Don’t end up stranded on the side of the road this holiday season

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

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It’s almost Thanksgiving, and if you’re like one of the 1.4 million other Virginians planning to travel for the holiday, or throughout the holiday season, then you need to make sure you’re prepared – otherwise you may end up on the side of the road.

According to AAA, the travel numbers for 2017 are up by 44,000 people – a 3.2% increase from the last year. In fact, they’re expecting Thanksgiving to be the most heavily traveled holiday in a dozen years. Totals for Christmas traveling may be even higher.

AAA says that they plan on rescuing more than 330,000 motorists left on the side of the road for the Thanksgiving weekend, primarily due to lockouts, flat tires, and battery issues. And whether you’re going just down the road, or traveling several hours out of state, it pays to be ready.

Here’s what you can do to prepare your vehicle for the holiday season:

  • Check the air pressure in all of your tires, including the spare tire you keep in the back. “If you end up with a flat, and you go to put the spare tire on, next thing you know the spare tire is flat,” said HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire owner ST Billingsley.
  • Check the oil level and fluid levels. These may need to be topped off to prevent overheating and other issues on that long holiday drive.
  • Make sure that you have windshield washer fluid in your wiper blades. “A lot of times when you’re driving on dirty roads, you go to use the windshield wipers, and there’s no washer fluid in there,” said Billingsley.
  • Check for any obvious battery corrosion. This could be a sign that something is wrong with the battery terminals, or that your car battery needs to be replaced before you head out of town.
  • Double-check that you have roadside assistance as part of your car insurance, or through a company like AAA. It’s easy to call the insurance company and check if you have roadside assistance in your plan. Don’t? It’s worth adding it for situations like this.

But even the best laid plans can go awry. If you’re on your travels and end up on the side of the road, here are some things you should have stocked and ready to go in your vehicle: engine-oil-level-check

  • Flares or safety triangles. If you are on the side of the road, you want your car to be visible, and make other drivers aware that you’re there for a reason, especially if you need assistance. Make sure you’re careful when placing them on the side of the road during a breakdown, to prevent being injured or hit in the process.
  • Heavy duty work gloves. “Say that your tire’s flat and you’re in the dirt or all that, or you know sometimes it might be cold, grabbing all that metal…it’s just nice to have,” said Billingsley.

And if you’re too busy to do all of the checking and maintenance yourself, consider bringing it in to HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire so we can check it out before you head home for the holidays. Basic checks can be done by any windshield-washer-fluid-valvolineautomotive shop, although what they check varies from place to place.

At HomeTowne, we check the fluids and top them off, check the air pressure, check washer fluid, check the vehicle lights, rotate the tires, check the brakes, and more.

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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

Get a pre-purchase inspection before buying your next used car

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

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Pre-purchase inspections can help to spot problems with a used vehicle you want to purchase.

Are you looking to purchase a used car? Buying a used car can be nerve-wracking, even if you already know a fair bit about cars. That’s where HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire can help.

At our shop we offer a pre-purchase inspection service for used cars – perfect for if you’re planning on buying a car and want to check it out first.

Our technicians will do a thorough inspection of the vehicle, looking for any damage, system failures, problem areas and indicators of a lack of regular maintenance. We also run a test on all of the systems in the vehicle, to pinpoint any issues.

We offer different levels of pre-purchase inspections, depending on your needs and what you already know about the vehicle. With our most basic inspection we offer a state inspection-style check with an oil change, to look for problems with the vehicle.

In our more in-depth pre-purchase inspections we’ll hook the car up to our computer diagnostics and look for error codes, and check the entire vehicle’s body, frame and suspension for even minor issues that could be costly later on.

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We inspect the entire car and test it’s systems to look for failures and a lack of maintenance.

With our third level inspection check, we’ll also test all of the buttons in the vehicle to ensure that they’re working properly and do a function test that includes climate control (heating and air conditioning) which can be costly fixes when buying a used car.

If you’re interested in getting a pre-purchased inspection on a used vehicle, give our advisers at HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire a call. The inspection can take up to an hour and a half, so we recommend scheduling ahead of time.

We care about our customers, and we’re hoping that getting an inspection with help you to make a decision on whether or not it’s right to purchase the vehicle you’re considering, and to help you make sure that you know what you’re getting.

It’s always good to double check, as buying any car is a huge investment. We’ve seen firsthand, with previous pre-purchase inspections, how it can save you thousands of dollars in repairs down the road.

Why you shouldn’t lie to your mechanic

In Automotive Diagnostics by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

You hear a clunking sound. Or maybe you hit a pothole.

Whatever the reason, you’re having an issue with your car, and you need to bring it in for service. When you’re speaking with a service writer and dropping your vehicle off, it’s crucial that you be honest and give as much information as possible.

