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Need a New Year’s resolution? Take care of your vehicle

In Maintenance, Safety, Windshield Wipers by Stephanie Tipple

Every year, many of us make a commitment to do better than the year that has passed, making New Year’s resolutions that speak to our larger goals – whether that’s getting more sleep, exercising more, or taking care of something we’d like to achieve during the year.

Windshield wiper

While these are all great resolutions, have you thought about making a commitment to taking better care of your vehicle this year?

It’s simpler than it sounds. By committing to invest in some basic maintenance, and getting repair and maintenance work done on a regular basis, you’re not only saving money from a long-term perspective, but you’re also extending out the life of your vehicle as well.

Here are just a few items that will help you make that resolution a reality.

Replace your windshield wipers.

If you’re noticing streaks when you use your windshield wipers, or they’re not effective at clearing things from your windshield, then it’s likely time to replace them.

Windshield wipers keep your windshield clear safety inspection

“There are cheap windshield wipers, and there are expensive windshield wipers. You can get expensive windshield wiper blades, but you should still expect to replace them once a year. You can get cheaper wiper blades, but expect to replace them twice a year,” said Steve’s Auto Repair & Tire own ST Billingsley.

According to Billingsley, your decision on the price point to choose for wiper blades determine on the conditions you’re driving in, and how often you’re driving in your vehicle.

Get your oil changed on a consistent basis.

Everyone knows how important it is to get the oil in your car changed, but it can be a struggle for some to get the oil changed on a regular interval.

Billingsley says that many manufacturers are recommending 7,500 to 10,000 miles between oil changes, depending on the vehicle, but that may not be suitable for cars driving around in Northern Virginia.

“Depending on what kind of oil you use, whether you’re changing the oil filters in between oil changes, and there are many other factors that come into play with these oil change intervals,” said Billingsley.

Headlights Woodbridge Virginia

Even if your car takes synthetic oil, if you’re driving around in Northern Virginia traffic, Billingsley says it’s ideal to do an oil change every 5,000 miles.

“If you’re out in the Midwest and you’re driving mostly on the highway on your way to work, well I could see 7,500 miles being an okay interval, but around here, that’s just a little too far,” said Billingsley.

It’s also a good time to rotate your tires, if you’re getting an oil change at 5,000 mile intervals.

Replace or recondition your headlights.

Over time, the clear coating on your headlights will start to get worn down, and you may notice that the lights look foggy.

“With all of the road salt, dirt, and highway driving, and everything that goes on around here, the plastic headlights lens covers – the clear part – is essentially getting sandblasted all of the time,” said Billingsley.

In some cases you can restore the headlight covers, and there are different levels of restoration.

“Sometimes you get so many micro-cracks in them, you can try to clean them up, but it just doesn’t work that well and you end up needing to replace them,” said Billingsley.

In addition to taking care of the covers, replacing the bulbs after an extended period can make your headlights brighter, adding visibility during night driving or inclement weather.

Commit to taking better care of your car this year, and not only will you save money in the long run, but you’ll also feel better knowing you’re adding reliability to your drive, and extending the life of your vehicle.

Challenges you can face when off-roading in your Jeep & how to be prepared

In Battery, Cabin Air Filter, Cooling System, Fuel System, Maintenance by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

Jeep

Jeep overheating problem water pump

If you own a Jeep and enjoy off-roading, then make sure your vehicle is prepared.

Jeep running problem after going through water getting into air intake

“Driving Jeep Wranglers, or any kind of Jeep is fun – especially going off-roading – but one of the things that you have to be aware of is where the air intake is on a lot of these Jeeps,” said Steve’s Auto Repair & Tire owner ST Billingsley.

According to Billingsley, most intake systems are behind the right headlight of the Jeep, and this can be the source of some issues after your off-roading trip.

“So, as you’re driving through a creek, or going through a pond or something like that, and the water starts coming up over that hood, well you know you have a chance of getting that water sucked up in the intake, and if the water goes through too much it can actually damage the engine,” said Billingsley.

Jeep water and mud soaks the air filter causing rough running

You could also see a reduction in your vehicle’s power because the air filter is wet or has mud in it, or it has impacted the connectors to the car’s computer system.

“The computer on that is actually bolted right on the firewall, right next to the battery, so it’s another place that gets a lot of water and mud,” said Billingsley.

Other issues include water and mud on the ignition coils, and overheating with your radiator, as the fans struggle and can’t get air through the radiator, because of mud and water that is stuck. Your water pump can also suffer through similar struggles.

While it may sound bleak, there are things you can do to prepare your Jeep for off-roading, and hopefully prevent some of the issues you could run into.

Jeep battery electrical issues after water damage off roading

“If you are going through creeks or are off-roading, where you can get a lot of dirt and mud inside your vehicle, you want to pay attention to the radiator and wash it out. Also, if you’re going to be going through deep water, you may want to get an air intake relocation kit – you can run a tube up that runs out to the top of the windshield so it gives it an air intake, like a snorkel,” said Billingsley.

Are you buying a “flood car”? Warning signs and how to avoid it

In Inspection, Maintenance, Safety by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

If you’re in the market for a new vehicle beware of “flood cars,” especially following the devastating hurricanes in Texas, Florida, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.

“‘Flood cars’ are one of the things we saw after 2008, was that the Midwest had their big floods out there through Missouri and Iowa…and Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana,” said Steve’s Auto Repair & Tire Owner ST Billingsley.

Flood cars are vehicles that have been salvaged from disaster areas, which are cleaned up, auctioned, and resold to often unsuspecting consumers across the United States. And in some cases, these cars have clean CarFaxes that don’t even have information about the flood water damage in the vehicle, making it difficult for buyers to make an informed decision.

