Virginia Auto Service

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PHOENIX ARIZONA
AUTO REPAIR SHOP,
VIRGINIA AUTO SERVICE

4 SIGNS YOUR CAR HAS ELECTRICAL PROBLEMS

Electrical problems are less common in today’s cars than other kinds of problems but they are also more difficult to diagnose than most mechanical problems.

This is one area where you should rely on the expertise of your chosen repair shop to determine the problem and recommend the best solution to fix it. The complicated nature of electrical issues generally requires the use of specialized diagnostic equipment to identify the root cause of the problem. This equipment can access the data your vehicle’s computer stores about how the different components are operating. This data can then be used to pin down the exact problem so that the technician can make the required repairs. Unlike brakes that squeak or an engine that rattles, electrical problems don’t always announce themselves in a way that is easy to understand. The electrical system is compromised of several components including the battery, battery cables, alternator, starter, and computer system. Problems with any of these components can cause problems with the vehicle’s operation. To help ensure you know what to look for, here are some of the common signs there is something amiss with your car’s electrical system.

1. Car Won’t Start This is the most likely electrical problem you will experience in your car. If the car won’t start, there is a good chance you have a problem with the battery, the alternator, or the starter. If you turn the key and nothing happens, check to see if the interior lights came on when you opened the door. If the lights aren’t working and the car won’t start, the problem is likely a dead battery. If the lights are on but nothing happens when you turn the key, the problem is likely your alternator. If you hear a clicking sound when you turn the key, the problem is likely the starter. All of these problems require a visit to the auto repair shop for final diagnosis and repair. 

2. Visible Damage or Leakage from the Battery Inspect the battery from time to time to look for corrosion stains or buildup around the terminal. Both can be signs that the battery is leaking, experiencing a problem, or nearing the end of its life. Be careful if you notice any signs of damage or leakage as the contents of the battery are corrosive and they will damage bare skin. 

3. The Lights Work, But They Dim While Driving If you notice that the dashboard lights or the headlights seem to dim when you are driving at low speeds or when the car is idling, there may be a problem with the battery, the alternator, or the voltage regulator. If the battery is on its last legs it may be charging slower or have trouble holding a charge which can result in dimming headlights under certain conditions. Problems with the alternator or voltage regulator can also cause the lights to be dimmer under some circumstances. 

4. The Car Runs Fine But the Brake Lights Don’t Work If you have replaced the bulbs in both brake lights to no avail, the problem may not be the bulbs at all, it may be a fuse. If some specific part of the vehicle like the brake lights or the radio isn’t working, check to make sure you don’t need to replace a fuse.

6 Tips for Getting Your Car to the 200,000 Mile Mark

Car 200,000 miles
Follow these tips to help your car reach 200,000 miles. (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

For most of us, it seems like the days of buying a new car every couple years are gone. The average age of a car driving on today’s roads is 10+ years. This shows that we are keeping our cars longer than ever.   While today’s cars are designed to last longer than their predecessors, it still takes work to keep them running and ready to go, especially once the mileage hits 6 digits. Whether you are hanging on to your car for financial reasons or simply because you want to drive it until it dies, these tips will help you take care of your car so that it will make it to the 200,000 mile mark, and beyond.

  1. Change the Oil On Time, Every Time

One of the most important things you can do to extend the life of your car is change the oil when it is supposed to be changed, every time it needs to be changed. If you already have 6 digit plus mileage, ask your repair tech if you need to switch to oil made specifically for high mileage cars.

  1. Follow the Maintenance Schedule

One of the other most important things you can do is to follow the recommended schedule of maintenance provided in your car’s owner’s manual. Keeping up with maintenance tasks will make your car last longer and help protect you from costly repairs.

  1. Turn it Off

Some people believe that it is better to leave the car running than it is to turn it on and off when you will be sitting for longer than it takes for the red light to turn green. This is just not true. Running the engine without driving the car puts a lot of stress on the engine components and can cause them to break down more quickly than they normally would.

