HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire becomes Virginia Certified Emissions Repair Facility

In News, Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire is a now a Virginia Certified Emissions Repair Facility.

Are you having problem with your vehicle’s emission system? Did you fail your most recent emissions test? Now HomeTowne can help.

“What that means for you is if you have an emissions test and your car fails, you must return to an emissions certified repair facility, and any of the work that is documented can go towards a waiver. This year, the waiver is $815,” said HomeTowne General Manager Rich Campbell.

The emissions system controls how much air is being released from your vehicle back out into the atmosphere.

Per Virginia guidelines, drivers whose vehicle fails an emissions test must spend at least $815 in repairs before being given a two-year emissions waiver. The only catch? The work must be done by a Certified Emissions Repair Facility.

“It’s designed to have people make a good faith effort to keep their cars running as cleanly and efficiently as possible,” said Campbell.

Only a handful of shops in the Northern Virginia area are certified for emissions repair.

“It’s beyond just being an emissions shop, where you can have an emissions test done. You actually have to go to an emissions repair facility to have the repairs certified by a qualified technician, which we now have on staff. You have to go through the process of being certified by the state in order to do that,” said Campbell.

Emissions components in a vehicle that can cause failure vary, and can include a vacuum line, exhaust, etc.

“If you go to have an emissions inspection with a ‘Check Engine’ light, generally you will fail,” said Campbell.

For more information about Certified Emissions Repair Facilities, click here.

What is a coolant service and why is it important?

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

If you’ve brought your car in for service lately, maybe you heard that it’s time for your vehicle to have a coolant service.

What exactly is a coolant service, also known as a cooling system flush?

A coolant service is where we remove all of the rust, sludge, and dirty coolant (also known as antifreeze) fluid from your car’s radiator, water pump, and water houses. Technicians working on a coolant service will drive the coolant from your vehicle, flush the car’s system, and replace it with a fresh mixture of coolant. Coolant is made up of a mixture of either ethylene or propylene glycol and water – 50/50.

Why is a cooling system flush important?

The most obvious reason would be to ensure that your vehicle’s cooling system is working well, but let’s dig a bit deeper into exactly why getting a coolant service is important. The coolant flows through your radiator and water pump, which is an important piece of keeping your engine cool. Another reason why a cooling system flush is beneficial is that it provides heat through the heater core, and lastly because it lubricates the water pump.

Why does my vehicle’s coolant need to be changed?

As with almost everything in your vehicle, over time things will need to be repaired, replaced, and swapped out – your coolant is no different. Over time the coolant in your vehicle will become contaminated through the contact with the aluminum (think radiators and cylinder heads), iron (your car’s engine block or water pumps), and rubber, and this will lead to material buildup over time in your coolant.

All of that material moves through your vehicle, getting deposited in areas like the heater core and the radiator. Why does that matter? Because with that buildup, it reduces your cars ability to remove hear and can damage the internal pieces of your vehicle due that heat and buildup.

“As the coolant gets contaminated it loses its ability to lubricate which can cause early failure of the water pump. Changing the coolant removes the old fluid and contaminants restoring performance and lubrication of your cars cooling system,” said HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire General Manager Richard Campbell.

How often do I need to change the coolant?

Every vehicle is different, and you should always consult your vehicle’s manual for specific intervals, but it is generally recommended that you have a coolant system flush at 30,000, 50,000, and 100,000 miles. Over the past few years some vehicle manufacturers have been extending coolant service intervals, but getting regular service can help you prevent costly repairs and breakdowns in the long run.

When should I replace my car battery? Are all brands the same?

In Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

You know the story – you wake up one morning, get ready for work, start your car and nothing happens. A car battery going out is a common occurrence, and one that is often easy to fix.

But if you want to prevent yourself from having one of those morning where your car just won’t start, getting your battery checked out regularly identify problems with your battery early.

Batteries should be tested as part of a normal oil change service. Following the testing, you should be given a printout that offers you information on the health of your battery, so you know if the battery will need a replacement in the near future.

So how can you tell how well your battery is doing? Battery power is rated with what’s called Cold Cranking Amps. Cold Cranking Amps refers to how long a battery can supply a certain number of amps at zero degrees, for 30 seconds, while maintaining at least 7.2 volts. The bigger the vehicle, the more amps are needed due to the engine size and power needed to start it.

“Depending of the climate your vehicle is subjected to an average battery should last around 4 years or 48 months. If you live in hotter or colder climates that may shorten the lifespan of your vehicles battery,” said HomeTowne General Manager Rich Campbell.

If your car is due for a new battery, you’re likely wondering what your best options are. It’s important to note that while a few companies make a majority of car batteries in the market, not all batteries and battery brands are the same. There will be slight variations in the thickness of the lead please, the Cold Cranking Amps capacity, and warranties.

“As a rule you can expect to get what you pay for when it comes to battery replacement,” said Campbell.

Home Towne is an authorized dealer of Interstate Batteries.

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.