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Repeat check engine light on Chevrolet Cruze

In Diagnostics by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

Check engine lights are unique in that they aren’t rooted in one cause. They can indicate a number of problems. 

But what happens if the check engine light keeps coming back on?

If you have a repeat check engine light, you should have it looked at by an auto repair shop or automotive professional.

The driver of a Chevrolet Cruze brought their car to Steve’s Auto Repair to have the problem addressed.

Figuring out the cause of a repeat check engine light

The check engine light was off when our technician started working on the Chevy Cruze. However, he found a stored code of P0017, which indicates that the camshaft and crankshaft aren’t lined up correctly. This problem is common when the timing belts are worn or not installed correctly. They can stretch due to age, and may prompt the code and some running problems.

After removing the upper cover, the technician saw what appeared to be the original belt. It was cracking a bit and there were some small chips on the edge. The Chevrolet Cruze has more than 105,000 miles on it, but it’s recommended that the timing belt and spark plugs on this car be replaced at 97,500 miles. 

The timing belt ensures that the crankshaft and camshaft are operating at the same rate. When the belt should be replaced depends on the vehicle. It may be suggested every 60,0000 miles for some, and every 100,000 for others. The technician noticed that the timing gears were off, which would be enough to set the timing code.

Timing gears for a Chevrolet Cruze off.

Timing gears off.

To prevent potential engine damage that could occur if the belt breaks, we recommended replacing the timing belt. It’s also a good idea to change the camshaft seals and crankshaft front oil seal, and install a new tensioner and idler pulley. New spark plugs are needed, if they haven’t already been replaced.

Putting in a new water pump and having a coolant fluid exchange performed were suggested, as well. Your vehicle should get a coolant fluid flush every 30,000 miles – depending on the manufacturer’s recommendations – if there are thermostat problems, or the radiator or water pump are replaced.

Check engine light causes

As we mentioned earlier, a solid check engine light turns on for many reasons. Here are some of them:

  • Engine sensor issues
  • Loose gas cap
  • Problems with the ignition system
  • Low oil
  • Spark plugs going bad
  • Catalyst system not working correctly
  • Evaporative system issues
  • Engine misfire
  • Circuit malfunctioning
  • Bad ignition coils
  • Coolant system problems

Why you should get your vehicle checked out

Other connected codes can pop up the longer you wait, so we suggest having the light checked sooner rather than later.

If the check engine light is flashing, you shouldn’t drive the vehicle at all. That’s because a blinking light indicates an engine problem. Catalytic converter damage may occur if you don’t have it addressed.

Because the potential culprits vary, diagnostic testing is needed to track down the problem. We start ruling out possibilities by performing a visual inspection and then conducting a code scan.

Our technicians look into common issues with the vehicle they’re working on and check out Technical Service Bulletins (TSBs).

Steve’s Auto Repair & Tire is an authorized Goodyear tire dealer located near Manassas, 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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Shifting problems on a Ford F-150

In Diagnostics, Transmission, Transmission Flush by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

Shifting problems can sometimes occur among vehicles with automatic transmissions. This was the reason why a four-door F-150 pickup truck came into our shop the other week.

The technician who was working on it checked the basics and found that the transmission fluid was low by about three quarts. 

He also looked into Technical Service Bulletins (TSBs) and common problems with these trucks. Through this process, we learned that the seal at the transfer case can go bad, causing the transmission fluid to go into the transfer case. 

A transfer case seal.

Searching for the transmission fluid

We put the vehicle up in the air and – just looking at it – didn’t see any visible leaks for three quarts of transmission fluid to disappear to. 

The technician dug further into the issue to determine what was happening.

As he pulled off the vent hose coming off the transfer case, it started leaking fluid. So, it was probably a day or two before it would have started pushing out of the tube and leaking on the ground.

This is why you shouldn’t go based on outward appearance when performing auto repair. The problem could be hidden behind other parts.

How we solved the problem

This is where the transfer case connects to the transmission on a Ford F-150.

This is where the transfer case connects to the transmission.

So, it was a pretty straightforward fix – we pulled the transfer case off the back of the transmission, replaced the seal, put it back together, and made sure the transmission fluid was topped off. 

A transfer case.

Transfer case

To make sure everything would be good for a while, we put some synthetic transmission fluid in the system and ensured it had the correct amount. Then we performed a flush on the transmission so that it was serviced up and this customer could be on their way again.

