is heavier and needs to work that much harder to get moving. If you don’t compensate for this, you could easily damage your engine, transmission, or both. Before you do anything, it will be worth reviewing your owner’s manual and double checking your towing and payload weight ratings, as well as any vehicle-specific information not covered here.

To illustrate why this is important, we’ll quickly go over how the engine and transmission work together. When you press the gas pedal, the engine spins and the more you press it down, the faster it goes. Without a transmission, the engine would have to work very hard to get the vehicle moving from a stop and rev much too high around 35mph – resulting in severe damage from both cases. Much like the gears on a bicycle, the transmission has different sets of gears for the different “stages” of acceleration. From a stop, the wheels spin slower but with much more force. The inverse is true in the higher gears.

When you add the extra weight of the trailer into this equation, you have to make sure the transmission doesn’t shift too early -which overworks the engine. There are a few easy rules to follow here:

  • Use Tow/Haul Mode if you have it. Otherwise, use whatever setting you have to turn off overdrive (the highest gear.)
  • If you tow heavier loads, in hot weather, or over long distances, it may be a good idea to have a transmission cooler installed.
  • Keep an eye on how your vehicle is shifting: lower gears are preferred when towing up hills.

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Check All Of Your Connections

Since every vehicle is different, you’ll have to refer to your owner’s manual for the proper procedures when attaching and loading a trailer. There are some important things to check for though in any circumstance. First and foremost, make sure all of your tires are properly inflated – and this includes the ones on the trailer. Second, ensure your trailer’s brake/taillights are properly connected, attached, and working. While you’re back there, it’s worth noting that your trailer’s license plate is attached and visible as well. Third, check your tongue weight. Usually, you want 10% to 12% of the trailer’s weight resting on the tongue but this may differ from case to case. Finally, check your connection to the hitch, as well as the chains. These are your safety net should the hitch fail, so give them as much attention as the hitch itself. After 10 to 15 minutes of driving, safely pull over and check these again – sometimes bumps in the road can wiggle them loose.

Everything looking good? Now it’s time to get comfortable driving with a trailer!

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The Secret To Safely Towing a Trailer: Practice, Practice, Practice.

Even if you feel confident about towing a trailer on public roads, it’s absolutely necessary to get acquainted with it before heading out. Have an experienced friend bring your rig to an empty parking lot so you can practice things like backing up, braking, making lane changes, and adjusting to the change in handling. The key is to do everything slow and steady.

Though some trailers come equipped with brake assistance, you’ll still be able to feel the extra weight when stopping. The heavier the load, the more pronounced this gets. Once you know what to expect, plan ahead and bring the rig to a stop with extra room to spare in front of you. There are two reasons for this. First is to give yourself some extra time to react should you miscalculate. The other reason is to allow about 10 feet or so to creep forward after coming to a complete stop. This releases some heat from the brake pads and rotors, guarding against “glazing” and prolonging their life.

Turning is also going to be much different – remember that the trailer is going to cut to the inside of your path so make sure you give it plenty of space!

Backing Up: You Can Do It!

Tao-of-Towing_Trailer-Backup-Assist_500x333Another thing you’ll need to experiment with is backing up, and just so you know: it can be very frustrating and counter-intuitive at first. Though many newer Ford Vehicles come equipped with Trailer Backup Assist, where all you have to do is turn a knob to steer the trailer, learning to do it the old-fashioned way is an invaluable skill to have.

Try this: grip the steering wheel on the sides and use only your mirrors to see. Go very slow. If the trailer needs to go right, raise your right hand. Raise your left to go left. If the trailer starts to “jackknife,” or forms an “L” shape relative to your vehicle, stop and slowly pull forward to straighten it out and try again. Jackknifing will put strain on the hitch and the trailer, so it should be avoided if possible. The important thing is to not give up – it’s not an easy thing to do, and will take practice and patience to get the hang of it. Once you’ve got it down, be sure to congratulate yourself and revel in your accomplishment!

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Time To Hit The Road To Adventure!

