What is a throttle body? What is involved in a throttle body repair?

In Auto Parts, Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Jeep throttle body accelerator cable and air intake boot

Jeep throttle body accelerator cable and air intake boot

Have you been told that it’s time to replace your throttle body? Before we get into some specifics on repairs and replacements, let’s take a moment to talk about what it is, and what it does in your vehicle.

The throttle body is a part that is attached to the air intake system, which is attached to the  vehicle’s engine. A throttle body’s function is to control the amounts of air that is flowing into the engine, based on how hard a driver is pushing down the driver accelerator pedal.

Jeep throttle body hold throttle position sensor and map sensor

Jeep throttle body hold throttle position sensor and map sensor

In order for this part – and your car – to run smoothly, the engine needs to have a good mixture of air and fuel. And if your throttle body isn’t providing enough, or too much air in the engine, that can cause major vehicle problems.

If the ‘check engine’ light has recently turned on in your vehicle, then it could be the throttle body that’s causing the problem. For an automotive technician to get to the root of the problem, diagnostic tests will need to be performed, which will help to identify if it’s the throttle body that’s failing on the engine.

Nissan sentra throttle body with evap test port and intake boot

Nissan sentra throttle body with evap test port and intake boot

Once the problem is identified, then a new throttle body will need to be installed on the air intake system to fix the problem. While some automotive repair shops will allow you to bring in a throttle body you’ve purchased at another retailer, HomeTowne does not install outside parts on cars. Not only does this ensure that the right throttle body is being installed on your car, but it also allows our shop to give you a full two year, 24,000 mile nationwide warranty on the part.

So if your engine light is on, or you know your throttle body needs to be replaced, make sure you’ve got an experienced shop working on it right away.

What is a tie rod? What does it do in my vehicle?

In Auto Parts, Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

tie rod adjustment during a wheel alignment

Tie rod adjustment during a wheel alignment

Hit any potholes recently? Are parts of your vehicle beginning to wear down? If you heard from your automotive repair shop recently that your tie rod needs to be replaced, then that may be why.

You’re probably wondering what a tie rod is – right?

Well, a tie rod is a part of the steering mechanism inside of your vehicle. It’s the piece that connects the steering linkage – or rack and pinion – to the steering knuckle. This combination is what pushes or pulls the wheel to the right or left when you’re steering.

In your vehicle, there are two types of tie roads – an inner tie rod and an outer tie rod.

“They have joints that are typically ball and socket. Over time the socket can become worn allowing movement that results in tire wear, unintended movement in steering, which is unsafe,” said HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire General Manager Rich Campbell.

bent tie rod end on a rack and pinion

Bent tie rod end on a rack and pinion

When your tie rod starts to go bad, it can be a big issue, causing steering control issues and keeping you from driving smoothly down the road.

If you’re worried about your tie rods, have the shop check them right away. Checking tie rods is actually something we already do at our shop as part of our preventative maintenance check during an oil change, and during a Virginia state safety inspection.

To keep your tie rods in good condition, take a look at options that allow for lubrication. Most original tie rods don’t allow for lubrication, but using some upgraded aftermarket parts with grease fittings and updated technology will give your parts better performance and a longer life.

Wheel Alignment -What happens during a wheel alignment?

In Tires & Wheels, Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Wheel Alignment Dodge Neon

Wheel Alignment Dodge Neon

When you bring your vehicle in for a wheel alignment, you’re likely wondering what happens during the alignment service.

During an alignment, a vehicle is put on the rack and the wheels are rotated and adjusted, so they’re properly aligned to fit your vehicle, driving preferences, and manufacturer recommendations.

With the alignments, the wheels can have camber, caster, and toe adjustments done. Camber refers to how much a tire tilts inward and outward from the vehicle. Caster is how much a tire is angled forward or backward. Toe is how much a tire is tilted inward or outward from a bird’s eye view.

Another thing that may happen during a wheel alignment is resetting a vehicle’s steering angle sensor.

BMW Wheel Alignment

BMW 328 wheel alignment, getting a tire alignment after replacing lower control arms

“The steering angle sensor measures the position of the vehicle steering wheel and the rate of turn. The steering angle sensor plays a role in steering pressure along with braking and acceleration in many of today’s vehicles,” said HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire General Manager Rich Campbell.

