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Suspension sounds and what causes them

In Uncategorized by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

Is there a new sound you have started to hear when driving? It could be coming from your car’s suspension system.

Many parts make up this system and eventually wear out from daily use.

Different components and conditions can result in certain noises and symptoms.

Suspension sounds may be anything from a squeaking sound to a knocking or popping noise.

Different suspension sounds you may hear

Jeep Grand Cherokee tie rod ends.

Tie rod ends

Squeaking noise

If you hear a squeaking sound, there may be a problem with the pitman arms or tie rod ends. 

Typically found on older vehicles and trucks, pitman arms connect with the drag link. Worn tie rod ends and those that are moving a lot can “clunk” as the wheel moves.

Clunking sound

Tie rod ends aren’t the only reason you might notice a clunking noise.

Ford F-150 ball joint replacement.

Ball joint

This sound could also occur if a ball joint slips from the steering knuckle. Idler arms and broken sway bar end links can be behind the sound, too.

Knocking noise

A knocking sound may stem from other components.

Worn control arm bushings on a Toyota Sienna.

Worn control arm bushings

The noise could indicate that you have worn or missing control arm bushings. They usually make a knocking noise as you drive. You might hear a “thunk” when you turn.

Another source of a knocking sound are bearings on strut mounts. These parts can create it when they’re worn.

Fiat 500 worn sway bar links.

Sway bar links

A rattling noise might be related to sway bar links or sway bar bushings when they are wearing out.

Other sounds

Clunking, knocking and squeaking aren’t the only noises that are caused by the suspension system.

A clanking sound might occur with certain setups if they don’t have spring isolators. These rubber spaces, located between the strut and strut mount, are responsible for making sure the coil spring doesn’t move. If the isolators aren’t there and the spring shifts, you could hear clanking while turning.

For other systems, worn coil springs can lead to an occasional popping sound as you hit bumps.

It’s important to note that some noises may appear to be suspension sounds but are coming from a different area of the vehicle.

For example, a wheel bearing that’s wearing out can make a knocking or thumping noise at certain angles. In extreme conditions, a tire with a broken steel belt or something lodged in it can also make noise.

Addressing suspension noises

Whatever the cause of the noise turns out to be, it’s worth looking into.

When you notice a sound that you don’t remember hearing before, have an automotive expert look into the problem soon. 

Taking notes about the kind of noise you hear, when it’s occurring, and where the sound seems to be coming from can help narrow down the search. This could also get your vehicle back to you sooner.

If there’s any other relevant information (even if it seems insignificant), make sure to share that with the repair shop too. It could be the final clue that solves the mystery.

When performing noise diagnostics, our automotive technicians take the car on a test drive. Then – using information provided by the customer – they try to recreate the noise and pinpoint its location.

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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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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How to change a flat tire

In Uncategorized by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

Does your car’s tire look like the picture above? If it does, the tire will need to be replaced.

In some cases – like when you’re in the breakdown lane on I-95 – it’s probably best (and safer) to call a tow truck and have the car brought to a nearby auto repair shop.

But if you’re in a parking lot or your driveway and you have the needed tools, you can change the tire yourself.

One of our technicians installed a spare tire on a Volkswagen Beetle the other week after another employee realized she had a flat tire on her way to work. 

How to change a flat tire

Before you begin to change a flat tire, you should have these items on hand:

  • Spare tire or new tire
  • Bottle jack or jack stand
  • Wheel chock
  • The wheel lock key (if your tires require it)
  • A tire pressure gauge

Chocking the wheels on a Volkswagen Beetle.It’s ideal that you also have a safety cone, triangle, or flare.

When you go to change a flat tire, turn your four-way flashers on. That way, other people can see you. If possible, try to replace it on a flat surface.

Then, you will want to set up the cone, triangle or flare, and chock your wheels. We recommend chocking wheels on the opposite side from the flat tire. For example, if the front driver’s side tire needs to be changed, it’s a good idea to chock the rear passenger tire. This is because the weight falls on this wheel when you lift the car up and over.

Once you have completed these safety measures, you are ready to change the tire.

Using a jack on a Volkswagen Beetle.Step 1: Set the jack

Start the tire replacement by setting up whatever jack you have available. It’s ideal if you can lift the car from the frame or pinch weld. Begin taking weight off the vehicle. 

Side note: It’s important that you make sure the bottle jack is steady and able to support the car’s weight. You can test this by lifting the vehicle all the way up, and give it a little rock to confirm it’s solid. Drop it back down so the rubber sits on the road.

