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BFGoodrich g-force comp 2 A/S Plus Tire: All-season performance

In Tires & Wheels by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

The road is filled with compact and sports cars, and vehicles that are geared toward performance.

Many of these drivers are seeking a performance tire they can trust beyond the summer months. They want a tire that can be used year-round.

The BFGoodrich g-Force Comp 2 A/S Plus Tire delivers this capability. We recommend the all season tire for those interested in a product that does well when the weather is pleasant, the smell of rain is in the air, or there’s snow falling.

Being able to handle different kinds of road conditions is just one of its several perks.

BFGoodrich g-force comp 2 A/S Plus Tire lifespan

The benefits that this BFGoodrich Tire offers are possible because of a few design characteristics. Its g-force tread is the first one we’ll talk about.

An Advanced Mold Design and a Performance Tread Profile help prevent the tires from wearing unevenly.

These two traits contribute to this BFGoodrich tire’s lifespan, which can extend up to 45,000 miles. The average driver could go a few years before they need to replace it.

With its Performance Tread Profile, this tire offers users great traction when going around corners. That comes in handy when you’re driving on curvy roads.

The BFGoodrich g-Force Comp 2 A/S Plus Tire.
BFGoodrich g-Force Comp 2 A/S Plus Tire

Traction across different weather conditions

Ultigrip Technology is another feature that makes up this tire option.

The BFGoodrich g-Force Comp 2 A/S Plus Tire is meant to provide better braking and control in wet conditions and grip in the snow than the BFGoodrich g-Force Comp 2 A/S.

Thanks to an All-Season Compound, it’s able to grip the roads whether there’s sunshine or rain in the forecast. This compound consists of silica and is able to flex when the temperatures drop.

The tire’s performance on dry roads is supported by a squared-off shoulder. It’s also made up of V-shaped grooves, which help drivers avoid hydroplaning.

Directional Tread Design keeps you moving in various conditions. Whether you’re facing a pop up shower or winter weather is moving in, you can be assured that you will be on your way.

This BFGoodrich option is one of the best types of tires for winter in Northern Virginia.

BFGoodrich g-force comp 2 A/S Plus Tire offers control

This all season BFGoodrich Tire comes with a Performance Racing Core, as well.

It includes an Equal TEnsion Containment (ETEC) System, which aims to improve the traction provided at the speed someone is driving. This technology helps the contact patch perform at its best. 

A Dynamic Suspension System helps enhance control and provide a comfortable ride. Meanwhile, g-Control Sidewall Inserts allows the turning response to be instant.

So, you will be able to manage your travels while also enjoying them.

Other BFGoodrich Tire choices

The BFGoodrich g-Force Comp 2 A/S Plus Tire has a lot of good things going for it. But it may not be the right tire for every vehicle.

BFGoodrich Tire produces a range of reliable products. Another all season option that we recommend is the BFGoodrich Advantage T/A Sport Tire. The BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2 Tire is a solid choice, as well.

BFGoodrich is owned by Michelin Tire, so it might be worth your while looking into tires made by Michelin or Uniroyal.

HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire is an authorized Michelin and BFGoodrich tire dealer located near Lake Ridge, 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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Drive belts: When to change them and problems to look for

In Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

One of the important things to maintain on your vehicle are the drive belts, which include v-belts, timing belts, and serpentine belts.

Drive belts surround a lot of engine parts and ensure that they are operating correctly.

Types of drive belts

Drive belts and serpentine belts are two names that are often used interchangeably. Certain vehicles have multiple serpentine belts.

If you’re trying to replace the belts yourself, a lot of the time there will be a sticker under the hood of some cars and trucks that will show the serpentine belt routing. 

One vehicle we had in the shop had a regular serpentine belt and dual drive belt. In this case, you have your regular serpentine belt with the “v” grooves on one side and flat on the other. The dual drive, or serpentine, belts have “v” grooves on both sides and the front and back of the belt go around pulleys to drive different components of the car.

