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Noise diagnostics: What we go through to track down sounds

In Diagnosticsby Steves Auto Repair and Tire

Noise diagnostics can be complicated.

Vehicles make lots of sounds, and any of them can mean many things.

A growling noise could have something to do with a car’s wheel bearing, or it may indicate that you have bad tires.

Meanwhile, a squeaking sound can be caused by dry, moving parts.

Diagnosing noises is also difficult, because cars act like tuning forks — noise travels. 

You may hear a sound coming from one area when it’s actually coming from a different place. 

We worked on a vehicle recently where the front differential was going bad. However, the sound was traveling to the back of the car.

Our technicians first start noise diagnostics by taking the vehicle for a test drive.

Noise diagnostics
Test Driving

It’s important that we receive a good description from customers about what type of sound they’re hearing, where it’s coming from, and any other characteristics they noticed — such as a vibration.

Then, we try to verify it. 

Because some noises only occur during certain circumstances, the technicians attempt to recreate it.

If it’s a clunking sound, for example, the car may be taken on a road that contains potholes.

Wayne worked on diagnosing a noise on a 2008 Toyota Highlander last month.

The customer had noticed a screeching sound when driving down the hill on a certain road. During his test drive, Wayne took it on that road to listen for it.

After recreating a sound, we use a process of elimination to determine what part of the car the sound is connected to, such as the suspension or the engine.

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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Serpentine belt on BMW gets caught in engine

In Diagnosticsby Steves Auto Repair and Tire

The driver of a 2009 BMW 535xi had an unexpected experience recently: his car stopped running in the middle of the road.

The culprit? A leaking oil filter housing that caused the serpentine belt to get caught in the engine.

Oil Filter Housing

Because of the leak, the serpentine belt — which surrounds parts of the engine — became soaked with oil.

It slipped off the pulleys, wrapped around the components, and began to fray.

After getting caught around the crankshaft pulley, it started working its way through the crankshaft seal into the timing cover.

Parts of the belt wrapped around the timing chain, throwing the car’s timing off.

It was also caught around the oil pan, which clogged up the oil pickup tube and prevented oil from entering the engine. 

serpentine belt
Oil pickup tube

When the customer’s car stopped running, he cranked the car and a crunching metal sound could be heard in the front timing cover. 

We knew that the timing chain needed to be replaced.

After removing the old timing chain and timing chain unit, our technician cleaned out material from the serpentine belt that had gotten into the timing cover.

New chains, a new tensioner and new bolts for the camshaft, sprockets and crankshaft were then installed.

serpentine belt
New timing belt

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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Diagnosing problems on BMWs and Mercedes

In Diagnosticsby Steves Auto Repair and Tire

Diagnosing “problem cars” that come in through an auto repair shop can be tricky and time consuming. 

Technicians at Steve’s Auto Repair & Tire are using OPUS IVS AUTOLOGIC DrivePro to identify problems sooner and more accurately.

We have invested into this diagnostic platform for our BMW and Mercedes customers.

It also has very good capability for other European vehicles, including Volkswagens and Land Rovers

For many auto repair shops, using a scan tool that has limited functions becomes a roadblock.

Not only does DrivePro give near dealer capability, it also enables us to access the computers of vehicles. 

We are able to use the tool to code modules and reprogram vehicle computers, as well.

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 did my BMW’s check engine light turn on?

In Diagnosticsby Steves Auto Repair and Tire

You’re about to leave for work and you start your BMW.

The dashboard lights turn on, like normal, but you notice that the check engine light stays on.

If it’s blinking, you should go to an auto repair shop as soon as possible. 

A blinking check engine light indicates that there’s a problem with the engine and it may lead to damage to the catalytic converter.

If you own a BMW and your check engine light comes on and stays on, you should have it checked out soon.

There are many reasons why a check engine light turns on. 

It can be anything from a loose gas cap to an internal engine problem.

Other reasons include a circuit problem, the catalyst system working below its threshold, and issues with the coolant system.

BMW repair is one of the services that Steve’s Auto Repair & Tire offers.

If you’re going in for regular BMW service, don’t forget to let your service adviser know if your check engine light comes on or if it turns off and comes back on.

What we do when a car comes in with its check engine light on

When a vehicle comes in with a check engine light on, we start with a visual inspection. During the inspection, we make sure nothing is loose and that the oil and fluid levels aren’t low.

After that, the technicians pull a trouble code, which shows them where they should start the diagnostic testing.

Then, they perform a diagnostic test, through which they are able to isolate the 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.

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Check engine light on? Car doesn’t start?

In Diagnosticsby Steves Auto Repair and Tire

Does your car not start? Does it crank over, but the engine doesn’t run? Is the little light on your dashboard that looks like an engine on? All these indicate that you need engine diagnostics performed.

Check engine light

It takes quite a few years of training and experience to be able to diagnose today’s high-tech vehicles. 

Special scan tools are needed and access to a large database on information to work on your vehicle are needed. 

Many times automotive technicians need to start with the basics of a battery and alternator electrical system test to a visual inspection to see if something is obviously damaged to using multi-meters and digital oscilloscopes along with manufacturer scan tools to pinpoint the problem of the vehicle. 

These problems can range from broken wiring to components not working to software updates that are needed to make the vehicle operate correctly. 

Where there used to be only one computer in the car, there can be up to 30 or more controllers and electronic modules operating the vehicle. Not only do they have to perform their function in the vehicle, they also have to talk to each other. One not working correctly can cause some strange problems.

Dashboard Lights

Dashboard Warning Lights

How much are engine diagnostics?

Engine diagnostics can vary. You should be prepared for at least a one-hour diagnostics charge. Depending on how difficult the problem is more time may be needed.

At Steve’s Auto Repair & Tire, when we do get into engine diagnostics there have been time we have found the problem in 30 minutes, and we charge accordingly.

Do you do free check engine light diagnostics?

No. We do charge for what we do, because the equipment and talent required to do it isn’t free. A lot of places that do free check engine light diagnostics will do it if you have the work performed at their shop and they will bury the cost into the job. 

How can the parts store do check engine light diagnostics for free?

They’re not performing engine light diagnostics, they’re hooking up a generic scan tool and retrieving the codes and many times just make recommendations on what parts to buy that may or may not fix the vehicle. That is not engine performance diagnostics.

My car won’t start. What now?

We would start with a basic electrical check of the battery, alternator and starter. If all checks there, we would go to the computer and retrieve the codes and then find out what sensor or control system is not working 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.