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Starting problem on Buick

In Diagnostics by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

The case of a mysterious starting problem has been closed. Like many repairs, the issue required some digging.

Our Woodbridge mechanics recently worked on a Buick Lacrosse that refused to start.

At first, the issue was occurring intermittently. Our customer would turn the key and it may not have “caught” to start the vehicle. 

Eventually, it reached the point that every time the driver would turn the key they could hear the starter trying to engage. However, it just sounded like it was spinning and nothing was happening. So, they had the vehicle towed to Steve’s Auto Repair.

What was causing the starting problem?

When we looked into the starting problem, we found that the teeth on the flywheel were chewed up. For some reason, the bushings in the starter were going bad and bouncing up and down. As they did, they would sometimes chip off the top edge of the flywheel. 

Bad bushing in starter.

Over a period of time, it just kept wearing down and the gap continued to grow bigger. Instead of having one or two teeth chewed up, it became five or six. As the engine stopped, it would be in about the same spot but the starter gear wouldn’t engage the gear on the flywheel.

A good flywheel and a flywheel that was chipped by a bad starter bushing.

In order to replace the flywheel, we needed to take the transmission out. Our technician also changed the starter, which was the original cause of the problem.

A clicking noise when starting a vehicle and a slight grinding sound can be signs that you need a new starter.

What is a car flywheel?

The flywheel is a big disc that is attached to the engine, and the torque converter for the transmission is connected to the flywheel. This partnership between the flywheel, engine and torque converter allows power to transfer from the engine to the transmission.

Some flywheels have slots that help produce the signals for crankshaft position sensors and other computer inputs. This is not the case as much as it used to be, but some cars still may have them.

This Buick has an automatic transmission. The flywheel on a manual transmission is much thicker, because the pressure plate and clutch disc bolt up against the flywheel. 

So, as you push in the clutch it disengages from the flywheel from where the engine is spinning. Then, as you let out on the clutch, it engages the flywheel to help transfer that power from the engine to the manual transmission. Those flywheels are generally much thicker so they are able to take the heat and transfer the power.

Problems to watch out for

If you hear noises that don’t sound right when you’re starting your car – maybe it’s making a bit of a grinding noise – you will want to get it looked at soon. That way you can avoid a costly repair – like removing the transmission to replace the flywheel, rather than just installing a new starter. A repair that could have cost a few hundred dollars is now a couple thousand dollars.

Make sure to also note if your car seems to be having trouble turning over, or if it seems to be cranking more slowly than usual. 

Electronics not working right and the battery light turning on – possible signs of an alternator going bad – are other problems to keep an eye out for.

Steve’s Auto Repair & Tire is an authorized Goodyear tire dealer located in Woodbridge, Virginia. Automotive repair services are performed on all makes and models, including BMW and Mercedes. Services include oil changes, brakes, alignments, inspections, and computer engine diagnostics.

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Are you doing illegal things while driving?

In Safety by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

A lot happens behind the wheel. In order to safely reach their destination, motorists need to monitor other road users and be prepared to take action at a moment’s notice.

An important part of using the road is avoiding doing illegal things while driving. So, what’s considered illegal? We’re here to provide some examples, some of which you may not know about.

Distracted driving has become a major problem. Drivers can easily become preoccupied by talking to other passengers, helping their children, or using technology. This pulls their attention away from the task at hand and increases their chance of getting into an accident.

In 2020, more than 3,100 people died because of distracted driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Around 424,000 people across the United States were injured as a result of distracted driving in 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Some types of distractions are listed below.

Examples of distracted driving

Texting

In Virginia, it is illegal to hold a handheld device while driving. However, that doesn’t stop travelers from using them to perform various tasks, such as texting. Some of us have seen people swerving and – when we pull up next to them at a light – notice that they are typing out a message, even with children in the car.

Recording TikTok videos

Using social media is another task people perform while behind the wheel. TikTok has grown in popularity over the years. So has many of the trends associated with the platform. To be a part of it, some people will record TikTok videos while driving. 

Eating and drinking

It doesn’t seem like there’s enough time in the day and, sometimes, we use driving as our chance to catch up on tasks, especially when we’re running late. A lot of people will temporarily take their eyes off the road to eat or drink something.

Focusing on your appearance

Are you having a bad hair day? Is your makeup smudged? These are some concerns we may have when heading to a presentation for work or trying to look our best for someone special. So, we tend to do them on our way to our destination.

Illegal activities aren’t limited to distracted driving. There are also various tasks that are performed on the road when drivers aren’t looking at a screen, or taking care of their physical needs.

Other illegal things while driving

Speeding through school zones

We see it all the time – motorists driving quickly through school zones, despite the flashing yellow lights indicating that the speed limit is 25 miles per hour. Remember, during the times listed on school zone signs, the reduced speed comes into play. 

