View Post

Shifting problems on a Ford F-150

In Diagnostics, Transmission, Transmission Flush by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

Shifting problems can sometimes occur among vehicles with automatic transmissions. This was the reason why a four-door F-150 pickup truck came into our shop the other week.

The technician who was working on it checked the basics and found that the transmission fluid was low by about three quarts. 

He also looked into Technical Service Bulletins (TSBs) and common problems with these trucks. Through this process, we learned that the seal at the transfer case can go bad, causing the transmission fluid to go into the transfer case. 

A transfer case seal.

Searching for the transmission fluid

We put the vehicle up in the air and – just looking at it – didn’t see any visible leaks for three quarts of transmission fluid to disappear to. 

The technician dug further into the issue to determine what was happening.

As he pulled off the vent hose coming off the transfer case, it started leaking fluid. So, it was probably a day or two before it would have started pushing out of the tube and leaking on the ground.

This is why you shouldn’t go based on outward appearance when performing auto repair. The problem could be hidden behind other parts.

How we solved the problem

This is where the transfer case connects to the transmission on a Ford F-150.

This is where the transfer case connects to the transmission.

So, it was a pretty straightforward fix – we pulled the transfer case off the back of the transmission, replaced the seal, put it back together, and made sure the transmission fluid was topped off. 

A transfer case.

Transfer case

To make sure everything would be good for a while, we put some synthetic transmission fluid in the system and ensured it had the correct amount. Then we performed a flush on the transmission so that it was serviced up and this customer could be on their way again.

Whether you should go ahead and do a transmission fluid flush is based on the mileage and what’s going on with the vehicle.

Transmission fluid exchanges are recommended every 30,000 miles – depending on the vehicle and what the manufacturer suggests. This service cleans out the transmission and enables the component to continue running the way it should. To learn more about transmission fluid exchanges, check out this article we posted.

Certain vehicles may need a transfer case fluid exchange, which extends the transfer case’s lifespan.

Other causes of shifting problems

A bad transfer case seal isn’t the only reason why a vehicle may be experiencing shifting problems.

Trouble switching gears can also be the result of a bad automatic transmission. Other indicators include slipping or a whining noise.

Low fluid or fluid with contaminants in it may result in shifting problems, as well. Keep in mind that fluid doesn’t just go bad. if it has debris in it, that means that something is breaking down within the transmission. 

If the problem is that your car won’t come out of park, there might be something wrong with the shift interlock solenoid (as was the case with a Nissan Altima) or the brake light switch.

There are several possible explanations for why you may be having trouble changing gears. Make sure to have the issue checked out by an automotive professional, so it doesn’t become worse or impact the safety of you and your passengers.

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.

View Post

Exhaust leaks: Make sure to repair them right

In Inspection by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

Choosing to solve a car problem the quick way might not be for the best long term.

A vehicle that was brought to our shop had exhaust muffler paste on a flex pipe. The customer had done this to stop an exhaust leak.

However, there are some problems with the way the leak was addressed.

This repair doesn’t follow Virginia safety inspection guidelines. According to the Virginia state inspection, you aren’t allowed to seal up an exhaust leak using muffler paste. 

This also isn’t a permanent solution. It may work for a little bit. But as the paste heats up and cools down, and you hit bumps in the road, it eventually falls off. Then, you’re back to your original exhaust leak. 

It’s also important that you not solve exhaust leaks with paste because if it did crack when you’re going down the road, those exhaust gasses can build up in the vehicle, which is bad for you.

How to fix exhaust leaks

There are a couple of ways that you can correctly fix an exhaust leak. The first option is replacing the pipe and all the components that are tied to it. You can also sometimes buy flex pipe pieces, cut out the old section, and weld in the new one. 

The only problem you could run into when putting a replacement flex pipe is if the pipes are rusting or are too far gone. You may not be able to weld the parts on and the pipes would need to be replaced.