  1. Pay Attention

If you pay attention to your car, it will tell you when something is not working the way it is supposed to and this is incredibly important with a high mileage car. Listen for unusual noises, pay attention to strange smells, and make note of how it feels to drive the car. All of these things can provide clues that something isn’t working properly long before that problem becomes a major repair.

  1. Take Care of Your Tires

You will have to replace your tires several times on your way to 200,000 miles but you still need to take good care of each set while they are on the car. Rotating your tires, keeping the wheels aligned, and checking the tread on a regular basis all help protect your tires and the other parts of the car they are attached to.

  1. Follow the Manufacturer’s Recommendations

While we already covered the need to follow the manufacturer’s recommended schedule of maintenance and repairs, it is important to point out another recommendation you need to follow. Always use the type of gas and oil recommended by the manufacturer. This recommendation can also be found in the owner’s manual.

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Mercedes-Benz Service, Phoenix, Arizona

Robert Gonzales, Virginia Auto Service
Robert is one of our Service Advisers. People say he is able to explain technical things about their cars in a way that is easy for a “non car person” to understand. Robert is an ASE Certified Automobile Technician.

Virginia Auto Service provides complete Mercedes-Benz service in Phoenix, Arizona. 

Here’s what people are saying about Virginia Auto Service!

“I had heard the many radio spots on 1480 over the last couple years, so gave them a try.

Experience was high level customer service, shop was clean and quite busy. The staff was courteous, and kept me informed asap with diagnosis and quote for repair.

A ride home was given when I left the Tahoe. I also like the complete review of my vehicle which found some forcasted problems which can be addressed before larger costs occur.” Jim Rio, Phoenix, Arizona (verified customer)

Why Choose Virginia Auto Service for Mercedes-Benz Service in Phoenix?

  • Convenient!  If you work in downtown Phoenix, it’s easy to drop your car off at Virginia Auto Service in the morning and we’ll give you a free ride to work. Then we will pick you up again after work, or when you’re ready to pick up your car after it is done.  Don’t waste another day off in the auto repair shop waiting room. 
  • We Treat You Like Family!  We want to make a lifelong customer, not just a sale so we treat our clients just like family. We care about you so we tell you what’s going on with your car, but then we help you prioritize. We understand budgets.
  • The Best Mechanics in Phoenix! Our auto mechanics are some of the best in Phoenix.  They are all ASE certified and most of them have 20 years’ experience or more!
  • Non- intimidating Service Advisors. You don’t have to be a mechanic to understand what our service advisors are saying.  We know that most people don’t work on cars for a living so that’s why we make sure to help you understand about what needs fixed with you car.
  • A Shop So Clean You Could Cook Dinner on the Floor!  Okay, well we really don’t want you to cook dinner on our floor, but we believe a clean shop is a sign of a quality shop.  Don’t you?
  • The Latest Computer Software and Tools! It’s important that the auto repair shop you go to has the correct computer software and tools needed to work on your car. For example, a Mercedes-Benz, requires computer software just to change the oil correctly! It’s not just about wrenches anymore! The good news is, we invest in the latest tools and technology so you can be sure we’re going to do the job right the first time!

Call us today at 602-266-0200 to get a FREE second opinion about your recommended Mercedes-Benz service or schedule an appointment online.

Burgie’s Back!

Dear Friends of Virginia Auto Service,

If you’ve been around for a couple years or more, then you’ve probably had an interaction with Burgie, our “Goodwill Ambassador”.  

Maybe Burgie has taken you to work a time or two and shared some of his stories along the way. Burgie has worked with us at Virginia Auto Service since 2009. 

You may recall, back in December of 2018, Burgie needed to take a leave of absence to address some serious health concerns as a result of complications from diabetes. Unfortunately, he had to have part of his foot amputated. He has made exceptional progress in his recovery. You may not even recognize him!

We are happy to welcome him back to work! While he is no longer acting as our shuttle driver, he is back in the mornings for few hours. 

He is excited to be working again and to be able to reconnect with customers and the friends he has made over the years. 

