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Winter car safety tips

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

Today is the first day of winter.

Following a few winter car safety tips can help protect you on road trips, while you run errands, and anything in between.

Make sure your car is up-to-date on maintenance services.

Battery, brakes and belts

Car battery test on a BMW 328i.It’s a good idea to have a battery test performed, because weak car batteries are more likely to die during very hot and cold times of the year.

You should also ask an automotive expert to take a look at the timing belt – which surrounds pulleys – and the serpentine belt – which wraps around engine components.

Measuring brakes on a Toyota Sienna.

Measuring brakes on a Toyota Sienna

The brake system needs to be working correctly, as well. This includes the brake pads and rotors, calipers, brake hardware, and anti-lock braking system (ABS).

For a vehicle to operate safely, pads and rotors must be at 2/32 of an inch or more. If the red brake light or ABS light turn on, bring it to a shop or a mechanic as soon as possible.

Taking care of your windshield is also critical. Windshield wipers should be replaced if they are torn or leave streaks, making it difficult to see. Using washer fluid with the right temperature protection level helps prevent it from freezing.

More winter car safety tips

Other components we recommend getting inspected are:

  • Car lights
  • Coolant and other fluids
  • Tires and tire pressure

Cloudy headlight lenses on a Volkswagen Jetta.Winter is made up of shorter nights, rainy days, and snowy conditions. To help prevent accidents, car lights need to be checked regularly. When needed, replace any bad bulbs for headlights, brake lights, reverse lights, and fog lights. 

Headlights can grow foggy, and headlight restoration can be used to clear them up. Depending on how long you plan to keep your vehicle, it might be best to just replace the headlight assemblies.

Low coolant on a Hyundai Elantra.

Low coolant on a Hyundai Elantra

It’s important to keep an eye on a car’s fluids, as well. This includes the oil, coolant, transmission fluid, windshield washer fluid, and power steering fluid.

Fluid that’s lower than normal may be a symptom of a leak. If certain fluids – like power steering fluid – appear dark, your vehicle could be telling you it’s time to replace them.

If an auto repair shop performs a coolant fluid exchange or tops off your coolant, make sure they put in the right kind

Coolant can be blue, red, purple, pink, orange or green. The type a car uses depends on the metal used for the engine.

Checking the tires is another one of our winter car safety tips.

Has it been a while since you purchased tires? Is the tread getting close to 3/32 of an inch or 4/32 of an inch? It may be time to invest in new tires. Goodyear Tire and Kelly Tire produce all season options. Winter tires are also available.

You should also ensure that they have the right amount of air. As the temperatures dip, tire pressure decreases. Driving on low tires can impact their lifespan.

Many vehicles are equipped with a tire-pressure monitoring system (TPMS). If yours is, be watchful for the TPMS light, which may turn on if one or multiple tires don’t have enough air.

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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Brake repair: What you should keep in mind

In Brakes by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

At Steve’s Auto Repair, we rotate tires and check brakes for our digital vehicle inspection, which is done as part of our oil change.

Lincoln Mercury.We conducted an inspection on a Lincoln Mercury and learned that the customer didn’t notice that the brakes had gone metal to metal. Because we are a full service shop, we are able to take care of these kinds of jobs.

What brake repair looks like

Grinding noise on brakes.

Grinding noise on brakes

In this particular case, the brake pads and rotors were simply worn down and need to be replaced. However, it’s important to keep in mind that brake repair doesn’t just involve changing the brake pads and rotors. It’s about looking at the rest of the brake system to make sure everything is working correctly.

You also need to check the bleeders on the calipers. Make sure we can actually open them and bleed the brake fluid out. Are there any hardware issues that have to go with the brake caliper? Is the brake caliper piston boot torn? Is the caliper piston seized where it won’t retract into the caliper housing? Those are some other problems that can occur and make the brake pad and rotor wear faster than just normal wear and tear. 

A brake line going bad can also cause this. There’s an issue called “brake line checking,” which is when a little piece in the brake line becomes loose. When you press the brake, the fluid goes past. As you release it, a piece acts like a flap, preventing the fluid from releasing and maintaining pressure on the brake.

In order to conduct brake service correctly, you need to release the bleeders before you push the pistons back on the brake caliper. You don’t want to be cramming dirt back into the Anti-lock braking system (ABS) or the master cylinder. 

