Chesapeake Auto Repair

Mon - Fri: 7:30 AM - 5:30 PM
Sat: 8:00 AM - 4:00 PM

Articles:

Straight to the Point (Alignment Signs of Problems)

It’s just common sense that your vehicle will drive better if all the wheels are lined up with each other and the road the way the engineers intended.  When they’re not, that is called being out of alignment.   Here are some signs that your alignment has problems.

  • Your steering wheel isn’t straight when your vehicle goes straight down a straight road. This one’s pretty easy to notice.  If your vehicle’s logo on the wheel is tilted, that’s probably not the way designers wanted it to be. Bring it in and have us check it out.
  • Your steering wheel is vibrating on a smooth road or when you are accelerating.  While this could be caused by several different things, one possibility is misalignment.  If your steering wheel is shaking, it should be examined by a trained technician.
  • Your vehicle is pulling to one side without you wanting it to.  Sometimes the configuration of the road will cause it to pull slightly left or right.  But if you find yourself constantly correcting course to keep your vehicle headed straight down the road, that’s worth having us look at your alignment.
  • You’re going through tires like there’s no tomorrow. The tread on your tires should be wearing nice and evenly from the outside to the inside of the tire.  If the wear isn’t even, it could be your vehicle needs an alignment.

We have equipment designed to quickly and accurately measure your vehicle’s alignment.  We can make precise adjustments to make sure you are headed straight where you want to go.  Have your alignment checked regularly. It can help prevent more serious problems in the future and make your vehicle drive as beautifully as you remember it used to.

West Service Center
904 Cavalier Blvd
Chesapeake, Virginia 23323
757-487-4420
http://westservicecenter.com

Categories:

Alignment

A Clean Start (Battery Cleaning)

Your vehicle is loaded with electrical devices. Computerized components are everywhere, so good electrical connections are important.  Those begin with your vehicle's battery, so it's important that its connections are in top shape.

Ever had a flashlight that didn't work, took out the old batteries to replace them and noticed the old batteries were all corroded? The same thing can happen to your vehicle's battery. 

The battery type used in most vehicles is a lead-acid, which can be very corrosive.  Corrosion can build up around your battery's terminals that can prevent the electrical connection from being as solid as it needs to be.  You may have even seen discoloration around your battery's terminals if you look under the hood, a sign of corrosion.

Or you might notice visible signs of fraying or loose battery cables. All of your vehicle's components are affected by vibrations from the engine and road surface imperfections, and the battery cables take a lot of jostling every time you drive.  Frayed cables won't conduct as much electricity as intact ones.  Plus, there's the possibility that a frayed cable may touch a piece of metal in the engine compartment that can cause shorts and other problems.

There are some signs to watch out for that might tell you if your battery terminals are corroded or your cables aren't making good contact with them.  You might find your vehicle isn't starting as easily as it used to. You also might see the battery warning light illuminated on your dash. That light looks like a rectangle with a "-" and "+" sign inside.

Our technicians can make sure your battery and cables are at optimal operating capability with regular service and cleaning.  A technician will clean the terminals and portions of the cables that are connected to them.  They may also add an anti-corrosion agent to the cables/terminals. Nothing like giving your vehicle a clean start!

West Service Center
904 Cavalier Blvd
Chesapeake, Virginia 23323
757-487-4420
http://westservicecenter.com

Categories:

Battery

Snake in the Engine (Serpentine Belt)

There's a belt that snakes through your engine.  It's even named for a snake, the serpentine belt.  It'll bite you when it breaks, possibly leaving you stranded.  So, it's good to know a little about this snake-like belt.

In early engines, there were lots of belts. They were used to convert the rotating power of the engine to turn a mechanical part.  But engineers had an idea.  Why not consolidate all those belts into one that ran a bunch of different parts simultaneously? Voila!  The serpentine belt.

It's found in the front or side of your engine unlike older belts which were often in a V shape, the serpentine belt has ribs on it which more effectively connect with the pulleys that power the other components.  A serpentine belt may power the water pump, power steering pump, alternator, and the air conditioning: all from one crankshaft. 

Now, all that's fine when everything is working well and the belt is intact.  But when a serpentine belt wears, gets loose, or breaks, it can affect many engine components at once.  Not an ideal situation. 

If you hear squeals coming from the engine compartment, see a battery light, or the engine overheats, those could be signs that your serpentine belt needs replacing.

