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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.

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Oil leaks on BMWs

In Fluids by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

Some car problems can be fixed with just one small piece. However, sometimes replacing that part can be more labor intensive than is expected.

Earlier this week, we addressed an oil leak on a BMW. Our customer brought the vehicle in, because they noticed lots of oil loss. They had even gotten into the habit of carrying around jugs of oil, because they knew they had an oil leak but didn’t know where it was coming from. The undercarriage of the car was completely saturated.

The BMW needed a new alternator bracket oil seal, which can harden and become brittle after a period of time. 

To complete this project, our technician had to remove fan components and the alternator. The engine was also lifted up and the engine mounts were taken off. Then, everything was put back together. This process took a number of hours.

Oil seal.

Oil seal

Why oil is important

Different areas of the engine need to be lubricated by oil in order to work properly, and there are oil pressure sensors associated with certain components. This is why it’s important to have regular oil changes performed. 

We recommend this service every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, but the frequency depends on the vehicle and manufacturer recommendations.

A lack of oil in the system may result in an overheating engine or an engine seizing.

What can cause oil leaks?

The oil seal going bad is a common problem among V8 style engines. They can start leaking so badly that the oil gets too low, causing engine damage. The seals will, literally, pump the engine dry. So, when these components go bad it’s very important to have them fixed as soon as possible.

Depending on the location of the leak, it could impact the timing belt, serpentine belt and other parts.

Aside from a bad seal, there are several other issues that can lead to oil leaks, such as a damaged oil pan, worn valve cover gasket, and a clogged PCV system.

You may have an oil leak if you notice engine noise, the oil is low, there’s a puddle of oil – which can be brown, black or yellow – near the vehicle, or the car is experiencing running problems.

The oil pressure light turning on is another indicator to watch out for. It warns you that the oil pressure is decreasing. If you notice this symbol come on, you should safely stop the vehicle and check the oil level. 

Finding oil leaks

If you notice any of these symptoms, reach out to a mechanic or auto repair shop near you. They can help you find the source of the leak early on and prevent it from growing into a bigger problem.

Our process for finding oil leaks varies among vehicles. Our Woodbridge mechanics usually start by inspecting the three main areas oil will leak from – the valve covers, the timing cover, and the oil pan. There are also different parts that need to be checked within those areas.

If the oil leak is widespread, they will clean it off, add UV dye, drive it for a bit, and see where the first spot is.

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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Car alignments: How are they beneficial?

In Alignment by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

If you have been driving for a while and been responsible for making sure your vehicle is taken care of, you may have heard the term “wheel alignment” mentioned. 

It may have been a service that was recommended to you when you bought new tires, or after you hit a curb or pothole.

But what are car alignments? And what is the point behind them? 

An alignment is a form of maintenance where we look at a few specifications – caster, camber and toe. Our Woodbridge mechanics use a new wheel alignment machine that we purchased last year.

This maintenance service is beneficial in several ways.

How car alignments are beneficial

Increases fuel efficiency: With how expensive gas prices can be, it’s worth it to look into ways that you can improve your vehicle’s fuel economy. Tires that are correctly lined up with a car don’t have as much rolling resistance. Less rolling resistance equals better fuel efficiency. Tires tend to drag if they aren’t aligned right, resulting in more tire wear and reduced fuel efficiency.

Prevents tires from wearing unevenly: The tread should be the same across the tire. Having tire alignments performed regularly prevents tires from wearing more on one side or area than another.

Enables tires to last: Alignments also help you get the most out of your tires. A high quality tire will take you at least 45,000 miles, depending on the tire quality, the materials, and the manufacturer. Because tires experience wear and tear on a daily basis, they should receive an annual checkup in the form of tire alignments.

Makes sure the steering capability is right: We recommend an alignment for cars that are having new steering and suspension components installed. Through this process, adjustments can change. So, it’s a good idea to double check this as well as your vehicle’s ability to steer.

Helps safety features work correctly: Does your vehicle use park assist, collision avoidance, or blind spot detection? In order for certain safety features to work right, a vehicle’s alignment needs to be correct. When performing a tire alignment on cars with Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS), our technicians must reprogram parameters after the alignment has been conducted.

How do you know if you need an alignment?

Car alignments offer quite a few perks, but how do you know when you need one? As we have mentioned, it’s a good idea to have this service done once a year, when you get new tires, and after suspension work is performed. 

However, a wheel alignment may also be needed if you notice various indicators, like a car that pulls to one side or the other. Keep in mind that this is also a sign of a bad tire. The road may be causing this to occur, as well. Other symptoms of a bad wheel alignment include the tires wearing unevenly and the steering wheel appearing off-center or crooked.

Have you noticed any of these indicators or any abnormal sounds or behaviors? If so, it may be worth your while to contact a nearby auto repair shop or mechanic.

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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How to tell when you need new tires

In Uncategorized by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

A good set of tires can provide traction in different weather conditions, enable drivers to maintain control, and decrease the chance of hydroplaning. 

