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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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Headlight restoration and replacement: What is the right option?

In Headlamps by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

It’s that time of the year where darkness falls at about 5 p.m. The roads are flooded with headlights as numerous commuters venture home and to post work activities.

With the longer nights of late fall and winter setting in, it’s very important to make sure that your car’s lights function correctly.

This includes the headlights, brake lights, reverse lights and tag lights.

By confirming they’re in good working order, you improve your ability to see. This is necessary even more so if you’re traveling on dark, windy roads where deer are more prevalent.

Taking care of any malfunctioning lights also ensures you’re visible to others, which prevents avoidable accidents.

Headlight restoration

Sometimes, car lights simply need to become clearer.

Over a period of time, a headlight’s clear coat fades, giving a foggy appearance.

Headlight restoration on a Honda.This may not seem to be a big deal, but it could cause the vehicle to fail the Virginia Safety Inspection. Headlights that are too hazy might mess up the pattern of the beam.

If you’re just trying to get through the state inspection, headlight restoration may be the right option for you. This service is offered at our Woodbridge auto repair shop. 

Certain products can be used to clear up hazy headlights for a short period of time.

Our automotive technicians perform headlight restoration by removing the old clear coat on the lens using different levels of sandpaper. A clear coat is added once there is a smooth finish.

This method of restoring headlights could improve their clarity for a year or longer.

Headlight replacement

Headlight restoration can be a helpful and cost-effective service that drivers may benefit from. However, it’s a temporary solution.

In the long run, you’re better off replacing the headlights. And, in some cases, you might not have a choice.

Headlight assembly.

Eventually, cracks can develop in the lights, wires go bad, and new assemblies need to be installed.

As they get older, the plastic connectors can collect moisture, and the contacts where you plug them in will corrode. When you get a bad power or bad ground, too much heat will be generated. This can lead to the contact melting off the headlight.

Some of the headlights on today’s vehicles are LED and HID. Instead of changing the bulb, you need to replace the entire assembly.

Other problems include the lights becoming too dim from daily use or not aligning correctly.

Headlights should last at least 5 to 10 years, but it depends on what they’re made out of and driving conditions. For example, if you live at the beach, the salty air will sandblast the headlights and shorten the lifespan. 

To be allowed on the road, headlights must have an SAE stamp. This usually comes with a number behind it. Sometimes, the cheap headlights won’t have approval numbers on them. So, if you go on for an inspection and the inspector sees an aftermarket headlight assembly without SAE markings, the vehicle would fail state inspection.

Remember, cheap doesn’t alway mean good. You want to make sure you have a high quality lens so it lasts.

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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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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Are your vehicle’s headlights clear?

In Headlamps, Inspection, Safety by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

Traveling during late hours can be stressful and dangerous.

Addressing hazy headlights can improve safety and visibility.

Over time, a vehicle’s headlamps can grow foggy as their clear coat finish wears off and the headlight cover becomes pitted.

Steve’s Auto Repair and Tire in Woodbridge has the ability to restore them.

Restoring and replacing headlights

According to Steve’s Auto Repair and Tire Manager Jon Conner, changing a headlight cover can fix the issue. Some lights must be replaced entirely.

“You can make an appointment with us and we will evaluate the headlights on your car, truck or SUV and give you a recommendation if they can be restored or need to be replaced,” Conner said.

The headlamps don’t just impact a driver’s safety or ability to see at night. They can also cause issues in an annual check up.

“During a state inspection, headlights are checked for alignment and for candle power — or how bright they are,” Conner said. “For example, the headlights might require an 8,000 candlepower rating to pass the inspection. If it gets to low, you can actually fail it.”

Our article about headlights and the Virginia safety inspection talks about other problems inspectors look 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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3 things to watch out for with all this rainy weather

In Headlamps, Safety, Tires and Wheels, Windshield Wipers by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

It’s been raining for several days now, and you’re probably wondering when it’s going to end. While we can’t predict the weather or make the rain go away, what we can do is tell you about things you should be on the lookout for with all of this rainy weather.

Check to see how your windshield wipers are doing

Your car’s windshield wipers see a lot more use when there’s rain for long stretches of time, and eventually like all things do, the wipers will wear out with frequently use. Having worn out windshield wipers can be a hazard, particularly at night or when there’s heavy rainfall, because they’re not as effective at removing the water from your windshield. They can also leave streaks and splotches that can make it difficult to see on the road. If you notice that your windshield wipers aren’t working very well, stop in and we can get those fixed quickly for you.

Headlights on a Toyota.

Check to see if you have a headlight out even daytime running lights can burn out.

Are your headlights working?

Much like the windshield wipers, if you’re using your headlights during the day and night because of gloomy and dark conditions, then you could see that one of your headlight bulbs has gone out. Sometimes people don’t notice that a headlight is out until it’s dark and they’re visibility is impaired, and that’s not the time when you want them to stop working on you. Checking your headlights regularly, especially during long stretches of rainy weather, is an easy way to see if your headlight bulbs need to be replaced.

Do your tires help you to stop in rainy weather?

Tire worn down to the tread bar indicators.

Worn tire down to the tread bar indicators definetly time to change these tires.

Regardless of the conditions outside or the tires you have, over time your tires will wear down from frequent use on the road. You want to make sure that your tires are at safe wear levels even when it’s sunny and bright, but days when it’s raining or snowing are really when you need those tires the most, as they’re what gives you traction and helps you to stop safely on the road.

New tires with deep grooves.

New tires have deep grooves and sipes to channel water away to keep you safe on the road.

Now is definitely a good time to check the tread depth on your tires, and make note of how good your car’s traction is on the road. If your tread depth is worn, it could be time for a new set of tires, or you may risk sliding around on the road in wet conditions.

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.