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Tips for battling the sun in Northern Virginia

In Safety by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

The fight with the sun has begun for many drivers.

“This is the time of year, especially when you’re commuting to work and commuting home — depending on what time it is — where the sun is coming through the windshield,” Steve’s Auto Repair & Tire Owner Scott Whitling said.

Using a sun visor is one solution to the issue.

Some sun visors now come in two parts and can be used for a windshield and side window.

“If you’re not sure about your car, look at the owner’s manual, which most people don’t do,” Whitling said. “You’d be surprised what your sun visors actually do now.”

Drivers should also consider purchasing a pair of sunglasses and remove any ice on their windshield.

“If you haven’t defrosted your windshield, that just makes that problem worse,” Whitling said. “There are a lot of accidents because of this problem.”

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How drivers can address frost, prepare for winter months

In Fluids, Maintenance, Safety, Windshield Wipers by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

Drivers are discovering an unwelcome guest in the morning — ice on their vehicle’s windows and windshields.

A few techniques can help speed up the defrosting process.

When preparing for the commute, it’s important to spend a few minutes getting rid of the frost.

“You want to make sure that your windows aren’t frosted up on the side, so you can see that car coming or that kid walking across the street,” Steve’s Auto Repair & Tire Owner Scott Whitling said.

Motorists should let their car run for 1 to 3 minutes before hitting the road.

“It allows heat to start to build up and, if you already have your defroster on, you can go ahead and start defrosting the windshield,” Whitling said.

Pointing outer vents to the side windows can help thaw any ice on them.

Whitling suggests drivers tests certain parts of their vehicle.

“It’s a good time to check your windshield washer fluid and make sure that it’s going to protect down to the correct temperature,” he said.

They should check their rear window defroster, as well.

Electricity runs through the lines on the window to melt frost that has accumulated.

“It can take anywhere between, depending on how powerful the rear defroster is, 1 minute to 5 minutes. So, give it a little bit of time, make sure that it works,” Whitling said. “If not, now’s a good time to get your vehicle in to get it checked out.”

Frost

Frost

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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.

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.

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.