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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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Getting your car cooling system ready for winter

In Cooling System by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

As the cooler months set in, many are beginning to think about upcoming family gatherings, festivities, and tasks that need to be completed before the end of the year. 

In the midst of the holiday season, car maintenance can be overlooked.

Many changes occur with the drop of temperatures. It’s important to make sure that your vehicle is ready.

Checking the coolant level

Looking over the fluid levels is one of our winter preparation recommendations. Coolant is among the fluids that you should check.

Antifreeze, which travels between the engine and radiator, prevents an engine from overheating. Ensuring that it’s at the right level helps point out any present coolant leaks.

There are different kinds of coolant leaks.

You can have an external leak, which has to do with a radiator, coolant hose or engine gasket. Internal leaks may be related to a bad head gasket or a cracked cylinder head. In this case, coolant could be burning out through the tailpipe. If the radiator cap isn’t sealing right, water could be steaming out of the cooling system over a period of time.

If coolant is leaking, checking the fluid level allows you to address the problem before it gets worse – or before you find yourself stranded with an overheating car.

The right coolant for your car cooling system

Different types coolant for car cooling systems.In addition to reviewing the coolant level, it’s crucial to make sure the right type of antifreeze is being used in your car cooling system.

There is a misconception that antifreeze is green, and that green means good. In reality, coolant comes in an array of colors, including red, pink, orange and blue. 

The kind that should be used depends on the car and the metal its engine is made with. Certain kinds of metal require specific types of antifreeze. 

For example, red coolant is typically used on Toyotas. Meanwhile, the antifreeze that a European vehicle needs may be blue or a green that appears yellow.

When an auto repair shop or automotive professional is performing any cooling system repairs or work on your vehicle, confirm that they are using the right, high quality coolant.

Temperature protection level

You also need antifreeze with a good temperature protection level.

Coolant temperature range chart.If you go to the store, 100 percent antifreeze is one of the options available. You may also buy a 50/50 mix, which is 50 percent antifreeze and 50 percent water. This combination can bring the temperature protection level to as low as negative 34 F and up to 265 F. 

Depending on where you are in the country and the world, you may mix a little more water or a little less water to adjust the temperature protection level. The protection level for those traveling in Canada will differ from Florida drivers.

It’s important to note that you want to use distilled water, not tap water. Sometimes, the minerals in the hard water can actually break down or kill the organic materials in some of the antifreezes. That could lead to other problems, such as sludging.

As you prepare for the colder months, make sure your car cooling system is taken care of and that you have a knowledgeable automotive expert you can take your car to, in case an unexpected problem arises.

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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BMW overheating: Possible causes and how to prevent it

In Cooling System, Maintenance by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

BMW overheating problems aren’t uncommon occurrences.

We worked on a 2004 BMW that was brought in multiple times because it was overheating. 

When it first came to Steve’s Auto Repair, our technician noticed that it was low on coolant. He performed a pressure test on the cooling system and discovered the coolant reservoir was cracked.

Refrigerant cools a vehicle’s engine. It flows from the engine to the radiator, where some heat dissipates. The coolant then goes back to the engine.

Without coolant, the heat is confined to the engine.

Because the car couldn’t keep its coolant, we weren’t able to complete the diagnostic testing. 

The coolant reservoir was replaced, but the BMW was still overheating. 

Brian performed another pressure test to confirm there aren’t any other leaks. When he didn’t see any, he determined that the issue was with the thermostat or water pump.

Through further investigation, Brian noticed there was a difference in the temperature of the upper radiator hose and lower radiator hose, which usually indicates a bad thermostat.

The thermostat was sticking closed, preventing coolant from reaching the radiator and cooling the vehicle down.

Possible reasons behind a BMW overheating

Being low on coolant is the most common reason a BMW overheats. This is the result of a coolant leak. The technicians at Steve’s Auto Repair & Tire are able to look for and address coolant leaks.

Overheating can also indicate a thermostat issue. If the thermostat doesn’t open, coolant isn’t able to flow to where it needs to go.

A car could also overheat due to an electrical component, such as the electric cooling fan and electric cooling fan controller. Even a module or computer may be experiencing an issue that prevents the cooling fan from turning on. 

We have worked on vehicles that had functioning cooling fans that weren’t spinning fast enough to pull air through.

How to prevent your car from overheating

Some overheating problems can’t be avoided. However, there are some maintenance options available.

Coolant fluid exchanges, for examples, can help prevent the engine from overheating. It also extends the life of the cooling system components and overall life of the engine.

You can read more about coolant fluid exchanges in this article we wrote recently.

We recommend this service every 30,000 miles. Depending on a manufacturer’s recommendations, a vehicle could require it more often.

You might want to also consider a coolant fluid exchange if work is being done on the thermostat or you’re getting a new radiator or water pump. 

Depending on how much and where you’re driving, debris – such as dirt, bugs and grass – can start to build up in front of the radiator.

Getting it cleaned out to make sure the air is flowing through to the radiator can keep a vehicle from overheating.

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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Coolant fluid exchanges can prevent engine from overheating

In Cooling System by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

Your car’s engine produces a lot of heat. The cooling system keeps the temperature at a safe level.

Coolant that the engine heats goes to the radiator. Some of the heat disappears, and the coolant returns to the engine.

If the system isn’t working correctly, the water pump could fail. The heads may get warped and the head gaskets could become blown.

Because of the important role the cooling system plays, it’s important to take care of it. This can be done through regular coolant fluid exchanges.

Why should you get a coolant fluid exchange?

Prolonging the life of coolant and enhancing your vehicle’s performance are some perks of having regular coolant fluid exchanges conducted.

Due to normal everyday use, coolant breaks down and anti-corrosion supplements wear out.

If a coolant fluid exchange is put off, various parts can begin to corrode. These components include the water pump and radiator.

Additionally, rust, scale and sludge can accumulate and block the fins of the cooling system, preventing an engine from releasing heat properly.

Avoiding this service could result in the engine overheating and may lead to expensive repairs down the road.

When should this service be performed?

Coolant fluid exchanges are recommended every 30,000 miles. How frequently your car should receive this service also depends on what the manufacturer suggests.

It’s also a good idea to change the fluid when you have problems relating to your vehicle’s thermostat or certain parts are being replaced, like the radiator or water pump.

A car is also ready for a coolant fluid exchange if the coolant is dark. This indicates that the fluid is degrading. Using a test strip, we can check its PH level. This is helpful because the coolant turns acidic when the additives that prevent corrosion are used up.

What happens during a coolant fluid exchange? 

When performing a coolant fluid exchange, our technicians put in BG Universal Cooling System Cleaner, which suspends the contaminants. 

The impurities and old fluid are removed and replaced with new coolant. 

After that, Super Cool is added. This product stops leaks from occurring and prevents overheating.

Types of Coolant

There are different types of coolant produced today. Some fluids are designed for European vehicles, while others should be used on Asian makes and models. Cars made in the United States may use a different type.

BG has a universal coolant that can be used on gasoline and diesel engines. This fluid helps prevent corrosion in the cooling system.

Steve’s Auto Repair has coolant for all kinds of makes and models.

It’s important that you feel safe as you’re traveling to your next destination. The last thing you want is to end up on the side of the road because your engine overheated. By keeping up with your vehicle’s services, you can feel a little more at ease when you hit 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.