Are you buying a “flood car”? Warning signs and how to avoid it

In Inspection, Maintenance, Safetyby Steves Auto Repair and Tire

If you’re in the market for a new vehicle beware of “flood cars,” especially following the devastating hurricanes in Texas, Florida, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.

“‘Flood cars’ are one of the things we saw after 2008, was that the Midwest had their big floods out there through Missouri and Iowa…and Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana,” said Steve’s Auto Repair & Tire Owner ST Billingsley.

Flood cars are vehicles that have been salvaged from disaster areas, which are cleaned up, auctioned, and resold to often unsuspecting consumers across the United States. And in some cases, these cars have clean CarFaxes that don’t even have information about the flood water damage in the vehicle, making it difficult for buyers to make an informed decision.

“There are places that do a really good job of cleaning them up, even to where you can’t even smell where water’s been in it,” said Billingsley.

And buying one of these flood cars can be a costly mistake.

“They have the car, it looks good, it’s what they wanted – and then they’re frustrated because they’re going to the mechanic all the time because of these weird issues,” said Billingsley.

Buyers of these cars will run into issues like their car battery going dead for no apparent reason, the car horn blaring or the doors locking sporadically, rust, and other electrical problems – sometimes intermittently.

According to Billingsley, this is a result of water getting into the wire harness and shorting out terminals and fuse boxes in the car.

“Especially with the way these cars are computer controlled – all of the electronics – there are multiple fuse boxes in all of these vehicles. Some are low, some are high up in the car. When that water sits in there, corrosion starts to build up,” said Billingsley.

While it may be difficult, there are ways to tell if the car you’re interested in may be a flood car.

“When you have the car up in the air, and having somebody looking for items like this…if you just bent down to look, you wouldn’t necessarily see any dirt or any water lines,” said Billingsley.

Trained technicians can spot residual mud and dirt, as well as waterlines underneath the dash, if they have the vehicle up on the rack. There are also voltage tests and related components that can be tested to determine if the car is working properly.

Want to avoid buying a costly flood car? Taking a car you’re interested in to a shop like Steve’s Auto for a pre-purchase inspection is an important step. Our qualified technicians will fully inspect the vehicle from top to bottom, noting any issues or potential issues, and make sure you’ve got as much information as possible as you decide whether or not to continue with the purchasing process.

What is a cabin air filter and an engine air filter? What’s the difference?

In Cabin Air Filter, Maintenance, Safetyby Steves Auto Repair and Tire

“It’s time for a cabin air filter change.” When you hear that, you’re likely wondering what a cabin air filter is and why you have to replace it.

ery dirty cabin air filter

A very dirty cabin air filter, maintenance has not been performed on this vehicle

A cabin air filter is a filter located either behind the glove compartment, under the hood or under the dashboard, depending on your vehicle, and is designed to remove dust, pollen, and other airborne contaminants from the inside of your vehicle.

The cabin air filter will filter air that comes through the vehicle’s HVAC system to make the air cleaner for you. This can be a lifesaver if you’re stuck in airs with lots of traffic or pollution, or if you have allergies. For those suffering from seasonal allergies, keeping your cabin air filter clean can make a big difference.

An engine air filter has a similar purpose to the cabin air filter. An engine air filter helps to keep dirt, buildup, and debris from getting into your vehicle’s engine system. Just like a cabin air filter, over time things build up in the filter that can cause problems for your vehicle down the road if they’re not taken care of.

honda air filter

Honda air filter being checked during an oil change

In order to reap the full benefits of a cabin filter and an engine air filter, you need to make sure it’s swapped out regularly. Just like any filter they get dirty and clogged, and lose their effectiveness over time until they’re replaced.

But how often should you be changing out these filters? It depends on the type of vehicle, your preferences, and the conditions you drive in regularly.

“Both should be checked every oil change and replaced when dusty or dirty,” said Steve’s Auto Repair & Tire Owner ST Billingsley.

So next time you’re getting your vehicle serviced, make sure they check your cabin filter and your engine air filter, and see if they need to be replaced.

 

Car safety tips to keep you on the road this winter

In Safetyby Steves Auto Repair and Tire

We’ve already had some minor snowfall this winter season, and it looks like we’ve got more ahead before spring arrives.

So especially when it comes to your daily commute or rush hour traffic in Northern Virginia, you need to make sure your car is in good shape and is ready for bad weather when it strikes.

Regular maintenance on your vehicle is always advisable – regardless of the time of year – but here are some tips that are especially important for snow and ice on the roads:

Check the tread on your tires.

If you just had a state inspection or your automotive repair shop does a thorough inspection of your vehicle when you come in for a service, chances are that you’d know if the tread on your tires is sufficient. But when it comes to your safety, you should always take a look for yourself, and see if your tires have enough tread. Tread is important because the more tread your tire has, the more traction you’ll have on snowy and icy roads. You never want your tires to be below 2/32nds.

Also check the tires’ air pressure.

Your tires should be regularly checked to make sure they’re properly and fully inflated, but your checks on the air pressure should increase during the winter months. Cold temperatures many times cause tires to lose air pressure, and when tires aren’t properly inflated it can cause flats or other tire damage that can be costly to fix. On the inside of your vehicle door, the manufacturer’s recommended air pressure level is listed. When checking the pressure, make sure your tires are at or near that level.

