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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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Oil leaks on BMWs

In Fluids by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

Some car problems can be fixed with just one small piece. However, sometimes replacing that part can be more labor intensive than is expected.

Earlier this week, we addressed an oil leak on a BMW. Our customer brought the vehicle in, because they noticed lots of oil loss. They had even gotten into the habit of carrying around jugs of oil, because they knew they had an oil leak but didn’t know where it was coming from. The undercarriage of the car was completely saturated.

The BMW needed a new alternator bracket oil seal, which can harden and become brittle after a period of time. 

To complete this project, our technician had to remove fan components and the alternator. The engine was also lifted up and the engine mounts were taken off. Then, everything was put back together. This process took a number of hours.

Oil seal.

Oil seal

Why oil is important

Different areas of the engine need to be lubricated by oil in order to work properly, and there are oil pressure sensors associated with certain components. This is why it’s important to have regular oil changes performed. 

We recommend this service every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, but the frequency depends on the vehicle and manufacturer recommendations.

A lack of oil in the system may result in an overheating engine or an engine seizing.

What can cause oil leaks?

The oil seal going bad is a common problem among V8 style engines. They can start leaking so badly that the oil gets too low, causing engine damage. The seals will, literally, pump the engine dry. So, when these components go bad it’s very important to have them fixed as soon as possible.

Depending on the location of the leak, it could impact the timing belt, serpentine belt and other parts.

Aside from a bad seal, there are several other issues that can lead to oil leaks, such as a damaged oil pan, worn valve cover gasket, and a clogged PCV system.

You may have an oil leak if you notice engine noise, the oil is low, there’s a puddle of oil – which can be brown, black or yellow – near the vehicle, or the car is experiencing running problems.

The oil pressure light turning on is another indicator to watch out for. It warns you that the oil pressure is decreasing. If you notice this symbol come on, you should safely stop the vehicle and check the oil level. 

Finding oil leaks

If you notice any of these symptoms, reach out to a mechanic or auto repair shop near you. They can help you find the source of the leak early on and prevent it from growing into a bigger problem.

Our process for finding oil leaks varies among vehicles. Our Woodbridge mechanics usually start by inspecting the three main areas oil will leak from – the valve covers, the timing cover, and the oil pan. There are also different parts that need to be checked within those areas.

If the oil leak is widespread, they will clean it off, add UV dye, drive it for a bit, and see where the first spot is.

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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Avoid breaking down on your next road trip

In Battery, Brakes, Fluids, Headlamps, Maintenance by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

Summer is here, which means that many are taking at least one road trip.

While you and your family or friends are having fun, you want to avoid any hang ups. That includes breaking down on the side of the road.

In the days and weeks prior to your next adventure, you should make sure the vehicle you’re taking is ready for the journey. You can’t plan for everything, but there are some things you can do to avoid a problem.

Below is a checklist of items we recommend.

How to prepare for a road trip

  • Battery test: Weak car batteries can fail when it’s extremely hot outside. We have a battery tester that lets us know if it needs to be replaced. Checking the battery beforehand can save you from tracking someone down to jump your vehicle and a trip to the store.
  • Oil change: Having your oil changed regularly – every 3,000 to 5,000 miles – helps prevent engine damage. If you’re going to be due for this service soon, it’s a good idea to have it done before your road trip. That way, you know that it’s up to date. The technicians performing the oil change may also notice safety concerns that need to be addressed. 
  • Check tires: You want your tires to be at an optimum level. So, make sure they are at a good tire pressure and they have thick tread depth. The tire tread should be at least 2/32 of an inch, but we suggest replacing the tires when they reach 3/32 or 4/32 of an inch, depending on the vehicle. The tire pressure must also be at the recommended level, otherwise tire damage can occur. Also, make sure that none of your tires have collected any nails, and that your spare tire is in good shape.
  • Make sure the brakes are working: You never know when the person driving in front of you will stop suddenly or a deer will run out in front of your car. In those situations, it’s important to know that your brakes can be trusted. To pass Virginia state inspection, brakes must be at 2/32 of an inch or more. We recommend them when they get down to 3/32 or 4/32 of an inch. That also depends on the car and manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Replace windshield wipers: Depending on your destination, you may hit some rain along the way. Having the windshield wipers replaced can prevent streaks and scratches. If you have torn windshield wipers, it’s time for some new ones.
  • Inspect the lights: Your car features an assortment of lights, including brake lights, headlights and tag lights. It’s a good idea to make sure that none of them are out, especially if you’re planning to travel at night or in areas that experience heavy amounts of traffic.
  • Look at fluid levels: Having someone check the fluid levels – including the oil, coolant, antifreeze, and windshield washer fluid – is another recommendation. This is a great way you can confirm there aren’t problems or spot any issues early on. For example, being low on coolant – especially if it’s a constant issue – can indicate a leak.

