View Post

TPMS light: What can cause it to turn on?

In Tires and Wheels by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

Did a dashboard light featuring an exclamation mark turn on? This is the tire-pressure monitoring system (TPMS) light, and it can make you aware of or prevent problems.

The TPMS light is triggered by low tire pressure.

This can occur if:

  • You have a flat tire
  • The temperature has decreased
  • There’s a bad circuit board or battery

We will describe each possibility below.

Reasons why the TPMS light comes on

If your vehicle’s TPMS light turned on, you are probably wondering what’s wrong. There a few explanations why the symbol has appeared on your dashboard.

Flat tire

A flat tire is one possible reason why your tire pressure is low. With all of the construction that’s being completed on I-95 and other Northern Virginia roads, it’s very possible to get a nail lodged in one or multiple tires.

This is probably the case if one (or a couple) of them are lower than the rest and you’ve had to fill it with air multiple times.

If you are in need of tire repair, stop by a nearby auto shop. You may just need a patch plug (which is what we use for flat repair). However, your car may require a new tire, depending on the injury’s location and angle. For more information, check out our article about factors that impact tire repair.

Steve’s Auto Repair & Tire sells all kinds of tires, including Goodyear tires.

Lower temperatures

The weather can play a role in tire pressure, as well. When the temperature outside decreases, so can the pounds per square inch (PSI). This can lead to all of the tires looking a little deflated. 

They may simply need to have their tire pressure checked and be filled back up.

Bad circuit board or battery

There are also deeper problems that can cause the TPMS light to come on.

For direct TPMS systems, all wheels have a sensor in them and are equipped with a circuit board and battery. The TPMS light can come on if the circuit board or battery goes bad.

Indirect TPMS systems, on the other hand, don’t have sensors. Instead, the vehicle reads the ride height. So, if the front right tire is low, it will notice.

Why tire pressure level is important

Making sure that the tire pressure is correct may not seem like a big deal, but it can help you avoid purchasing new tires earlier than you need to.

If a tire doesn’t have enough air in it, you may notice that the sidewalls are wider where it touches the ground. However, it’s possible that you may not see a significant difference between the correct PSI and when it’s too low.

A tire that's a 21.5 PSI compared to 35.5 PSI.For example, in the picture above, you can see a tire that’s at 21.5 PSI and at 35.5 PSI. The lower tire pressure isn’t as noticeable as it may be on other tire or when you have a flat tire. That’s why the TPMS light is so important.

If you wait to fix a tire that doesn’t have enough air in it, the outer edge can wear down more quickly.

You also shouldn’t have too much air, because it can cause damage to the center overtime.

We recommend checking the tire pressure each day and watching for signs that the tires are low. The correct tire pressure should be on the sidewall or the driver’s side door jam.

Make sure to check the tire pressure a couple of times and put the valve stem cap back on when you’re done. 

You may also want to have a personal tire pressure gauge on hand. They can sometimes be more accurate than those set up at gas stations.

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.

View Post

Kinds of car axles used today, bad axle symptoms

In Maintenance by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

A lot of traveling happens between celebrations, fun with family, and day-to-day tasks.

Axles help keep our vehicles moving. So it’s important to make sure that they are in good shape.

Your vehicle may have a bad axle if you notice any of these problems:

  • Shaking steering wheel
  • Clicking noise
  • Noisy u-joints
  • Axle seals are leaking
  • Grease on tires

We will go into more detail later in this article. But first, let’s discuss the different kinds of car axles that can be found on vehicles nowadays.

Each vehicle is designed with different purposes and capabilities. The type of axle yours has is determined by a few different factors.

Types of car axles

The axles typically seen on automobiles today are: CV Axles, Straight Axles and Rear Axles.

Constant-Velocity Axles (CV) Axles

Constant-Velocity (CV) Axles are the first we will talk about. They feature CV joints that allow the front wheels to be equally operated by the transmission. 

A lot of cars that have front wheel drive and certain four-wheel drive ones feature CV Axles.

You may see them on vehicles with independent suspension, including the front of 4-wheel drive trucks and Subarus with all wheel drive. 

Sometimes, two kinds of axles are used. For example, CV Axles might be used on the front of a truck while Solid Axles are installed on the rear.

Straight Axles

Straight Axles are the next type we are going to discuss. Used on different suspensions, Straight Axles come with a simple design.

Years ago, these axles were pretty common among automobiles. Today, their usage is mainly limited to heavy duty trucks and the front of work vehicles. Jeeps and trucks that are lifted or used for offroading may have Straight Axles, as well.

U-joints can be found on the front of certain four wheel drive Jeeps. These parts make rotating the wheels possible.

Rear Axles

Lastly, there are Rear Axles. They have axle shafts that the differential links. 

Rear Axles come in varying designs – semi-floating, which can be seen on cars, light trucks and SUVs; and full-floating axles, which tend to be installed on heavy duty and certain mid-size trucks.

In the semi-floating axle design, the wheel and flange are attached by the axle. Meanwhile, full-floating axles rest on bearings and are held in by a retainer on the outside.