Then, there are timing belts, which help the crankshaft and camshaft remain in correct timing. They are located around the pulleys.

Another type of drive belt is the v belt. V belts are typically used on older vehicles. During this time, you would have anywhere between two and five v belts on any one automobile, compared to a newer car that may only use one or two serpentine belts.  

A v belt.

Stretch belts are the last ones we will talk about. Many Chevrolet SUVs and trucks use what’s called a stretch belt. There’s a special tool that you use to put it on. There’s no real adjustment anymore, it actually stretches onto the pulley and as it gets older you just change it.

When to change the serpentine belt

Serpentine belts can go as long as 100,000 miles before a new one needs to be installed. The belt replacement frequency depends on several factors – like what the car is used for and where it’s driven, how the belt is made, and recommendations from the vehicle’s manufacturer.

If you go to the beach often or drive through saltwater, you may be changing the belt more often. For example, the serpentine belts might only last about 30,000 miles for drivers who reside in Nags Head.

If you have reached 100,000 miles and are changing the belt, it may be a good idea to replace the serpentine belt tensioner as well. Even though the old tensioner may hold the belt on, it might not be holding it with enough force.

Sometimes, it makes sense to put on a new belt if nearby parts are already being replaced. A lot of the time, our Woodbridge mechanics will do this if we are installing a new water pump.

Belt wearing problems

The belt can become worn due to mileage, but you also need to make sure things are in order. This includes the tensioner, tensioner and idler pulleys, and other pulleys that may be on the alternator, power steering and air conditioning. If the bearings are starting to wear on the idler pulleys, it can get out of alignment and cause more wear on the other side of the belt. So, sometimes it actually warrants replacing some of the pulleys along with the serpentine belt.

An idler pulley and belt tensioner.

As part of our digital vehicle inspection, we check the condition of the belts, which can become worn or develop cracks overtime. There is a specification, depending on the belt and manufacturer, about the number of cracks you can have within an inch before needing a new one. We’ve also seen the “v” grooves of serpentine belts that ride in the grooves of the pulley become worn and turn more into “u” grooves or wear into the structure of the belt.

Another reason you may also need to replace the belt is if you’ve had an engine coolant or engine oil leak. That fluid can get onto the belt and ruin it or cause it to slip.

Whatever the reason why your drive belt needs to be changed, it’s important that whoever does the work knows what they’re doing and uses high quality parts. If they don’t, you may need to have the work performed again or pay a more expensive bill later on.

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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Michelin X-Ice Snow Tire: A reliable winter tire

In Tires & Wheels by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Winter weather in Virginia can vary each year. Sometimes, we will see less than an inch. At other times, it covers our yards and roads like a large blanket.

Certain parts of the state and country see more snow, especially higher elevations. If you live in one of these areas, you may want to consider purchasing a set of winter tires.

Winter tires should be installed once temperatures remain under 45 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Michelin X-Ice Snow Tire is an option that can handle snowy and icy conditions with confidence. 

How the Michelin X-Ice Snow Tire tackles deep snow

Motorists don’t need to worry when facing deep snow – the Michelin X-Ice Snow Tire is up for the job.

Traction in significant winter weather is possible, thanks to the v-shaped tread and wider grooves. These two features are also used to push away water, snow and slush.

There are also notched sipes that contribute to this Michelin tire’s gripping capabilities.

FLEX-Ice 2.0 compound is another trait that has led to success on ice and snow. The material helps the tire stay flexible as the temperatures drop. Not only does that impact the lifespan, it also increases the rolling resistance.

Mileage and safety

Drivers who choose the Michelin X-Ice Snow Tire don’t have to give up on tires that can travel a fair distance before being replaced.

It can go as long as 40,000 miles. When compared to the average of other tires, it could last up to one winter longer.

Plus, safety is provided, even miles down the road. 