The speed of your vehicle will determine how hard that sensor must work to keep your vehicle stable. If you’re on the highway driving at a high speed and the tire moves, you’ll want to be sure that the sensor is in working order as it can help with braking, reduce steering pressure, and reduce acceleration for more driving control.

wheel alignment pickup

Wheel Alignment on a Dodge Pickup after installing new tires

If you get an alignment and the steering angle sensor is not reset, you may see a warning light illuminate on the dash, that you’ll want to get checked out right away as it will disable certain safety features.

To learn more about alignments and tire maintenance, click here.

 

Why Virginia state inspections are important for all vehicles

In Car Safety, Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

When people think about state inspections, they often only think about the hassle of bringing their vehicle in the shop, and the potential repair order they’ll get when certain parts of their vehicle don’t pass inspection.

And while for people with work, families, and a busy schedule it may be difficult, there are many reasons why having the state inspections for all vehicles in Virginia is important.

The state inspection program in Virginia is managed by the Virginia State Police.

“This program is an integral part of highway safety and a program the Virginia State Police is proud to provide to the citizens of the Commonwealth,” said Virginia State Police Captain Ron Maxey.

According to Maxey, there are more than 4,500 licensed inspection stations in Virginia that employ around 15,000 licensed state inspectors.

One of the reasons that the state inspection program is so crucial is that it can prevent accidents that can hurt yourself, loved ones, and other drivers on the road.

“As a father and as a husband, I feel that all cars that are on the roads should be safe. Not only safe for the occupants that are inside the vehicles, but for the vehicles that surround them, for pedestrians walking down the street, even for bicyclists,” said Woodbridge resident Joseph George.

Mike Fortune, the owner of Cloverleaf Tire & Auto, said that state inspections each year is often times the first time a driver becomes aware of an issue with their vehicle, so it provides an opportunity for repairs and changes to be made to the vehicle before they become more costly or you end up on the side of the road.

“Imagine driving down the road next to a car that has less than 2/32nds, with almost bald tire and the danger that is, especially in rainy weather or slick conditions,” said Fortune.

Does your Mercedes vehicle have one battery – or two?

In Automotive Diagnostics, Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire


Do you own a Mercedes or BMW?  Then it’s important to know if the model of your vehicle has one battery – or two.

The Mercedes S550 is one model that has two batteries; one to start the engine, and another – called the auxiliary battery – to run the car.

We recently had a Mercedes S550 in the shop that was experiencing some battery issues and wouldn’t start.

“If the auxiliary battery dies, the power locks don’t work, all of the accessories that work with without the key won’t work…but the car will still be able to start,” said HomeTowne Master Technician Keith Clausson.

One of the benefits of having a two battery system is that if your car’s main battery goes dead, you still have the ability to work the locks and get into the vehicle. But, it can also sometimes be a challenge for drivers to identify the problem if they’re not aware of the two batteries.

“Nine times out of ten that battery will give you a warning when that fails, with an indicator on the dash, this one did not. So we just had to go in and test, and see why it wasn’t working,” said Clausson.

If you’re experiencing a problem with your Mercedes or BMW vehicle, and you’ve changed the main battery but there are still issues, make sure you’re checking the panel with the relay boxes in the trunk, to look at the rear auxiliary battery, or bring it into the shop for a diagnosis.

Make sure your vehicle is ready for the winter – what to look for

In Car Safety, Tires & Wheels, Vehicle Fluids, Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

The colder months are approaching in Virginia, and with that cold comes snow, ice, and changing road conditions.

As a driver in the Northern Virginia area, it’s always a good idea to keep your eye on the condition of your vehicle. Especially as a driver in the Washington, D.C. area you need to be following the severe service intervals per the owner’s manual for your vehicle, in order to ensure that your car is ready year round. This is a great basic service interval to go off of, because the wear and tear on the cars from traffic and congestion. And when the seasons change, it is very important that you get some key things looked at on your vehicle, to make sure you’ll make it through the winter safely.

Here’s what we recommend that you have inspected at a qualified automotive shop, before the winter weather really sets in.

check your tire pressure monthly as the tempurature drops

Check your tire pressure monthly, as the temperature drops

Your tires.

Your vehicle’s tires need to be in good shape in the winter, as they’re what help you to brake quickly and steer through icy road conditions. If you typically use a summer tire for your vehicle in the warmer months, then it’s time to change over to an all season or winter tire, depending on your vehicle and driving needs.

In addition to potentially switching the set of tires on your vehicle, you need to also make sure that the tires are being checked for air pressure and tread depth. Your tires need to be properly inflated in order to work effectively – and prevent you from ending up on the side of the road with a flat tire. The tread depth is equally important, as worn down tires with minimal to no tread make it more difficult to brake and handle the vehicle safety in adverse weather conditions.

