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Why you should change your cabin air filter and clean the cowling

In Cabin Air Filter by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Leaves will soon begin falling across Virginia.

They can become lodged in your car’s cabin air filter or the cowling area.

Cabin air filters clean the air that goes into the front of vehicles and prevent bacteria, dirt, dust and pollen from entering.

They keep the heating core and evaporator from getting blocked, as well.

Once or twice a year, it’s a good idea to clean out and vacuum the cowling area, where leaves, sticks and pine needles can build up.

Cowling area

The windshield wipers hook up at the cowling area and water from the windshield drains into it before running off the sides under the car.

It also houses the windshield wiper motor and air intake for the heating and air conditioning system and cabin air filter. 

Cleaning the cowling area can help keep your cabin air filter clean and prevents your car from smelling moldy. 

It’s important to have the cabin air filter replaced regularly. If it isn’t, it becomes more clogged and may add more stress to the blower motor.

In addition to leaves, cabin air filters may become home to animals that are seeking warmth or shelter.

One indicator that your cabin air filter isn’t working properly or it’s blocked by too many leaves or a mouse nest, is that particles will come out of the vent when you turn the air conditioning or heat on the highest setting. 

Cabin air filters should get changed every 10,000 to 20,000 miles, depending on the car’s make and model and where it’s driven.

A vehicle that travels down a dirt road every day may need to be replaced more often than one that goes from a driveway to the interstate.

Our technicians check cabin air filters during oil changes, as part of our courtesy inspection. They also spray the disinfectant BG Frigi Fresh into the air intake system.

So, what kind of cabin air filter should you use?

It’s like getting an air filter for your house – you can buy a $3 air filter or $30 air filter. 

Depending on the make model of the vehicle, you can spend $3 to 5 or up to $75 or $80 for a cabin air filter.

How the air filter is made, if it will get distorted, and the materials the filter is made out of also impact the price.

On some vehicles, like BMWs and Mercedes, they may have a charcoal filter built into them, which are going to be more expensive. Some vehicles have two cabin air filters, others have none.

HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire is an authorized Michelin and BFGoodrich tire dealer located in Woodbridge, Virginia. Automotive repair services are performed on all makes and models, including oil changes, brakes, alignments, inspections, and computer engine diagnostics. 

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Tell your auto repair shop everything

In Vehicle Alignment by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Details are key.

When dropping off your vehicle at an auto repair shop, it’s important to provide as much information as possible – whether it’s a noise you hear, work that has been done, or a recent incident. 

The driver of a Dodge Avenger brought their car in for a wheel alignment and explained that they had hit a curb.

Before performing alignments, our technicians complete a free courtesy inspection. During courtesy checks, they check various components, including the brakes and lights.

When looking over the Dodge Avenger, we noticed that a wheel and tire were damaged and that the wheel would shift back and forth when the brakes were applied. The lower control arm was broken, as well.

Auto repair shop
Broken lower control arm

Lower control arms are responsible for linking the frame with the suspension.

As one of the technicians removed the broken lower control arm, he saw that the subframe was bent and needed to be replaced.

auto repair shop
Old subframe

Providing details to your mechanic an idea of things we should be watchful for and steps we need to take to care of your car.

It can also prevent more damage from occurring.

HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire is an authorized Michelin and BFGoodrich tire dealer located in Woodbridge, Virginia. Automotive repair services are performed on all makes and models, including oil changes, brakes, alignments, inspections, and computer engine diagnostics. 

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Headlights: What’s checked during the Virginia Safety Inspection

In Car Safety by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

It’s starting to become darker earlier.

With the nights lengthening, it’s even more important that drivers have functioning headlights.

Headlights are among the parts that are looked over during the annual Virginia Safety Inspection. Brakes are another component.

In addition to making sure the assembly doesn’t shift, inspectors ensure there aren’t any cracks, which can alter the aiming pattern.

Why do we focus on this?

When you’re stopped at a traffic light or traveling down the highway, the headlights must be aligned in a certain way so you don’t blind oncoming traffic.

If a headlight is pointed up or to the left too much, it could impair the vision of other drivers and cause an accident.

We also check for headlights that are foggy or those that are too dim or too bright.

Our technicians can determine the candlepower and aiming with a headlight aligner machine.

The lifespan of a headlight depends on the type and how often it’s used.

If you choose to replace yours, verify that it’s approved by the SAE with the correct number. This will determine if the headlight can be used on the road.

Cheap headlights that fit your vehicle are available for purchase online; however, they might not be allowed for highway use. If not, you could get a ticket. Headlights that aren’t SAE approved also won’t pass the Virginia Safety Inspection.

HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire is an authorized Michelin and BFGoodrich tire dealer located in Woodbridge, Virginia. Automotive repair services are performed on all makes and models, including oil changes, brakes, alignments, inspections, and computer engine diagnostics. 