Eventually, there comes a time – whether it’s because of age or damage – when a driver needs to purchase new tires.

How often this process takes place is determined by several factors, including how a tire is designed, the quality, its producer, and driving conditions. 

How long tires last and flat repair

When it comes to tires, you get what you pay for. If you decide to save money and go with the cheapest option, you may be changing them more frequently than if you were to choose a high quality tire. 

Some tires have a longer lifespan. Certain ones from Goodyear come with a 50,000 mile warranty, while others can go as long as 85,000 miles.

If this is an important characteristic you’re looking for, then it would be a good idea to research different options or talk to an automotive expert.

Those who travel through a lot of construction areas and on roads that have potholes are more likely to get a flat tire or face tire damage. Here’s what you should do if you have a flat tire.

Depending on the location and angle, we may be able to repair them with a plug patch. However, we aren’t able to fix certain injuries – like those on the inner or outer shoulder.

When should you get new tires?

Blown out tire.Sometimes you can determine if you need new tires just by looking at them, especially if the tire blows out, there are cracks in the sidewall, or you can see the chords.

Tires also wear out overtime and, as they do, they aren’t able to perform the way they are intended to.

The tire tread can tell you if the time to replace them is drawing near.

A tire must measure at least 2/32 of an inch to pass the Virginia state inspection. Because some tires need to be changed sooner, we may start recommending new tires when they reach between 3/32 of an inch and 5/32 of an inch.

You can do a quick measure of the tread through the penny test. The tire should be changed if – as you’re holding the penny upside down on the grooves – the top of Abraham Lincoln’s head is visible.

Taking care of tires

You can ensure that your tires last by having wheel alignments and tire rotations performed regularly.

Tire alignments, done yearly or when new tires are purchased, help prevent uneven tire wear. During this process, various settings are checked, like caster, camber and toe.

Our Woodbridge mechanics conduct tire rotations as part of our oil change service, which is typically every 3,000 to 5,000 miles. Tire rotations prolong a tire’s lifespan and fend off feathering.

If you’re in the market for new tires, Goodyear Tire is a great brand to look into. It produces durable ones, like the Goodyear Assurance MaxLife Tire and the Goodyear Assurance All-Season Tire. The tire manufacturer also owns Kelly Tire and Dunlop Tire, which offer more economical tires.

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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Grinding noise on a Toyota Sienna

In Diagnostics by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

One of our technicians tracked down a grinding noise on a Toyota Sienna this week.

At first, the driver noticed the sound while they were braking. By the time the vehicle reached Steve’s Auto Repair and Tire, it was heard even when the brakes weren’t applied.

Rough spot on brake rotor.

Rough spot on brake rotor

As he took the Toyota on a test drive, the technician heard a growling noise. When it was placed on a lift, he noticed that the tire was loose. The rotor was grinding inside the caliper, and he found a rough spot where it was rubbing.

During a previous visit, we had replaced a wheel bearing. This time, we decided to install a new steering knuckle with a new bearing pressed into it, and a new brake rotor.

New steering knuckle.

New steering knuckle

Sounds are one sign that can hint at a car problem.

What causes a grinding noise or growling sound?

There are many possible issues – aside from wheel bearings – that could lead to grinding noises.

You can get a grinding sound when the brakes pads are low or metal to metal. The noise might be an indicator of sand or dirt between the brake pad and rotor, as well.

Brakes must measure at least 2/32 of an inch to pass state inspection. However, they might need to be replaced earlier, depending on what the manufacturer recommends.

A grinding noise may also occur if certain parts are worn or failing, including:

  • Ac compressor
  • Pulleys
  • Differentials

Growling is another sound that could be heard by travelers.

Problems with the following components may result in growling noises:

  • Water pump
  • Ac compressor
  • Bad bearing or ac compressor clutch
  • Idler pulleys
  • Transmission bearings
  • Wheel hub bearings
  • Transfer case
  • Pinion bearing or carrier bearings on differentials

Some tires can also make a type of growling, especially the bigger truck tires.

Other sounds and noise diagnostics

Grinding and growling are the only sounds that crop up. It isn’t uncommon for drivers to hear other noises, such as squeaking or squealing. 

Squeaky brakes can be caused by the weather – especially if it’s the first thing on a damp, cold morning. Rust build up on brake rotors and cold brake pads are possible causes, as well. Another reason some brakes squeak or squeal is if it’s time for them to be replaced.

The answer to why a car is squealing isn’t limited to the braking system. It could also lie in the suspension. Belts that have become worn or are loose can make a squealing noise.

Crunching sounds may mean that a vehicle’s transmission is failing. Meanwhile, clunking noises can be the result of suspension parts going bad, such as sway bar links, struts mounts and control arm bushings.

To determine the source of a sound, our Woodbridge mechanics perform noise diagnostics

We start the diagnostic testing process by gathering information from the customer (like what was heard and when, and any behaviors). Then, we conduct test drives to see if we can hear it ourselves. This step is followed by recreating the noise and pinpointing 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.