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Is it a dead battery or a bad alternator?

In Battery by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

If you’re having some starting issues or your car seems sluggish or cranking a little slow in the morning, it could be a sign of a dead battery.

Making sure the battery cables aren’t corroded is one quick step you can take. That could not only affect the power coming out of the battery but also the alternator’s ability to charge it.

While the car’s running and as you’re driving, the alternator is there to produce all of the electricity for your accessories and charge up the battery.

If the cells in the battery are going bad, or the battery terminals are corroded, or there’s a wiring issue,  it can impact the battery’s ability to be fully charged. So, when you go out the next morning it might crank but it may feel a tad slow. That’s a really good sign to get your vehicle’s electrical system checked. 

dead battery

Problems with the alternator

When you’re driving down the road, especially as you’re hitting 1,500 rpm to 2,500 rpm, your alternator is going to produce about 14.2 volts. 

It can reach up to 15 or 16 volts, but if it’s getting too high all the time that can cause problems. You also don’t want it too low. 

An alternator may not be bad enough to turn on the battery indicator light on the dashboard, because it’s charging 12.8 or 12.9 volts. It’s enough to keep everything running during the day, but when you have the lights and windshield wipers on at night and you park in your parking spot, it’s really not enough to charge the battery like it should be.

When you’re starting to notice any of these symptoms, bring it to an auto repair shop near you and have a full electrical test performed. A lot of places will only do a voltage test or check the status of the battery at that time. 

The battery could be low on water. But you don’t want to just use tap water. Instead electrolyte water for batteries – or at least distilled water – should be used.

If it’s a sealed battery, well there’s nothing else to really check. You also want to check the charging system and the amperage. A lot of these quick testers that many places use don’t test the amperage. So, you’re almost missing half of the information. A good tester would be able to check the capacitance of the battery, the alternator, and the amperage of the alternator.

It’s important to consider the age of the battery, as well. When you hit 5 to 7 years on a battery – especially if it’s a 5-year-battery – it is time to change it. 

Extremely cold and hot temperatures is one of the factors that can cause a car battery to fail. So, why take a chance when winter time is coming?

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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Replacing battery pack cooling fan on Toyota Prius

In Battery by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

We’re seeing more hybrid vehicles on the road today.

Like other cars, they come with their own benefits and drawbacks.

One common problem lies with the cooling fan for the battery pack, which can wear out.

This component does have vent tubes coming in and out to help direct the air around the battery pack and outside the vehicle. 

Cooling fan problems

Cooling fanGenerally, when there’s a problem with the cooling fan, the check engine light will turn on and there will be a code for the hybrid battery pack cooling system. The lifespan varies, with some beginning to go bad as soon as three years. Typically, they last between five and eight years.

The cooling fan going bad isn’t a big issue. It’s not overly expensive to fix, but you do want to use high quality parts. This is not a time where you should use aftermarket parts. It needs to be functioning correctly so everything is working with the computer.

One of the things to watch out for is people carrying stuff in their vehicle, whether they’re going to Lowe’s and mulch gets spilled there, or lots of papers and clothes pile up. Depending on where it is and how packed it gets, the clutter can block some vents and impact the vehicle’s ability to cool the battery pack.

On the back of the Toyota Prius, you can see both batteries. You have the 12 volt battery that will run your lights and wiper blades. Meanwhile, the hybrid battery pack is located behind the rear seat. The orange tab is the battery disconnect, in case you need to do any work.

When working on these cooling fans, you will want to make sure that the air ducts are in good working order, and aren’t broken, blocked, or venting back inside the car. It’s important that they are repaired correctly. 

Battery packs: When to replace them

battery pack and cooling fanThe battery packs tend to go bad every eight to 10 years. It’s always good to go with the factory module. I would be wary of aftermarket ones, but we have put a couple in from different manufacturers and we’re still testing them out to see how they do in the long run. So far, so good.

As you start to see the mileage decrease over a period of time, it could have to do with the cells in the battery pack. They’re just like any other battery. Eventually, they will wear out or certain cells will have a problem. 

Once you hit around the eight year mark, it’s probably a good idea to replace the entire pack over changing out the individual cells. 

An extra tip for hybrid vehicles: With hybrid vehicles, such as the Toyota Prius, make sure to use tires like the Goodyear Assurance CS Fuel Max. Some of these tires feature low rolling resistance to help give you better fuel efficiency.

These are just some things that owners of hybrid vehicles should keep in mind.

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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Avoid breaking down on your next road trip

In Battery, Brakes, Fluids, Headlamps, Maintenance by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

Summer is here, which means that many are taking at least one road trip.

While you and your family or friends are having fun, you want to avoid any hang ups. That includes breaking down on the side of the road.

In the days and weeks prior to your next adventure, you should make sure the vehicle you’re taking is ready for the journey. You can’t plan for everything, but there are some things you can do to avoid a problem.

Below is a checklist of items we recommend.