Our technicians look over all of the items mentioned above during our courtesy inspections. If you’re planning to go on a road trip soon, feel free to give us a call to schedule an appointment.

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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How Steve’s Auto Repair performs oil changes

In Battery, Brakes, Fluids, Inspection, Maintenance by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

Oil changes are typically offered at most places that perform automotive services or repair. 

A lot of them will do the required work – change the filter and replace the oil – and leave it at that.

At Steve’s Auto Repair, we care about you and your vehicle, and want to make sure that your car is running safely when it leaves our shop. 

During an oil change, we perform a visual digital inspection, checking many points on the car or truck. This includes a range of items that tend to be overlooked.

Parts checked during oil changes

So, what does this mini inspection look like? 

The battery is one of the many parts we check. Car batteries weaken overtime, and extremely hot or cold temperatures can cause them to die. Testing a car battery may prevent you from getting stranded.

Looking over the belts and hoses, as well as the steering and suspension are also on our checklist. Hoses can become loose, and everyday use could result in components cracking or going bad. You can save yourself a trip to an auto repair shop – and possibly some money – if we address the problem early on.

Brake pads and tires get inspected too. Brakes should measure at 2/32 of an inch to pass the state inspection in Virginia. Steve’s Auto Repair recommends having them changed at 3/32 or 4/32 of an inch, depending on the make, model and manufacturer’s recommendations.

Accessible fluids, such as the coolant and windshield washer fluid, are looked over and topped off. Some can become low without you knowing it and could lead to future problems if they are ignored.

If applicable, a tire rotation is included as part of our oil change. This service can prolong the life of tires.

This work comes at no additional cost.

Other ways we take care of your vehicle

While servicing your vehicle, we use floor mats, seats and steering wheel covers to protect the interior.

Do you want to stay up to date on what’s going on with your car? We complete digital inspections, which provide you with photos, videos and notes on the vehicle’s health. These updates will share which components are good, any safety concerns, or maintenance suggestions we have. They are sent via email and text. Therefore, the customer can see what we see.

To schedule your next oil change at Steve’s Auto Repair & Tire, please call (703) 670-8005.

You can drop off your vehicle while we’re open – between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. If you do not want to come into the building, staff members are available to meet you outside.

We also have a night owl night service and a free shuttle service.

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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Causes and signs of oil leaks

In Fluids by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

Oil leaks can occur unexpectedly. 

When they do, you shouldn’t wait long before addressing them.

Oil leak symptoms

A puddle of oil near a car and being low on oil are some signs of an oil leak.

Drivers may also notice engine noise – such as a chattering. 

Possible running conditions could be prompted by a leak, as well.

For example, vehicles that have a variable valve timing are operated by oil pressure. When it’s low on oil, it won’t work correctly and might appear to be struggling or misfiring.

Causes of oil leaks

Different culprits can result in oil leaks. They include:

  • Missing oil filler cap
  • Loose oil drain plug
  • Bad oil filter
  • Damaged oil pan
  • Worn out valve cover gasket

Another possible cause is if the PCV system all vehicles have becomes clogged, putting too much pressure on the seals.

If you think you have an oil leak, you should bring it to a mechanic or auto repair shop as soon as you can. Driving your vehicle on too little oil can damage the engine because the oil can’t lubricate necessary components.

This is also why it’s important to have regular oil changes performed. We recommend oil changes every 3,000 to 5,000 miles. This article we wrote talks about why they’re needed.

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.