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Just like your house, a vehicle uses a number of fuses that serve different functions. Located in a central fuse box, these small components protect your car from short circuits and overloads. When one trips or burns out, it must be replaced.

Fuse Design

Fuses involve small parts that screw into threaded sockets, sort of how light bulbs fit into place. Inside the fuse, a metal ribbon–sized to match the circuit–sits as currents pass through. If too much current flows through the ribbon it will melt, blowing the fuse and killing the circuit. On the outside, the fuse has a tiny glass enclosure through which the ribbon can be viewed. Sometimes when a fuse blows, you can actually see the melted ribbon. Other times, the glass appears cloudy.

When a Fuse Blows

Two main circumstances lead to a blown fuse. Most commonly, too much power is drawn from the circuit, overloading fuse capacity and causing the metal ribbon to melt. When that happens, any systems powered by the circuit will die. The other reason fuses blow is a hot wire touches a neutral wire or a grounding pathway. Most people refer to this as a short circuit, and it means loose wire connections or damaged wires have caused a problem. Both a blown fuse and short circuit look the same, with a burned metal ribbon or cloudy glass surface.

Checking Auto Fuses

Before you can check a fuse, you must locate the fuse box (the owner’s manual will be your guide). You can use either a high-impedance digital multimeter (DMM) or fuse tester, and both can be found at your local auto parts store. Here are a few simple ways to check fuse capacity:

  • Check available voltage – After setting the DMM to measure voltage in the auto range, connect the negative test lead to the ground. Then, take the positive test lead and touch both sides of the fuse. Good fuses will measure between 12 and 13.5 volts and a blown one will show zero voltage on one side.
  • Check continuity – Remove the fuse and set the DMM to measure resistance. Then, probe both ends of the chosen fuse. A good fuse will measure 0 and a damaged one will measure OL.
  • Use fuse tester – For this option, all you have to do is touch the probe pins at the back of the fuse (on the contact points) and see if the indicator says “bad” or “good.”

For all your vehicle’s maintenance and repair needs, call Fairfax Auto Repair at 703-822-5911 and schedule an appointment today!

The post What Happens When A Fuse Blows? appeared first on Fairfax Auto Repair.

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Your vehicle’s exhaust system is complex and can take time and money to repair. Despite the inconvenience, ignoring problems with this area will only create more damage and lead to greater financial commitment. If you know the signs of a damaged muffler, you can hopefully catch issues early and limit negative fallout. Here are the most common symptoms your muffler needs help:

Appearance

Regular visual inspections of your vehicle’s systems will help you spot signs of distress. To check the muffler, you’ll first need to raise the car (with a jack) so you can get a closer look. If you see significant rust or any holes, both mean this muffler is in bad shape. Also, if you notice any water dripping from the muffler, you should have a professional take a look.

Sound

Outside the rumble of the engine, healthy cars shouldn’t make much sound. If they do, it generally means something needs attention. That said, a faulty muffler can sound like a roaring pack animal, whereas a functional one simple runs in the background. Also, if you notice sudden rattling noises, it could mean this component has broken or become loose.

Temperature

Although cars run hot, if you turn on the engine for a few minutes and notice the temperature rising rapidly, it could point to a damaged muffler. In fact, muffler issues can sometimes lead to an overheated engine.

Smell

Since the exhaust system funnels fumes away from the vehicle, a damaged one can cause them to retreat inside the car. This issue poses extreme danger, so if you smell strong exhaust odors inside the vehicle, have it towed to the nearest shop as soon as possible.

Fuel Economy

True, decreased gas mileage can mean one of many things has gone wrong, but one option is a bad muffler. So if you notice you’ve been heading to the pump more frequently, pay attention to any other signs this part is in distress. Paired with other symptoms, low fuel economy can mean bad news for your car’s exhaust system.

Final Thoughts

A well-functioning muffler should operate under the radar. So, if your senses tell you otherwise, this system needs maintenance. Not only that, service needs to be handled sooner rather than later, as neglecting the problem can increase the damage and cost of repairs.

For all your vehicle’s maintenance and repair needs, call Fairfax Auto Repair at 703-822-5911 and schedule an appointment today!

The post How Do I Know My Muffler is Bad? appeared first on Fairfax Auto Repair.

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Unlike other vehicle components, windshield wiper blades don’t necessarily have a mileage point at which they should be changed. Instead, pay attention to certain symptoms that tell you they’re soon to fail.

