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Using walnut blasting treatment to address carbon buildup

In Fuel System by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

Walnuts are a snack that many people enjoy. But did you know that they can also be used to clean the intake manifold of a vehicle?

This service, called walnut blasting, is one of the services offered at Steve’s Auto Repair & Tire.

It addresses carbon buildup, which is a common problem among BMWs and mini coopers.

We use walnut blasting to help clean the intake, intake valves and cylinder head. 

One of our technicians performed it on a mini cooper, which was running rough.

How we perform walnut blasting

During walnut blasting, the intake manifold is removed. Then, we are able to spray directly into the cylinder head and the intake valves. 

The shells are ground to a powder and that will help break up the carbon deposits, which is usually unburnt fuel and oil that has leaked out and hardened on the valve surfaces, valve stems and the cylinder head. 

It almost acts like a jet of sandpaper that’s knocking the carbon off the valves.

Any remaining walnut shell residue can be broken or burned up by the engine.

Once the carbon deposits are cleared away, drivers may notice an increase in power and, most importantly, the fuel economy. This service will also help the engine breathe better and lower the vehicle’s emissions.

Another benefit of walnut blasting is that it won’t hurt anything, like the pistons or seals. It’s also environmentally safe.

Indicators that you need this service

So, how do you know that carbon is building up in the intake?

Poor fuel economy and running rough are the two of the most common signs.

You might also notice that your vehicle seems sluggish.

For example, drivers who bought their car at 5,000 miles and are now at 60,000 miles may feel that it isn’t running the way it used to. A walnut blasting could help with that.

Preventing and address carbon buildup

Performing regular oil changes, which we recommend every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, can help prevent carbon buildup.

Cleaning may also be a needed maintenance option, depending on the type of vehicle you have.

Part of the problem with the buildup is oil seeping by the valve stems or valve guides. There’s no way to fix it without taking the cylinder head off and taking the valves apart.

Some of these European cars, especially BMWs, tend to burn oil. So, if they’re leaking oil, cleaning the intake will be a common practice. This can be done with walnut blasting or a chemical cleaning, like the BG Fuel Induction Service.

The Fuel Induction Service helps clean out the fuel system. We suggest this service every 30,000 miles, but some manufacturers recommend it more frequently. To learn more about this maintenance option and why you should get it, check out this article we wrote.

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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Audi brakes: Common problems and possible causes

In Brakes by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

When it comes time to replace the brakes on your Audi, it’s important to make sure you’re using good quality parts. 

Audis are kind of known for being performance vehicles, and some Audis have a higher performance than others. So, the types of brakes you should use can even differ between models. 

For an Audi A4, you’ll want to use brake pads, rotors and calipers, if those are the parts that need to be replaced. Other performance vehicles may require cross drills and slotted rotors to help dissipate the heat.

While changing the pads, we use pads with sensors built into them. They should be high quality, because the way the electronics work in setting off the lights, saying whether the pads are good or getting worn, you don’t want to have too high resistance or something throwing the computer off. So, you really don’t want to use the cheap pads.

Noises from Audi brakes

Noise is a common issue with Audi brakes, and it can be the result of various culprits. 

Rotors can begin to rust up on vehicles that have been sitting for a while, especially when it’s been raining a lot or snowing during the winter. When you first hit the brakes, they may sound as though they’re grinding. It’s really surface rust. Sand and rocks can get caught up in the pads and rotors, causing grooves to form. So, the grinding noise could actually be from the grooves.

Brake noise can even be caused by cleaning your Audi.

The chemicals sprayed on the vehicle and the wheels to remove the brake dust can get onto the brake pads and rotors. There may not be anything wrong with these parts, but the pads pressing on the rotors may lead to a squeaking or squealing sound.

After washing your vehicle, we recommend taking it on a test drive to help get rid of the chemicals. During the test drive, go to a safe area and perform five panic stops where the Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) is engaged. Then, take it back, let it sit, and take it for another test drive after it cools down to see if the noise disappears.

Calipers and brake hoses

The calipers, especially the caliper slides, can also be an issue. Depending on the amount of salt on the road or where the vehicle comes from, the caliper may not release correctly after you step on the brakes. If it’s holding – even if you don’t feel it as you’re driving – it’s pressing the brake pad against the rotor. This means it will wear down faster. 

Brake hoses going bad is another problem we’re seeing. Vehicles are coming in after having a brake job or the calipers replaced and one of the corners is seizing up. The brake hoses are acting as a check valve and maintaining the pressure. So, we strongly recommend changing the brake hoses and the calipers at the same time. 

Whether or not we’re just replacing the pads and rotors or the calipers, it’s a good idea to have a brake fluid exchange conducted. This service should be done at least every 50,000 miles. Based on the type of vehicle and what the manufacturer recommends, we’re seeing brake fluid recommendations come down as soon as 15,000 or 30,000 miles. Check your owner’s manual to see what the interval for your particular car should be.

