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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.

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Why we perform a courtesy inspection while working on your vehicle

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

When you bring your car to our shop, we try to do a very thorough visual inspection, even if it’s just for an oil change.

Just from driving on the road and as vehicle’s age, things can start to break and cause other problems you may not notice, because you’re driving it every day. 

As we’re looking at your vehicle, we want to pick up on problems that could lead to a much larger expense down the road.

Honda Accord.

Honda Accord

Recently, our technicians worked on a Honda Accord that came in for an oil change. The customer didn’t mention any problems. During our normal courtesy inspection of the air filter, we discovered that the intake boot coming from the mass airflow meter to the engine was cracked. 

When that happens, air is not being metered and the computer can’t see how much air is getting sucked into the engine. That can cause problems with the car running too rich or lean, depending on the programming and the driving conditions. Generally, it would show that it has more air coming in than it is and you will burn more fuel. The driver might or might not notice they have more fuel consumption, based on how they drive.

Dirt entering the engine is another problem the crack can cause, because it isn’t going through the air filter. Over a period of time, this may reduce the engine’s lifespan.

If it’s raining and the vehicle went through a deep puddle, water could splash up and get sucked into the engine, which could break it.

You may notice this sort of problem when you give it some gas as you’re going on the highway or an onramp, and that can be a dangerous situation. 

Dirty cabin air filter.

Dirty cabin air filter

The air filter on this vehicle was also very, very dirty, which would also restrict the airflow. This can impact the fuel economy. So, you have many things going against this car that are very simple, but unless you’re looking at it on a consistent basis you’re just not going to know.

Our courtesy inspection

Watching for simple things, like an air intake boot, and fixing it is just part of our oil change process and is a very important thing to repair.

In addition to changing the oil and oil filter, we rotate the tires if applicable and take a look at the components. It’s sort of like a mini safety inspection without scraping the sticker. We really are trying to keep you safe on the road and help your car last as long as it can.

When we have the hood open, we’re checking for visible engine coolant leaks. Our technicians also examine the serpentine belt to make sure it doesn’t have cracks and isn’t getting glazed on the back.

Accessible fluids are also looked at. For example, before changing the oil we make sure the oil level isn’t too low. If you come in and it’s much lower than normal, we may be able to pick up an oil consumption problem.

Windshield washer fluid and brake fluid are also inspected. Some of the newer vehicles – as parts become more electronic – may not have these fluids, but you would be surprised. Even with brakes being electronically controlled, there’s still brake fluid going to the calipers. 

Lights, wiper blades, tire tread depth and tire pressure are other items checked out during the courtesy inspection.

We also test the car battery, and make sure the connections aren’t loose or that corrosion isn’t building up on them. You’d be surprised by the number of cars that come in with weird problems or intermittent starting problems, and it’s just a loose battery cable or corrosion. Cleaning that up and putting battery terminal BG pads, which help prevent acid from coming up to the terminal and corroding the metal, are some things we can do during an oil change to stop simple, weird electrical problems. 

Resetting the maintenance indicators takes a little more time now. There are indicators for the tire pressure, the oil life, for certain maintenance the manufacturers recommend. Not only is it changing that oil change sticker up in the window, it’s also resetting the electronic reminders in the car.

To read more about what we do during an oil change, check out this recent article we wrote.

Courtesy inspections come at no additional cost. 

Taking these extra steps can prevent problems and a lot of frustration.

By performing this work, we hope to help keep you and your family on the road.

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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Why you shouldn’t store napkins in your car’s glove box

In Cabin Air Filter, Cooling System by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

It’s time to turn on the air conditioning.

But when one of our customers did, they heard a noise. This led them to bring their Town & Country to Steve’s Auto Repair & Tire. We found a few problems during our investigation.

First of all, a shop that had previously worked on the vehicle hadn’t properly installed the door for the cabin air filter.

The second issue was that napkins and some peanuts that were in the glove box had gotten sucked into the blower motor. 

Our employees also found a very dirty cabin air filter that appeared to have been chewed on by a squirrel or mouse.

The problems were addressed and the driver is back on the road. However, based on this situation, there are a few recommendations we would like to pass on.

Take your car to a mechanic or repair shop you can trust

Overtime, you invest a fair amount of money in your vehicle – through oil changes, inspections, mileage-based services, new parts that go bad through daily use … You get the point.

You also most likely drive it each week (if not daily), and don’t want to end up stranded on the side of the road or in an unsafe situation. 

With that in mind, it’s important to make sure you’re taking it to a professional who knows what they’re doing. 

Yes, this may mean spending more money on a service that you could try to figure out on your own. However, going to a reliable mechanic or auto repair shop can not only give you ease of mind, it also saves you time and can help prevent expensive repairs in the future.

Don’t keep lightweight paper in the glove box

It’s OK to store items, like an owner’s manual, in the glove box. However, we suggest that you avoid keeping napkins and lightweight paper in it.

The blower motor is drawing in air and sometimes if it’s not sealed quite right it will suck up those items.

We recommend that you store them in the center console, where there isn’t a vacuum or fan that’s bringing in air that will circulate throughout the vehicle.Dirty cabin air filter.

Change out your cabin air filter regularly

Cabin air filters, which purify the air that enters a vehicle, become dirty and need to be changed on a regular basis. This interval depends on a few factors, including the make and model of a car as well as driving conditions.

Drivers who live on a dirt road will probably need to replace it more often than those who mainly use major roads and the highway.

Keeping bacteria, dirt, dust and pollen out of your vehicle is one perk of changing out the cabin air filter. It can also prevent the heating core and evaporator from becoming clogged.

When performing this service, our technicians can also spray BG Frigi Fresh into the vent system. You can read more about the disinfectant and replacing the cabin air filter in this article we wrote

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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Cabin air filter helps clean the air in car

In Cabin Air Filter by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

Let’s clear the air … in your car.

The cabin air filter purifies the air that enters through the vents.

Typically located in the front of a vehicle, it also helps keep the heating core and evaporator clear.

Cabin air filter replacement

How often cabin air filters need to be changed depends on the car and driving conditions. 

For example, those who live on a dirt road may need to change it more often than someone who uses the interstate.

Drivers may notice a musty smell when it’s time to replace the cabin air filter.

Our technicians check it during every oil change, which we recommend every 3,000 to 5,000 miles. 

When changing the old filter, we spray BG Frigi Fresh — a disinfectant that removes viruses, bacteria, mold and odors — into the vent system.

One reason to have the filter checked is because animals will nest in it, clogging up the airways. 

When they become blocked, it can overwork the blower motor, which is responsible for pushing air through the vents when you turn on your car air conditioning or heat.

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.