Burgie will be there to help ensure your drop off goes smooth in the morning. He’s missed all of you and would love to see you again.

So if you need a service done, we’ve included  $25 in “Burgie Bucks”  as a special bonus for you!  Keep it as a souvenir or bring it in for service on your vehicle! 

Help us welcome Burgie back to his home away from home!

Call or click here to make an appointment. 

All the best,

Matt and Burgie

Virginia Auto Service

602-266-0200

Burgie Buck
Click on Burgie Buck to Print.

How to Deal with Engine Difficulties

car engine
Keep your car running smoothly with by following these car engine maintenance tips.

There isn’t anything worse for a car owner to hear than the news that their car needs a new engine.  But the truth is sometimes the engine in your car simply dies.  While there are things you can do to help keep your engine healthy and your car on the road, it is also important to know what signs might signal trouble ahead.  According to the Car Care Council’s website the following are all signs that there may be a problem brewing in the engine.

  • Excessive smoke pouring out of the tailpipe
  • Using excessive amounts of oil
  • Strange sounds like knocking or tapping
  • Low oil pressure
  • Oil getting into places it shouldn’t be like the air cleaner or radiator
  • Low engine compression
  • Water in the oil

If any of these problems happen, you need to take the care to your local repair shop immediately to have the engine looked at and any problems addressed.  This can make it possible for you to catch a problem early enough that it doesn’t result in having to completely replace the engine.

There are several things that can cause engine problems.

  • Normal wear and tear
  • Not performing regular maintenance like oil changes
  • Lubrication issues
  • Constant overheating

It is important to remember that ignoring engine problems is never going to make them go away or get any better.  In fact, most of the time, ignoring it will only make it worse.  And you may end up with an engine that simply dies.  If this happens to you, you will need to decide if it is worth replacing the engine.  For some cars, the high costs associated with engine replacement paired with the value of the car make engine replacement a bad investment.

But before you consign your car to the scrap heap, make sure you know all the information.  First, you need to know how much your car would be worth with a replacement engine.  Then, you need to know what the engine replacement will cost.  Factor in what you owe on it and if replacing the engine leaves you with a good car that is worth more than what you owe plus the cost of the engine replacement, getting it fixed is the wiser choice.

If you choose engine replacement, you need to understand the different terms you are likely to encounter in order to make the best possible decision.  If you have to replace the engine in your car, you may want to consider using a rebuilt or remanufactured engine rather than buying something brand new.    These engines are rebuilt to specific standards and specifications by highly skilled technicians.  In some cases, a rebuilt engine may actually be better than the original engine installed when the car was built.  So don’t overlook this kind of engine replacement options as being less than something new.  The key is to find a repair shop you can trust who will recommend the best possible parts to get you back on the road.

6 Essential Items to Keep in the Trunk of Your Car

It’s difficult to think of everything that you might want to keep in your car’s trunk, which can result in being unprepared in the event of an emergency. As a responsible motorist, you want to compile a thorough list of what you should always have on hand as a driver. These can include items not only for emergency preparedness, but also convenience and car maintenance. This is a good way to save time and money and eliminate frustration if anything goes wrong while driving. Here are 6 essential items to keep in the trunk of your car in case of emergency.