Whether you should go ahead and do a transmission fluid flush is based on the mileage and what’s going on with the vehicle.

Transmission fluid exchanges are recommended every 30,000 miles – depending on the vehicle and what the manufacturer suggests. This service cleans out the transmission and enables the component to continue running the way it should. To learn more about transmission fluid exchanges, check out this article we posted.

Certain vehicles may need a transfer case fluid exchange, which extends the transfer case’s lifespan.

Other causes of shifting problems

A bad transfer case seal isn’t the only reason why a vehicle may be experiencing shifting problems.

Trouble switching gears can also be the result of a bad automatic transmission. Other indicators include slipping or a whining noise.

Low fluid or fluid with contaminants in it may result in shifting problems, as well. Keep in mind that fluid doesn’t just go bad. if it has debris in it, that means that something is breaking down within the transmission. 

If the problem is that your car won’t come out of park, there might be something wrong with the shift interlock solenoid (as was the case with a Nissan Altima) or the brake light switch.

There are several possible explanations for why you may be having trouble changing gears. Make sure to have the issue checked out by an automotive professional, so it doesn’t become worse or impact the safety of you and your passengers.

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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Starting problem on Buick

In Diagnostics by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

The case of a mysterious starting problem has been closed. Like many repairs, the issue required some digging.

Our Woodbridge mechanics recently worked on a Buick Lacrosse that refused to start.

At first, the issue was occurring intermittently. Our customer would turn the key and it may not have “caught” to start the vehicle. 

Eventually, it reached the point that every time the driver would turn the key they could hear the starter trying to engage. However, it just sounded like it was spinning and nothing was happening. So, they had the vehicle towed to Steve’s Auto Repair.

What was causing the starting problem?

When we looked into the starting problem, we found that the teeth on the flywheel were chewed up. For some reason, the bushings in the starter were going bad and bouncing up and down. As they did, they would sometimes chip off the top edge of the flywheel. 

Bad bushing in starter.

Over a period of time, it just kept wearing down and the gap continued to grow bigger. Instead of having one or two teeth chewed up, it became five or six. As the engine stopped, it would be in about the same spot but the starter gear wouldn’t engage the gear on the flywheel.

A good flywheel and a flywheel that was chipped by a bad starter bushing.

In order to replace the flywheel, we needed to take the transmission out. Our technician also changed the starter, which was the original cause of the problem.

A clicking noise when starting a vehicle and a slight grinding sound can be signs that you need a new starter.

What is a car flywheel?

The flywheel is a big disc that is attached to the engine, and the torque converter for the transmission is connected to the flywheel. This partnership between the flywheel, engine and torque converter allows power to transfer from the engine to the transmission.

Some flywheels have slots that help produce the signals for crankshaft position sensors and other computer inputs. This is not the case as much as it used to be, but some cars still may have them.

This Buick has an automatic transmission. The flywheel on a manual transmission is much thicker, because the pressure plate and clutch disc bolt up against the flywheel. 

So, as you push in the clutch it disengages from the flywheel from where the engine is spinning. Then, as you let out on the clutch, it engages the flywheel to help transfer that power from the engine to the manual transmission. Those flywheels are generally much thicker so they are able to take the heat and transfer the power.

Problems to watch out for

If you hear noises that don’t sound right when you’re starting your car – maybe it’s making a bit of a grinding noise – you will want to get it looked at soon. That way you can avoid a costly repair – like removing the transmission to replace the flywheel, rather than just installing a new starter. A repair that could have cost a few hundred dollars is now a couple thousand dollars.

Make sure to also note if your car seems to be having trouble turning over, or if it seems to be cranking more slowly than usual. 

Electronics not working right and the battery light turning on – possible signs of an alternator going bad – are other problems to keep an eye out for.

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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Grinding noise on a Toyota Sienna

In Diagnostics by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

One of our technicians tracked down a grinding noise on a Toyota Sienna this week.

At first, the driver noticed the sound while they were braking. By the time the vehicle reached Steve’s Auto Repair and Tire, it was heard even when the brakes weren’t applied.

Rough spot on brake rotor.

Rough spot on brake rotor

As he took the Toyota on a test drive, the technician heard a growling noise. When it was placed on a lift, he noticed that the tire was loose. The rotor was grinding inside the caliper, and he found a rough spot where it was rubbing.

During a previous visit, we had replaced a wheel bearing. This time, we decided to install a new steering knuckle with a new bearing pressed into it, and a new brake rotor.

New steering knuckle.