Depending on the kind of Audi you own and Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS) it has – ABS, traction control, accident avoidance, automatic driver assist – make sure the ADAS is recalibrated. To do an alignment or certain service work, such as replacing the timing belt, the front grill of the vehicle needs to be removed. Not resetting the ADAS system can cause other driving issues and may feel like a brake problem. If your vehicle has been in a body shop, verify that it has been recalibrated so it doesn’t feel like a different problem.

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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Fuel system problems and maintenance

In Fuel System by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

The fuel system on a vehicle is responsible for getting fuel to the engine, enabling the car to move. 

Because of this critical role, taking care of the system is a necessary part of car maintenance.

Fuel doesn’t automatically make it to the engine as you’re filling up at the gas station.

There are several components that work together to ensure that it gets there.

How the fuel system works

When you get gas, the fuel enters the fuel tank. From there, it’s brought out by the fuel pump and transported along fuel lines to the filter and injectors. 

The fuel filter keeps contaminants out of the fuel and fuel injectors feed it to the engine cylinders.

Common problems

Overtime, the fuel system can experience various problems. Here are some common ones:

Fuel filter is blocked: The fuel filter becoming blocked is one fuel system problem. It may simply need to be changed.

Fuel injectors aren’t working correctly: One or multiple fuel injectors may need to be cleaned or replaced. Some indicators include rough idle, difficulty starting the vehicle, and an increase in the amount of fuel being used.

Fuel pump is going bad: If the fuel pump is failing, the fuel is unable to move from the tank. Misfires, loss in power, and clicking or whining sounds when idle are symptoms you may notice when the fuel pump is going bad.

A variety of other fuel system issues can arise. 

Some vehicles have transfer pumps, which can go bad and aren’t able to transfer to the main tank. 

High pressure fuel pumps, which are found under the hood of certain vehicles, may also fail.

Signs of fuel system problems

A few symptoms can pop up when there’s a fuel system problem.

If you smell fuel, you could have a leak. But when it comes to smelling the fuel, sometimes you only smell it when you first start the car or turn the heat or air conditioning on. 

Sometimes, it may not be a big leak – like a fuel line – but the injectors could be seeping or a seal might be going bad, causing a little bit of fuel to leak. Trying to find those can be tricky and may mean that the vehicle needs to stay at a repair shop overnight.  

Other symptoms of fuel system problems include rough running issues. If the fuel pump or fuel pressure regulator is failing, the fuel pressure may be too high. Generally, the pressure is too low if you have a bad fuel pump, and it will feel like the vehicle doesn’t have enough power. Computer controlled cars lack a fuel volume and pressure as drivers travel uphill, making it seem like the transmission is bad.  

Bad fuel or gas that contains water can create some weird misfires. The water will collect in the tank, so when you turn a corner water may be sucked up and result in the engine running rough.

Fuel injectors not working correctly is another potential problem. They can become clogged or not be able to distribute the fuel right, leading to misfires and running issues. 

Ways to maintain the fuel system

Upkeep on your vehicle can help you save money and avoid breaking down on the side of the road.

We recommend having a fuel induction service performed every 30,000 miles. Some manufacturers suggest it more often.

This service cleans out the fuel system and improves fuel economy. Other benefits include decreasing emissions and restoring lost power.   

Depending on the type of vehicle you have, the fuel filter may need to be replaced on a regular basis. The ones that are serviceable are generally recommended to be changed every 30,000 miles.

Most filters nowadays are built into the fuel pump. Diesel vehicles typically need a new one every other oil change, depending on the diesel vehicle.

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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Avoid breaking down on your next road trip

In Battery, Brakes, Fluids, Headlamps, Maintenance by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

Summer is here, which means that many are taking at least one road trip.

While you and your family or friends are having fun, you want to avoid any hang ups. That includes breaking down on the side of the road.

In the days and weeks prior to your next adventure, you should make sure the vehicle you’re taking is ready for the journey. You can’t plan for everything, but there are some things you can do to avoid a problem.

Below is a checklist of items we recommend.