How to tell when axles are going bad

Earlier, we mentioned some bad axle symptoms. We would like to provide a deeper explanation about these different indicators.

Shaking steering wheel

A shaking steering wheel can be the result of the CV joint on a front wheel drive axle binding up due to lack of lubrication or wearing out. U-joints that go from the axles to the spindles on older jeeps with a straight axle on the front may bind up, as well.

Clicking noise

You could also hear a “click” while turning or accelerating. The CV joint might start making a clicking noise when it’s worn out from daily use. If the CV boot is broken or torn, water can get in, preventing the grease from working properly. If it’s really torn, sand and dirt start to collect and act as sandpaper. This causes it to wear out more quickly. You get the clicking noise when making a turn because it’s starting to bind up.

Noisy u-joints

Clicking isn’t the only sound you might hear. For vehicles that have straight axles, a squeaking sound can be coming from the u-joints.

Axle seals are leaking

On a front wheel drive car, axle seals would be in the transmission. If you have a bad axle that’s causing a vibration or bouncing up and down more than it should, that could make the seal go bad faster.

Grease on tires

When an axle boot tears, grease leaks out and can sometimes land on the tire. This is why it’s good to go to an auto repair shop that looks over different components of the vehicle to catch things like this. It may not be something you see just by looking at it at ground level.

Ways you can take care of axles

As with other parts of a car, maintenance allows the car axles and components associated with them to last.

This includes getting the CV Axle boots and the vent cap of Solid Axles inspected regularly.

U-joints should be checked and greased (when necessary), as well.

It’s also important that those who drive vehicles with straight axles ensure that auto repair shops and professionals use the correct kind of differential fluid when servicing them.

If you believe that there is something wrong with your car axles or you find out they’re going bad, don’t avoid replacing them.

The problem can worsen the longer it goes without being addressed. Plus, the consequences could extend to other areas of the car.

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.

View Post

Starting problem on Buick

In Diagnostics by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

The case of a mysterious starting problem has been closed. Like many repairs, the issue required some digging.

Our Woodbridge mechanics recently worked on a Buick Lacrosse that refused to start.

At first, the issue was occurring intermittently. Our customer would turn the key and it may not have “caught” to start the vehicle. 

Eventually, it reached the point that every time the driver would turn the key they could hear the starter trying to engage. However, it just sounded like it was spinning and nothing was happening. So, they had the vehicle towed to Steve’s Auto Repair.

What was causing the starting problem?

When we looked into the starting problem, we found that the teeth on the flywheel were chewed up. For some reason, the bushings in the starter were going bad and bouncing up and down. As they did, they would sometimes chip off the top edge of the flywheel. 

Bad bushing in starter.

Over a period of time, it just kept wearing down and the gap continued to grow bigger. Instead of having one or two teeth chewed up, it became five or six. As the engine stopped, it would be in about the same spot but the starter gear wouldn’t engage the gear on the flywheel.

A good flywheel and a flywheel that was chipped by a bad starter bushing.

In order to replace the flywheel, we needed to take the transmission out. Our technician also changed the starter, which was the original cause of the problem.

A clicking noise when starting a vehicle and a slight grinding sound can be signs that you need a new starter.

What is a car flywheel?

The flywheel is a big disc that is attached to the engine, and the torque converter for the transmission is connected to the flywheel. This partnership between the flywheel, engine and torque converter allows power to transfer from the engine to the transmission.

Some flywheels have slots that help produce the signals for crankshaft position sensors and other computer inputs. This is not the case as much as it used to be, but some cars still may have them.

This Buick has an automatic transmission. The flywheel on a manual transmission is much thicker, because the pressure plate and clutch disc bolt up against the flywheel. 

So, as you push in the clutch it disengages from the flywheel from where the engine is spinning. Then, as you let out on the clutch, it engages the flywheel to help transfer that power from the engine to the manual transmission. Those flywheels are generally much thicker so they are able to take the heat and transfer the power.

Problems to watch out for

If you hear noises that don’t sound right when you’re starting your car – maybe it’s making a bit of a grinding noise – you will want to get it looked at soon. That way you can avoid a costly repair – like removing the transmission to replace the flywheel, rather than just installing a new starter. A repair that could have cost a few hundred dollars is now a couple thousand dollars.

Make sure to also note if your car seems to be having trouble turning over, or if it seems to be cranking more slowly than usual. 

Electronics not working right and the battery light turning on – possible signs of an alternator going bad – are other problems to keep an eye out 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.

View Post

Are you doing illegal things while driving?

In Safety by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

A lot happens behind the wheel. In order to safely reach their destination, motorists need to monitor other road users and be prepared to take action at a moment’s notice.

An important part of using the road is avoiding doing illegal things while driving. So, what’s considered illegal? We’re here to provide some examples, some of which you may not know about.

Distracted driving has become a major problem. Drivers can easily become preoccupied by talking to other passengers, helping their children, or using technology. This pulls their attention away from the task at hand and increases their chance of getting into an accident.

In 2020, more than 3,100 people died because of distracted driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Around 424,000 people across the United States were injured as a result of distracted driving in 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Some types of distractions are listed below.