Make sure you have enough fluids.

In the winter, making sure that your vehicle has enough coolant, window washer fluid, and gas – especially before a storm hits – are very important. Coolant will help your vehicle properly defrost, and you need your windshield wipers able to push away snow or water from your windshield. And if you’re trying to get around in a winter storm, having a full gas tank could be crucial. You should also consider replacing your windshield wipers if they’re getting worn out.

Remove snow and ice from your vehicle before driving.

It sounds simple, but so many drivers do not remove ice and snow from their windshields and the tops and sides of their vehicle before they head out on the road. Taking the extra time to clear your car off will ensure that you know everything is working correctly, and that you won’t be sending sheets of ice and snow off of your car onto the road, potentially hitting other cars or pedestrians.

Make sure to follow these driving and school bus safety tips

In Safetyby Steves Auto Repair and Tire

Today is the first day of school in Prince William County, and that means all of those school buses will be out on the road transporting students.

Here are some important rules for parents and drivers out there, on how to drive and stop when near school buses:school buses

  • If you notice that a school bus is stopped and has flashing red lights and a stop sign on the side of the bust, you need to make sure you stop your vehicle and wait until the bus begins moving again, whether you’re on a highway, private road, or school road. This makes sure that students can exit the bus safely.
  • Even if the signals are not flashing on the bus, if it is letting passengers off, you still need to stop your vehicle and wait for them to safely exit. Sometimes yellow lights on a school bus will start flashing before the red lights, and you need to stop and be aware of these lights as well.
  • If you are on the opposite side of the road as a bus and there is a median or barrier in between, then you are not required to stop your vehicle if a buses’ lights are flashing.

“This time of year, you’re going to have an increase in bus traffic because school’s about to start. It’s really important that, as you drive, you are aware of your surroundings. If you see that you’re approaching a bus, slow down. Take that extra time to maintain that safe distance,” said Officer Nathan Probus with the Prince William County Police Department.

In Virginia, passing a bus when their lights are activated is a misdemeanor crime that can be punishable by up to 12 months in prison, or a $2,500 fine.

Make sure you stay safe and start this school year off right.

Is your car ready for the summer?

In Brakes, Cooling System, Maintenance, Safety, Tires and Wheelsby Steves Auto Repair and Tire

The sun is shining, and it’s almost time for summer. While the summer offers plenty of fun and great weather, it also comes with summertime traffic, and the gridlock and bumper-to-bumper with the Washington, D.C. commute and beach traffic.

Keeping that traffic in mind, you’re going to want to make sure that your car is prepared. Here are some things you should check, to see if your car is ready for the summer.

Make sure your car or trucks air conditioning works good for the summer months

Make sure your car or trucks air conditioning works good for the summer months

Is your A/C blowing cold?

With your heat blasting during the winter months, chances are that you haven’t needed to use the air conditioning – which means that you may be unaware of potential problems with your A/C system. Nothing is worse than trying to head out for a long car ride – or even your morning commute – and realizing that your A/C is blowing hot. If you’ve noticed that your A/C system is blowing warmer than it normally would, it’s good to bring it in and see if there are any leaks, and get replacement or repair done before the thermostat really starts to rise.

Are your brakes ready for stop-and-go?

Is your car ready for the summer?

Front brake pads and rotors need to be checked to ensure proper vehicle braking

We all know that when you live in this area, there are bound to be traffic jams, regardless of the time of year. But with the summer, and all of the vacation and beach traffic in Northern Virginia, bumper-to-bumper can be a real challenge if you’re brakes aren’t in good shape. Having quality brakes that aren’t worn down can make a huge difference in your vehicle’s stopping time, and can be the difference between a hard stop and a fender bender. For our customers we recommend that they change out their brake pads when they’re worn down below 4/32nds.

Make sure you’re cooling system is doing its job.

Is your car ready for the summer?

Make sure your engine cooling system is working properly

When’s the last time you had your cooling system serviced or checked? The cooling system in your vehicle – different from the car’s air conditioning – is important, and needs to be checked on regularly. The cooling system uses a radiator, water pump, and a cooling fan to help create circulation in your car’s engine, allowing it to release heat so that your engine doesn’t become overheated. Especially as the weather gets warmer, all of that heat outside can take a toll on your car’s engine if you don’t care for it properly. Make sure that you’re getting the coolant fluids topped off, and that you’re getting cooling system flushes this summer, to keep from dealing with an overheated engine.

Are your tires worn down?

Is your car ready for the summer?

Make sure your tires are safe, with Goodyear tires

Whether you’ve got winter tires on your vehicle, or you’ve been riding on your all-seasons for a while, you need to be thinking about the condition of your tires as the summer approaches. Just like brakes, the condition of your tires makes a huge difference in your stopping time and speed, as well as the comfort and handling of your drive. At Steve’s we recommend that customers consider replacing their brakes when they’re down below 4/32nds. Especially with all of the bumper-to-bumper traffic ahead, it’s good to make sure that your tires are in excellent condition for the summer.