Ok, so now you’re comfortable with the added length of your vehicle with trailer in tow, and know what to expect regarding acceleration, turning, and braking. It’s time to hitch up your camper or trailer and embark on your summer adventure! Be sure to run through the list above before setting out and double check all of your connections. If your trailer is taller than your vehicle, make sure you know the full height and plan your route accordingly. You’ll also be going slower than normal and stopping for gas more often, so give yourself some extra time. Once everything is in order and your load is properly secured, it’s time to head out.

Every time you stop after the first 10 minute “pull over and double check,” be in the habit of inspecting the trailer for anything out of place. On the road, keep an eye on other vehicles and where they are in relation to the back of the trailer. If you have your signal on and aren’t sure if it’s safe to merge, some drivers know to flash their lights to let you know the trailer is clear. This is common “trucker code” and hope it comes in handy – no matter which end of it you’re on.

What To Do If Your Trailer Starts Swaying or “Fishtailing.”

It happens to the best of us: the trailer gets a little squirrely out on the highway. This can happen because of a sudden gust of wind, the rush of air from a passing car, or making sudden movements. The best way to guard against this is referring to your owner’s manual for tips on loading the trailer and checking tongue weight or postponing the trip on windy days. Should you notice your trailer swaying on the road, here’s what you can do to save it.

First, stay calm and resist the urge to hit the brake – this will only make things worse. Take your foot off the gas and gently apply the trailer brake. Newer Ford Vehicles equipped with Trailer Sway Control will do this automatically. Do this in short pulses until it straightens out; the trailer moving slower than your vehicle will “drag it” and only allow it to move forward, not side-to-side. In an absolute worst-case scenario, you can speed up a little bit to correct it on the opposite end, assuming you have room in front of you. However, your first instinct should be to apply the trailer’s brakes and not your vehicle’s.

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Be Aware, Be Safe, and Tow Like a Pro on Your Next Adventure in West Michigan

Planning your next trip to the lake or up north this summer? No matter if you’re going to use your new-found towing prowess or not, ensuring that your vehicle is in good working order is key to making your journey a success. The experts at the Borgman Service Center can help by performing a careful and thorough inspection of your vehicle’s critical components like the engine, transmission, brakes, tires, and more. We can even help with more advanced features like the Trailer Sway Control or Trailer Backup Assist too.

Take a look at our latest Service Specials or use our easy Online Service Scheduler to make your next appointment. During your visit, be sure to ask about our Lifetime Warranty on Brake Pads as well as our Low Price Guarantee on our selection of name-brand tires. Come see why Borgman is the Best in the West!


Keeping You & Your Vehicle Cool Through The West Michigan Summer

June 4th, 2018

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School’s out for the summer and many West Michigan families are getting ready to hit the road. Whether you’re going on a longer summer adventure, or just driving the family to the beach, understanding and maintaining two important systems in your vehicle will help avoid hot weather breakdowns.

Keep Cool With Well-Maintained Air Conditioner

A car, truck or SUV air-conditioner system does not simply blow cold air into the car. The air-conditioning system is actually designed to remove the hot air from within the vehicle cabin and dispel it to the atmosphere outside the car.

In order to do so, the air conditioner system relies on a number of components to operate effectively. Like all mechanical parts, these items are prone to wear and regular system servicing helps to protect them from breakdown. The air conditioning system is pressurized by a gas known as a refrigerant. Each vehicle specifies how much refrigerant is used to fill the system.

When the air in your air conditioning (AC) begins to lose power and the air doesn’t feel too cold, it may be time for an AC recharge. It must be noted, however, that recharging your AC is a temporary fix to a likely bigger problem. If your system is indeed missing refrigerant, your AC system has a leak and needs to be inspected and repaired. Refrigerant does not evaporate in an airtight system so air is leaking in.

During our A/C Inspection, we check the following for function:

  • Compressor
  • Condenser
  • Expansion valve or orifice tube
  • Receiver, drier, or accumulator
  • Evaporator

From a quick tuneup or air conditioner flush to replacing components, let the experts at Borgman attend to your car’s air conditioning system – while you wait!

Radiator Risks in Summer Heat

While cabin comfort is important to the humans in the vehicle, proper engine cooling is equally important for the health of your vehicle’s engine. Hot, summer air in heavy traffic or traffic jams can stress even a well-maintained radiator. Overheating is the #1 cause of summer breakdowns, according to ASE.

