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.

 

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.

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.

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HomeTowne celebrates National Tire Safety Week, May 29 – June 4

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

On May 29 through June 4, HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire will be celebrating National Tire Safety Week.

National Tire Safety Week is an excellent chance for you to have your tires inspected to make sure that they’re keeping you safe out on the road, or to get your tires repaired or replaced.

“It’s a reminder to make sure you’ve got your air pressure checked. You also want to make sure that any time you have an oil change that they look for anything in the tires – nails, screws – and make sure they’re properly repaired with a plug patch,” said HomeTowne General Manager Rich Campbell.

According to the Rubber Manufacturers Association, to make sure that your tires are safe you need to check the pressure, alignment, rotation, and tread.

At our shop we offer free flat repair to all of our customers – regardless of if you bought your tires with us.

We also fill tires with nitrogen air at no charge, which is better not only for your tires, but the environment as well.

Customer review of the BFGoodrich g-Force Comp tires

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

Our customer Ashley came to HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire to replace her tires recently, and opted for the BFGoodrich g-Force Comp tires on her Mazda 3.

Here’s what she had to say about her new tires, and how they perform on the road.

“I can’t say more things about how much I love about them. When it comes to performance, these things, you know, you really feel planted. You really feel the grip in each turn. I had previous to this, Michelin Pilots, and I really enjoyed those, I just kind of wanted a little bit more of a grip with when I’m taking turns, and I was referred by Eddie here in the shop to try these out. And I was really open to trying them out, and I’m really happy. I feel a difference. I really feel like each turn I take, it’s going to take it. I think you guys in the performance industry, or just in the performance community, if you want to try some really good tires that will take each turn how you want it, these are the ones to go. And I think this is a good tire for you guys,” Ashley said.

At our shop we offer several tires for a variety of vehicles, seasons, and preferences, and the BFGoodrich g-Force Comp tires are definitely a fan favorite. They’re specifically designed to accelerate faster, corner harder, and brake quickly – even in wet and slippery conditions.

7 things to do, to get your car ready for the spring

In Brake Fluid Flush, Cabin Air Filter, Oil Change, Tires & Wheels, Vehicle Fluids, Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Now that the hard winter months are behind us and we’re moving into spring, it may be time for you to do some ‘spring cleaning’ and bring your car to the shop for some maintenance.

Here are some seven things we recommend for your vehicle, now that spring is on its way:

7 things to do, to get your car ready for the springGet your cabin air-filter swapped out.

While getting your cabin air-filters changed regularly is an important part of regular maintenance, it’s even more important when it’s springtime, in order to keep pollen and other things in the air out of your car.

“That cabin air filter filters your pollen, the dust, and getting ready for spring you want a good, fresh cabin air filter in there,” said Rich Campbell, manager at HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire.

 

Get your car’s fluids flushed, especially your coolant.

7 things to do, to get your car ready for the spring

Radiator hose replacement at HomeTowne Auto Repair and Tire

Now that winter is pretty much over, it’s a good idea to get all of your car’s fluids checked, flushed, and refilled – especially your coolant, as the coolant keeps your car cool and working properly, as temperatures continue to climb.

“Given the fact that we’re going to start coming in to warmer weather, your car’s going to be running a little hotter because the ambient temperature’s going to be warmed up, so coolant’s a good fluid to get changed now,” said Campbell.

 

Get your tires inspected, to make sure they’re in good shape.

7 things to do, to get your car ready for the spring

Brake fluid flush on Jeep at HomeTowne Auto Repair and Tire

During the winter, driving through snow and ice can really take a toll on your tires. Having your tires inspected, to make sure that they’re still safe to drive and have enough tread on them is huge as spring rains move through the area. If your tires are worn down, you won’t be able to have the traction you need, for stopping time on wet surfaces. A few seconds may not sound like much when it comes to traction on your tires, but can make a huge difference when your stopping time is impaired.

“You need to make sure you’ve got adequate traction,” said Campbell.

If you use winter tires, it’s time to swap them out.

While many people now opt for an all season tire, if you’ve invested in winter tires for the bad weather in Virginia, then now it’s time to preserve the life of those tires, and switch over to some all season or summer tires.

Get all of your bulbs and lights checked.

