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Signs that your vehicle needs a new turbocharger

In Diagnostics by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

A lot of newer vehicles today are coming with smaller engines.

To run the air conditioning, computers, and electronics, extra power is needed. Turbochargers provide that support.

This component takes pressure from the exhaust that spools up and forces air into the intake. That adds power. Then, the car adds more fuel, resulting in more boost.

Sometimes, turbochargers need to be replaced.

We recently installed a new one on a BMW that had its check engine light turn on.

While working on the vehicle, the technician realized that the wastegate had gone bad. As you’re driving down the road, the turbo puts pressure into the engine through the intake. When you let off the gas and are decelerating, that pressure has to go somewhere. The wastegate operates as a pressure relief valve, allowing the pressure from the turbo to go off without damaging the engine.

He determined this was the problem because the turbocharger going bad is a common issue with BMWs. Work had also been done on this vehicle previously.

A couple of years ago, we replaced the wastegate solenoid.

At the time, we thought the turbocharger may need to be replaced at some point. Installing a new solenoid was a cheaper option that we hoped would address the issue.

How to tell if you need a new turbocharger

The check engine light turning on is one symptom that a new turbocharger is needed. This light can be triggered if your turbo doesn’t hit the pressure it’s supposed to.

Keep in mind that a check engine light can come on for many reasons. It doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a problem with the turbocharger. 

You may also notice the engine making a whining noise and loss of power.

Blue or gray exhaust smoke is another indicator.

What causes it to go bad?

There are various reasons why turbochargers stop working. 

Not having enough oil and using dirty oil or the wrong type are the most common causes. These newer cars are very oil specific, because the turbo continues to run after the engine is off and it needs to be lubricated.

The turbocharger can also go bad simply from everyday use and if dirt, rocks and other debris enter it.

A “turbo underboost” code could indicate that the turbo is going bad. However, that isn’t always the case. When we get this code, our technicians determine the location of the boost leak by performing a smoke test on the turbo and intercooler.

Sometimes, the turbo is bad. However, we need to check that, because there may be a leak between the turbo and boost sensor.

Ways to maintain your vehicle’s turbocharger

Turbochargers are expensive. So, it’s important to make sure they’re maintained.

Regular oil changes are one way to take care of turbocharged engines. We recommend this service every 3,000 to 5,000 miles.

It’s also a good idea to give your engine time to warm up before heading to your next destination and allowing it to cool down afterward.

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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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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Why you shouldn’t store napkins in your car’s glove box

In Cabin Air Filter, Cooling System by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

It’s time to turn on the air conditioning.

But when one of our customers did, they heard a noise. This led them to bring their Town & Country to Steve’s Auto Repair & Tire. We found a few problems during our investigation.

First of all, a shop that had previously worked on the vehicle hadn’t properly installed the door for the cabin air filter.

The second issue was that napkins and some peanuts that were in the glove box had gotten sucked into the blower motor. 

Our employees also found a very dirty cabin air filter that appeared to have been chewed on by a squirrel or mouse.

The problems were addressed and the driver is back on the road. However, based on this situation, there are a few recommendations we would like to pass on.

Take your car to a mechanic or repair shop you can trust

Overtime, you invest a fair amount of money in your vehicle – through oil changes, inspections, mileage-based services, new parts that go bad through daily use … You get the point.

You also most likely drive it each week (if not daily), and don’t want to end up stranded on the side of the road or in an unsafe situation. 

With that in mind, it’s important to make sure you’re taking it to a professional who knows what they’re doing. 

Yes, this may mean spending more money on a service that you could try to figure out on your own. However, going to a reliable mechanic or auto repair shop can not only give you ease of mind, it also saves you time and can help prevent expensive repairs in the future.

Don’t keep lightweight paper in the glove box

It’s OK to store items, like an owner’s manual, in the glove box. However, we suggest that you avoid keeping napkins and lightweight paper in it.

The blower motor is drawing in air and sometimes if it’s not sealed quite right it will suck up those items.

We recommend that you store them in the center console, where there isn’t a vacuum or fan that’s bringing in air that will circulate throughout the vehicle.Dirty cabin air filter.

Change out your cabin air filter regularly

Cabin air filters, which purify the air that enters a vehicle, become dirty and need to be changed on a regular basis. This interval depends on a few factors, including the make and model of a car as well as driving conditions.

Drivers who live on a dirt road will probably need to replace it more often than those who mainly use major roads and the highway.

Keeping bacteria, dirt, dust and pollen out of your vehicle is one perk of changing out the cabin air filter. It can also prevent the heating core and evaporator from becoming clogged.

When performing this service, our technicians can also spray BG Frigi Fresh into the vent system. You can read more about the disinfectant and replacing the cabin air filter in this article we wrote

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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Brake fluid exchanges maintain brake system, components

In Brake Fluid Flush, Brakes by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

The brake fluid in today’s cars, trucks and SUVs are under greater pressure and heat than ever before. This is simply from normal wear and tear.

In order for a vehicle to stop, the brake pads clamp against the brake rotors, which are connected to the wheels. The calipers hold the pads.

As you brake – which is often if you live or travel through Northern Virginia – a lot of moisture and heat is generated.

Regular brake fluid exchanges help maintain this system and its components.

Benefits of a brake fluid exchange

Moisture in the brake system can lead to corrosion. Flushing the brake fluid removes moisture and prevents corrosion from forming on components, including the calipers.

This service also helps your anti-lock braking system (ABS) last longer and restores the brake pedal so it feels firm.

If you put off a brake fluid exchange, the internal seals can wear out prematurely. The inside of soft brake hoses may also degrade, making it difficult for brake fluid to get where it needs to. 

Bleeders could become rusted overtime from not being adjusted.

How often to get this service

Steve’s Auto Repair recommends brake fluid exchanges every 30,000 miles. The time between each flush does differ among vehicles. Some manufacturers suggest this service be performed more frequently. 

Cars with systems that are run by computers, for example, may require them on 18 month or 24 month intervals. By looking at the owner’s manual, you can confirm what services your vehicle needs and when.

Mileage isn’t the only factor to consider when it comes to brake fluid flushes. You should also keep an eye out for certain symptoms that let you know the fluid needs to be replaced.

One indicator is dark fluid that contains rubber particles that have worn off the ABS or master cylinder. A soft brake pedal is another sign. This occurs when moisture that has collected in the brake system is boiling.

We can check the brake fluid with a test strip, which tells us if there are metal contaminants. Sometimes you may not be able to see metal contaminants in the brake fluid reservoir. If you see black specs, that normally has to do with pieces of the rubber seals. 

Another test that can be done is testing for moisture in the system. That would tell you if you have too much water in the system. The water can boil under extreme braking and cause a brake pedal fade. 

A lot of pen testers we have found don’t do a very good job, so we stopped using them.

Cars that have electric brakes don’t need a brake fluid exchange.

Brake fluid flush process

We replace old brake fluid with new brake fluid when performing a brake fluid flush. This is done using a machine that’s hooked up to the master cylinder. New fluid is added to the machine and the old fluid is removed by going to each wheel.

Our technicians use BG DOT 4 Brake Fluid. This product hinders rust and moisture from building up and preserves the brake system.

When in bumper to bumper traffic, you should feel confident as you step on the brake. Brake fluid exchanges are something you can do to take care of the system, preventing expensive repairs and keeping you and your family safe.

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.