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My car won’t come out of park

In Diagnostics by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

Getting stranded when you have places to be is no picnic, especially when you don’t know what’s wrong or can’t fix it yourself. 

Sometimes, a vehicle’s gear shifter will get stuck and won’t come out of park. This situation intermittently occurred with a 2013 Nissan Altima, which was brought in to Steve’s Auto Repair recently.

As he worked on the vehicle, Brian found that the shift interlock solenoid would sometimes stick, preventing the vehicle from shifting into another gear. 

We couldn’t just replace the solenoid for this model, so a new gear shift assembly was needed. Replacing the component enabled the solenoid to retract in and the gear shifter to go from park to drive, neutral or reverse.

To replace the assembly, Brian removed the center console and put it back together with some trim. 

Other possible reasons a car won’t come out of park

The shift interlock solenoid sticking is only one reason why a car won’t come out of park. There are other possible causes behind this issue.

Problems with the brake light switch is another one. If the car doesn’t recognize that you’re hitting the brake, it won’t allow you to shift into another gear.

Your vehicle’s gear shifter may also refuse to go out of park if there’s an open circuit on the interlock solenoid.

Other reasons include a bad ignition switch and the parking pawl.

What you can do to prevent this problem

Unfortunately, there isn’t much that can be done to prevent a gear shifter from getting stuck in park.

You should be careful not to spill anything in the center console. Coffee and other beverages could get down into the gear shift, causing it to gunk up. Soda can especially be a troublemaker, because it’s sticky. 

Spilling beverages is one of the main reasons you have problems with that component.

What you can do if this happens

If you find yourself in a situation where the gear shifter is stuck, there is something you can do.

Most cars generally have some way to bypass the interlock solenoid.

On some vehicles – especially those with a gear shifter on the center console – there’s a plastic tab you can press the key down into. This will release the interlock solenoid, allowing you to put the vehicle in neutral. 

If a car won’t start or isn’t operating the way it should, you probably need to call a tow truck. A vehicle needs to be in neutral in order to be moved onto it.

Not all car problems can be prevented. Sometimes, parts go bad unexpectedly. However, it is important to have an auto repair shop you trust and can go to.

That way, if you have an issue or question, they will be able to provide you with recommendations and the information you need.

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 car air conditioning problems

In Diagnostics by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

The hot days of summer are about to roll in.

With them will come 90 degree and 100 degree weather – you know, when there’s 100 percent humidity and anything cold becomes warm within minutes.

During the extreme summer heat, many of us look forward to the cool temperatures our car air conditioning provides.

Sometimes, the A/C may stop working. (By the way, you may want to confirm that it is working before summer really kicks in.)

These are the most common reasons:

  • It’s low on freon
  • The air conditioning condenser is constricted
  • Problems with the Electronic Climate Control System
  • Expansion valve isn’t working
  • User error

You can read more information about each problem below.

You car air conditioning low on refrigerant

The air conditioning system requires freon to function properly. Refrigerant goes from the compressor to the condenser, then on to the drier and evaporator.

Being low on freon is one reason car air conditioning may not be working. This can is typically the result of a leak. Air conditioning leaks can occur in various spots, such as fittings.

The air conditioning condenser is constricted

The fins on an air conditioning condenser can be bent if there is an impact or the condenser isn’t cleaned correctly. This can restrict the amount of air that flows through.

If the condenser is damaged, it probably needs to be replaced. 

Problems with the Electronic Climate Control System

Newer vehicles are coming with different types of controls and systems. One of them is the Electronic Control System, which regulates the temperature for the front seats. 

If your A/C isn’t working, it may be a problem with the Electronic Control System.

Expansion valve isn’t working

The expansion valve is responsible for controlling how much refrigerant is in the air conditioning system. Overtime, this component can go bad.

User error

Let’s be honest, we can become so distracted by our day-to-day activities that sometimes we aren’t paying attention to what we’re doing.

For example, one day I turned on the A/C and it was blowing warm air – a problem that continued after my car had a chance to run for a while. When I looked down, I realized that I had turned the knob to heat.

Before running to the repair shop, make sure that you didn’t forget to flip a switch or push a button. Also, look through your owner’s manual to see if it offers an explanation or suggestion.

Summer is just weeks away. As you start planning vacations and other adventures, it’s a good time to confirm that your car air conditioning is working just right. It also wouldn’t hurt to have a professional look over your vehicle and make sure there aren’t any other problems.

Our technicians are able to work on vehicles that use R-134 and R-1234yf. We invested in a new air conditioning machine for R-1234yf last year.

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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Diagnostic testing performed on a Ford F350

In Diagnostics by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

The reason behind car problems can’t always be determined at a glance.

To pinpoint some issues, we need to perform diagnostic testing. You can read more about what we do during noise diagnostics in this article we wrote. 

When conducting diagnostic testing, we communicate with the customer about what they’re experiencing and do research on the vehicle and problem. 

Some behaviors our technicians are trying to address, however, only occur in certain circumstances. This can make it more complicated and time consuming to figure out the cause.

How we performed diagnostic testing

One of our technicians experienced this recently when working on a 2008 Ford F350 that came in for an intermittent rough idle. 

It seemed like it was having a misfire on just one cylinder, and it wasn’t happening all the time. After the check engine light came on and we stored some codes, we had a cylinder 4 misfire.