Step 2: Remove the lug nuts

As you’re taking weight off the car (and before the tire is lifted) start taking off the lug nuts. This will prevent the tire from spinning when you go to take it the rest of the way off. 

Step 3: Put on the spare tire or new tire

Adding lug nuts to a spare tire.Take all of the lug nuts off and remove the flat tire. Make sure to have a spare tire ready. The less time you are on that jack, the better. You can’t control tractor trailers coming down the highway, which blows a lot of wind. If you’re on a bad jack or crooked spot, you want to be quick about it.

Step 4: Replace the lug nuts

Quickly replace a few of the lug nuts, hand tight. Then add the other two before dropping the vehicle down. You should put the lug nuts on in a star pattern the best that you can by hand.

Step 5: Check the tire pressure

Checking tire pressure on spare tire.Before heading down the road, make sure you look at the tire pressure of the new or spare tire using a tire pressure gauge. 

You can find information about how much a tire requires on the sidewall or the driver’s side door jam. If the tire pressure is a little low, you can fill it up at many gas stations.

If you’re not on a full size tire, you’ll want to go to your auto repair shop as soon as possible. The recommended miles for a donut spare is typically 50 miles. It’s also important that you look at the sidewall for the maximum speed limit. For some donut spares, you shouldn’t drive more than 55 miles per hour.

Items to keep in your car

With the winter months around the corner, it’s a good idea to keep several items in your vehicle, in case of an emergency.

These include:

  • Water
  • A blanket
  • Jumper cables
  • A shovel
  • A flashlight
  • A first aid kit

These can come in handy if your car battery dies, or if you’re stranded on the side of the road and it’s going to take a while for the tow truck to arrive.

Steve’s Auto Repair & Tire is an authorized Goodyear tire dealer located near Manassas, 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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Getting your car cooling system ready for winter

In Cooling System by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

As the cooler months set in, many are beginning to think about upcoming family gatherings, festivities, and tasks that need to be completed before the end of the year. 

In the midst of the holiday season, car maintenance can be overlooked.

Many changes occur with the drop of temperatures. It’s important to make sure that your vehicle is ready.

Checking the coolant level

Looking over the fluid levels is one of our winter preparation recommendations. Coolant is among the fluids that you should check.

Antifreeze, which travels between the engine and radiator, prevents an engine from overheating. Ensuring that it’s at the right level helps point out any present coolant leaks.

There are different kinds of coolant leaks.

You can have an external leak, which has to do with a radiator, coolant hose or engine gasket. Internal leaks may be related to a bad head gasket or a cracked cylinder head. In this case, coolant could be burning out through the tailpipe. If the radiator cap isn’t sealing right, water could be steaming out of the cooling system over a period of time.

If coolant is leaking, checking the fluid level allows you to address the problem before it gets worse – or before you find yourself stranded with an overheating car.

The right coolant for your car cooling system

Different types coolant for car cooling systems.In addition to reviewing the coolant level, it’s crucial to make sure the right type of antifreeze is being used in your car cooling system.

There is a misconception that antifreeze is green, and that green means good. In reality, coolant comes in an array of colors, including red, pink, orange and blue. 

The kind that should be used depends on the car and the metal its engine is made with. Certain kinds of metal require specific types of antifreeze. 

For example, red coolant is typically used on Toyotas. Meanwhile, the antifreeze that a European vehicle needs may be blue or a green that appears yellow.

When an auto repair shop or automotive professional is performing any cooling system repairs or work on your vehicle, confirm that they are using the right, high quality coolant.

Temperature protection level

You also need antifreeze with a good temperature protection level.

Coolant temperature range chart.If you go to the store, 100 percent antifreeze is one of the options available. You may also buy a 50/50 mix, which is 50 percent antifreeze and 50 percent water. This combination can bring the temperature protection level to as low as negative 34 F and up to 265 F. 

Depending on where you are in the country and the world, you may mix a little more water or a little less water to adjust the temperature protection level. The protection level for those traveling in Canada will differ from Florida drivers.

It’s important to note that you want to use distilled water, not tap water. Sometimes, the minerals in the hard water can actually break down or kill the organic materials in some of the antifreezes. That could lead to other problems, such as sludging.

As you prepare for the colder months, make sure your car cooling system is taken care of and that you have a knowledgeable automotive expert you can take your car to, in case an unexpected problem arises.

Steve’s Auto Repair & Tire is an authorized Goodyear tire dealer located near Dumfries, 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.