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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.

 

Car safety tips to keep you on the road this winter

In Safety by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

We’ve already had some minor snowfall this winter season, and it looks like we’ve got more ahead before spring arrives.

So especially when it comes to your daily commute or rush hour traffic in Northern Virginia, you need to make sure your car is in good shape and is ready for bad weather when it strikes.

Regular maintenance on your vehicle is always advisable – regardless of the time of year – but here are some tips that are especially important for snow and ice on the roads:

Check the tread on your tires.

If you just had a state inspection or your automotive repair shop does a thorough inspection of your vehicle when you come in for a service, chances are that you’d know if the tread on your tires is sufficient. But when it comes to your safety, you should always take a look for yourself, and see if your tires have enough tread. Tread is important because the more tread your tire has, the more traction you’ll have on snowy and icy roads. You never want your tires to be below 2/32nds.

Also check the tires’ air pressure.

Your tires should be regularly checked to make sure they’re properly and fully inflated, but your checks on the air pressure should increase during the winter months. Cold temperatures many times cause tires to lose air pressure, and when tires aren’t properly inflated it can cause flats or other tire damage that can be costly to fix. On the inside of your vehicle door, the manufacturer’s recommended air pressure level is listed. When checking the pressure, make sure your tires are at or near that level.

Make sure you have enough fluids.

In the winter, making sure that your vehicle has enough coolant, window washer fluid, and gas – especially before a storm hits – are very important. Coolant will help your vehicle properly defrost, and you need your windshield wipers able to push away snow or water from your windshield. And if you’re trying to get around in a winter storm, having a full gas tank could be crucial. You should also consider replacing your windshield wipers if they’re getting worn out.

Remove snow and ice from your vehicle before driving.

It sounds simple, but so many drivers do not remove ice and snow from their windshields and the tops and sides of their vehicle before they head out on the road. Taking the extra time to clear your car off will ensure that you know everything is working correctly, and that you won’t be sending sheets of ice and snow off of your car onto the road, potentially hitting other cars or pedestrians.

Make sure to follow these driving and school bus safety tips

In Safety by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

Today is the first day of school in Prince William County, and that means all of those school buses will be out on the road transporting students.

Here are some important rules for parents and drivers out there, on how to drive and stop when near school buses:school buses

  • If you notice that a school bus is stopped and has flashing red lights and a stop sign on the side of the bust, you need to make sure you stop your vehicle and wait until the bus begins moving again, whether you’re on a highway, private road, or school road. This makes sure that students can exit the bus safely.
  • Even if the signals are not flashing on the bus, if it is letting passengers off, you still need to stop your vehicle and wait for them to safely exit. Sometimes yellow lights on a school bus will start flashing before the red lights, and you need to stop and be aware of these lights as well.
  • If you are on the opposite side of the road as a bus and there is a median or barrier in between, then you are not required to stop your vehicle if a buses’ lights are flashing.

“This time of year, you’re going to have an increase in bus traffic because school’s about to start. It’s really important that, as you drive, you are aware of your surroundings. If you see that you’re approaching a bus, slow down. Take that extra time to maintain that safe distance,” said Officer Nathan Probus with the Prince William County Police Department.

In Virginia, passing a bus when their lights are activated is a misdemeanor crime that can be punishable by up to 12 months in prison, or a $2,500 fine.

Make sure you stay safe and start this school year off right.