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Brakes: What we check during the Virginia State Inspection

In Brakes by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

We want to make sure that you and your passengers are in safe hands as you travel down the road.

When performing the Virginia State Inspection, we look for a variety of concerns that could impact your safety.

This annual requirement spans components across the vehicle. The brake system is one of the areas that’s checked.

Different brake problems could cause a vehicle to fail the Virginia Safety Inspection.

Virginia State Inspection brake concerns

Here are some safety items that inspectors keep an eye out for:

Low rear brakes on a Mazda CX-5.

Low rear brakes on Mazda CX-5

Brake wear: The brake pads and rotors need to meet certain parameters. Pads must be at least 2/32 of an inch. It’s a good idea to replace them around 3/32 or 4/32 of an inch. Meanwhile, rotor thickness depends on what the manufacturer suggests.


Brake rust: If we see brake rust, it could mean that there’s a brake problem.

Seized brake caliper: We want to make sure that the brake calipers are able to move back and forth correctly.

Twisted brake hoses: Our automotive technicians confirm that the brake hoses aren’t twisted from daily use or previous repairs. 

Brake hose wear: The brake hoses can also become worn or cracked over time.

Brake fluid leaks: A vehicle will fail the Virginia Safety Inspection if brake fluid is leaking from the system. It can be brown, clear, or yellow. You might see it near the wheel well, or a technician could notice it when looking under the car.

Hard brake pedal: Hard brake pedals are another problem we look for. It may be caused by parts going bad, such as the vacuum pump, power steering pump, or brake booster. Cracks can also develop in the vacuum hose and there can be electronic issues on vehicles that use an electro hydraulic brake booster.

Soft brake pedal: We are watchful for soft brake pedals, as well. This problem is sometimes the result of air in the hydraulic brake system, a leak, or the brake pads not seeding correctly.

Toyota Tacoma parking brake.

Toyota Tacoma parking brake

Malfunctioning parking brake: The parking brake must hold when the vehicle is sitting on a slight incline. Electronic parking brakes are checked, too.

Brake light: If the red brake light is on, the vehicle won’t pass the Virginia State Inspection. This issue can be a sign that something is wrong with the parking brake system or brake fluid.

Missing brake parts: Components shouldn’t be missing from the brake system or parking brake.

Other brake problems

If you notice any of the brake problems we mentioned, have it checked out – even if your Virginia State Inspection sticker isn’t about to expire.

There are several possible signs you may notice when you need new brakes.

Brake noises – including squealing and grinding – and brake dust on the wheels are some symptoms to watch for. 

You should also bring your vehicle into an automotive professional if the Anti-Lock Brake System (ABS) warning light turns on.

A lot of wear on the brake pads and rotors and a vibrating brake pedal can be indicators that brake repair is needed, too.

We can check on any concerns you have about your brake system. Our technicians also perform a variety of brake services, including brake fluid exchanges, brake line replacement, and brake hardware installation.

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Can multiple dashboard lights be from one issue?

In Diagnostics by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

Having a light on your vehicle’s dashboard turn on can catch your attention and even be a bit distracting. Multiple dashboard lights, however, might cause some concern.

The tire pressure light, check engine light, oil pressure warning light, and anti-lock braking system (ABS) light are some of the symbols you may see.

Different meanings are typically associated with each of them, and more than one problem could be behind the alert. But did you know that multiple dashboard lights can stem from one issue?

Multiple dashboard lights, one problem

On specific vehicles, a problem might result in a couple of symptoms or prompt more than one icon to appear on the dashboard.

Certain manufacturers will trigger multiple lights to catch the driver’s attention and encourage them to stop driving.

This would sometimes occur on older Toyotas. If your check engine light came on, so would your traction control light and vehicle stability assist (VSA) light. 

A lot of customers would say they all turned on at the same time. Usually, this meant that the problem was related to the check engine light and led to the other lights illuminating.

For some GMs today, it will say that the stability control is off if your vehicle is experiencing a major engine misfire. The shaking of the vehicle could impact the ABS system.

A problem with a battery or alternator could trigger different lights and many codes. You could get a code or a light for the air bag, ABS and check engine at the same time.

The diagnostic process

Check engine light and TPMS light on a Mitsubishi Outlander.How we resolve dashboard lights varies.

During check engine light diagnostics, our technicians pull codes using a scan tool. These codes act as a starting point. Then, we look up Technical Service Bulletins (TSBs) to check for any safety recalls or updated parts. If there are no safety recalls, we perform component testing based on the codes.

Check engine lights are very broad because each system operates differently.

Looking into the ABS light has a similar procedure. However, rather than an Engine Control Unit (ECU), the ABS system has an ABS computer that talks to different systems and collects information.

For the TPMS, there are sensors that read the pressure and have a radio frequency that is sent to the dashboard. When TPMS was first designed, it was much more complicated, very difficult to figure out, and expensive to repair. Now, it’s very simple. Certain vehicles don’t have sensors in their wheels. Instead, they read off the ride height.