The good news is that they usually last a long time, from 60,000-100,000 miles or 100,000-160,000 km.  Still, they don't last forever, and your vehicle's manufacturer usually recommends replacing them when they've gone close to the expected maximum.  It’s also recommended that you replace the pulleys and belt tensioner at the same time as they have the same service life. Regular maintenance and inspection of the serpentine belt is not only a good idea; it’s one of those things that you should not let "slip" by.

West Service Center
904 Cavalier Blvd
Chesapeake, Virginia 23323
757-487-4420
http://westservicecenter.com

Categories:

Serpentine Belt

Your Vehicle's Hissy Fit (AC System)

When you hear hissing sounds coming from your vehicle, you might start thinking the worst.   One type of hissing coming from around your air conditioner may be a normal sound, or it could be a sign of serious trouble.

First - the normal sound.  When you turn off your vehicle, the refrigerant goes from its high-pressure side to the low-pressure side. Some of those noises are normal.  But when it hisses all the time, that's another story.

One cause could be that the refrigerant is leaking.  Air conditioners are fairly complex systems that involve various pumps, hoses, valves and motors.  When your air conditioner is cooling, the refrigerant changes from a gas to a liquid and back.  That refrigerant is under pressure, and there are many places it can leak from. 

A hissing sound can also be a failed valve in your air conditioner's compressor.  It is what controls the refrigerant's pressurization.  It's important to have this fixed fairly quickly after it develops a problem because when it isn't, that can lead to more extensive—and expensive—repairs.

If you hear screeching coming from your air conditioner at the same time you hear hissing, your compressor may be on its last legs. It could also be a defective clutch. 

Any time you hear a noise you haven't routinely heard before, bring your vehicle to us so a technician can check the various components and properly repair the problems.  Air conditioning systems are complex and are best handled by a professional with the right tools and equipment.  When your AC has a hissy fit, let us cool it off and you at the same time.  

West Service Center
904 Cavalier Blvd
Chesapeake, Virginia 23323
757-487-4420
http://westservicecenter.com

Categories:

Air Conditioning

The Light Many Drivers Fear (Check Engine Light)

Ask just about any driver about one thing they fear seeing inside their vehicle and they'll say it's the Check Engine light coming on. You know, that little light on your instrument panel that is in the shape of a vehicle engine, often accompanied by the words Check, Check Engine, Check Engine Service, or Service Engine Soon.

There are so many different reasons that light shows up, from something as simple as a loose gas cap to a more serious problem that requires immediate attention. 

The Check Engine light comes on because a component of your vehicle's onboard diagnostics system is telling you something isn't operating normally. Your vehicle has a lot of sensors built in, all tied together by computers.  When the sensors are showing that things somewhere aren't functioning the way they should be, they alert the vehicle's diagnostic computers and tell you something's amiss.

The simple rule is if the Check Engine light is on steadily, it's something you should have checked soon but it's not urgent.  If it's flashing or has turned red or orange instead of yellow, get your vehicle checked out as soon as possible.  If you don't, you may be facing some costly repairs.

Here are a few problem areas that may trigger your Check Engine Light. 

  • Something's wrong with the emissions equipment.  Maybe too much fuel is getting into the catalytic converter, or the exhaust gas recirculation system isn't working right.  Because some of these components are expensive to replace, it's worthwhile to have a technician look at your vehicle sooner rather than later.
  • Your ignition system isn't working right.  That means spark plugs, coils, and wires.  If your engine is misfiring, that could translate into an illuminated Check Engine light.
  • The transmission isn't behaving the way it should.  The transmission works in tandem with the engine, so if a sensor sees something wrong there, it will tell the vehicle to turn on the Check Engine light.

As you can see, there are many things that can cause the light to come on, and when it does, it really is a good idea to find out why.  When you bring your vehicle in, we have an electronic device that can read a code or multiple codes stored in your vehicle's computers.  That will provide the technician with clues pointing to the cause of the trouble and helps pinpoint where that trouble is. 

West Service Center
904 Cavalier Blvd
Chesapeake, Virginia 23323
757-487-4420
http://westservicecenter.com

Always on Guard (TMPS)

One of the most important things you can do to keep your vehicle running safely is to make sure your tires are properly inflated.  If one or more is vastly over- or underinflated, that has the potential to cause major handling problems and may result in a dangerous accident.

All vehicles in recent years are equipped with Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems, or TPMS.  One system uses small sensors in the tires that continually check the pressure in each tire.  That sensor sends a signal to computers in your vehicle which turns on an instrument panel light warning of low pressure when at least one is very low. Or it may update a numeric reading on your instrument panel which gives you an approximation of how many PSI (pounds per square inch) of air is in each tire. 