7 things to do, to get your car ready for the spring

Replacing tail light bulb at HomeTowne Auto Repair and Tire

This is another part of good vehicle maintenance that you should be doing year round, but as part of your vehicle ‘spring cleaning’ it’s a good idea to make sure that all of your lights and bulbs are working correctly, and replace the ones that have fizzled out.

Get your hoses checked for dirt and grime buildup.

During the winter time, things like salt and grime can work their way into your car, specifically your houses, and cause a problem later if it goes unchecked. You don’t want to wait until you’re having a problem with your hoses, to find it was something that could have been prevented with a little maintenance.

“Dirt and grime accumulates from the winter salts we’ve endured. That salt’s pretty tough on the underside of a car,” said Campbell.

7 things to do, to get your car ready for the spring

Wheel Alignment at HomeTowne Auto Repair and Tire

Get your alignment checked.

In the winter you’re bound to deal with all of the potholes that have accumulated from snow and plowing, and maybe you even ran into a few curbs during a storm. No matter what the reason is, getting your alignment checked and corrected, and having a technician check for tire wear are important parts of springtime maintenance.

The multi-point courtesy check that HomeTowne does will pick up a lot of these issues and more, and comes free with all of our standard oil changes. Be smart this spring, and make sure your car is ready to go for spring and summer road trips, not stuck in the shop for costly problems.

Do you need winter tires?

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

Do you need winter tires?

Winter tires

Before you know it, snow will be falling and ice will be accumulating on the roads. You may be thinking that your regular tires will do the trick, and will be able to get you around safely this winter, but that may not be the case. Being in Virginia, it may not be as prone to snowy weather as other parts of the country, but it does snow here, and snow and ice can put you and your vehicle at serious risk.

Chances are that your current set of tires are either summer performance, or all-season tires. Like the name ‘all-season’ implies, you will hypothetically be able to drive with your tires in winter weather, but that doesn’t mean they’re the safest option. If you want to make sure you’ve got the best chance of avoiding crashes and damage, you need to invest in a good set of winter tires.

Let’s talk about the benefits of winter tires:

  • More traction. With winter tires, they’re designed with tread patterns that are meant to have better traction when driving on snow and ice. The more traction, the safer it is to drive on slippery winter roads.
  • What they’re made of. When it comes to winter tires, what they’re made of plays a big role in how they handle snow and ice. Quality winter tires have rubber compounds like silica and sunflower oil in the tire, which makes it ‘softer’. This softness allows the tire to maintain grip, instead of freezing and locking up, like what happens with a traditional tire.
  • Increased brake performance and stop time. You never know when an extra 10 to 15 feet of stopping time could prevent a collision, especially when there are inclement weather conditions. When you get winter tires on your vehicle, you’re maximizing your braking performance and stop time on icy and snowy roads. Recent tests on winter tires have shown up to a 35% improvement in braking capacity with winter tires, according to Tire Rack.
  • It’s a good investment. Other than the fact that you’re investing in your safety and the safety of your vehicle by purchasing winter tires, you’re also going to be saving money in other ways too. Yes, buying a set of winter tires up front is an investment. But there is nothing you can do to stop the snow and ice this winter, and when you’re driving on icy and snowy roads, it will eat up your all-season tires far quicker than winter tires. You can alternate between sets for the seasons, and extend the life of your tires overall. This in turn will save you money.
Do you need winter tires?

Winter tires have many benefits.

Now is the time to head in to HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire, to see what winter tires will work best for your car. You don’t want to wait until snow is actually falling, or you’ve been in a collision to make your seasonal switch over to winter tires. Our advisors are here to help, and we will walk you through all of the winter tire options that will
work with your vehicle. We carry an extensive line of quality tires, including some of the best winter tires on the market.

All-season versus snow tires: What’s the difference?

In Tires & Wheels by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

All-season versus snow tires: What’s the difference?

All season tires can perform reasonably well in most weather, but not quite as much on snow and ice.

When you think of ‘all-season’ tires and ‘winter’ or ‘snow’ tires, do you think that they’re the same, or that they perform equally?

Many people think that all-season tires work equally well in all weather conditions, but when it comes to snow and icy patches on the road this winter, those tires may not be your best option.