While working on the truck, Brian determined that a fuel injector needed to be replaced.

He was able to confirm this by turning off the injectors one at a time while the truck was running. When the injector for cylinder 4 was turned off, it didn’t make a difference on how well the vehicle operated.

However, it wasn’t malfunctioning continuously. The truck drove fine during the first test drive. When it sat idle for about a minute, it began to run rough and then would become smooth again. 

Because of the amount of time it takes to replace the injectors, it’s best to replace all four injectors on one bank or eight injectors on two banks – even if only one new injector is needed.

Old fuel injectors.
Old fuel injectors

To get to the valve cover and injectors that were located underneath it, Brian needed to remove several components. These included the passenger side valve cover, pump and cooler, coolant bottle and battery.

Technicians also need to replace any coolant and oil that has been lost, and take the vehicle for one or two test drives to make sure it’s working properly.

Make sure to maintain your vehicle

The best thing that you can do to avoid this type of service is to keep up on regular maintenance. This includes making sure the oil is full and clean, and having oil changes performed when your vehicle is due for them.

We recommend having the oil replaced every 3,000 to 5,000 miles.

In some cases, due to age and wear and tire, the injectors may need to be replaced when it reaches 100,000 to 120,000 miles.

The Ford F350 was at around 120,000 miles and we didn’t have history of the injectors ever being replaced.

If you bring your vehicle to an auto repair shop because it’s acting abnormally or making a strange noise, make sure to provide as much information as you can. These details can help the technician narrow down the possibilities, saving you time and money.

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 a steering wheel feels loose

In Diagnostics by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

While you’re driving, your steering wheel – at some point – may feel loose.

This circumstance could hint at a few different problems.

Possible reasons why a steering wheel feels loose

One possibility is that various steering and suspension parts are going bad. These include the tie rod ends and ball joints.

The pitman arms could also be damaged.

Other parts that might need to be checked – and potentially replaced – are the control arms, coil springs, drag link, and strut rod bushings.

A loose steering wheel may be a sign of a bad wheel alignment.

To read about other symptoms that an alignment is needed and when they should be performed by checking out this article we published.

Does your steering wheel feel loose after an alignment? What about after new tires have been installed? It shouldn’t.

If your steering wheel feels loose after these services have been performed, there is a mechanical error or they weren’t completed correctly. 

You should contact a repair shop as soon as possible to have the problem checked out.

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 do not want to put a cheap catalytic converter on your car

In Diagnostics by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

At some point in time, you may need to have a catalytic converter replaced.

There might be a running problem or possibly a code that comes up on the computer an auto repair shop hooks up to your vehicle.

Sometimes, the check engine light turns on and there’s a PO420 code, which relates to the catalyst system’s efficiency. The cause of this code can range from an old catalytic converter that isn’t doing its job anymore to how a car is running.

You also may see a flashing check engine light, which means you’re having a misfire on the engine. If this indicator is flashing, you should have it looked at right away and avoid driving it.

Operating the car could cause catalytic converter damage and material in this component could actually melt. That causes a restriction in the exhaust, preventing the air from getting out.

For example, fuel-injected vehicles can have weird shifting issues, low-power, even some chugging misfire – not only from the ignition misfire or the engine misfire but just because it’s so restricted that the engine cannot run correctly. 

This is why having diagnostics done at your local auto repair shop over just having the codes from the computer read. You might get codes saying the engine isn’t running correctly when the catalytic converter is clogged up. It can also mask transmission shifting problems.

Catalytic converter with half of the amount of material inside.
catalytic converter half the amount of material inside

Cheap catalytic converter vs a good catalytic converter

Cheap catalytic converters are out there, but that doesn’t mean they’re good.

Catalytic converters are expensive because of the materials that convert bad exhaust gases to good exhaust gases.

The materials that make up the catalyst in the catalytic converter, are materials such as platinum, palladium and rhodium.

What also can make a difference is how that material is made and how much the materials are in it. 

Catalytic converter material comparison good and bad.

If you cut open a catalytic converter, the materials could make up three-fourths of the space, compared to a cheap catalytic converter that may only have half or one-third of the materials in the container. This can impact how well it runs and its lifespan.

Let’s say you’re looking to buy an air filter. Your car uses a big air filter but you decided to buy a really small one. That small air filter isn’t going to collect as much dirt. In the case of the catalytic converter, if you buy a cheap one, it’s not going to convert the exhaust gases as much.

A cheap catalytic converter may work for a while. In our experience, we have found that they’re good for about a year to maybe two years. An emission test is required every two years in parts of Virginia. Generally, they don’t make it to the next emission test before they need to be replaced. 

So, you’re better off replacing the catalytic converter with a good one that contains the correct amount of material. You’ll be better off in the long run. 

Stolen catalytic converters

You should also be watchful of catalytic converter theft. Many are being stolen, especially off pickup trucks and commercial vehicles, because thieves can easily get underneath and cut them out.

Insurance companies want to go the cheapest route, so it’s important that you make sure they aren’t just having a shop weld in an aftermarket converter. If they do and you need to have it replaced later on, you will be stuck with the bill of replacing the pipes in the components before and after the converter. 

If you’re getting rid of the car, that’s fine. But if you’re going to keep it, make sure that the insurance companies are putting in Original Equipment (OE) equivalent parts and replacing the pipes.

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.