In some cases, customers will not tell the full truth about what’s going on with their vehicle. Maybe they’re embarrassed about what happened, or maybe they don’t want to pay what they think will be more money if they’re honest. But no matter what the reason, you need to be completely honest with your auto technician.

“Don’t be embarrassed about what’s going on with your car. Just like a doctor – tell me anything. Full disclosure can lead to a better car diagnosis,” said Robert Moser, a technician at HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire.

If you’re not telling a technician or service advisor what the problem is, it makes it hard for the technician to pinpoint the problem so that it can be fixed.

“I might hear several funny noises on a test drive, but I need to know which one you want me to fix. I’d hate to fix something, only to find out it wasn’t the issue you were originally having,” said Moser.

Even if you don’t think a piece of information is fully relevant, telling our staff as much detail as possible will actually help you out in the long run.

“When you disconnect your battery or do an emissions repair that requires you to disconnect your battery, there are several monitors on your car that need to be set…even though it’s not necessarily a lie, some people don’t think that it’s important, even if we ask,” said Joe Wood, service advisor for HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire.

By hiding or leaving out information, it can have a big impact on the amount of time you’re waiting for your car to be repaired.

“A customer came in, complaining of no cool air coming from the dashboard, and that’s all the information that she gave us. We pulled the car in, checked the gauges on the AC equipment…after talking customer we had to call back and found that she was losing air at a higher RPM…then we were finally able to track down the problem. If we had known that from the start, it would’ve helped us to speed up the process of finding her problem,” said Eddie Carico, service advisor for HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire.

And if you think that it’s going to be a way to save money on repairs, you’ll actually end up spending more overall, because of the extra time it takes for technicians to diagnose the problem.

“The less information they can feed us, they think the cheaper it’s going to be in repairs, but it doesn’t work that way,” said Carico.

“Lying to your mechanic can create more problems than it can solve. For example, customer comes in, says their engine light turned on and they said that no work had been done on it – the light had just come on. Look at the car, find that the intake had been off, wires were not connected, the vacuum line was not connected properly and a gasket had been put on upside down. If the customer had told us that work had been done, we’d have known where to look a lot sooner…and it would have saved about two hours of diagnostic time,” said Keith Clausson, a technician for HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire.

So the next time you have a problem with your car, be honest and tell us the full story. There’s no judgment and we’ll be happy to work on your car, knowing that we have all of the information to fix it quickly and properly.

Five costly mistakes of car ownership

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

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If a modern car is treated with care, it can last for over 100,000 miles without needing major costly repairs. However, neglecting you car’s maintenance needs can leave you with a large bill that could have been avoided. Do you really want to be spending extra money?

Here are five commonly-made mistakes to avoid. Doing so will not just save money, but keep you and your passengers safe as well.

Putting off an Oil Change
1. While oil technology has improved dramatically over the past couple of decades, it is still important to change your oil as recommended by your car’s manufacturer. Motor oil gradually breaks down as it is circulated through your engine. After a certain number of miles, the oil doesn’t provide adequate lubrication. In modern engines, many manufacturers use some form of variable valve timing or hydraulic pressure from the oil pump to help make the cars more powerful and efficient. Not changing the oil greatly affects these systems. Changing your oil is one of the kindest, simplest things you can do for your vehicle to insure your engine performs like it is supposed to for a very long time. Skipping this simple task can shorten the life of your car.

Changing Tires without an Alignment
2. An alignment ensures that the wheels of your car are positioned properly on the road. When a car is out of alignment, the tires wear out prematurely or in places where they’re not supposed to. If you are replacing two or more tires it is important to have this checked to get the most life out of the tires.

Installing Oversized Aftermarket Wheels
3. While some aftermarket wheels are carefully designed to be compatible with certain vehicles, getting the wrong wheels can harm your vehicle’s suspension and ride comfort. Also, if you buy wheels that are too large for your car, you can damage your fenders and wheel wells. Even though, the wheels and tires may technically fit on the vehicle it puts more force on the wheel bearing and brakes and can make them wear out prematurely although it looks cool, (and I agree) be prepared for some extra repairs.

Buying a Cheap Battery
4. A dead battery is a huge hassle. Often times, it means waiting for a jump start, or having to wait for a ride to get a battery to put in your car. And it’s important to find the exact battery for your car. A less expensive battery generally has fewer cells and less reactive material in it then a higher end battery so therefore the cold cranking amp ability and the longevity will generally be less. Going to a garage with ASE certified technicians with the right battery test equipment can help you avoid an inconvenient break down.

Getting Cheap Body Work
5. If you have a dent on your car, sometimes you can be approached by a “professional” in a shopping mall parking lot, or a friend might offer to take care of the problem. Beware, because sloppy body repair can cost more to correct than the original damage. Once an amateur has damaged the paint, a dent that could have been repaired by a professional for $100 dollars or (3 egg laying hens, and 5 pounds of bacon) * according to google July 29th, 2014, might now cost five times as much to be fixed.