How to prepare for a road trip

  • Battery test: Weak car batteries can fail when it’s extremely hot outside. We have a battery tester that lets us know if it needs to be replaced. Checking the battery beforehand can save you from tracking someone down to jump your vehicle and a trip to the store.
  • Oil change: Having your oil changed regularly – every 3,000 to 5,000 miles – helps prevent engine damage. If you’re going to be due for this service soon, it’s a good idea to have it done before your road trip. That way, you know that it’s up to date. The technicians performing the oil change may also notice safety concerns that need to be addressed. 
  • Check tires: You want your tires to be at an optimum level. So, make sure they are at a good tire pressure and they have thick tread depth. The tire tread should be at least 2/32 of an inch, but we suggest replacing the tires when they reach 3/32 or 4/32 of an inch, depending on the vehicle. The tire pressure must also be at the recommended level, otherwise tire damage can occur. Also, make sure that none of your tires have collected any nails, and that your spare tire is in good shape.
  • Make sure the brakes are working: You never know when the person driving in front of you will stop suddenly or a deer will run out in front of your car. In those situations, it’s important to know that your brakes can be trusted. To pass Virginia state inspection, brakes must be at 2/32 of an inch or more. We recommend them when they get down to 3/32 or 4/32 of an inch. That also depends on the car and manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Replace windshield wipers: Depending on your destination, you may hit some rain along the way. Having the windshield wipers replaced can prevent streaks and scratches. If you have torn windshield wipers, it’s time for some new ones.
  • Inspect the lights: Your car features an assortment of lights, including brake lights, headlights and tag lights. It’s a good idea to make sure that none of them are out, especially if you’re planning to travel at night or in areas that experience heavy amounts of traffic.
  • Look at fluid levels: Having someone check the fluid levels – including the oil, coolant, antifreeze, and windshield washer fluid – is another recommendation. This is a great way you can confirm there aren’t problems or spot any issues early on. For example, being low on coolant – especially if it’s a constant issue – can indicate a leak.

Our technicians look over all of the items mentioned above during our courtesy inspections. If you’re planning to go on a road trip soon, feel free to give us a call to schedule an appointment.

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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Why we perform a courtesy inspection while working on your vehicle

In Cabin Air Filter, Inspection by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

When you bring your car to our shop, we try to do a very thorough visual inspection, even if it’s just for an oil change.

Just from driving on the road and as vehicle’s age, things can start to break and cause other problems you may not notice, because you’re driving it every day. 

As we’re looking at your vehicle, we want to pick up on problems that could lead to a much larger expense down the road.

Honda Accord.

Honda Accord

Recently, our technicians worked on a Honda Accord that came in for an oil change. The customer didn’t mention any problems. During our normal courtesy inspection of the air filter, we discovered that the intake boot coming from the mass airflow meter to the engine was cracked. 

When that happens, air is not being metered and the computer can’t see how much air is getting sucked into the engine. That can cause problems with the car running too rich or lean, depending on the programming and the driving conditions. Generally, it would show that it has more air coming in than it is and you will burn more fuel. The driver might or might not notice they have more fuel consumption, based on how they drive.

Dirt entering the engine is another problem the crack can cause, because it isn’t going through the air filter. Over a period of time, this may reduce the engine’s lifespan.

If it’s raining and the vehicle went through a deep puddle, water could splash up and get sucked into the engine, which could break it.

You may notice this sort of problem when you give it some gas as you’re going on the highway or an onramp, and that can be a dangerous situation. 

Dirty cabin air filter.

Dirty cabin air filter

The air filter on this vehicle was also very, very dirty, which would also restrict the airflow. This can impact the fuel economy. So, you have many things going against this car that are very simple, but unless you’re looking at it on a consistent basis you’re just not going to know.

Our courtesy inspection

Watching for simple things, like an air intake boot, and fixing it is just part of our oil change process and is a very important thing to repair.

In addition to changing the oil and oil filter, we rotate the tires if applicable and take a look at the components. It’s sort of like a mini safety inspection without scraping the sticker. We really are trying to keep you safe on the road and help your car last as long as it can.

When we have the hood open, we’re checking for visible engine coolant leaks. Our technicians also examine the serpentine belt to make sure it doesn’t have cracks and isn’t getting glazed on the back.

Accessible fluids are also looked at. For example, before changing the oil we make sure the oil level isn’t too low. If you come in and it’s much lower than normal, we may be able to pick up an oil consumption problem.

Windshield washer fluid and brake fluid are also inspected. Some of the newer vehicles – as parts become more electronic – may not have these fluids, but you would be surprised. Even with brakes being electronically controlled, there’s still brake fluid going to the calipers. 

Lights, wiper blades, tire tread depth and tire pressure are other items checked out during the courtesy inspection.

We also test the car battery, and make sure the connections aren’t loose or that corrosion isn’t building up on them. You’d be surprised by the number of cars that come in with weird problems or intermittent starting problems, and it’s just a loose battery cable or corrosion. Cleaning that up and putting battery terminal BG pads, which help prevent acid from coming up to the terminal and corroding the metal, are some things we can do during an oil change to stop simple, weird electrical problems. 

Resetting the maintenance indicators takes a little more time now. There are indicators for the tire pressure, the oil life, for certain maintenance the manufacturers recommend. Not only is it changing that oil change sticker up in the window, it’s also resetting the electronic reminders in the car.

To read more about what we do during an oil change, check out this recent article we wrote.

Courtesy inspections come at no additional cost. 

Taking these extra steps can prevent problems and a lot of frustration.

By performing this work, we hope to help keep you and your family on the road.

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.