Oil pressure sensors have constant power. The light will come on if it loses its ground, which is oil.

Testing the dashboard lights

We have had drivers bring their vehicle in and say that multiple dashboard lights are rooted in one problem. However, we aren’t able to confirm that this is the case until we start looking into it.

The various lights require various types of testing. Every system, manufacturer and monitor differ. To add to the complications, there are also many makes and models.

So, determining why a vehicle has multiple dashboard lights isn’t necessarily a straight path. It can take time and the process could change based on the situation.

Steve’s Auto Repair & Tire is an authorized Goodyear tire dealer located near Lake Ridge, 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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Why is my car AC not working?

In Diagnostics by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

Warmer weather is on its way, and before we know it we will have the A/C system on full blast.

During this transition – where it isn’t too hot or too cold – we recommend confirming that your car’s air conditioning system is working.

If you notice that it isn’t blowing cold air or no air is coming through the vents, have the problem checked out by an auto repair shop.

Air conditioning condenser.

Air conditioning condenser

Common a/c issues

There are numerous causes behind car AC problems. Among them are several common ones.

You may have a malfunctioning expansion valve or a blocked condenser that needs to be changed. A/c repair might require changing out other bad parts, like the compressor, drier, blower motor, or cabin air filter.

Something could also be wrong with the Electronic Climate Control System, which can be found on newer cars.

The a/c system having low freon is a possibility, as well. This might be a sign of an air conditioning leak. 

As silly as it may sound, user error is another potential reason why you’re having a problem. This article we wrote provides more details about these issues.

Complicated air conditioning problems

Chevy Colorado AC repair.

A/C diagnostics on Chevy Colorado

The reason why a car AC won’t run the way it should can be the result of a deeper problem, such as a bad wire.

A Chevy Colorado we worked on had an intermittent issue. Sometimes the a/c and heat would work, but then it would randomly stop blowing air. Various parts were replaced, including the blower motor, but the problem persisted. We couldn’t pinpoint the cause and eventually it stopped working altogether.

Through diagnostic testing, the technician found that we had bad ground to the blower motor and needed to replace the ground wire.

Other wiring problems are possible, too. You have a control head and signal wires that go to the mode door and temperature door. There’s a separate set of wires that go to the blower motor and resistors for the blower motor.

Problems with the mode and temperature controls could also occur. These can be a bit more complicated and time consuming, because you need to get into the dashboard. They also require technicians with a higher skill level who can perform circuit testing. Sometimes, a scan tool needs to be connected.

Getting your car AC working again

Having an air conditioning problem can be frustrating, especially as the temperatures rise. However, it can take time to determine where the issue lies, especially if it’s a more complicated problem. 

You may need to replace different parts and make a couple of visits to the autoshop before the issue is resolved completely. It might even require leaving your car at the shop for a couple of days so they can delve into the problem further.

Providing as much information as possible – what’s happening (or not happening), when it occurs, issues that seem related, and other repairs that have been performed – can help speed up the process. 

Before long, you should be back on the road, comfortably enjoying all that the spring and summer months have to offer you.

Steve’s Auto Repair & Tire is an authorized Goodyear tire dealer located near Manassas, 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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Cowling area and cabin air filters: Why you should keep them clean

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

Has it been a while since you cleaned out your vehicle’s cowling area or changed out the cabin air filters?

These maintenance items are often overlooked by drivers. However, checking them regularly can help drivers avoid problems.

Certain components can be found in the cowling, such as the cabin air filter and the windshield wiper motor.

During the fall and even the winter, leaves can pile up on the bottom of the windshield.

Cleaning the cowling area

New and rusted ignition coils for BMW.When water runs across the windshield, it goes into the cowling area and down the sides. We recommend clearing it on a consistent basis.

This may sound like another thing to add to your “to do” list, but it’s worth taking a few minutes to remove leaves and twigs.

Debris that collects in the cowling overtime could lead to a dirty cabin air filter and a musty or moldy smell in your vehicle. Other parts may be impacted, too.

This area became blocked on a BMW X5. The car was brought in with its check engine light on last week. The technician determined that the spark plugs and ignition coils needed to be replaced.

Because the vehicle had a clogged cowling area, water wasn’t draining properly. Instead, it dripped on the ignition coils overtime, causing rust buildup.

Another problem may happen as vehicles get older. The air intake for the car is normally located under the cowling.

If the drains are blocked up, then that water could start entering the cabin of the car where the air comes in through the blower motor. Next thing you know, your passenger side floorboards are wet. Leaves under the cowling area on a BMW.

That’s why you want to keep those leaves and pine needles off. The tiny helicopter leaves are the worst, because they can sometimes make it down between the openings in the cowling and collect below it. Cleaning the area off once a month helps prevent the debris from getting to areas where you can’t see it. 


Replacing cabin air filters

Cabin air filters help keep bacteria, pollen and dirt out of a vehicle’s front area.

They typically need to be replaced each year or so, depending on how much and where you drive the car.