Another system works with your antilock brake system to measure the size of your vehicle’s tires.  When one wheel is going faster than another, it will spin faster. A computer sees that and alerts you that tire’s diameter is smaller than the others and therefore must be underinflated.

No matter what system you have, it’s also helpful for you to know how much pressure each tire is supposed to be inflated to.  You can find that on a label on the driver’s side door sill. In addition, the TPMS system should not be used as a substitute for checking your tires with a tire gauge since the TPMS accuracy usually isn’t quite as precise.  Keep in mind that tire sensors can fail, so each system acts as a backup for the other. 

Since many vehicles these days don’t have spare tires, it’s good to know that your TPMS can warn you if you have a leak in one of your tires.  If you get a low-pressure warning, many systems will tell you which tire is low, so you can do your own visual check.  Often you can see if you’ve picked up a nail or a screw if it’s sticking out of the tread or near the sidewall.

Being able to receive an early warning from your vehicle of abnormal tire pressure may give you a chance to safely drive to a service center before your tire slowly goes completely flat (which can ruin the tire and badly damage the rim). It also may ultimately prevent you from being stranded somewhere with a flat tire or, most importantly, having a sudden blowout on the road. 

West Service Center
904 Cavalier Blvd
Chesapeake, Virginia 23323
757-487-4420
http://westservicecenter.com

Categories:

TPMS

Let's Clear Some Things Up (Headlight Restoration)

You know how exposing your skin to sunlight can cause sunburn and other unhealthy things.  Sunlight can also create major problems for your headlights.  After they've been exposed to ultraviolet light, acrylic headlights can yellow and fog due to oxidation.  And when that happens, less light can pass through the plastic, reducing the effectiveness—and safety—of your headlights. 

It's not just the UV light that causes headlights to turn cloudy.  Road grime and debris gets kicked up and can scratch the plastic, diffusing the light that should pass through them when they're clear.  Plus, when your vehicle was new from the factory, the headlights had watertight seals all around to prevent moisture from getting into them and fogging them up with water vapor.  Just like clouds can hide the sun, tiny water molecules can diffuse the light from your headlight bulbs. 

Sure, you could buy replacement parts and start fresh.  But the good news is many vehicle repair facilities can restore your original headlights to perform like they did when you first bought your vehicle.  Here's how it works:

  • A technician will protect your vehicle's paint by either taking the headlights out or by taping off the paint near the headlights and leaving them in place.
  • Residue is removed from the headlight surfaces by wet sanding to remove the oxidized plastic.
  • Using special compounds, the technician will buff and polish the surface of the lens so it looks as smooth as glass. 
  • The newly-polished plastic is then sealed with wax or a special sealant designed to keep them operating like new. 
  • If the seals that keep the moisture out of the inside of your headlights have dried out or cracked, they will be restored or replaced to keep condensation from forming again.

Visibility at night is vital for safe driving, and if your headlights aren't performing up to their potential, the less you'll be able to see ahead of you.

There are many advantages of having your headlights restored rather than buying new or aftermarket replacements.  It's friendlier to the planet since plastics are made of oil, so it's reducing the amount of plastic that is manufactured.  And it's usually cheaper to have your headlights restored rather than replaced.

Consider headlight restoration a way to literally recycle those parts of your vehicle.  That seems to be perfectly clear!

West Service Center
904 Cavalier Blvd
Chesapeake, Virginia 23323
757-487-4420
http://westservicecenter.com

Categories:

Headlamps

Refresh Your Brakes (Brake Fluid Exchange)

Brakes are one of your vehicle's most important safety components, and you may have noticed that they don't stop as surely as they used to.  Maybe it takes you applying a little more pressure to them than before, or perhaps you get the feeling that they're not stopping you as quickly.

Those could be signs that your brake fluid needs changing.  Hydraulic brake systems use a fluid that enables the brakes to apply their stopping power to the wheels.  That fluid can wear out, degrade, become contaminated or pick up air and moisture.  All those can eventually contribute to brakes that feel sluggish. Driving with old, worn-out brake fluid may also shorten the lifespan of other braking components.

Our technicians can evaluate your brake fluid to see if it needs changing. Your vehicle's manufacturer recommends how often that should be done, and when it needs changing may depend on how and where you drive. Our technicians can check the condition of your brake fluid when you have your regular oil changes. 