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Signs your water pump is going bad

In Uncategorized by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Your car’s water pump ensures that coolant is moving through the engine, preventing it from overheating.

You may need a new one if it’s corroding or loose, or the radiator is emitting steam.

An overheating engine and coolant leaking in the center of the car’s front end are also signs of a bad water pump.

Here are some recommendations for those who may have water pump problems and technicians who are looking into them.

One of our technicians installed a new pump on a Cadillac, which was overheating and had a coolant leak.

As the technician worked on it, he noticed that the drive belt and drive pulley had been shredded. We think this was caused by the pump locking up. 

Water pump
Shredded drive belt and drive pulley

To access it, the technician needed to remove the water pump housing, which includes part of the EGR system and Evaporative Emission Control System (EVAP) system.

HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire is an authorized Michelin and BFGoodrich tire dealer located in Woodbridge, Virginia. Automotive repair services are performed on all makes and models, including oil changes, brakes, alignments, inspections, and computer engine diagnostics. 

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BFGoodrich Advantage T/A Sport Tire: A high quality, all-season tire

In Tires & Wheels by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Are you in the market for a high quality tire with a lower price point?

The BFGoodrich Advantage T/A Sport Tire may be the right fit for your vehicle.

With a 65,000 to 75,000 mile treadlife, this all season tire works well in dry and wet weather conditions. It features siping that helps push away water.

The BFGoodrich Advantage T/A Sport Tire is very similar to the Michelin Defender Tire, Michelin’s top tire.

Sizes are available for different types of vehicles, including trucks, SUVs and smaller cars.

HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire has a wide selection of tires. We also offer a nationwide road hazard warranty for all tires that we sell. 

This month, if you buy a set of four tires and a wheel alignment, you can receive road hazard at no charge.

To learn more about this BFGoodrich tire or any other tires, give us a call at (703) 594-4646 or visit us at 15698 Jefferson Davis Highway in Woodbridge.

HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire is an authorized Michelin and BFGoodrich tire dealer located in Woodbridge, Virginia. Automotive repair services are performed on all makes and models, including oil changes, brakes, alignments, inspections, and computer engine diagnostics. 

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Car windows on Subaru wouldn’t roll down

In Uncategorized by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Are your car windows refusing to roll up or down? There are a few different causes behind this.

A Subaru driver dropped off their vehicle at HomeTowne after realizing the passenger car windows weren’t working.

First, Charles checked the window switches. He then moved on to the motors for the passenger windows and learned they weren’t working.

Located in the car door, the window motor is one part that is needed to open and close the window.

When you press the switch, a current goes to the motor. This starts the regulator, which causes the window to go up and down.

For some vehicles, the motor and regulator can be ordered separately. In this case, they came as one assembly. 

car windows
Window Motor and Regulation Assembly

The motor going bad is one car window problem that can occur. It could also be installed incorrectly.

A window with automatic up and down may not roll down if a car battery has been changed or disconnected. Some drivers believe that the window is broken, when it just needs to be reprogrammed.

This issue can also happen with sunroofs. 

The window switch is another part that can stop working.

If your window isn’t opening or closing, it’s also a good idea to make sure the window lock button hasn’t been pressed.

HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire is an authorized Michelin and BFGoodrich tire dealer located in Woodbridge, Virginia. Automotive repair services are performed on all makes and models, including oil changes, brakes, alignments, inspections, and computer engine diagnostics. 

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Emission test required every two years

In Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Every two years, Northern Virginia drivers must have an emission test conducted on their vehicle.

This requirement applies to those who keep their cars in certain localities, such as Prince William County and the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park.

The emission test seeks to protect the environment by making sure the car releases the right amount of fumes into the air.

It is run by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire is an emissions shop. It became a Virginia Certified Emissions Repair Facility in 2017.

We confirm details about the car, including its weight and Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).

When testing a vehicle that’s older than 1996, inspectors use a sniffer tool that’s put inside the tailpipe. They also check for various components, including the catalytic converter, O2 sensors and the Evaporative Emission Control System (EVAP).

We use an OBD II connection device on newer cars. The DEQ computer plugs into the OBD II port on the car and checks for problem codes and system monitors.

Those monitors can include the EVAP system, catalyst (catalytic converter), 02 sensors, the EGR system, Oxygen Sensor Heater and secondary air system.

There are a few ways you can be rejected for testing: if there are bald tires, an audible exhaust leak, or fluid that’s dripping on the dyno machine.

Why does that matter?

We have to make sure the vehicle is safe to run on the dyno, in case the DEQ requires it.

HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire is an authorized Michelin and BFGoodrich tire dealer located in Woodbridge, Virginia. Automotive repair services are performed on all makes and models, including oil changes, brakes, alignments, inspections, and computer engine diagnostics.