Not clearing your windshield

We were a bit surprised to find that having a dirty windshield is against the law. But it makes sense when you think about it. Not having a clear windshield makes it more difficult to see and is, therefore, unsafe.

Hanging items from the rearview mirror

A lot of people have things – graduation tassels, for example – hanging from the rearview mirror. Like a large crack in the windshield, it’s illegal to hang objects from the mirror because it’s obstructing the driver’s vision.

Trash on the side of the road.

Throwing items out the window

If you’re paying attention, you may see litter on the side of the road. Throwing items – whether it’s cigarette butts, fast food containers or dirty diapers – out the car window is another illegal thing that people do, sometimes without even thinking about it.

Driving without a front bumper

There are many components your vehicle needs for you to drive it legally. You’re supposed to have a front and rear bumper that is rated for a certain crash and mile per hour. Putting up a 4-by-4 board may not be legal in your state.

There are some ways you can drive more safely (and legally). 

Steps you can take

We’ve explained a lot of things that are illegal to do while driving. But is there anything that can be done to better protect yourself and your passengers? Here are a few things you can do to make your travels less distracting and more safe:

  • Create rules for yourself and your kids to follow when you’re behind the wheel
  • Get an app that lets people who are calling you know that you’re driving
  • Make sure that you can see clearly while driving and your vehicle is following Virginia safety inspection standards

Steve’s Auto Repair & Tire is an authorized Goodyear tire dealer located in Woodbridge, Virginia. Automotive repair services are performed on all makes and models, including BMW and Mercedes. Services include oil changes, brakes, alignments, inspections, and computer engine diagnostics.

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Subframe replacement on Volkswagen Beetle

In Alignment by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

At times, you can’t tell that there is a problem with a car just by looking at it. An issue may not be found until it’s brought into an auto repair shop.

This was what happened with a Volkswagen Beetle our Woodbridge mechanics recently worked on. It had slid into a curb on the rear left side, and the driver wanted to have the vehicle checked out.

When you were looking at it, the car didn’t appear to have any problems. However, once it was put up on the alignment machine, you could see that the caster and camber in the rear were out of specification. Caster refers to how the tires are angled toward the front or rear of a vehicle, and camber means how they are angled in or out. There were no more adjustments that we could do to compensate for it.

Taking a quick glance at the subframe, it didn’t look like it was damaged that much. But if you look at the side-to-side picture, you can see where – from the impact – the paint is chipped and it looks a bit rusty. That’s why, in this particular case, subframe replacement was needed to bring everything back into the correct specifications.

Subframe replacement process

Sometimes, you can adjust the toe – which is how far to the left or right the tires are from a car’s center – on the rear of these vehicles. Some vehicles even have different kits you can put in as a lower control arm or upper control arm that have built in adjustments. But not all the time. This one is just a standard lower control arm, springs, upper control arm that keeps everything in alignment.

In this particular case, the subframe bolts to the bottom of the chassis and all of the components – such as the upper control arm, lower control arm, springs, tie rod ends, steering knuckles, and even all the brackets for the brake lines and (Anti-lock Braking System) ABS sensor wiring – are attached to the subframe of this Volkswagen Beetle.

Fortunately, it has a rear subframe, which is replaceable. Some vehicles don’t have that. Yes, this project was a little bit of work, but that made it easier to bring it back into correct specifications.

When and why to get regular wheel alignmentssubframe replacement

This is another reason why you should get your wheel alignment checked every year, especially here in Northern Virginia. With the conditions of the roads, the potholes, the constant construction that’s going on, you would be surprised by how much of a hit your suspension takes in day-to-day driving.

Other than annually, we recommend car alignments when new tires are installed or suspension work is performed.

You should also get it checked if your vehicle feels like it’s pulling to one side, you notice that the tires are wearing unevenly, or the steering wheel appears to be crooked.

Tire alignments are beneficial in several ways. In addition to preventing premature tire wear, this process can help improve a car’s fuel economy and ensures that its steering capability is correct.

Steve’s Auto Repair & Tire is an authorized Goodyear tire dealer located in Woodbridge, Virginia. Automotive repair services are performed on all makes and models, including BMW and Mercedes. Services include oil changes, brakes, alignments, inspections, and computer engine diagnostics.

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Oil leaks on BMWs

In Fluids by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

Some car problems can be fixed with just one small piece. However, sometimes replacing that part can be more labor intensive than is expected.

Earlier this week, we addressed an oil leak on a BMW. Our customer brought the vehicle in, because they noticed lots of oil loss. They had even gotten into the habit of carrying around jugs of oil, because they knew they had an oil leak but didn’t know where it was coming from. The undercarriage of the car was completely saturated.

The BMW needed a new alternator bracket oil seal, which can harden and become brittle after a period of time. 