This person spent a lot of time applying the paste when they could have gone into an auto repair shop and had it fixed legitimately after about an hour or hour and a half of work. 

We see problems on a lot of used cars that people are planning to buy or just purchased. This is one of the reasons why you want someone to take a look at a vehicle you’re buying or a used one that you acquired. By getting it inspected, you can catch things like this. 

What we check during the state inspection

The exhaust system is one of the areas we check during a state inspection. Safety is our main concern, so we make sure there aren’t any problems. 

Audible exhaust leaks are among the issues we keep an eye (or an ear) out for. Sometimes you can see exhaust leaks. If a crack is starting to develop, you might not necessarily hear it – especially when you’re in the car – but you can see the residue on the pipes or the joints as you’re looking at it from underneath.

Our inspectors look over various parts and ensure that they are secure, as well. This extends from the exhaust manifolds coming off the engine to the catalytic converter (or converters – depending on the vehicle there could be anywhere between one and five). Other parts checked include the or O2 sensors, the flex pipes, the muffler, tailpipes, and any joint where it bolts together – whether it’s with a gasket or not.

You can read about other things we look for when inspecting the exhaust system in this article we wrote.

Steve’s Auto Repair performs state inspections and emission tests. Our Woodbridge mechanics also perform digital vehicle inspections as part of our oil change process.

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

Regular oil changes prevent engine problems

In Maintenance by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

Every 3,000 to 5,000 miles – depending on the type of car you drive – you (hopefully) get your oil changed. But have you ever wondered why you need it? 

Having this service performed on a regular basis can prevent engine damage. 

In this article we wrote, we talked about how a vehicle needs to be running on the right amount of oil. Otherwise, parts can’t be lubricated properly. 

Some engine components operate off of oil pressure that is controlled by the vehicle’s computer and oil pressure solenoids. These parts can include variable valve timing and camshaft phasers, which adjust the timing of the camshaft and the engine’s operation. Sensors, such as oil pressure sensors, can also become clogged.

These aren’t the only reasons why oil changes are necessary.

Sludge build up

Sludge that had built up on the engine of a Land Rover.Putting off this form of maintenance can lead to sludge build up. The engine could stop working, as well.

A Land Rover recently came in with a bad starter. While working on the repair, we realized that the engine had seized, which caused the starter to break.

One of our technicians ended up replacing the engine. When it was removed, you could see a significant amount of sludge that had accumulated as time went on.

Oil filter problems

Part of our oil change process includes putting in new oil and a new oil filter. (We also perform a digital inspection, look over the vehicle, and conduct a tire rotation. You can read more about what we do in our article “How Steve’s Auto Repair performs oil changes”.)

An oil filter that had collapsed and a good oil filter.

Problems can occur if the oil filter is in a car for too long. A while back, we worked on a car that had its oil filter collapse. This blocked the oil from running through the system.

Regular canister type oil filters have an oil bypass. So, when the filter gets clogged up, the oil won’t be forced through the filter material. 

On these canister type oil filters, there’s so much suction that they can collapse, like this one did. Then, that oil is just bypassing the filter. Not only did it send contaminants to the engine, but it was left there for so long that pieces of the oil filter were being sucked up into the engine. This can plug small oil galleries and result in an engine failure.

Our maintenance recommendations

Taking care of your vehicle doesn’t just happen with one appointment at an auto repair shop, it needs to be maintained over a period of time.

Make sure to use a high quality oil filter and oil – there are many good brands. This can make a big difference in the longevity of your vehicle.

You can also protect your engine and ensure that it continues performing well by having BG MOA added after an oil change. This oil additive decreases sludge build up and can increase the fuel economy on an automobile.

Aside from having your car checked on a regular basis, it’s important to get to know your car, what it needs, and when it needs it. The owner’s manual is a great place to start. Have oil changes and other services performed based on the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Also, bring it to a mechanic or auto service center you trust. If you don’t understand something, ask questions.

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

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.