Once the brake job is done

Technician performing brake fluid exchange.After everything is put back together, you will want to do a brake fluid flush. We use the BG fluid, which has a flushing agent in it. So, it’s not just a brake fluid exchange, like some other places do. Over a period of time, the brake fluid will get some moisture in it and – under extreme braking – the moisture can boil, resulting in a soft pedal. These problems arise as the brakes heat up when you’re coming down from the mountains after visiting with grandma or when you’re commuting. If you’re a commuter, you’re braking all the time. Even if you’re in stop and go traffic, you’re heating up the brakes quite a bit.

Using the correct lubrication on the back of the pads, or the metal contact points for the hardware or the calipers where they meet on the caliper bracket is also a necessary step in brake repair.

Using an impact gun, using an electric impact, or torquing the wheels back down is one of the last things often missed at a lot of places, including people who are working on their vehicles at home. Not using a torque wrench can automatically mess up the brake job from the get go. You start getting some lateral run out, which can cause some brake pedal pulsation later. Then, you basically have to do the brake job all over again. 

Wherever you go to get your vehicle worked on, ensure that it has ASE certified technicians. Our techs are trained to look for these different types of conditions and make sure that the brake job is done right.

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 brake problem can cause AC problem and act like engine problem

In Brakes by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

Squeaking, grinding and squealing sounds are normally associated with needing new brakes.

The steering wheel may also start shaking. (You can read more about when to get new brake pads and rotors in this article.)

However, sometimes a brake problem can be disguised as something else.

The other week, we worked on a vehicle that seemed to have an engine problem and the air conditioning was being impacted.

One of our technicians worked his dad’s 2009 Chevy Malibu. It was experiencing problems when it was driven for 30 minutes or longer at around 45 miles per hour, especially on hot days. The A/C would stop working and the vehicle would feel as though it was running rough or stumbling. 

How we diagnosed the brake problem

Our tech had driven it back and forth during his lunch break but wasn’t able to duplicate the issue. 

The other day, his dad brought it by the shop when he noticed it was occurring again. The Chevy was driven up the street and – when it hit 35 or 40 mph – there appeared to be a misfire. On top of that, the engine seemed like it wasn’t producing enough power and there was shaking coming from the front end. The mechanic noticed a sort of pulsation, as well.

After pulling over on the side of the road, he pressed on the gas and it took a great deal of effort for the car to accelerate. He could tell there was a braking issue.

It was a very odd situation – the engine felt like it was lacking power, but the brake pads were trying to bite down on spots of the rotor, causing a symptom that resembled a misfire. No codes were being stored, the check engine light wasn’t turning on.

New brakes and brake hose.

We think the vehicle was attempting to accelerate while the gas pedal was pressed, and it cut off the air conditioning to provide more power. 

When the technician returned to Steve’s Auto Repair, he could smell burning brakes. Using a temperature gun, he checked each of the wheels and found that the left front one was much hotter than the rest. In fact, the temperature of the front left wheel was off the charts. This occurred because the caliper was locking up and trying to apply the brakes even when the driver wasn’t stepping on the brake pedal.

Orange and white discoloration around the pads and the reddish hue on the rotors are some signs that the brakes are getting too hot. 

To address the issue, the front brake pads, rotors, calipers and brake hoses were replaced. 

If you were looking to save yourself some money, you could replace one of the brakes. However, we like to change them as a set.

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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Brake lines: Thing to keep in mind when replacing them

In Brakes by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

Many people are choosing to hold onto their cars for longer. 

Over the years, rust can start to develop underneath them. This is caused by various factors, including the chemicals used on roads during the wintertime and the type of medal manufacturers are using.

As vehicles reach 7 to 12 years old, rust is more likely to build up. Some automobiles are just more prone to this problem.

Rust can lead to brake fluid leaks, which may impact your stopping ability. This can be kind of scary when you’re going down the road.

What we recommend when getting new brake lines

We can replace the lines individually. You do want to avoid trying to patch a line using compression fittings. That doesn’t really solve your problem for the long haul. It’s also a good idea to make sure that as you’re replacing brake lines you’re running them from one point to the other with a piece of tubing. 

You also have to start looking at how old the vehicle is, along with the brake hoses, the unions they may be going into. Sometimes, just trying to replace one brake line turns into a much bigger job, because now the other brake line is going into it. Even with just moving it they’ll start breaking. When you’re in that position, you might be better off replacing all of them at once. 