Seasonal Changes

If snow and ice are common where you live, consider changing your wipers before winter. Having new blades prior to needing them will help you maintain a high level of safety when hazardous weather approaches. Additionally, if you live in a climate prone to heavy rainfall, have them replaced before a rainy spring.

Frame Damage

If the metal part of windshield wipers gets broken or bent, it’s time for an upgrade. Perhaps you strike it accidentally as you’re trying to get ice off the windshield, or rough handling during a cleaning makes the frame wonky. Whatever the case, close contact with the window can’t happen with a damaged wiper frame.

Rubber Damage

Like frames, the rubber part of wipers can become split, cracked or broken. More importantly, since this material is responsible for cleaning debris off your windshield, it’s vital the rubber stays in-tact.

A Streaky Finish

If you notice streaks across the windshield (especially after rain) or a thin film of grime and debris, this means the wipers aren’t effectively cleaning the windshield. The issue could be excess dirt or damage on the wipers, but either way, a part that can’t perform is one you should replace as soon as possible.

Irregular Contact

If parts of the windshield aren’t getting clean, it means the blades aren’t coming into complete contact with the glass. This generally happens in the center or corners of the windshield. Since a clear line of sight is vital for driving safety, you should have windshield wipers replaced immediately.

Strange Sounds

If you hear noise as the wipers brush across the glass, it means you need new wipers. Not only are they struggling to make contact with the window (the cause of noise), but that incessant cacophony is just plain annoying.

Replacing windshield wipers is a simple, inexpensive task you can do at home, so there’s no excuse to have old, worn out wipers. If you’ve never replaced them before, simply head to the nearest auto parts store and an associate will tell you the styles that work best with your model. In many cases, they might even help you change them.

For all your vehicle’s maintenance and repair needs, call Fairfax Auto Repair at 703-822-5911 and schedule an appointment today!

The post When Should I Replace My Windshield Wiper Blades? appeared first on Fairfax Auto Repair.

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Not all tire punctures require a new tire. In fact, some flats can be repaired in about 15 minutes. So, before you run to the shop and spend hundreds on new treads, check out these tips for evaluating the damage.

Buy a Kit

Before you can do anything with a damaged tire, you need a tire repair kit. These can be found at any auto repair store for around $10. To make sure it’s available when you need it, keep the kit in your car or trunk.

Remove and Examine the Tire

To get a thorough look at the damage, you’ll need to remove the flat tire from the car. If you’ve never done this before, look in the owner’s manual and use the spare tire tools that came with your vehicle. Also, make sure you have a safe place in which to work (try to avoid pulling along the side of a busy highway). If you can’t find a safe space to work, call in the professionals.

Once you’re out of harm’s way, closely evaluate the tire, paying special attention to the tread and sidewall. If you can’t see an object that has punctured the tire, you’ll have to try another method: 1) inflate the tire as full as it can go; 2) spray the tire with a soap and water solution (anything that creates bubbles); 3) look for bubbles that gurgle…they’ll show you where the leak is.

Make a Mark

Get a piece of tape (colored tape or duct tape works best) and put it right below or above the damaged spot. If there’s a nail or object in your tire, take a pen and mark the spot where it enters the tire. This will let you find the hole after you’ve removed the impediment.

Remove the Object

At this point it’s safe to remove the object (you might need pliers for this part). You’ll need the tire on a stable surface so it doesn’t roll away. Chasing a tire around can make this process frustrating.

Ream and Thread

Now, get your tire plug kit and find the tool that resembles a file with a handle. Take the tool and jam it into the hole, moving it up and down to create a bigger hole on the inside. Pump it in and out a couple of times for good measure.

Next, find the tar worms from the kit and peel one of them off. Thread it through the tool with an eye (it looks like a giant sewing needle). You’ll probably have to pinch the end to get it through, but it should fit until it’s centered in the eye.

Plug It

With the plugging tool in hand, stick the end of the tool into the tire hole. After it’s in a little, press down so the plug sinks completely into the hole (about half an inch should stick out). Then, pull the tool straight out. The plug should stay in the hole, and you can cut off the end. Finally, fill your tire until it’s adequately pressurized and affix it back on the vehicle.

For all your vehicle’s maintenance and repair needs, call Fairfax Auto Repair at 703-822-5911 and schedule an appointment today!

The post Tips for Fixing a Flat Tire appeared first on Fairfax Auto Repair.