New steering knuckle

Sounds are one sign that can hint at a car problem.

What causes a grinding noise or growling sound?

There are many possible issues – aside from wheel bearings – that could lead to grinding noises.

You can get a grinding sound when the brakes pads are low or metal to metal. The noise might be an indicator of sand or dirt between the brake pad and rotor, as well.

Brakes must measure at least 2/32 of an inch to pass state inspection. However, they might need to be replaced earlier, depending on what the manufacturer recommends.

A grinding noise may also occur if certain parts are worn or failing, including:

  • Ac compressor
  • Pulleys
  • Differentials

Growling is another sound that could be heard by travelers.

Problems with the following components may result in growling noises:

  • Water pump
  • Ac compressor
  • Bad bearing or ac compressor clutch
  • Idler pulleys
  • Transmission bearings
  • Wheel hub bearings
  • Transfer case
  • Pinion bearing or carrier bearings on differentials

Some tires can also make a type of growling, especially the bigger truck tires.

Other sounds and noise diagnostics

Grinding and growling are the only sounds that crop up. It isn’t uncommon for drivers to hear other noises, such as squeaking or squealing. 

Squeaky brakes can be caused by the weather – especially if it’s the first thing on a damp, cold morning. Rust build up on brake rotors and cold brake pads are possible causes, as well. Another reason some brakes squeak or squeal is if it’s time for them to be replaced.

The answer to why a car is squealing isn’t limited to the braking system. It could also lie in the suspension. Belts that have become worn or are loose can make a squealing noise.

Crunching sounds may mean that a vehicle’s transmission is failing. Meanwhile, clunking noises can be the result of suspension parts going bad, such as sway bar links, struts mounts and control arm bushings.

To determine the source of a sound, our Woodbridge mechanics perform noise diagnostics

We start the diagnostic testing process by gathering information from the customer (like what was heard and when, and any behaviors). Then, we conduct test drives to see if we can hear it ourselves. This step is followed by recreating the noise and pinpointing its location. 

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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Engine replacement on a Volvo Cross Country

In Diagnostics by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

Usually, we’re able to determine the cause behind an engine problem. But a Volvo Cross Country is leaving us scratching our heads.

The customer noticed the red oil light come on as she was driving and pulled into a local parts store. The employees checked the oil level and said it was full. Upon hearing this, the customer drove down to our Woodbridge auto repair shop. 

By the time she reached Freedom High School and Northern Virginia Community College on Neabsco Mills Road, the engine shut off. Remaining calm during what can be a very stressful situation, she switched it into neutral and coasted down the hill and into our parking lot.

Because the engine locked up, engine replacement is necessary.

Engine lockup causes

An engine lockup can occur when there is a failure of various parts, like the spun bearing, crankshaft or wrist pin.

Why did this engine lock up? We don’t have the answer.

The driver has regular maintenance performed and takes care of her vehicle very well. This situation is also shocking, because that’s a very reliable engine that tends to see very high mileage before failing. It’s currently sitting at a little more than 100,000 miles.

When engines lock up, sometimes you’re able to determine what the lock up is from, but you don’t always know.

Our guess in this case is that the problem has something to do with the spun bearing and it just creates too much resistance for the engine to turn.

Engine replacement using salvage yard engine

Because of the car’s age, we are using a salvage yard engine. When we have to use parts like that, we want to get them from reputable salvage yards. 

The one we received this one from specializes only in Volvos. So, they took it out without damaging anything and they know how to take them apart before sending them to us. We also know that they’re sending us the right part, because they can look up particular vehicles. 

Even though it’s a salvage yard engine, there are some things we want to replace while it’s out, because it’s easier to get to them and it helps extend the lifespan of the used engine. These components include the water pump, the timing belt, some of the camshaft and crankshaft seals. It’s worthwhile spending a little extra money. If you’re going to go through the time and effort, you want to make sure it’s right.

Due to the price of today’s vehicles – used and new – it may be worthwhile putting a bit of money into your existing car and keeping it on the road. The taxes and insurance are lower. You might be spending $4,000 to $8,000 fixing a vehicle, but that’s quite a difference compared to $30,000 to $60,000 for a new vehicle. 

If you are in this type of situation, it’s a good idea to get an evaluation of the rest of your vehicle before you proceed with this type of repair, so there aren’t any surprises down the road.

In addition to engine replacement, we perform engine repair and engine maintenance. Check out this article we posted to learn about what engine repair means today.

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.