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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

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

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.

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Common electrical problems on vehicles

In Diagnostics by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

Common electrical problems on vehicles today can range from something as simple as a fuse being blown to a computer or charging system problem. 

Some possible issues include:

  • The alternator going bad
  • A fuse that has blown
  • Problems with the throttle body
  • Corrosion buildup on the battery terminal
  • A bad car battery

Below is a more detailed explanation about each problem.

Common electrical problems

Bad alternator

Having a malfunctioning or bad alternator is one possible culprit behind electrical problems. Alternators take on the electrical load of the vehicle. On a nice, sunny day, there may not be a lot of electrical power used. However, on a rainy or winter day, you’re running the heater, the wiper blades are going, the lights are on, and you’re using the power windows. That’s a lot of power. The alternator helps adjust how much power is needed and recharges the battery. Some hybrid vehicles have two batteries – one is the hybrid battery, which helps propel the car, and a 12 volt battery that runs 12 volt accessories.

Blown fuse

Another common problem is if your cell phone or GPS stops working. With all of the accessory outlets – what used to be known as the cigarette lighter – when you start plugging four or five things into one outlet, that pulls a lot of power and can blow the fuse. Typically, you just have to check the fuse and fix it yourself. Take a look at the owner’s manual to figure out where the fuse block is and what fuse needs to be replaced. Or look it up on Google.

Throttle body problems

There may also be an issue with the throttle body, which is the flap that opens and lets air into the engine when you press the gas pedal. The one pictured above is electronically controlled, so it has everything from power and ground to a position sensor. These types of throttle bodies could also have a barometric pressure sensor, which tells the vehicle what the altitude of the car is – whether it’s at the beach or in the mountains. Depending on the make and model of the vehicle, there could also be a temperature sensor.

Corrosion on battery terminals

This photo shows a battery terminal that someone performed a quick repair on. Over a period of time, corrosion starts to build up. Copper doesn’t rust like iron rusts, but it does get a corrosion coating on it, making it difficult for electricity to get to the terminal. This can cause electrical issues and running issues. It’s even possible that your car won’t start or the starter may crank slow. That’s because it takes more power to travel through the corrosion than it does to go through a nice, neat terminal connection.

Dead battery

Car batteries don’t last forever. A battery’s lifespan depends on the type of battery, where it was made, and how it was designed. Generally, it can go 4 to 6 years before needing to be replaced. Vehicles with a lot of electrical accessories, such as safety lights or snow plows, or another feature used by work trucks, use a bit more power and could shorten the lifespan of the battery. If you travel on a lot of rough roads, the battery can bounce around, possibly disturbing the plates inside and impact how long it lasts. That’s why it’s important to ensure there is a secure battery hold down.

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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Honda Accord not blowing cold air

In Diagnostics by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

If you’ve noticed that cold air isn’t blowing through the vents when you turn on your car’s ac, it may be a sign of an ac leak.

A Honda Accord not blowing cold air was one problem we addressed earlier this week. Our Woodbridge mechanics solved the issue by replacing the air conditioning condenser.

You can read about how to maintain the condenser in this article we shared.

This particular car is using refrigerant 1234yf.

Air conditioning condenser problems

With the way certain vehicles are being manufactured, the metal for the condenser is thinner than it used to be.

Depending on the type of metal, we’re seeing that they’re corroding from the inside out. So, it could be the freon reacting to that metal. That’s why you may see certain types of cars and trucks having more problems with condensers than they did previously. We’re seeing that now where – for a specific kind of car – we’re seeing more condensers than we ever have.

Why you shouldn’t fix an ac leak with sealant

Now, you can buy a product that has sealer built into it from the auto parts store. Please don’t use that, because when you come to a shop we have to identify it and that can cause other problems with your repair. If you have an ac problem, just bring it to your service center so they can determine what’s going on and perform the correct repair without using sealant.

If you’re getting rid of the vehicle and you want to seal up a small leak, great. However, when we – as a repair facility – reclaim that freon, that sealant gets into the recycling machine and can contaminate the rest of the freon. It can even gum up and ruin the machine, which costs anywhere from $6,000 and $10,000. 

This may also be detrimental, because the sealant is going through the system. If the leak is too large and doesn’t seal up or you get another leak the sealant doesn’t address and the freon leaks out, then the air is now inside the system. So, everywhere the sealant is hardens up, potentially impacting the evaporator, condenser, and other parts. When that happens, you sometimes have to replace components.   

You also don’t want to just use the can with the red, yellow, and green gauge, because it can depend on the temperature outside, the humidity, and what RPM your vehicle is running at. The gauge may show green, but there could be air in the system and you could overcharge it.

In a lot of these vehicles that use R-1234yf, they don’t use as much freon as they were. So, you aren’t talking about 2 pounds, it may be more like 0.9 pounds or 1.1 pounds. You can easily overcharge, which can result in other issues, like damaging the air compressor and making the leak larger.

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.