6 essential items to keep in the trunk of your car
  1. A first aid kit. If you are in any type of accident or your car suddenly breaks down, you want to have first aid supplies ready. A good first aid kit should include sterile gauze and bandages, cotton swabs and medical tape, and a cold pack to reduce swelling. You can also add items like insect repellent, hand sanitizer, sunscreen, and an over-the-counter pain relief mediation.
  2. A set of jumper cables. A dead battery is one of the most common car problems that could leave you stranded.  Find a working set of jumper cables and locate your car’s battery and battery terminals. Having a set of jumper cables onboard is also nice to be able to help another motorist that becomes stranded from a dead car battery.
  3. An adjustable lug wrench and tire jack. Tire blowouts are another common problem that can happen while driving, potentially leaving you stranded. You want to be able to take off a faulty tire and put on the spare if needed. It is a good idea to keep a lug wrench and tire jack in the trunk as well as some other basic tools like a screwdriver and a pair of pliers.
  4. An aluminium flashlight. Having car problems while driving at night, especially during bad weather conditions, presents some added complications. Not being able to see well in the dark can prevent you from identifying and fixing car problems. Make sure that you get a high quality aluminium flashlight with LED lights. Keep new batteries on hand, stored separately in a plastic bag.
  5. Tire pressure gauge and air compressor pump. Most modern cars come with tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) that will alert the driver when tire air pressure is low. But the sensors used in TPMS systems can wear out or get damaged from bad road conditions. There are a lot of inexpensive, quality tire gauges available that will allow you to check the air pressure in your tires at any time. Buying an air compressor will also come in very handy to be able to adjust the tire air pressure on your own. You only need a portable air compressor that can plug into the lighter socket inside your car.
  6. Emergency warning triangles. You want to alert other drivers if your car is broken down on the shoulder of the road close to oncoming traffic. Emergency warning triangles are safer than road flares, and are collapsible, taking up little room in your car’s trunk. Placing these triangles in front of and behind your car, along with using your car’s emergency flashers, will make it much safer if you must make any roadside repairs.

In addition to the essential items needed for emergency preparedness and car maintenance, you can also keep some other convenient things in your car’s trunk. These can include items like a blanket, an umbrella, an all-purpose spray cleaner, paper towels, your car’s manual, and a spare change of clothes.

For all of your vehicle’s service and repair needs in Phoenix, Arizona, you can trust the ASE certified technicians at Virginia Auto Service. Our award-winning staff has been recognized for their leadership, integrity, and commitment to excellence. Just schedule an appointment with us online or give us a call at (602) 266-0200.

What Causes Your Car to Keep Blowing Fuses?

Every passenger vehicle has a fuse box. Fuses are electrical devices that are designed to stop circuits from being overloaded. When automotive fuses blow, they will cause problems with the functioning and accessories of your vehicle. If your car’s windshield wipers, power windows and locks, turn signals, or interior lights suddenly cease to function, then you may have a blown fuse on your hands.

What causes your car to keep blowing fuses?

If your car blows a fuse: Consult your car’s owner’s manual to find the location of the fuse box. The assigned circuit for each fuse should be shown in a diagram. Some fuses will easily come out by hand, while others might require the use of a pair of pliers. A blown fuse will be black on the inside with a melted metal ribbon, and the glass encasing might be cloudy. Visually inspect each fuse and replace faulty ones as needed.

Replacing faulty fuses in your vehicle is an easy fix, but there might be an underlying factor that causes them to keep blowing out. Here are the 2 most common reasons that your car keeps blowing fuses.

  • Your car has a short circuit. Automotive fuses are used to protect the electrical components and wiring system for your vehicle. A short in the electrical system will just cause a fuse to blow, rather than the wiring overheating or melting. A short is just a poor connection between two conductors that supply electricity, causing an electrical overload in the circuit. Fixing a short circuit is much easier than identifying the location of the problem. There are 3 typical causes of a short circuit in your car:
    • Fraying of the wire insulation. If one of the wires is frayed and becomes exposed, it can touch the metal frame or the ground, causing a short in the circuit. The wire might move around a lot and only occasionally come into contact with a surface, causing intermittent shorts. This is still enough to blow a fuse.
    • An electrical device is malfunctioning. Internal damage to your windshield wiper motor or power locking components can cause these systems to use more current flow than normal to keep working. This will overload the circuit causing it to short.
    • A conductor is being exposed to the elements. If there is a leak somewhere in your car, fluid could be wetting the wiring harness and connection points. A wet conductor can easily cause the circuit to short.
  • Improper fuse replacement. Fuses can keep blowing out if someone has replaced a blown fuse with one of higher amperage. There are a lot of different types of automotive fuses in both amperage and material. Your vehicle’s manual should contain a diagram showing the correct amperage rating for each fuse and the circuit that it is in. If you are unsure as to the amperage required for your car’s fuses, consult an automotive professional to be sure that the right fuse is being used in the right location.

