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Check engine light on? Car doesn’t start?

In Diagnostics by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

Does your car not start? Does it crank over, but the engine doesn’t run? Is the little light on your dashboard that looks like an engine on? All these indicate that you need engine diagnostics performed.

Check engine light

It takes quite a few years of training and experience to be able to diagnose today’s high-tech vehicles. 

Special scan tools are needed and access to a large database on information to work on your vehicle are needed. 

Many times automotive technicians need to start with the basics of a battery and alternator electrical system test to a visual inspection to see if something is obviously damaged to using multi-meters and digital oscilloscopes along with manufacturer scan tools to pinpoint the problem of the vehicle. 

These problems can range from broken wiring to components not working to software updates that are needed to make the vehicle operate correctly. 

Where there used to be only one computer in the car, there can be up to 30 or more controllers and electronic modules operating the vehicle. Not only do they have to perform their function in the vehicle, they also have to talk to each other. One not working correctly can cause some strange problems.

Dashboard Lights

Dashboard Warning Lights

How much are engine diagnostics?

Engine diagnostics can vary. You should be prepared for at least a one-hour diagnostics charge. Depending on how difficult the problem is more time may be needed.

At Steve’s Auto Repair & Tire, when we do get into engine diagnostics there have been time we have found the problem in 30 minutes, and we charge accordingly.

Do you do free check engine light diagnostics?

No. We do charge for what we do, because the equipment and talent required to do it isn’t free. A lot of places that do free check engine light diagnostics will do it if you have the work performed at their shop and they will bury the cost into the job. 

How can the parts store do check engine light diagnostics for free?

They’re not performing engine light diagnostics, they’re hooking up a generic scan tool and retrieving the codes and many times just make recommendations on what parts to buy that may or may not fix the vehicle. That is not engine performance diagnostics.

My car won’t start. What now?

We would start with a basic electrical check of the battery, alternator and starter. If all checks there, we would go to the computer and retrieve the codes and then find out what sensor or control system is not working correctly.

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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Evaporative charcoal canister problems on Nissan Pathfinders

In Diagnostics by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

Recently, a customer called and made an appointment for check engine light diagnostics when the check engine light of their Nissan Pathfinder turned on.

They also expressed concerns about how gas pumps would click off while they were pumping gas.

After we hooked up the computer to the car, a few codes appeared — one of them was related to the canister vent solenoid.

The evaporative system on today’s cars collect the gas fumes and then the computer will control the release of the fumes into the engine. They will be burned while driving, preventing them from going into the air and harming the environment. There are electronic systems on here that can fail over time.

The canister vent solenoid failing is a common issue found in Nissans. When it isn’t working properly, it won’t open as it should. So, when you get gas, it doesn’t allow the air to escape while you’re filling up. This will extend the time you spend at the gas station.

To do the testing, you have to remove the fender well on the left rear of the vehicle to verify that the solenoids aren’t working. Since this is a place that gets a lot of water, other metal components, including brackets and wiring, rust. We have found that it’s better to replace the evaporative charcoal canister with the solenoids.

After clearing the codes, we go for a test drive, reset the monitors to make sure the vehicle is fixed, and everyone is happy.

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.

Make car problems easier to diagnose: take photos, video, or write notes

In Diagnostics, Girl in a Mechanics World by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

When you have car problems, it can be a real bummer. And sometimes, depending on what problem you’re having, it can be a mystery too.

Recently in my own car, I noticed that the ABS light and traction control light would come on when I hit the brakes, and I couldn’t figure out why. Over time, even very light taps on the brakes would make the lights come on, and they would stay on until I turned off the vehicle. After a few days of this, I had had enough – and I snapped a photo of the lights, and brought it to our guys in the shop.

That photo really came in handy – but I’ll talk more about that in a minute.

A few weeks back we also had a customer that ran into the shop, telling us that she had left the car running, so our service writers could see the problem firsthand, because the problem would only happen when the car was running.

And another one of our Girl in Mechanic’s World bloggers, Jasmine, had a problem where her car was misfiring, and because there was no audio or video recording of it, it took several days to diagnose and get the problem to replicate itself.

Taking a photo, a video, or showing the problem when it’s happening in your vehicle is actually more important than you know, and can save hassle and time, so the guys can get you back out on the road.

When a customer comes in with a car issue, but hasn’t documented the problem, it’s up to the technicians to inspect the vehicle and take it out on a test run, in an effort to identify the problem, so it can be fixed. But the way we drive our cars is going to be different than the technicians, and in many cases, it can be very difficult for them to replicate the problem. And the harder it is to replicate the problem, the harder it is to find the problem and fix it.

In my own case, one of our technicians wasn’t able to replicate the problem, but with the photo I took, an inspection, and some testing, they were able to determine that it was a sensor behind the tire that was malfunctioning, and they were able to fix my vehicle and get it back to normal.

While some problems can’t always be captured – and I strongly suggest against taking photos or video when you’re behind the wheel, driving – if you can safely snap a quick photo, video, or write down the specifics on the problem, including where you were, what time it was, and what was happening when the problem was occurring, it will make it much easier to diagnose and fix your vehicle.