This component is good for about 10,000 to 20,000 miles. If your drive home or to weekend adventures include dirt roads, you might change a cabin air filter sooner than drivers who mainly stick to paved roads.

If it’s been a while since cabin air filter replacement was performed on your vehicle, have your auto repair shop check it at your next oil change.

Mice and other animals sometimes take refuge in this part of the car. In fact, a couple of years ago, we worked on a Toyota where squirrels had built nests in the cabin air filter box

Rodents will also chew up cabin air filters. The material they are made out of are great for nesting. Animals are drawn to the insulation of wires, as well.

You can enhance the air in your vehicle further by having BG Frigi Fresh, a disinfectant, sprayed into the vents.

Maintenance matters

Vehicles are made up of many systems that need attention. Your car requires regular oil changes, flushes, and – when needed – brake repair, new tires and suspension work.

Through maintenance, you can keep it running for as long as possible and avoid premature or expensive repairs.

Cleaning the cowling area or getting a new cabin air filter may not sound like critical tasks. But the small steps of taking care of your vehicle can pay off in the long run.

Steve’s Auto Repair & Tire is an authorized Goodyear tire dealer located near Dale City, 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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Mileage-based services: what does your car need and when?

In Alignment, Battery, Cabin Air Filter, Maintenance, Shocks and Struts by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

The lifespans of vehicles have lengthened over the years, which means that drivers are keeping them for extended periods of time.

To ensure that your car lasts as long as possible, it requires maintenance. After a period of time or as a vehicle reaches a specific mileage, certain tasks are recommended.

Some mileage-based services include flushes, replacing parts, and tune-up related items.

Year-based car maintenance

Every 3 to 5 years

Battery replacement is normally needed around every 5 years for good batteries. How long a car battery lasts can be impacted by the quality, type and size. Where you buy it from is another factor.

Worn tire on a Honda Pilot.No longer than 8 to 10 years

If it’s been 8 to 10 years since you last purchased tires, it’s time to invest in new ones. Depending on where you live, weather conditions and how you drive, your car may need new tires sooner.

Tires tread depth must be at least 2/32 of an inch. There shouldn’t be any chords showing or cracks in the sidewall

Mileage-based services

Every 3,000 to 5,000 miles

Oil changes on many vehicles should typically be performed every 3,000 to 5,000 miles. We know that some manufacturers are recommending them every 10,000 to 15,000 miles or when the oil service light turns on. If you want to keep your vehicle for a long time, you may want to choose synthetic oil and have it changed every 3,000 to 5,000 miles.

It’s a good idea to have tire rotations done every 5,000 miles, too. This service is a part of our oil change process.

Dirty cabin air filter on a Toyota Highlander.Between 10,000 and 20,000 miles

The lifespan of cabin air filters is normally 10,000 to 20,000 miles. This is determined by the kind of vehicle you have and the driving conditions.

How long air filters last vary, as well. They are among the components we check during oil changes. Air filter replacement can be suggested upon inspection or per the manufacturer’s guidelines. They could last somewhere around 10,000 or 15,000 miles.

Every 15,000 miles

Ram 3500 receiving a wheel alignment.It’s a good idea to have wheel alignments conducted once a year or every 15,000 miles. This service is also suggested when you purchase new tires and following any needed suspension repairs.

Tire balances and GDI induction services should be performed every 15,000 miles, too.

Every 30,000 miles

A few mileage-based services are needed every 30,000 miles. This can differ among vehicles and the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Typically, every 30,000 miles is the suggested frequency for brake fluid exchanges, coolant fluid exchanges, transmission fluid exchanges, power steering fluid exchanges, and fuel induction services.

If you want to receive some sort of extended warranty, you may want to start earlier than what the manufacturer suggests.

When a vehicle has between 50,000 and 100,000 miles

Worn struts on a Toyota Camry.

Worn struts on a Toyota Camry

When your car has between 50,000 and 60,000 miles on it, we recommend taking a look at shocks and struts. 

Depending on the vehicle, you may need to replace them as soon as 50,000 to 60,000 miles. Generally, you change these suspension parts between 75,000 and 100,000 miles.

When a car gets to 100,000 miles

Cracking serpentine belt on a Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Cracking serpentine belt on a Jeep Grand Cherokee

If a car’s serpentine belts haven’t been replaced by the time it reaches 100,000 miles, now is a good time to do so. Also called “drive belts”, serpentine belts go around various engine components, including alternators and water pumps.

Any original spark plugs should be changed, as well. Swapping out spark plugs when needed helps improve a vehicle’s operation and extends the lifespan of subsystems.

After 100,000 miles

After a vehicle hits 100,000 miles, it’s important to keep up with the mileage-based services needed every 15,000, 20,000 and 30,000 miles. The manufacturers will have different recommendations.

Wherever you have your car worked on, make sure that the mechanic or auto repair shop is aware of what maintenance it needs and when.

Steve’s Auto Repair & Tire is an authorized Goodyear tire dealer located near Dumfries, 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.