If your car keeps blowing fuses, you need to get to the underlying cause of the problem. Replacing a fuse is an easy, cheap fix, but problems that keep causing fuses to blow can be much more complicated. For all of your auto service and repair needs in the Phoenix, Arizona area, you can trust the experts at Virginia Auto Service. Our ASE certified technicians have a reputation for doing the highest quality work and providing outstanding customer service. Just book an appointment online or give us a call at (602) 266-0200.

Are You Making These Common Car Seat Mistakes?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) there are 5 common mistakes that parents make when they strap their children into the seat that is supposed to help keep them safe while riding in the car.  As part of Child Passenger Safety Week, we would like to encourage all parents to check and make sure they aren’t making these common mistakes and to participate in Child Seat Check Saturday on September 20th.

  1. Using the Wrong Harness Slot

One of the most common mistakes parents make is that they use the wrong slot for the harness straps in their child’s seat which results in the harness straps being either too high or too low.  Make sure you use the child safety seat owner’s manual to determine which harness slot is appropriate based on your individual child’s height, weight, and age.

  1. Failure to Use the Harness Chest Clip Appropriately

The harness chest clip is a mechanism that clips the two straps of the harness that go over the shoulders together over the child’s chest.  The NHTSA found that many parents are positioning this harness clip over the abdomen instead of the chest or that they simply aren’t using this part of the safety seat at all.  In order to provide your child with the maximum amount of protection and to ensure the safety seat can perform adequately, this harness clip should be used every time and positioned over the chest.

  1. Not Installing the Car Seat Appropriately

In order to protect your child in an accident, the car seat must be installed appropriately in the car.  This means using the car’s restraint system to tightly secure the car seat to the seat in the car.  If the car seat can move more than 1 inch from side to side after being secured with the seat belt, it is not installed properly.

  1. Securing the Harness too Loosely

Another mistake parents make when buckling their child into a safety seat is that they leave the harness too loose.  When the harness is buckled appropriately using each of the attachment points including the harness chest clip, there should be no slack between the harness strap and the child.  If there is slack, the harness isn’t tight enough or it isn’t buckled properly.

  1. Using the Seat Belt Incorrectly

All child safety seats use the car’s safety restraints or seat belts to secure the car seat in the vehicle.  Some use the safety belt to secure the seat only and rely on a safety harness to secure the child.  Others use the seat belt in conjunction with the safety seat to secure the child.  In both scenarios, it is critical that the seat belt be used correctly.  Refer to the owner’s manual for the car safety seat to ensure you are securing the seat and your child appropriately.

The best advice for all parents is to read the instructions that came with the car seat to ensure you are using it properly and bring your car to a local Child Safety Seat Check on Saturday September 20th to ensure that your child is as safe as possible whenever they are a passenger in your car.

 

Car Battery Trouble Shooting: What is wrong with my battery? What should I do?

car battery
Here are some helpful tips to keep your car battery functioning properly 

What is wrong with my battery? What should I do?

We have all been there.  We put the key in the ignition, turn it, and…nothing happens.  Most people would assume that this means the battery is dead and while that may be true, there are some other things that can act like a dead battery.  To help you figure out the source of your problem so that you can figure out what to do next, let’s look at the different battery related problems and how to solve them.

  1. It is, in fact, completely dead.

A dead battery means a battery that no longer contains enough of a charge to provide the electricity required to start the car.  Batteries lose their ability to hold a charge over time and most batteries, according to Firestone, only last for 3-5 years.   The climate you live in and the way you drive will affect how long your battery lasts.  If your car is a couple years old, a dead battery could mean it is time to replace it.  If your battery dies, you jumpstart it and drive it, and the next time you go to start it the battery is dead again, there is a good chance it needs to be replaced.  Have your tech check the charge and replace the battery if needed.