Low coolant levels in high heat can kill your engine. Also be aware that if you have a damaged radiator or hoses, the coolant may leak causing your engine temperature to rise even more. In summer weather, always keep an eye on vehicle’s temperature gauge.

Make sure your radiator is adequately filled with coolant at the right concentration — usually a 50/50 mix of water and antifreeze, but check your car’s specifications. The radiator should be flushed every two years. If it hasn’t been serviced, do so before you hit the road.

Also take time before a long trip to inspect your hoses, looking for leaks, cracks, peeling or separation. While the engine is still warm, squeeze along the hose’s length — it should feel firm, but not hard. If the hose is spongy or soft in even one section, consider replacing it before it fails and causes bigger problems.

Carry duct tape, which may serve as a very short-term fix for a blown hose while you seek help. However, remember that duct tape can’t stand too much heat.

Intermittent Overheating Causes

If your car is overheating at idle, but it’s fine the rest of the time, then there are a handful of different problems that you might be dealing with. The most likely reason for this type of problem is that your fan isn’t working, but the reason, and the fix, will differ depending on the car you drive. Intermittent overheating problems can also be caused by low coolant, air in the cooling system, a bad coolant temperature sensor, or even a faulty gauge.

Here are some of the basic things you can check when your car overheats at idle:

  • The coolant level
    • Only check when the engine is cool.
    • Low coolant can cause overheating.
    • Air bubbles in the cooling system can also cause issues.
    • Only use the specified type of antifreeze to top off the system.
  • Fan belt problems
    • If the fan is driven by a belt, check the belt.
    • A loose fan belt can result in overheating.
    • If the belt is loose, frayed, or missing, replace it.
  • Electric radiator fan problems
    • If the fan is electric, check to see if it’s plugged in.
    • You may be able to test the fans by turning on your A/C, which often causes the fan to turn on or cycle.
    • The fan motor may be burned out, or there could be a problem with the fan switch, a resistor pack, or wiring.

Visit Borgman for a cooling system checkup, and we’ll inspect your vehicle’s system and replace any damaged or worn components, such as water pumps, thermostats, and hoses.


Borgman How To: Understanding Your Vehicle’s Braking System

April 18th, 2018

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The Borgman Service Center – Your Home For Expert Brake Service in West Michigan

Brakes do an awful lot of work, even on a simple trip around Grand Rapids or to the grocery store. Bringing a moving vehicle to a complete stop is no small feat, even though we may take it for granted. On the other end of that brake pedal are some clever feats of engineering that harness the power of hydraulics and friction to turn a vehicle’s kinetic energy into heat.

The Borgman Service Center in Grand Rapids is your home for making sure your brakes and other systems within your vehicle are properly functioning and maintained. In our latest Borgman How To, we’ll give you a general idea of how this system works and enough insight to know when it’s losing performance. Read the rest of this entry »


Borgman How To: Tire Rotation & Balancing Explained

March 29th, 2018

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As crews around Grand Rapids work to patch up our numerous potholes, the best way to protect your tires from cracks, splits, and other shock-related damage is to rotate them regularly and keep them properly inflated. From the outset, the concept of a tire seems pretty simple. Their rubber construction and treads grip the road in many different driving conditions. They’re filled with air to act as a cushion, push back onto the road, and keep wheel weight down – and therefore fuel efficiency up.

In truth, there’s a bit more going on here. In our latest Borgman How To, we’ll expand upon our previous Tire Article and go over why it’s important to keep your tires balanced and rotated.

What a Tire Rotation Is and How It Saves You Money

Here’s a scenario: about a year ago you put four brand-new tires on your car. You notice that the rear tires still look fairly new, but the front ones, especially on the edges, look a little more worn. Instead of replacing the front tires, you can simply have them moved to a different position on the car, or rotate them. Read the rest of this entry »


Borgman How To: When Is It Time For New Shocks or Struts?