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The lights on your car provide an important safety feature. They let other drivers predict your movements, and they make you visible in dark or hazardous weather. In most cases, your tail lights engage when your head lights do, and many modern models have automatic settings that allow the car’s computer to sense when conditions are right for illumination. Sometimes, however, the tail lights stop working but the brake lights stay functional. Here’s a look at common causes of this phenomenon.

Damaged Fuse

Any time an electrical part fails, the first step is checking the fuse. This piece consists of a plastic covering housing a metal band, and it’s designed to break when the current rises too high. To check if the fuse has caused your tail lights to go out, find the fuse box for your vehicle (usually housed under the hood or behind a panel under the dashboard on the passenger side). Once located, check the list of fuses on the inside cover and find the one for the tail light. Remove it and test the power with a fuse tester. Replace the fuse if necessary, or move on to the next possible source of trouble.

Worn Out Bulb

When a light goes out, it could always be the bulb. You can remove the tail light cover and check, and if the bulb needs replacing, it’s an easy inexpensive fix.

Faulty Wiring

Damaged wiring can cause an entire system to fail and will likely require professional assistance. If you want to check the wires yourself, locate the wiring diagram in the owner’s manual and perform a visual inspection for obvious signs of damage.

Bad Socket

The place in which the bulb plugs in is called the socket. If you remove the bulb and notice discoloration on the socket, corrosion has likely set in and you’ll need a new one before the lights can work properly.

Broken Sensor

Today’s cars rely on a number of sensors that communicate with the computer system. If the sensor controlling lights malfunctions, the headlights and parking lights will stop working along with your tail lights.

Damaged Control Switch

The control switch that engages the tail lights can stop working. To check it, simply pull it out from the dash and use a multimeter to gauge performance. If you don’t have this tool, you can take it to a technician for inspection.

For all your vehicle’s maintenance and repair needs, call Fairfax Auto Repair at 703-822-5911 and schedule an appointment today!

The post Common Reasons Your Brake Lights Work When the Tail Lights Don’t appeared first on Fairfax Auto Repair.

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One of the most annoying and inconvenient issues you can experience when driving is a jerky or delayed acceleration. Moving forward is really the only thing you need from a car. So if you step on the gas pedal and don’t feel an immediate, smooth response, these parts could be to blame:

Fuel Injectors

Any part that deals with the amount of fuel reaching the engine will cause the car to jerk if it malfunctions. Since fuel injectors deliver the goods directly into the engine, if they get clogged with carbon deposits and lose efficiency, you will certainly feel it. You might also notice engine misfires or stuttering when these parts start to fail. Fortunately, having them cleaned regularly will help you avoid this issue.

Fuel Filter/Pump

A clogged fuel pump will also decrease the amount of fuel reaching the engine, causing a slow or jerky acceleration. If cleaning or replacing the pump doesn’t fix the problem, check the fuel filter, since air flow in the engine is another essential aspect of clean acceleration. On the up side, replacing filters is one of the easiest and least expensive maintenance tasks.

Spark Plugs

These little parts provide the spark that ignites fuel cylinders. If they get worn out or dirty, nothing in the engine will run smoothly. Again, this issue is easily remedied, as cleaning or replacing spark plugs will have your car performing at optimal levels again.

Catalytic Converter

This part serves a vital function, reducing the pollutants that come out of the exhaust system. If the air/fuel mixture inside the engine becomes too rich, it can disrupt the exhaust, causing the accelerator to respond slowly or stutter/jerk when you press the gas pedal. Other symptoms of a faulty catalytic converter include foul odors and decreased fuel economy.

Air Filter

Filters keep harmful particles from damaging the engine, so making sure they stay clean should always be a top priority. To stay ahead of a clogged air filter, have it evaluated at every oil change. Neglecting this essential element can mean contaminates get into and damage the engine, which will impact its ability to perform.

Airflow Sensor

Modern cars run on a complex computer system that uses sensors to measure and control the various moving parts. If the mass airflow sensor malfunctions, it won’t send the right information to the car’s computer, and other engine components can fail as a result. Luckily, if this part is struggling, it will cause the check engine light to illuminate.

For all your vehicle’s maintenance and repair needs, call Fairfax Auto Repair at 703-822-5911 and schedule an appointment today!

The post Common Reasons Your Car Jerks Upon Acceleration appeared first on Fairfax Auto Repair.