A technician will remove the old fluid and replace it with the type the vehicle manufacturer recommends. They will also bleed the air from the brake system, check it for any leaks and inspect other components such as the hoses, rotors and brake pads. Because brake fluid is combustible and toxic, it's important that it be disposed of properly so as not to create environmental damage. 

And just a reminder that if you continue to drive with old, contaminated brake fluid that's past its lifespan, other components of your brake system can fail.  Let's face it. Brakes that don't stop you when you need them can endanger your life—and the lives of those near your vehicle.   

West Service Center
904 Cavalier Blvd
Chesapeake, Virginia 23323
757-487-4420
http://westservicecenter.com

Categories:

Brake Service

Rubber Match (Tire Replacement)

A set of new tires isn't probably high on anyone's list of exciting purchases.  But since your life is literally riding on them, it's probably a good idea to know when it's time for you to buy new ones.

If you've been feeling your vehicle slipping more in wet weather or it takes a longer distance to stop, those are a couple of signs you may need new rubber all around. Here's how to make your decision.

First thing to do is look at your tires.  The surface of the tire that contacts the road is the tread. When that tire was new, the tread was deep (the grooves in the rubber that provide traction). If they're starting to look somewhat smooth, you have a seriously worn tire that definitely needs replacing.  Bring your vehicle in for us to look at your tires and we can check your tread with a tread gauge.

Also look at the sides of your tires.  If they have cuts or cracks in them, or if you see signs of bulges or scrapes made by hitting curbs or potholes, those could be signs of serious damage. 

Keep an eye on your tire pressure monitors.  If you notice one or more of your tires showing frequent pressure changes, that needs to be checked out. 

One other thing you probably didn't know is that your tires all have birthdays, and they're printed on each sidewall.  When you bring your vehicle in for us to inspect your tires, we can tell you how old they are. That's important because rubber deteriorates with age, even if they don’t have that many miles on them.  Tire manufacturers recommend replacing tires when they reach a certain age, usually from six to ten years old. 

Now the question is, which tires should you buy? That's one for your service adviser who can recommend replacements based on your driving style, the model of vehicle you own, where you drive most often, and other factors. 

Oh, and if you want your new set of tires to last as long as possible, remember to have them rotated regularly, keep the right pressure, and don't drive aggressively. 

West Service Center
904 Cavalier Blvd
Chesapeake, Virginia 23323
757-487-4420
http://westservicecenter.com

Categories:

Tires

Sounds Exhausting! (Exhaust Service)

Most of us know a bad muffler when we hear it.  That loud, rumbling sound is unmistakable. Did you also know you can get a ticket for driving around with a loud exhaust system?

If your exhaust system has a leak in it, it may be allowing poisonous gases inside your vehicle and could make you seriously ill (or even kill you!) if you breathe too much in.

Unfortunately, your exhaust system faces a lot of destructive forces out on the road.  Rust is the worst, and not just in colder climates where they use salt and brine as de-icers.  Exhaust systems can rust from the inside out when moisture condenses inside the pipes.  Vibrations and jolts from rough roads (and the occasional run in with a rock or a curb) can wreak havoc with exhaust systems.  Even a bad oxygen sensor can send too much fuel into the catalytic converter, and the resulting heat can wind up destroying this very expensive component.

Your exhaust system is made up of several parts, and all need to be in good shape in order for you to be sure that the gases created by your engine's combustion get properly moved out and away from the vehicle. The good news is that many newer exhaust systems are made out of more durable materials like stainless steel.  But all exhaust systems are subjected to some of the roughest elements streets can dish out. So it's a good idea to have your exhaust system periodically inspected and serviced.

There are a lot of parts to keep track of in an exhaust system, including the muffler, manifold, catalytic convertor, oxygen sensors and the muffler (or maybe your vehicle has more than one).  We strongly recommend having your exhaust system periodically checked so we can catch a problem before it turns into something major… and maybe dangerous.  We can recommend repair or replacement that suits your driving habits and budget. 

Oh, and remember one final benefit to a tip-top-shape exhaust system.  Your vehicle will dump far less pollution into the atmosphere if it's working the way engineers designed it.  We'll all breathe a little easier when our exhaust systems are doing their job right.

West Service Center
904 Cavalier Blvd
Chesapeake, Virginia 23323
757-487-4420
http://westservicecenter.com

Categories:

Exhaust
904 Cavalier Blvd Chesapeake, VA, 23323 (757) 487-4420
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