March 7th, 2018

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Shock & Struts Smooth Your Ride and Keep West Michigan Drivers Safe

After the West Michigan winter finally clears, you might be noticing your daily commute is a little bumpier than you remember, or that it’s a little harder to turn the steering wheel. If that’s the case, it could be a sign that you need new shocks or struts, and the Borgman Service Center is here to help!

 What Are Shocks & Struts? What Do They Do?

Depending on which vehicle you drive, it will be equipped with either shock absorbers, struts, or both. It’s worth noting that a single wheel will have one or the other – never both. Shocks and struts are parts of your vehicle’s suspension, and they control how your body interacts with the wheels. This affects your steering, stopping distance, and weight dynamics. They also filter out bumps from the road and smooth out your ride.

While these two parts have similar duties, they are not interchangeable. Read the rest of this entry »


How To Know If Your Vehicle Needs An Alignment

January 23rd, 2018

How to check your wheel alignment to drive safely in Grand Rapids and West Michigan

Now that we’ve made it about halfway through the winter season in West Michigan, it’s probably a good time to know where you stand in terms of your vehicle’s alignment. I don’t think anyone was surprised to find the roads an absolute horror show after the latest thaw, as we were reunited with our old friend the pothole. These gaps, pits, or large craters in the asphalt are formed when water seeps into cracks and expands when it re-freezes. While your vehicle will eventually need an alignment from normal driving, if you hit a pothole or a curb it may need one sooner. Read the rest of this entry »


Advanced Winter Driving Tips For West Michigan Roads

December 12th, 2017

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Learn How To Recover From Different Skids, Retrain Your Pedal Foot, and More!

The winter weather has arrived in Grand Rapids and West Michigan, and it looks like it’s staying for the season. While it’s undeniably beautiful to look at, snow and ice can make driving hazardous, especially with the influx of cars on the road during the holiday shopping and travel season. In the interest of making sure everyone arrives at their destinations safely, Borgman has put together a few advanced tips for winter driving, which include a quick hit on some vehicle physics plus 4 types of skids and how to recover from them. We’ve written an article that covers the basics of safe winter driving, which you can find here. To further sharpen your winter driving skills, keep on reading! Read the rest of this entry »


Borgman How To: Pre-Winter Windshield Wiper Check & Maintenance

October 30th, 2017

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How To Inspect Your Wiper Blades Before The West Michigan Winter Hits

During the warmer months, we only really use our wipers during a rainstorm or cleaning gunk off of the windshield. However, once the snow flies, making sure wipers can do their job becomes more of a safety issue. At the very least, worn wiper blades will make a lot of horrible noise and leave streaks on the windshield. When they get really bad, and especially during a snowstorm, they leave you with no visibility in an already precarious driving condition.

When wipers are in good shape, they will smoothly and quietly remove all water from their path. Checking your wipers for wear is pretty easy. Just pick it up and take a look for any ripples or cracks in the rubber. If you don’t see any glaring issues, sit behind the wheel and spray the windshield with washer fluid. When the wipers engage, keep an eye open for the following issues:

  1. Wipers do not clear all of the washer fluid in one stroke or leave streaks.
  2. Wipers make a lot of noise, even when wet.
  3. Wipers bounce up and down or stutter as they travel – indicating that some part of the assembly is bent.

Windshield wipers should ideally be replaced every six months. However, if you’re looking for an easier way to tell if your wipers need replacing, visit the Borgman Ford Service Center and ask about Motorcraft Wiper Blades with wear indicator. These wiper blades have a spot that will change from black to yellow when they need to be replaced. Read the rest of this entry »


Borgman How To: Caring For & Inspecting Your Tires

October 17th, 2017

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Learn More About How To Care For Your Tires by Understanding How They Work

Tires are an integral part of your vehicle, and Borgman is here to help you make sure they stay in good shape for as long as possible. Tires have quite the job description: they carry the vehicle everywhere throughout Grand Rapids and West Michigan, they keep road noise down, the ride smooth, and keep your grip in slick conditions. To achieve all of this, there is a fair bit of physics and chemistry at play, but you don’t really have to worry about any of that. Getting peak performance out of your tires from Borgman is as simple as giving them a look-over every month. Below, we’ve provided a punch list of what to look for and tips to keep your tires in tip-top shape. Read the rest of this entry »


 

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