“There are places that do a really good job of cleaning them up, even to where you can’t even smell where water’s been in it,” said Billingsley.

And buying one of these flood cars can be a costly mistake.

“They have the car, it looks good, it’s what they wanted – and then they’re frustrated because they’re going to the mechanic all the time because of these weird issues,” said Billingsley.

Buyers of these cars will run into issues like their car battery going dead for no apparent reason, the car horn blaring or the doors locking sporadically, rust, and other electrical problems – sometimes intermittently.

According to Billingsley, this is a result of water getting into the wire harness and shorting out terminals and fuse boxes in the car.

“Especially with the way these cars are computer controlled – all of the electronics – there are multiple fuse boxes in all of these vehicles. Some are low, some are high up in the car. When that water sits in there, corrosion starts to build up,” said Billingsley.

While it may be difficult, there are ways to tell if the car you’re interested in may be a flood car.

“When you have the car up in the air, and having somebody looking for items like this…if you just bent down to look, you wouldn’t necessarily see any dirt or any water lines,” said Billingsley.

Trained technicians can spot residual mud and dirt, as well as waterlines underneath the dash, if they have the vehicle up on the rack. There are also voltage tests and related components that can be tested to determine if the car is working properly.

Want to avoid buying a costly flood car? Taking a car you’re interested in to a shop like Steve’s Auto for a pre-purchase inspection is an important step. Our qualified technicians will fully inspect the vehicle from top to bottom, noting any issues or potential issues, and make sure you’ve got as much information as possible as you decide whether or not to continue with the purchasing process.

How can I maintain my car battery and keep it from corroding?

In Battery, Maintenance by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

The battery is one of the most important parts of your vehicle – it gets your vehicle started – and like with all parts of your vehicle, you need to do your best to maintain and care for it. If you don’t, you run the risk of battery corrosion, and ending up on the side of the road.

battery corrosion

Batteries for cars and trucks in Woodbridge, Virginia

So what exactly is battery corrosion?

Corrosion happens on the battery terminals when hydrogen gas is being released from the acid in the battery. This acid mixes with other things in the air under the hood of your vehicle, causing the corrosion you can see.
The battery corrosion can range in color – it can be white, green, and even brown – and the color you’ll see depends on the type of car battery and the metal that the battery terminals are made out of.

And how exactly do you maintain your car’s battery?

Part of how you maintain your vehicle’s battery is determined by the type of battery it is. Some batteries are “maintenance free” which means you don’t need to check the water levels inside.

Battery protection pads BG replace battery Dale City, Virginia

But for those that do require maintenance, you’re going to want to check if there’s water in the battery cells every five to six months. And if you notice that your battery is low on water, make sure you’re refilling with distilled water – not tap water.

Another important piece of maintaining your battery and preventing corrosion is to keep your battery terminals and cables clean. One way of doing this is using a battery terminal protectant spray, which seals and prevents moisture in the battery terminal, and blocks battery acid from escaping from inside the battery.

For preventing corrosion from happening in the battery terminals another method is to use BG Battery Protector Pads. These felt pads are soaked in a chemical, which you then place on the terminals of the battery before reattaching the battery cables to the terminal. While weather conditions can impact the life of these pads, the protector pads often last the life of the battery, and should be changed with every battery replacement.

Battery replace terminal corrosion will need battery cables

As part of normal car battery maintenance, you should be having your battery and alternator checked at least once a year. That way if there’s any problem, a technician should be able to detect it and suggest a replacement. It’s important to get the alternator checked too because if it’s not working properly, it can ruin your battery.

One last thing to be aware of when it comes to maintaining your battery: Be careful when the temperatures are on the rise. Most people think that car batteries go bad during the winter, and while some do, more actually go bad during the warmer months and have to be replaced, because the battery doesn’t perform well in the higher temperatures.

What is a cabin air filter and an engine air filter? What’s the difference?

In Cabin Air Filter, Maintenance, Safety by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

“It’s time for a cabin air filter change.” When you hear that, you’re likely wondering what a cabin air filter is and why you have to replace it.

ery dirty cabin air filter

A very dirty cabin air filter, maintenance has not been performed on this vehicle

A cabin air filter is a filter located either behind the glove compartment, under the hood or under the dashboard, depending on your vehicle, and is designed to remove dust, pollen, and other airborne contaminants from the inside of your vehicle.

The cabin air filter will filter air that comes through the vehicle’s HVAC system to make the air cleaner for you. This can be a lifesaver if you’re stuck in airs with lots of traffic or pollution, or if you have allergies. For those suffering from seasonal allergies, keeping your cabin air filter clean can make a big difference.

An engine air filter has a similar purpose to the cabin air filter. An engine air filter helps to keep dirt, buildup, and debris from getting into your vehicle’s engine system. Just like a cabin air filter, over time things build up in the filter that can cause problems for your vehicle down the road if they’re not taken care of.

honda air filter

Honda air filter being checked during an oil change

In order to reap the full benefits of a cabin filter and an engine air filter, you need to make sure it’s swapped out regularly. Just like any filter they get dirty and clogged, and lose their effectiveness over time until they’re replaced.

But how often should you be changing out these filters? It depends on the type of vehicle, your preferences, and the conditions you drive in regularly.

“Both should be checked every oil change and replaced when dusty or dirty,” said Steve’s Auto Repair & Tire Owner ST Billingsley.

So next time you’re getting your vehicle serviced, make sure they check your cabin filter and your engine air filter, and see if they need to be replaced.