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Windshield wipers play large role in driving safety

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

A driver’s safety is largely affected by visibility.

It can be dangerous when something impedes their vision, such as a dirty windshield, according to a release.

A vehicle’s windshield wipers help clear debris and moisture, making them important safety features.

According to HomeTowne Auto Repair and Tire Service Manager Joe Wood, windshield wipers should be checked regularly.

“Windshield wiper blades should be checked every oil change and for any type of safety inspection,” Wood wrote in an email. “An inspection should consist of checking channels for tears, build up, or ozone cracking (dry cracking).”

A driver’s routine, the climate they reside in, and their driving style can impact how often windshield wipers should be replaced.

However, drivers shouldn’t wait too long before replacing them.

“They wear down like any rubber component whether in heavy use or not,” Wood wrote. “So, it is always a good idea to utilize your washer fluid feature to spray the windshield and actuate your wipers to detect poor performance early, rather than later in a flash rain storm when it is too late.”

Here’s a New Year’s resolution: Take better care of your car

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

We’re now in the new year, and it’s time to make the annual commitments to improving your body, spending more time working on something you care about, saving money for vacation, etc.

But what if you made your New Year’s resolution a commitment to taking better care of your car?

It’s a win-win – by taking care of your car, and investing in some basic maintenance items, you’re not only extending the life of your vehicle, but you’re saving money in the long run.

Here are some ways you can take better care of your car this year.

tire pressure is important to your tires lasting a long time and helps save on gas

Tire pressure is important to your tires lasting a long time and helps save on gas

Keep an eye on the tire pressure.

If the air pressure in your tires is too low, it can cause several issues, so it’s important to keep an eye on the pressure level, and keep your tires full per the manufacturer’s guidelines.

If your tire pressure is low, it can cause steering issues, which leads to abnormal tire wear. And over time, that abnormal wear means your tires wear down faster. That also means you’ll be spending money on replacing your tires sooner than you would normally.

“Buy a good tire gauge, because some of the cheap ones are like a dollar, and they may not work that well. You need to spend $5 and $20 for a good tire gauge. Therefore, you know you’ll have the correct pressure in the tire,” said HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire owner ST Billingsley.

Billingsley also recommends keeping a 12-volt air pump in your vehicle at all times. That way, if you find one of your tires is low, you can simply add air wherever you are, instead of trying to find a gas station with a working pump that offers air.

Wash your car.

washing your car underneath helps keep the metal from rust and corrosion

Washing your car underneath helps keep the metal from rust and corrosion

It sounds simple, but keeping your car washed regularly is an important part of upkeep.

“The reason you want to wash your car, especially with all of this road salt through the winter time – even in the summertime though – if you wash your car…you’re helping to remove road grime and road salts, whatever you’re picking up while driving,” said Billingsley.

According to Billingsley, when you’re driving, dirt and mud can fly underneath your car and pack in near the car’s ball joints and bushings. If moisture is left to collect there, it can rust the parts and lead to the need to repair and replace these components more often.

Replace your cabin air filters regularly.

People have started to understand the importance of cabin air filters, and how they provide clearer air when driving in your vehicle, but making sure they’re regularly changed is something you need to commit to as well.

cabin air filters clean up the air coming into the passenger compartment of a car or truck

Cabin air filters clean up the air coming into the passenger compartment of a car or truck

According to Billingsley, the key is to change them at least twice a year, depending on manufacturer’s guidance and the environmental conditions where you live.

“You really need to be changing them twice a year. And a good time to change it is right after pollen season, because it’s going to be clogged with pollen, and right before wintertime – right before Thanksgiving,” said Billingsley.

While no one’s perfect, if you commit to making even some of these changes this year, you’ll be on your way to better maintenance and upkeep of your vehicle, which will save you in the long run.

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

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

tire-pressure-road-trip

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.

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 car 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 it 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 the throttle body could be 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 that is what’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 one you’ve purchased at another retailer, HomeTowne does not install outside parts on cars. Not only does this ensure that the right part 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.