We can make them where we buy sections of tubing or have it in rolls and custom make the lines. However, you can now buy brake line kits from different manufacturers. For example, Chevrolet sells them for Chevy Tahoes and some other Silverados. You can even get the kits that come with pre-made brake lines, so they’re bent the right way and they have the correct fittings. 

If you plan to keep your vehicle for a while, it may be worth upgrading to stainless steel brake lines, which are more resistant to rust. While you’re having a brake line job done, double check the brake hoses to ensure that they aren’t cracking. 

We also recommend using a high quality brake fluid – Steve’s Auto Repair uses the BG fluid, which has a drier agent in it and helps the brake fluid last longer. If you’re putting in new brake fluid anyway, you might as well use a good product.

Once the job is done

After the work is finished, make sure to bleed the brakes correctly. For some vehicles, the old way of pressing the pedal and opening the bleeder is perfectly fine. Other cars may require a computer to activate the ABS modules and solenoids. Refer to manufacturer’s specifications on that. 

As of the time of the writing of this article, there are shipping and manufacturing delays due to the Coronavirus. We are even having a hard time getting a hold of brass fittings. So, if you are having new brake lines installed, please be patient with your auto repair shop. They may not be able to get the parts needed for a little while.

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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Audi brakes: Common problems and possible causes

In Brakes by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

When it comes time to replace the brakes on your Audi, it’s important to make sure you’re using good quality parts. 

Audis are kind of known for being performance vehicles, and some Audis have a higher performance than others. So, the types of brakes you should use can even differ between models. 

For an Audi A4, you’ll want to use brake pads, rotors and calipers, if those are the parts that need to be replaced. Other performance vehicles may require cross drills and slotted rotors to help dissipate the heat.

While changing the pads, we use pads with sensors built into them. They should be high quality, because the way the electronics work in setting off the lights, saying whether the pads are good or getting worn, you don’t want to have too high resistance or something throwing the computer off. So, you really don’t want to use the cheap pads.

Noises from Audi brakes

Noise is a common issue with Audi brakes, and it can be the result of various culprits. 

Rotors can begin to rust up on vehicles that have been sitting for a while, especially when it’s been raining a lot or snowing during the winter. When you first hit the brakes, they may sound as though they’re grinding. It’s really surface rust. Sand and rocks can get caught up in the pads and rotors, causing grooves to form. So, the grinding noise could actually be from the grooves.

Brake noise can even be caused by cleaning your Audi.

The chemicals sprayed on the vehicle and the wheels to remove the brake dust can get onto the brake pads and rotors. There may not be anything wrong with these parts, but the pads pressing on the rotors may lead to a squeaking or squealing sound.

After washing your vehicle, we recommend taking it on a test drive to help get rid of the chemicals. During the test drive, go to a safe area and perform five panic stops where the Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) is engaged. Then, take it back, let it sit, and take it for another test drive after it cools down to see if the noise disappears.

Calipers and brake hoses

The calipers, especially the caliper slides, can also be an issue. Depending on the amount of salt on the road or where the vehicle comes from, the caliper may not release correctly after you step on the brakes. If it’s holding – even if you don’t feel it as you’re driving – it’s pressing the brake pad against the rotor. This means it will wear down faster. 

Brake hoses going bad is another problem we’re seeing. Vehicles are coming in after having a brake job or the calipers replaced and one of the corners is seizing up. The brake hoses are acting as a check valve and maintaining the pressure. So, we strongly recommend changing the brake hoses and the calipers at the same time. 

Whether or not we’re just replacing the pads and rotors or the calipers, it’s a good idea to have a brake fluid exchange conducted. This service should be done at least every 50,000 miles. Based on the type of vehicle and what the manufacturer recommends, we’re seeing brake fluid recommendations come down as soon as 15,000 or 30,000 miles. Check your owner’s manual to see what the interval for your particular car should be.

Depending on the kind of Audi you own and Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS) it has – ABS, traction control, accident avoidance, automatic driver assist – make sure the ADAS is recalibrated. To do an alignment or certain service work, such as replacing the timing belt, the front grill of the vehicle needs to be removed. Not resetting the ADAS system can cause other driving issues and may feel like a brake problem. If your vehicle has been in a body shop, verify that it has been recalibrated so it doesn’t feel like a different problem.

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.