Your lights.

Especially with it getting dark earlier in the day, it is important that all of your vehicle’s lights are working properly, in order to ensure full visibility. You can walk around your vehicle with the lights on to check that no bulbs are blown out – grab a friend to help if need be. We can also assist you with checking the bulbs and replacing them.

Your vehicle’s battery.

get your battery checked and tested before winter sets in

Get your battery checked and tested before the winter

When it gets colder, a lot of drivers find that they have issues with their car’s battery – often in cases where you need it the most. At our shop we’re able to hook up our battery analyzer to your vehicle to test that the battery is in good condition, and that it can still produce the electrical load that your vehicle requires for starting.

We can also help to make sure that the cells on the battery are good, which can help you to avoid electrical problems with your car.

The vehicle’s cooling system.

Your vehicle’s cooling system makes sure that parts of your vehicle don’t freeze up, and that everything works smoothly. So when the winter comes, you need to make sure your cooling system has been services. The first thing you’ll want to have done is to have a technician check the antifreeze in your car. Is it the correct level? Does the fluid look dirty? What is the alkaline level? These are all things that need to be checked to make sure your cooling system is working properly.

Changing out the fluids is also an important part of servicing your cooling system before the winter season. The coolant fluid needs to have a proper mixture in order for it to work properly and keep your vehicle from freezing up. We can replace those fluids, and drivers should have their coolant inspected and changed out around every 60,000 miles as a standard.

check your cars heater and defrost controls before winter sets in

Check your car’s heater and defrost controls before winter sets in

Your heater and defroster functions on the vehicle.

While this may sound simple, going through each of the modes on your cars temperature controls with heating, air conditioning, and defrosting functions, is important to ensure that they’re working. Especially with the defrost function, you need to test this to make sure air is fully blowing air on the windshield.

Your wiper blades.

In the winter your wiper blades can take a serious beating, especially when you’re dealing with rain, ice, and snowfall. Before winter hits, consider changing out your wiper blades, and have them inspected to see if they’re still in good shape. You should be looking for small cracks or if the rubber is hard – good signs that they need to be swapped out. Also, if they haven’t been changed in one year, it is most likely time to invest in a replacement.

Your vehicle’s transmission.

replacing your dirty air filter can save money on gas

Replacing your dirty air filter can save money on gas

Regardless of what season it is, it is very important for drivers to take care of their vehicle’s transmission. You want to have the transmission inspected to make sure that the levels are correct and that there are no signs of burning – which is the wear from the friction material in the car – that could cause issues for your vehicle later.

Also, make sure you’ve got a snow brush and ice scraper, so that you’re prepared when the snow and ice does come.

Regular maintenance can save you money on car repairs

In Automotive Diagnostics, Brakes, Oil Change, Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

 

Chances are, that whenever possible, you’re trying to save money – particularly when it comes to big ticket items like car repair. While some car repair is unavoidable – like normal wear and tear on the vehicle, or getting into a road incident – there are actually ways that you can avoid major repair work. In order to do that, you need to make sure your car is getting regular maintenance.

axle-cv-joint-volvo-hometowne-auto-repair

This is why it’s important to get your car inspected regularly.

“Most repairs come from lack of maintenance,” said HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire Manager Rich Campbell.

Just like with preventative medical care, regular and preventative maintenance on your vehicle can fix problems when they’re still small, or help you to avoid them altogether.

Each time you bring your car in for an oil change – 3,000 to 7,000 miles depending on specifications for your vehicle and the type of oil you use – technicians need to do a full inspection of the vehicle’s fluids, steering, suspension, and brakes.

If the shop you’re going to now isn’t doing this full inspection with every oil change, you need to find a new shop.

This full inspection looks at all of the common places where wear and damage can start to show in your vehicle, and provides service advisors with the information they need, so they can make appropriate recommendations for your vehicle.

oil-change-auto-repair-woodbridge-virginia-hometowne-auto

Keeping your car maintained with regular oil changes and tire rotations will help your vehicle last longer.

At HomeTowne we provide recommendations ranked by level of urgency, so that even if you can’t handle all of the maintenance immediately, you can come up with a game plan.

Spending a few hundred dollars on importance maintenance here and there is far more reasonable than thousands on unexpected repairs, so make sure that you’re maintaining your vehicle and budgeting for maintenance work, so you can keep you and your car happy, and out on the road.