To complete this project, our technician had to remove fan components and the alternator. The engine was also lifted up and the engine mounts were taken off. Then, everything was put back together. This process took a number of hours.

Oil seal

Why oil is important

Different areas of the engine need to be lubricated by oil in order to work properly, and there are oil pressure sensors associated with certain components. This is why it’s important to have regular oil changes performed. 

We recommend this service every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, but the frequency depends on the vehicle and manufacturer recommendations.

A lack of oil in the system may result in an overheating engine or an engine seizing.

What can cause oil leaks?

The oil seal going bad is a common problem among V8 style engines. They can start leaking so badly that the oil gets too low, causing engine damage. The seals will, literally, pump the engine dry. So, when these components go bad it’s very important to have them fixed as soon as possible.

Depending on the location of the leak, it could impact the timing belt, serpentine belt and other parts.

Aside from a bad seal, there are several other issues that can lead to oil leaks, such as a damaged oil pan, worn valve cover gasket, and a clogged PCV system.

You may have an oil leak if you notice engine noise, the oil is low, there’s a puddle of oil – which can be brown, black or yellow – near the vehicle, or the car is experiencing running problems.

The oil pressure light turning on is another indicator to watch out for. It warns you that the oil pressure is decreasing. If you notice this symbol come on, you should safely stop the vehicle and check the oil level. 

Finding oil leaks

If you notice any of these symptoms, reach out to a mechanic or auto repair shop near you. They can help you find the source of the leak early on and prevent it from growing into a bigger problem.

Our process for finding oil leaks varies among vehicles. Our Woodbridge mechanics usually start by inspecting the three main areas oil will leak from – the valve covers, the timing cover, and the oil pan. There are also different parts that need to be checked within those areas.

If the oil leak is widespread, they will clean it off, add UV dye, drive it for a bit, and see where the first spot is.

Steve’s Auto Repair & Tire is an authorized Goodyear tire dealer located in Woodbridge, Virginia. Automotive repair services are performed on all makes and models, including BMW and Mercedes. Services include oil changes, brakes, alignments, inspections, and computer engine diagnostics. 

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Car alignments: How are they beneficial?

In Alignment by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

If you have been driving for a while and been responsible for making sure your vehicle is taken care of, you may have heard the term “wheel alignment” mentioned. 

It may have been a service that was recommended to you when you bought new tires, or after you hit a curb or pothole.

But what are car alignments? And what is the point behind them? 

An alignment is a form of maintenance where we look at a few specifications – caster, camber and toe. Our Woodbridge mechanics use a new wheel alignment machine that we purchased last year.

This maintenance service is beneficial in several ways.

How car alignments are beneficial

Increases fuel efficiency: With how expensive gas prices can be, it’s worth it to look into ways that you can improve your vehicle’s fuel economy. Tires that are correctly lined up with a car don’t have as much rolling resistance. Less rolling resistance equals better fuel efficiency. Tires tend to drag if they aren’t aligned right, resulting in more tire wear and reduced fuel efficiency.

Prevents tires from wearing unevenly: The tread should be the same across the tire. Having tire alignments performed regularly prevents tires from wearing more on one side or area than another.

Enables tires to last: Alignments also help you get the most out of your tires. A high quality tire will take you at least 45,000 miles, depending on the tire quality, the materials, and the manufacturer. Because tires experience wear and tear on a daily basis, they should receive an annual checkup in the form of tire alignments.

Makes sure the steering capability is right: We recommend an alignment for cars that are having new steering and suspension components installed. Through this process, adjustments can change. So, it’s a good idea to double check this as well as your vehicle’s ability to steer.

Helps safety features work correctly: Does your vehicle use park assist, collision avoidance, or blind spot detection? In order for certain safety features to work right, a vehicle’s alignment needs to be correct. When performing a tire alignment on cars with Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS), our technicians must reprogram parameters after the alignment has been conducted.

How do you know if you need an alignment?

Car alignments offer quite a few perks, but how do you know when you need one? As we have mentioned, it’s a good idea to have this service done once a year, when you get new tires, and after suspension work is performed. 

However, a wheel alignment may also be needed if you notice various indicators, like a car that pulls to one side or the other. Keep in mind that this is also a sign of a bad tire. The road may be causing this to occur, as well. Other symptoms of a bad wheel alignment include the tires wearing unevenly and the steering wheel appearing off-center or crooked.

Have you noticed any of these indicators or any abnormal sounds or behaviors? If so, it may be worth your while to contact a nearby auto repair shop or mechanic.

Steve’s Auto Repair & Tire is an authorized Goodyear tire dealer located in Woodbridge, Virginia. Automotive repair services are performed on all makes and models, including BMW and Mercedes. Services include oil changes, brakes, alignments, inspections, and computer engine diagnostics.