According to HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire manager Rich Campbell, all-season tires are designed to perform reasonably well in all seasons, but that doesn’t mean they’re the best tires to put on your car for the winter months.

“In an all season tire you’ll feel relatively comfortable, but as soon as you get some snow and ice in there, they don’t perform nearly as well. You may lose the ability to brake – which in winter driving, is one of the important things is being able to stop. You can get moving on almost any tire, but they will lose grip when you start to apply the brakes, whereas a winter and snow tire, you’ll gain that grip back,” said Campbell.

All-season versus snow tires: What’s the difference?

Winter and snow tires give you extra grip on those icy roads.

One way to ensure that you get additional traction, grip and safety without purchasing winter or snow tires is to select tires with the mountain snowflake rating. But if you’re serious about ensuring that your vehicle has as much traction as possible in the snow and ice, then snow tires are the way to go, according to Campbell.

“Typically snow tires are purposefully built. They have a chemical compound that keeps them pliable – or soft – in the extreme cold, to maximize grip. They also are designed with certain siping, a certain tread block, to give maximum traction. Also, some of those come with the ability to be studded,” said Campbell.

Many performance vehicles, like Audi and BMW, tend to come with a summer tire, which won’t safely get you through the winter months.

“You can’t really put a price on being able to stop 10 to 15 feet sooner, to avoid an accident,” said Campbell.

All-season versus snow tires: What’s the difference?

Those extra 10 to 15 feet of brake time you gain with snow tires can make a huge difference.

Drivers can invest in a good set of winter or snow tires for the colder months, and then store them during the summer, and switch over to summer or all season tires. This helps keep your vehicle and passengers safe in all weather, throughout the year.

There are many options available for winter and snow tires. HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire carries winter and snow tires from several established tire companies including Michelin, Bridgestone, Goodyear and Pirelli.

How Tire Speed Ratings Affect the Safety of Your Car

In Tires & Wheels by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

How Tire Speed Ratings Affect the Safety of Your Car

This is a condensed speed rating chart for most cars and trucks on the road today.

 

When it comes to tires and the safety of those inside the vehicle, there’s a lot riding on the letters of the alphabet.

All tires have a speed rating, and those ratings determine how fast the vehicle can safely travel on those tires, from about 75 mph to 186 mph.

An “H” rated tire, originally known as a high performance tire, will allow a car to go up to 130 mph.

A customer recently came into our shop and told us his Nissan was pulling to the right when driven. A perfect candidate for an alignment, we pulled the tires from the car and noticed two different tires on the front and two matching tires on the rear. The right front tire, a T-rated tire capable of traveling up to 118 mph, and an S-rated tire that can go up to 112 mph.

How Tire Speed Ratings Affect the Safety of Your Car

This is where you find the speed rating on the tire.

The matching rear tires installed by the factory were faster, H-rated tires.

It was clear that the tires were causing the alignment issue, but we also know having three different speed rated tires on the same vehicle is an issue that impact the car’s overall ability to run safely. The higher “H” speed-rated tires originally installed on the rear of the car were the right tires for the vehicle.

So, how did the car come to have tires with three separate safety ratings? The customer told us a local shop that deals in used tires put them on the car. Afterward, the customer called the tire shop and was told “tire ratings don’t matter.”

We couldn’t disagree more.

How Tire Speed Ratings Affect the Safety of Your Car

Michelin tire with a Y speed rating

“As professionals, we are counted on to provide expert opinions and advice based on facts and supported by experience,” said Rich Campbell, manager of Hometowne Tire and Auto.

“The customer’s safety and security was compromised by a shop that first installed the incorrect tires with different speed ratings,” said Campbell.

How Tire Speed Ratings Affect the Safety of Your Car

Cooper tire with a V speed rating

Hometowne put on new tires to match the speed ratings of the rear tires, and that not only fixed the alignment problem, it allowed our customer to drive away with four evenly matched speed rated tires making for a safer drive on the road.

So the next time you’re due for new tires, or you’d like to make a tire upgrade, make sure you talk with our technicians about the speed rating of your current tires, and how a higher speed rating could improve your vehicle’s performance.

How Tire Speed Ratings Affect the Safety of Your Car

Toyo tire with a T speed rating

How Tire Speed Ratings Affect the Safety of Your Car

BFGoodrich tire with a T speed rating.