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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.

How to prepare for a road trip

  • 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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Brake fluid exchanges maintain brake system, components

In Brake Fluid Flush, Brakes by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

The brake fluid in today’s cars, trucks and SUVs are under greater pressure and heat than ever before. This is simply from normal wear and tear.

In order for a vehicle to stop, the brake pads clamp against the brake rotors, which are connected to the wheels. The calipers hold the pads.

As you brake – which is often if you live or travel through Northern Virginia – a lot of moisture and heat is generated.

Regular brake fluid exchanges help maintain this system and its components.

Benefits of a brake fluid exchange

Moisture in the brake system can lead to corrosion. Flushing the brake fluid removes moisture and prevents corrosion from forming on components, including the calipers.

This service also helps your anti-lock braking system (ABS) last longer and restores the brake pedal so it feels firm.

If you put off a brake fluid exchange, the internal seals can wear out prematurely. The inside of soft brake hoses may also degrade, making it difficult for brake fluid to get where it needs to. 

Bleeders could become rusted overtime from not being adjusted.

How often to get this service

Steve’s Auto Repair recommends brake fluid exchanges every 30,000 miles. The time between each flush does differ among vehicles. Some manufacturers suggest this service be performed more frequently. 

Cars with systems that are run by computers, for example, may require them on 18 month or 24 month intervals. By looking at the owner’s manual, you can confirm what services your vehicle needs and when.

Mileage isn’t the only factor to consider when it comes to brake fluid flushes. You should also keep an eye out for certain symptoms that let you know the fluid needs to be replaced.

One indicator is dark fluid that contains rubber particles that have worn off the ABS or master cylinder. A soft brake pedal is another sign. This occurs when moisture that has collected in the brake system is boiling.

We can check the brake fluid with a test strip, which tells us if there are metal contaminants. Sometimes you may not be able to see metal contaminants in the brake fluid reservoir. If you see black specs, that normally has to do with pieces of the rubber seals. 

Another test that can be done is testing for moisture in the system. That would tell you if you have too much water in the system. The water can boil under extreme braking and cause a brake pedal fade. 

A lot of pen testers we have found don’t do a very good job, so we stopped using them.

Cars that have electric brakes don’t need a brake fluid exchange.

Brake fluid flush process

We replace old brake fluid with new brake fluid when performing a brake fluid flush. This is done using a machine that’s hooked up to the master cylinder. New fluid is added to the machine and the old fluid is removed by going to each wheel.

Our technicians use BG DOT 4 Brake Fluid. This product hinders rust and moisture from building up and preserves the brake system.

When in bumper to bumper traffic, you should feel confident as you step on the brake. Brake fluid exchanges are something you can do to take care of the system, preventing expensive repairs and keeping you and your family safe.

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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Squeaky brakes: What causes them?

In Brakes by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

Have you just recently driven your car backed out of the driveway and noticed your brakes were making a squealing or squeaking noise?

With the cold and damp weather, your brakes might make these sounds when you’re first hitting the brakes in the morning. 

In this case, squeaky brakes are nothing to be concerned about. A lot of cars have been sitting for awhile.

If you’ve been at home for a while or your kids are getting ready to start driving back and forth to high school or college, a squeaking and grinding noise may be heard. That grinding can be rust buildup on the brake rotors, which is caused by moisture and the vehicle sitting there.

Try going for a 20 or 30 minute drive and do some normal braking to see if it goes away. If it does, your brakes are probably OK. 

However, it’s probably not a bad idea to go ahead and get them checked at your automotive repair shop. You might also want to have a quick safety check done.

A service advisor at your local auto repair shop would be more than happy to get you in and take a look at your vehicle, just to make sure everything’s up to snuff before your kids get back on the road.

Other causes of squeaky brakes

In addition to weather conditions and rust buildup, squeaky brakes can be caused by the brake pads some vehicles have.

For example, performance brake pads may make a squealing sound when they are cold, even during warm, dry weather. This is because they need a little heat to grab and perform really well. After two or three brake stops, these brakes can be easily up to 200 or 300 degrees, which is when they work better.

If you do need new brakes, you should have the brake pads and rotors replaced at the same time. 

You’ll also want to have someone to look it over too, so they can make sure the brake calipers, the brake hoses and the brake fluids are good, and they can ensure that the Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) is working correctly. A lot of these vehicles require special brake bleeding procedures due to ABS.

And another thing to look into getting – whether it’s due to time or there’s contamination in the brake fluid – is a brake fluid exchange. During a brake fluid exchange, we hook up a BG machine to actually push the fluid through the master cylinder, ABS system, the brake hoses, and the calipers to make sure that all the old brake fluid is out. Therefore, the pedal will always feel good and the brakes will be able to form correctly.

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 do you do a complete brake job?

In Brake Fluid Flush, Brakes by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

This week, we replaced brakes on a Dodge Charger. They were low, due to normal wear and tear.

But doing a complete brake job doesn’t just consist of putting brake pads in and letting the car go.

Replacing brakes on a Dodge Charger

When working on the Dodge Charger, we measured the brake rotors and determined if they were machinable. 

Dodge Charger.

Dodge Charger

For most of these vehicles, it’s best to replace the rotors, even if they are machinable. That way, you don’t have to worry about warping or the brake pedal pulsating – which is when the car vibrates as a driver steps on the brake.

We recommend you use a good brake pad. Cheap does not equal good. There are businesses that will offer a lifetime warranty on brake pads, because they are cheap and can be thrown on anytime. However, these places will always find something wrong with your car.

You should also ensure that the caliper slides move. It’s also a good idea to clean them up and use the correct lubrication, so they can move back and forth freely.

Other services included in complete brake job

During a brake job, our technicians also replace the hardware, if present. Hardware is a spring tension piece of metal located between the brake pad and caliper bracket that prevents the pad from banging back and forth and reduces squealing. It needs to be lubricated correctly, as well.

Brake hardware.

Brake hardware

Making sure the caliper piston boot isn’t torn or leaking is also important. 

Once the brake system is reassembled, we test the brake fluid to see if there are any contaminants. Over time, moisture builds up in the brake fluid and old seals and metal cause contaminants to accumulate. That is why we perform brake fluid exchanges.

So, in summary, a complete brake job means:

  • Replacing the brake pads and rotors
  • Checking the caliper slides
  • Replacing the brake hardware
  • Performing a brake fluid exchange
  • Doing a test drive

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.