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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 aren’t 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.

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Engine replacement on a Volvo Cross Country

In Diagnostics by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

Usually, we’re able to determine the cause behind an engine problem. But a Volvo Cross Country is leaving us scratching our heads.

The customer noticed the red oil light come on as she was driving and pulled into a local parts store. The employees checked the oil level and said it was full. Upon hearing this, the customer drove down to our Woodbridge auto repair shop. 

By the time she reached Freedom High School and Northern Virginia Community College on Neabsco Mills Road, the engine shut off. Remaining calm during what can be a very stressful situation, she switched it into neutral and coasted down the hill and into our parking lot.

Because the engine locked up, engine replacement is necessary.

Engine lockup causes

An engine lockup can occur when there is a failure of various parts, like the spun bearing, crankshaft or wrist pin.

Why did this engine lock up? We don’t have the answer.

The driver has regular maintenance performed and takes care of her vehicle very well. This situation is also shocking, because that’s a very reliable engine that tends to see very high mileage before failing. It’s currently sitting at a little more than 100,000 miles.

When engines lock up, sometimes you’re able to determine what the lock up is from, but you don’t always know.

Our guess in this case is that the problem has something to do with the spun bearing and it just creates too much resistance for the engine to turn.

Engine replacement using salvage yard engine

Because of the car’s age, we are using a salvage yard engine. When we have to use parts like that, we want to get them from reputable salvage yards. 

The one we received this one from specializes only in Volvos. So, they took it out without damaging anything and they know how to take them apart before sending them to us. We also know that they’re sending us the right part, because they can look up particular vehicles. 

Even though it’s a salvage yard engine, there are some things we want to replace while it’s out, because it’s easier to get to them and it helps extend the lifespan of the used engine. These components include the water pump, the timing belt, some of the camshaft and crankshaft seals. It’s worthwhile spending a little extra money. If you’re going to go through the time and effort, you want to make sure it’s right.

Due to the price of today’s vehicles – used and new – it may be worthwhile putting a bit of money into your existing car and keeping it on the road. The taxes and insurance are lower. You might be spending $4,000 to $8,000 fixing a vehicle, but that’s quite a difference compared to $30,000 to $60,000 for a new vehicle. 

If you are in this type of situation, it’s a good idea to get an evaluation of the rest of your vehicle before you proceed with this type of repair, so there aren’t any surprises down the road.

In addition to engine replacement, we perform engine repair and engine maintenance. Check out this article we posted to learn about what engine repair means today.

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 electrical problems on vehicles

In Diagnostics by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

Common electrical problems on vehicles today can range from something as simple as a fuse being blown to a computer or charging system problem. 

Some possible issues include:

  • The alternator going bad
  • A fuse that has blown
  • Problems with the throttle body
  • Corrosion buildup on the battery terminal
  • A bad car battery

Below is a more detailed explanation about each problem.

Common electrical problems

Bad alternator

Having a malfunctioning or bad alternator is one possible culprit behind electrical problems. Alternators take on the electrical load of the vehicle. On a nice, sunny day, there may not be a lot of electrical power used. However, on a rainy or winter day, you’re running the heater, the wiper blades are going, the lights are on, and you’re using the power windows. That’s a lot of power. The alternator helps adjust how much power is needed and recharges the battery. Some hybrid vehicles have two batteries – one is the hybrid battery, which helps propel the car, and a 12 volt battery that runs 12 volt accessories.

Blown fuse

Another common problem is if your cell phone or GPS stops working. With all of the accessory outlets – what used to be known as the cigarette lighter – when you start plugging four or five things into one outlet, that pulls a lot of power and can blow the fuse. Typically, you just have to check the fuse and fix it yourself. Take a look at the owner’s manual to figure out where the fuse block is and what fuse needs to be replaced. Or look it up on Google.

Throttle body.Throttle body problems

There may also be an issue with the throttle body, which is the flap that opens and lets air into the engine when you press the gas pedal. The one pictured above is electronically controlled, so it has everything from power and ground to a position sensor. These types of throttle bodies could also have a barometric pressure sensor, which tells the vehicle what the altitude of the car is – whether it’s at the beach or in the mountains. Depending on the make and model of the vehicle, there could also be a temperature sensor.

Corrosion on battery terminals

Arrow pointing to corrosion buildup on car battery terminals.

This photo shows a battery terminal that someone performed a quick repair on. Over a period of time, corrosion starts to build up. Copper doesn’t rust like iron rusts, but it does get a corrosion coating on it, making it difficult for electricity to get to the terminal. This can cause electrical issues and running issues. It’s even possible that your car won’t start or the starter may crank slow. That’s because it takes more power to travel through the corrosion than it does to go through a nice, neat terminal connection.

Dead battery

Car batteries don’t last forever. A battery’s lifespan depends on the type of battery, where it was made, and how it was designed. Generally, it can go 4 to 6 years before needing to be replaced. Vehicles with a lot of electrical accessories, such as safety lights or snow plows, or another feature used by work trucks, use a bit more power and could shorten the lifespan of the battery. If you travel on a lot of rough roads, the battery can bounce around, possibly disturbing the plates inside and impact how long it lasts. That’s why it’s important to ensure there is a secure battery hold down.

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.