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Thanks to the harsh winter weather often experienced in Fairfax, Virginia, your car’s transmission can start to fail if it’s not properly maintained. The more often you drive, the greater the odds are that your vehicle may require a full transmission repair or replacement. Transmission fluid thickens in cold weather, making it more difficult to shift gears. As the fluid thickens, it makes it more difficult to lubricate the many moving parts of your engine. Winter may also cause your transmission fluid to leak, potentially causing serious and costly damage to your engine. Here are a few helpful ways you can preserve and save your car’s transmission during the winter months.

Fight Off Damage with Warmth

Keeping your car and your engine warm can help to combat transmission-related damage. Whenever possible, store your car in a garage to keep it warm. A car cover is another inexpensive alternative. Allow your vehicle to warm up after sitting outside in the cold overnight but be sure to avoid letting your car sit idle for too long. Keeping the engine warm and allowing it to heat up before driving can help prevent potentially serious issues.

Pay Close Attention to Your Transmission Fluid

Make sure that you’re adding the correct transmission fluid for your vehicle. Synthetic is often best, but you’ll need to make sure that it can be added to your particular make and model. Check on fluid levels regularly so that your engine runs smoothly and stays properly lubricated. When in doubt, take your vehicle to Fairfax Auto Repair for regular check-ups and maintenance.

Watch Your Driving Habits

You may not realize it, but how you drive during the winter can have an impact on your transmission. If you find yourself stuck in the snow, never spin the wheels or rock your car back and forth whenever possible. Instead, find help and have people assist you with pushing the car out of the snow. Avoid driving near black ice and stay off the roads during periods of heavy snowfall whenever possible. When you start driving, go slowly for the first few miles to give your transmission fluid a chance to warm up.

From freezing temperatures to snowy days and nights, protecting your car during the harsh winter season is especially important. Follow these simple tips so you can be sure your transmission stays in excellent shape. Doing so will help you avoid costly repairs, and your car will perform better and last longer so you can protect your investment.

The post Preserve Your Car’s Transmission During the Winter appeared first on Fairfax Auto Repair.

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If you don’t have a carport or a garage, or you live in an area with heavy snow, keeping your car protected from the winter elements can be a challenge. Too much snow and ice can wreak havoc on your car not only in terms of the engine, but it can also damage the car’s overall cosmetic appearance over time. At Fairfax Auto Repair, we offer a wide range of services that will help ensure your car runs smoothly throughout the winter months. The weather in Fairfax, Virginia can be unpredictable, so here are a few of the best ways to keep your car protected during the winter snow.

Apply a Coat of Wax

Just before wintertime, give your car a good, thorough wash and a new coat of wax. The wax will protect your paint job from damage, and it’ll create a protective barrier against the elements like sleet, freezing rain, snow, and ice. You can apply the wax yourself or use a professional service to ensure that it’s applied thoroughly and correctly.

Add a Protective Cover

The snow and other winter elements can wreak havoc on your car’s appearance. And if you don’t have a garage, your vehicle is constantly exposed to the weather no matter what season it is. Invest in a high-quality cover for your vehicle based on your make and model. Place it over your car every evening and during the day if the weather outside is especially harsh.

Check Your Fluid Levels

Replace your summer windshield wiper fluid with a special winter formula so it doesn’t freeze when the temperature gets cold. Maintain proper antifreeze and oil levels in your car throughout the winter season. This will help to prevent any damage to the engine. Also, keep your gas tank at the halfway level or higher to prevent the gas line from freezing.

Protect Your Tires

Not only is making sure your tire tread and air levels are optimum important, but it’s also essential that the rubber and sidewalls are protected during the winter snow. You can do this by applying a special oil that keeps the tire rubber supple in cold temperatures. This will prevent the tire from cracking or even potentially collapsing in extremely cold weather.

Keep Windows Clean

A good hack to keep your car’s windows clean during the snow is to place a large towel over the front and back windshield when snow is in the forecast. This makes it super-easy to remove the next day when you have to head out to work. If you don’t have a towel or forget to use one, always use a plastic scraper to remove the snow from your windows and the rest of your car. Metal is not recommended as this can scratch your paint job and could even cause damage to the windows themselves.

The post Best Ways to Protect Your Car During the Winter Snow appeared first on Fairfax Auto Repair.