  • Battery test: Weak car batteries can fail when it’s extremely hot outside. We have a battery tester that lets us know if it needs to be replaced. Checking the battery beforehand can save you from tracking someone down to jump your vehicle and a trip to the store.
  • Oil change: Having your oil changed regularly – every 3,000 to 5,000 miles – helps prevent engine damage. If you’re going to be due for this service soon, it’s a good idea to have it done before your road trip. That way, you know that it’s up to date. The technicians performing the oil change may also notice safety concerns that need to be addressed. 
  • Check tires: You want your tires to be at an optimum level. So, make sure they are at a good tire pressure and they have thick tread depth. The tire tread should be at least 2/32 of an inch, but we suggest replacing the tires when they reach 3/32 or 4/32 of an inch, depending on the vehicle. The tire pressure must also be at the recommended level, otherwise tire damage can occur. Also, make sure that none of your tires have collected any nails, and that your spare tire is in good shape.
  • Make sure the brakes are working: You never know when the person driving in front of you will stop suddenly or a deer will run out in front of your car. In those situations, it’s important to know that your brakes can be trusted. To pass Virginia state inspection, brakes must be at 2/32 of an inch or more. We recommend them when they get down to 3/32 or 4/32 of an inch. That also depends on the car and manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Replace windshield wipers: Depending on your destination, you may hit some rain along the way. Having the windshield wipers replaced can prevent streaks and scratches. If you have torn windshield wipers, it’s time for some new ones.
  • Inspect the lights: Your car features an assortment of lights, including brake lights, headlights and tag lights. It’s a good idea to make sure that none of them are out, especially if you’re planning to travel at night or in areas that experience heavy amounts of traffic.
  • Look at fluid levels: Having someone check the fluid levels – including the oil, coolant, antifreeze, and windshield washer fluid – is another recommendation. This is a great way you can confirm there aren’t problems or spot any issues early on. For example, being low on coolant – especially if it’s a constant issue – can indicate a leak.

Our technicians look over all of the items mentioned above during our courtesy inspections. If you’re planning to go on a road trip soon, feel free to give us a call to schedule an appointment.

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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How Steve’s Auto Repair performs oil changes

In Battery, Brakes, Fluids, Inspection, Maintenance by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

Oil changes are typically offered at most places that perform automotive services or repair. 

A lot of them will do the required work – change the filter and replace the oil – and leave it at that.

At Steve’s Auto Repair, we care about you and your vehicle, and want to make sure that your car is running safely when it leaves our shop. 

During an oil change, we perform a visual digital inspection, checking many points on the car or truck. This includes a range of items that tend to be overlooked.

Parts checked during oil changes

So, what does this mini inspection look like? 

The battery is one of the many parts we check. Car batteries weaken overtime, and extremely hot or cold temperatures can cause them to die. Testing a car battery may prevent you from getting stranded.

Looking over the belts and hoses, as well as the steering and suspension are also on our checklist. Hoses can become loose, and everyday use could result in components cracking or going bad. You can save yourself a trip to an auto repair shop – and possibly some money – if we address the problem early on.

Brake pads and tires get inspected too. Brakes should measure at 2/32 of an inch to pass the state inspection in Virginia. Steve’s Auto Repair recommends having them changed at 3/32 or 4/32 of an inch, depending on the make, model and manufacturer’s recommendations.

Accessible fluids, such as the coolant and windshield washer fluid, are looked over and topped off. Some can become low without you knowing it and could lead to future problems if they are ignored.

If applicable, a tire rotation is included as part of our oil change. This service can prolong the life of tires.

This work comes at no additional cost.

Other ways we take care of your vehicle

While servicing your vehicle, we use floor mats, seats and steering wheel covers to protect the interior.

Do you want to stay up to date on what’s going on with your car? We complete digital inspections, which provide you with photos, videos and notes on the vehicle’s health. These updates will share which components are good, any safety concerns, or maintenance suggestions we have. They are sent via email and text. Therefore, the customer can see what we see.

To schedule your next oil change at Steve’s Auto Repair & Tire, please call (703) 670-8005.

You can drop off your vehicle while we’re open – between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. If you do not want to come into the building, staff members are available to meet you outside.

We also have a night owl night service and a free shuttle service.

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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Coronavirus and car problems

In Battery, Cabin Air Filter, Tires and Wheels by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

We hope everybody is getting through this time of staying home. We know it’s been tough on a lot of people. 

As people are starting to go back to work over the next few weeks, it’s a good idea to go out and check your car. There are some car problems you can expect.

Vehicles have a lot of electronics on them, including the radio, clocks, alarm systems, and computers. Over a two week period, that can drain the battery. 

These are other factors that can cause a car battery to fail.

Jump start your car using jumper cables or a jump box have it run for at least 30 to 40 minutes.

Having a low tire or flat tire, or the tire-pressure monitoring system (TPMS) light turning on are some other issues that could come up. 

While a vehicle is sitting, its tires can lose air over time, or there may be a small leak that wasn’t noticed before.

TIP: Be careful when using gas station air pumps. Most of the time, the gauges are wrong.

Once you get on the road, you might notice a rotating grinding noise, especially when you step on the brake. Most likely, this is from rust building up on the rotors and drums. Most likely, it will go away between 12 and 15 minutes. If it doesn’t, you may want to have it looked at.

The check engine light could also turn on. We have been getting a code for the Evaporative Emission Control System (EVAP) and finding that the gas cap seals are the culprit. We recommend clearing the code, top off the car with some fresh gas, replacing the gas cap, and driving it to see if the light comes back on. If it does, we know that we need to do check engine light diagnostics.

We also suggest having your vehicle’s cabin air filter changed — not just because of the Coronavirus, but because of pollen season.

This is a perfect time to change the filter, which purifies the air that goes into the front of a car. 

Read more about why you should change your cabin air filter.

Part of our replacement service includes using BG Frigi Fresh, a disinfectant that gets rid of viruses and bacteria.

If you have any problems, call Steve’s Auto Repair & Tire at (703) 670-8005.

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.