  1. It is only drained.

Batteries can also lose their charge in a short amount of time if something that requires the battery is left on after the car stops running like the radio, headlights, or interior lights.  If you are able to jumpstart the car, look around to see if you left anything on that could have drained the battery.  If the car starts easily the next time you go to drive it, it is likely something was left on that drained the battery the first time and no other action needs to be taken.

  1. It isn’t the battery at all.

If your battery dies and your attempts to get the car started using jumper cables doesn’t work, there is a good chance the problem is not the battery at all.  In addition to the battery, the starter and the alternator must be functioning in order for the car to start.  If you turn the key and all you hear is a clicking sound, you may have a problem with your starter.  If you turn the key and hear a whining sound or nothing at all, it may be a problem with the alternator.  Your repair shop will be able to diagnose the problem although you may have to have it towed there if you can’t get it to start.

So, if you are having trouble starting the car, don’t assume it is the battery.  Your best bet, whenever the battery dies, is to have your repair shop take a look so that you don’t find yourself stranded on the side of the road.

Ask the Car Guy: How Can Carbon Build-up Impact My Engine?

Matt Allen, Owner of Virginia Auto Service, cohost of Bumper to Bumper Radio
Matt Allen, Owner of Virginia Auto Service, cohost of Bumper to Bumper Radio

Dear Car Guy,

I keep hearing about carbon build-up and that it can hurt my car. Can you please explain what carbon build-up is and how it can impact my engine?

Thank you,

Bill Q., Phoenix, AZ

Hi, Bill,

Many car manufacturers are now using direct-injection (DI) technology in their new designs because it increases fuel efficiency (meaning MPG).

This technology, which was initially created to make diesel engines quieter and more fuel efficient, changes the way fuel enters the engine.  This change allows carbon, a black sooty dust, to build-up on the engine’s intake valve and other surfaces inside the engine.

Auto Repair Phoenix - carbon build up

In port-injection engines, the fuel enters the engine before the intake valve.  This means that the fuel is flowing over the valve as part of the engine’s normal operation.  Most gasoline sold today contains additives whose sole job is to help remove carbon from the intake valve and other parts of the engine and these additives do their work as the fuel flows into the intake valve.  But DI bypasses that process, injecting the fuel directly into the cylinder.  This means the additives in the fuel never come in contact with the surfaces most likely to experience carbon build-up.

When carbon builds-up in the car’s engine it can cause a couple different problems.  First, the engine will lose power.  One of the main problems carbon build-up does is to change the ratio of fuel to air in the engine.  This can happen if sensors stop functioning properly because of carbon build-up or if build-up keeps the intake valve from closing properly.  This can make the engine sluggish and cause it to stall.  Carbon build-up can also significantly degrade fuel efficiency, causing the car to get fewer miles to the gallon than it should be getting.

There are some things that will cause carbon to build-up faster that those with cars that are prone to carbon build-up problems should avoid.  Filling the tank with low grade gasoline which is less purified and usually has a higher concentration of contaminants can increase carbon build-up in the engine.  If the ratio of fuel to air is off, as mentioned above, carbon will accumulate more quickly.  Using the car primarily for short trips can also increase problems with carbon build-up as the engine doesn’t run long enough or hard enough to get hot enough to burn any of the carbon off.

The cars that are at the highest risk for carbon build-up problems are those that use DI, although not all cars that these types of fuel injection system have experienced this issue.  Audis, Mini Coopers, and some VW and BMW models are the cars that seem most prone to carbon build-up.  For owners of these cars, the carbon build-up problem means they must invest in additional maintenance on a regular basis to have the carbon cleaned from their engine.

When cars experience issues with carbon build-up, the build-up must be cleaned out of the engine.  Most auto repair shops can perform this kind of service but it can be costly, depending on the type of car and the work required to remove the build-up.  If your car is having any of these problems, have your repair shop check it over and recommend what can be done to solve the immediate issue and over the long term to protect your engine and keep your car on the road.