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The winters in Fairfax, Virginia can be extremely cold and can often include periods of heavy snow. In order to make sure your car is protected against winter’s chill, there are a few important things you should do in advance to ensure that your vehicle runs throughout the winter months worry-free. With a few simple maintenance practices, you can drive in confidence as well as extend the life of your vehicle. Here are five helpful tips that will ensure your car can handle the brutal cold.

1. Check on Your Tires

When it comes to winter weather, traction is extremely important, so be sure your tire tread has sufficient depth. If the treads seem worn, it may be time to purchase new tires. It’s also a good idea to check your tire pressure and keep in mind that as the temperature drops, so does your pressure. Check your tire pressure regularly throughout the winter season and make some time to refill them with air as needed. These two easy steps will ensure your tires stay in excellent shape.

2. Take a Look at Your Battery

The summer heat can really do a number on your car’s battery. As the weather cools, it’s a great time to check your battery and your car’s battery charging system to ensure that it is providing enough power. A brand new battery is a smart way to ensure that your heat stays pumping all winter season and that your car turns on every morning. The colder the temperature, the harder your battery is working so it’s important that yours is in excellent shape.

3. Get New Wiper Blades

The rain in Fairfax through the spring and summer can quickly wear out your wiper blades. You can clean the edge of your blades periodically, but it’s recommended that you install new ones to be sure that they can properly wipe away frost and snow. New blades will provide you with a cleaner, clearer windshield, and a safer drive.

4. Change Your Oil and Filter

Changing the oil and the oil filter in your car is something most of us do whenever we hit a certain number of miles. Even if it’s not the time for a regularly scheduled oil change, it’s a good idea to have your oil changed before it gets too cold. New oil will lubricate and protect your engine even during brutally cold temperatures.

5. Inspect Your Car Lights

The darkness of winter and winter weather means staying safe on the road is an important priority. Make sure your lenses and lights are not clouded and remember to clean dirt and grime from them as often as possible. Check to ensure that all your lights are in working order including brake lights, tail lights, and headlights so that you stay visible and safe while on the road.

At Fairfax Auto Repair, you’ll find all the services you need to make sure your vehicle is running smoothly and safely through any season of the year.

The post 5 Car Maintenance Tips for the Brutal Cold appeared first on Fairfax Auto Repair.

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One thing we here at Fairfax Auto Repair caution our customers about is manufacturer estimated gas mileage numbers. Yes, your vehicle should get approximately the miles per gallon touted on the sticker and in your owner’s manual, but manufacturers can also inflate those numbers. If your vehicle isn’t getting quite the miles-per-gallon it should be, that’s one thing. If its fuel economy has reduced significantly, there’s something wrong.

Causes of Poor Fuel Economy

One of the most common causes of poor fuel economy is low tire pressure and, thankfully, this is an easy fix. We here in the auto service industry recommend checking the air pressure in all of your tires (and the spare) every other fill up. Keep a tire gauge in your car and while you’re filling your fuel tank, check the pressure quickly.

Another issue could be your oxygen sensor. If it is failing, it can cut 20 percent off your vehicle’s normal fuel efficiency. A dirty or clogged air filter can produce the same results, so make certain to change the air filter at the recommended mileage intervals. Another clog that can cut fuel efficiency are clogged fuel injectors.

The fuel injectors work in tandem with the spark plugs to ignite the fuel in your engine. If your spark plugs need changing, usually every 30,000 to 100,000 miles depending on the make, model, and year of the vehicle you drive, they can reduce your fuel efficiency. As can dirty or old motor oil. Regular maintenance keeps your vehicle fuel efficient.

You Affect it, Too

You can also reduce your fuel efficiency without even realizing. In the summer, your comfort system (or AC) draws power from your vehicle’s electrical system which eats up fuel. Yes, you want the AC on when it’s hot and humid but try to go without it in the morning and the evening if you can. Roll down your windows if you’re driving slowly.

If you drive like a maniac this, too, will reduce how efficiently your vehicle burns fuel. Don’t speed. The slower you drive the more fuel efficient you are. Don’t push the pedal to the metal, slam on the brakes, and repeat, either. This also reduces your fuel efficiency. Stay calm behind the wheel and take it easy on your automobile.

Call Fairfax Auto Repair in Fairfax, VA, at 703-822-5911. We’ll run a diagnostic inspection on your vehicle and also inspect it visually to determine why your car, truck, or SUV isn’t getting the miles-per-gallon it should be.

The post Why Am I Getting Poor Fuel Economy? appeared first on Fairfax Auto Repair.

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