Getting the most out of your tires, with regular maintenance

In Tires & Wheels, Vehicle Alignment, Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

When one of our service advisor or a manufacturers says that you’ll get a certain number of miles out of a set of tires, do they really mean it? The answer is yes – as long as you care for the vehicle properly.

We recently had a customer come in for service with a set of Uniroyal Tiger Paw tires that we put on his vehicle all the way back in 2013. The Uniroyal Tiger Paws are made to last around 70,000 miles. When our techs pulled the car into the shop, the tires had seen 69,403 miles.

While there are always exceptions, there’s an important reason that the customer’s tires made it up to the 70,000 mile mark. And that reason is proper maintenance.

“We did alignment checks every year. We’ve aligned the vehicle couple of times over that period of time,” said HomeTowne General Manager Rich Campbell.

If you want to get the most out of your tires, you’re going to want tire rotations every other oil change if you’re using standard oil, and every 5,000 miles if you’re using synthetic oil. You’re going to want to get alignments once a year, and bring your car into the shop regularly to check for any problems.

Save yourself some money on tires by investing in proper maintenance, and really caring for your car.

When is a tire repairable?

In Auto Shop Talk, Tires & Wheels, Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

 

When you’ve got a hole, nail or tear in your tire, there’s a possibility it can be repaired.

One of our General Service Technicians from HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire has some tips on how to determine if your tire is repairable – or not.

The first thing we do is a tread depth gauge of the outer, middle, and inner of the tire, to see if the tire is 4/32nds across. Then we check the tire for bad dry rot, cracks, splitting, bubbles, bulges and any objects stuck in the tire. It’s important to take the tire off of the vehicle when inspecting it, because you can’t tell the condition of the tire on the inside until you check.

Once we do the inspection, we’ll be able to determine if a tire is repairable. At HomeTowne, we follow all Tire Industry Association (TIA) guidelines when determining if a flat tire is repairable.

So, when is a tire repairable?

-When a tire’s wear is above 2/32nds

-When a tire manufacturer says patches and plugs can be used on a tire. The TIA recommends 2 to 3 patch plugs for a repair

-When damage spots to the tire are at least one inch apart

-If damage to the tire is on the middle tread

When is a tire not repairable?

-When a tire is worn down below 2/32nds

-If the tire’s manufacturer says 0 patch plugs can be used on a tire

-If there are multiple objects, tears, etc. that are closer than one inch apart

-When damage to the tire is on the outer or inner tread

Each tire and situation is different, but at HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire we’re happy to take a look at your tires, and see if they’re eligible for our free flat repair.

HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire learn more about catalytic converters

In Auto Parts, Auto Repair Warranty, Automotive Diagnostics, Service Standards, Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Walker exhaust

A Tenneco representative, which makes Walker exhaust parts, was at HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire giving a class.

At HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire we recently hosted an employee training with a Tenneco rep about catalytic converters, shocks and struts, and other aftermarket vehicle parts.

Tenneco is the world’s largest manufacturer of aftermarket vehicle parts.

During the training, our technicians and service writers learned some interesting facts that will help them to better diagnose and understand vehicle issues.

“We learned that 95% of the catalytic converters that are sent back – that are claimed to be not working, or malfunctioning, are actually found to be still working as designed. And that’s typically because there’s another issue that has caused the readings to indicate that the catalytic converter has gone bad – usually a misfire, or a component in the engine that is not performing like it’s supposed to. Typically people will replace the catalytic converter because they’re not trained or skilled enough to know there’s an issue that’s further up in the engine assembly that actually causes the damage to the converter,” said HomeTowne General Manager Rich Campbell.

Muffler and catalytic converter class

Auto repair shop holding classes from Tenneco at night.

A major upside of having technicians and staff specially trained on these parts is that we can potentially save our customers money. By knowing to check for things like misfires, and related problems in the engine assembly, we can potentially avoid having to replace your vehicle’s catalytic converter, which xan be a costly repair.

One reason why we’re proud to use parts made by Tenneco and their subsidiaries, is that they often the same warranty as the OEM parts already on your vehicle.

“The original equipment catalytic converter that you buy at a Toyota dealership, or a Lexus dealership, is no different, and carries basically the same warranties as the aftermarket. However, Tenneco differentiates itself and adds 125% of the precious metals the original equipment came with, therefore giving you a better, longer lasting aftermarket replacement converter,” said Campbell.