Examples of distracted driving


In Virginia, it is illegal to hold a handheld device while driving. However, that doesn’t stop travelers from using them to perform various tasks, such as texting. Some of us have seen people swerving and – when we pull up next to them at a light – notice that they are typing out a message, even with children in the car.

Recording TikTok videos

Using social media is another task people perform while behind the wheel. TikTok has grown in popularity over the years. So has many of the trends associated with the platform. To be a part of it, some people will record TikTok videos while driving. 

Eating and drinking

It doesn’t seem like there’s enough time in the day and, sometimes, we use driving as our chance to catch up on tasks, especially when we’re running late. A lot of people will temporarily take their eyes off the road to eat or drink something.

Focusing on your appearance

Are you having a bad hair day? Is your makeup smudged? These are some concerns we may have when heading to a presentation for work or trying to look our best for someone special. So, we tend to do them on our way to our destination.

Illegal activities aren’t limited to distracted driving. There are also various tasks that are performed on the road when drivers aren’t looking at a screen, or taking care of their physical needs.

Other illegal things while driving

Speeding through school zones

We see it all the time – motorists driving quickly through school zones, despite the flashing yellow lights indicating that the speed limit is 25 miles per hour. Remember, during the times listed on school zone signs, the reduced speed comes into play. 

Not clearing your windshield

We were a bit surprised to find that having a dirty windshield is against the law. But it makes sense when you think about it. Not having a clear windshield makes it more difficult to see and is, therefore, unsafe.

Hanging items from the rearview mirror

A lot of people have things – graduation tassels, for example – hanging from the rearview mirror. Like a large crack in the windshield, it’s illegal to hang objects from the mirror because it’s obstructing the driver’s vision.

Trash on the side of the road.

Throwing items out the window

If you’re paying attention, you may see litter on the side of the road. Throwing items – whether it’s cigarette butts, fast food containers or dirty diapers – out the car window is another illegal thing that people do, sometimes without even thinking about it.

Driving without a front bumper

There are many components your vehicle needs for you to drive it legally. You’re supposed to have a front and rear bumper that is rated for a certain crash and mile per hour. Putting up a 4-by-4 board may not be legal in your state.

There are some ways you can drive more safely (and legally). 

Steps you can take

We’ve explained a lot of things that are illegal to do while driving. But is there anything that can be done to better protect yourself and your passengers? Here are a few things you can do to make your travels less distracting and more safe:

  • Create rules for yourself and your kids to follow when you’re behind the wheel
  • Get an app that lets people who are calling you know that you’re driving
  • Make sure that you can see clearly while driving and your vehicle is following Virginia safety inspection standards

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.

View Post

Subframe replacement on Volkswagen Beetle

In Alignment by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

At times, you can’t tell that there is a problem with a car just by looking at it. An issue may not be found until it’s brought into an auto repair shop.

This was what happened with a Volkswagen Beetle our Woodbridge mechanics recently worked on. It had slid into a curb on the rear left side, and the driver wanted to have the vehicle checked out.

When you were looking at it, the car didn’t appear to have any problems. However, once it was put up on the alignment machine, you could see that the caster and camber in the rear were out of specification. Caster refers to how the tires are angled toward the front or rear of a vehicle, and camber means how they are angled in or out. There were no more adjustments that we could do to compensate for it.

Impact damage on a subframe vs a good subframe.

Taking a quick glance at the subframe, it didn’t look like it was damaged that much. But if you look at the side-to-side picture, you can see where – from the impact – the paint is chipped and it looks a bit rusty. That’s why, in this particular case, subframe replacement was needed to bring everything back into the correct specifications.New subframe.

Subframe replacement process

Sometimes, you can adjust the toe – which is how far to the left or right the tires are from a car’s center – on the rear of these vehicles. Some vehicles even have different kits you can put in as a lower control arm or upper control arm that have built in adjustments. But not all the time. This one is just a standard lower control arm, springs, upper control arm that keeps everything in alignment.

Lower control arm and coil spring.

In this particular case, the subframe bolts to the bottom of the chassis and all of the components – such as the upper control arm, lower control arm, springs, tie rod ends, steering knuckles, and even all the brackets for the brake lines and (Anti-lock Braking System) ABS sensor wiring – are attached to the subframe of this Volkswagen Beetle.

Fortunately, it has a rear subframe, which is replaceable. Some vehicles don’t have that. Yes, this project was a little bit of work, but that made it easier to bring it back into correct specifications.

When and why to get regular wheel alignmentsArrow pointing to subframe.

This is another reason why you should get your wheel alignment checked every year, especially here in Northern Virginia. With the conditions of the roads, the potholes, the constant construction that’s going on, you would be surprised by how much of a hit your suspension takes in day-to-day driving.

Other than annually, we recommend car alignments when new tires are installed or suspension work is performed.

You should also get it checked if your vehicle feels like it’s pulling to one side, you notice that the tires are wearing unevenly, or the steering wheel appears to be crooked.

Tire alignments are beneficial in several ways. In addition to preventing premature tire wear, this process can help improve a car’s fuel economy and ensures that its steering capability is correct.

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.