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What impacts oil change prices?

In Oil Change by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Is your car due for an oil change?

A few factors can play a role in the cost.

Oil change prices can depend on how many quarts a vehicle has and the type of oil it needs.

The make and model of a car also impacts oil change prices.

For example, an oil change for a BMW, Mercedes, or other luxury vehicles may cost more because they require special scan tools to reset the maintenance lights.

Mercedes and BMWs have several lights that can be triggered, so it’s important for technicians to take their time and check them off.

The manufacturers of some cars, like the Mercedes-Benz built after 2010, suggest changing the oil and oil filter every 10,000 miles or after one year.

If you’re driving an older Mercedes-Benz, you may be better off changing your oil at the 5,000 mile mark.

TECHNICIAN TIP: One of our technicians wants to make sure he’s taking care of his Mercedes. He likes to change his oil at 5,000 miles and top off the fluid to keep everything clean in the engine. He also does that because the stop and go traffic in Northern Virginia can be pretty hard on a car.

Because of there are so many different types of oil out there, it’s hard to stock every single one. At HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire, we use synthetic oil so every car gets the best oil. Read about our switch to full synthetic.

Therefore, with all of the commuting, we recommend a 5,000 mile interval with our oil, as that’s also a good time to rotate the tires.

Our technicians rotate the tires and perform a courtesy check during every oil change.

If you don’t change your oil or if you go too long without an oil change, it can cause damage to the engine.

Regular oil changes also helps prevent sludge buildup.

Read more about what happens during an oil change and why they are important.

We recommend checking your oil every other time to fill up on gas. 

If you notice you’re low on oil, it’s OK to add oil between oil changes as long as it’s the right type, viscosity and amount.

However, it’s important to keep an eye on it, because a vehicle shouldn’t use or lose oil. If you’re losing more than a quart or two between oil changes, it could mean that there’s a leak or the oil is being consumed internally.

Depending on the type of engine you have, the valve can go bad on the intake manifold. That can lead to an oil consumption problem.

HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire is an authorized Michelin and BFGoodrich tire dealer located in Woodbridge, Virginia. Automotive repair services are performed on all makes and models, including oil changes, brakes, alignments, inspections, and computer engine diagnostics.

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Five possible reasons why your air conditioning isn’t working

In Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

It’s that time of the year where the sun is beating down and many drivers are starting to notice that their vehicle’s air conditioning system isn’t doing the job.

Here are a few possible causes behind this problem:

Low on freon: The car could be low on refrigerant, which means that it likely has a leak. Air conditioning leaks could be coming from multiple locations, including fittings and rubber gaskets.

Freon being added to Buick

Malfunctioning expansion valve: It’s possible that the problem lies with the expansion valve, which helps control the amount of freon that flows through the A/C system. This component may not be working correctly.

Expansion valve
Expansion valve

Electronic Climate Control System: Another part that could be failing is the Electronic Climate Control System. This function determines how cold or hot it gets in the front of the car.

air conditioning
Electronic Climate Control System

Operator error: Today, the setup for car A/C systems vary. So, it’s very easy to hit a wrong button — or not the one you should. It’s a good idea to read the owner’s manual and make sure you aren’t missing something.

air conditioning
Turning on the air conditioning

Constricted air conditioning condenser: You might also want to check to see if the condenser is constricted. Due to improper cleaning or an impact, the fins could become bent and block the airflow.

condenser
Old Air Conditioning Condenser

HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire is an authorized Michelin and BFGoodrich tire dealer located in Woodbridge, Virginia. Automotive repair services are performed on all makes and models, including oil changes, brakes, alignments, inspections, and computer engine diagnostics.

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How to keep your car air conditioning condenser clean

In Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Air conditioning offers sweet relief from the hot summer sun.

Like other parts of your vehicle, maintaining it is necessary.

Many parts make up an air conditioning system. The condenser is responsible for condensing the refrigerant that runs through it.

Cleaning your air conditioning condenser is one way you can maintain it.

You will want to start by removing leaves, bugs and other debris. This can be done using a shop vacuum that has a soft bristle brush.

Then, spray the condenser with air conditioning cleaner and rinse it off. For vehicles that have a compressor, a blow gun can remove some of the water.

On some higher end cars, there are air vents controlled by the car’s computer. They open and close when the air conditioning is on.

You may also want to check out the small fins on the air conditioning condenser. If there is some sort of impact or they are cleaned improperly, they can block the airflow that’s coming through. The fins will need to be straightened, which is a very time consuming task.

HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire is an authorized Michelin and BFGoodrich tire dealer located in Woodbridge, Virginia. Automotive repair services are performed on all makes and models, including oil changes, brakes, alignments, inspections, and computer engine diagnostics.