The winter tire is able to stay connected with the road when drivers speed up, step on the brake and go around corners. This is because of the Flex-Ice 2.0 compound, Evergrip Technology and interconnected sipes.

Due to improved tread blocks and a tread design based on severe winter weather, hydroplaning is less likely to occur. In fact, the tire’s ability to handle hydroplaning is better than those that came before it.

The FLEX-Ice 2.0 compound and Michelin EverWinterGrip technology provide great braking on icy roads, even when the winter tire has seen some wear. Additionally, the stopping distance is shorter on snow, which can be attributed to two kinds of 3D sipes.

Other benefits of the Michelin X-Ice Snow Tire

Good mileage, snow traction, and characteristics that prevent hydroplaning are nice perks. However, they aren’t the only benefits of the Michelin X-Ice Snow Tire.

Drivers can also enjoy a ride that’s quiet, comfortable, and uses less fuel.

This tire isn’t only designed for larger, four-wheel drive vehicles. More than 120 sizes are available.

It’s really good for BMWs and Mercedes, allowing drivers to continue using their performance car during colder months. Some people will get rims for the wintertime and set aside their nicer ones until spring arrives.

Winter and all season tires

The Michelin X-Ice Snow Tire is one of several winter tires that Michelin produces. 

Depending on where you live, however, all season tires may be the right choice for you. There are plenty of options available, if that’s the case.

A couple of all season tires we recommend include the Michelin CrossClimate 2 Tire and the Defender 2 Tire, which is replacing the Defender Tire.

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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The importance of transfer case fluid exchanges

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

Cars today require various maintenance items once they hit a certain mileage. This can range from oil changes to flushes and the replacement of parts. 

Transfer case fluid exchanges are one of the services that tend to be overlooked. 

They aren’t needed on all cars, only those that have a transfer case. You normally see transfer cases on four-wheel drive vehicles.

Why transfer case fluid exchanges are needed

Transfer case fluid acts as a lubricant for gears, bearings and other parts. Overtime, this fluid can break down – due to heat, contaminants and moisture – and should be replaced. 

Transfer case fluid exchanges offer multiple benefits. They increase the longevity of the transfer case, which links the transmission and front axle. This type of maintenance also ensures that the component continues operating the way it should.

A transfer case that was removed from a Dodge Charger.
Transfer case from a Dodge Charger

If motorists choose not to have the flush performed or put it off too long, they could face costly repairs down the road. Worn out transfer case fluid can cause corrosion to build up and the gears to experience wear.

When to get a transfer case fluid flush

With other mileage-based services, like brake fluid exchanges and power steering fluid exchanges, you can check the fluid and see if it’s dark. This isn’t the case with transfer case fluid exchanges.

There is no way to tell if the transfer case fluid needs to be changed. So, we normally go based on mileage.

How often your vehicle needs a transfer case fluid exchange depends on the type of car you have, its purpose, and what the manufacturer suggests. This information should be found in your owner’s manual.

We recommend conducting the service every 30,000 miles. Some makes and models can go longer without a transfer case fluid exchange. A lot of manufacturers recommend them at 100,000 or 120,000 miles. Meanwhile, trucks that are used for towing may need them more often.

There aren’t any signs that indicate this maintenance is needed. Once the transfer case starts making noise, it means that something must be replaced or repaired. In addition to conducting transfer case fluid flushes, we are able to replace transfer cases.

How we perform this service

Before beginning a transfer case fluid exchange, we make sure there aren’t any leaks. When having work done on your vehicle – whether it’s transfer case maintenance or just a state inspection – it’s also a good idea to make sure the seals are good.

After confirming there aren’t any problems, we remove the old transfer case fluid and any impurities that have accumulated using our driveline service center machine. 

Then, our Woodbridge mechanics add BG Syncro Shift II into the system. This product is a full synthetic gear lubricant that can be used for transfer cases, manual transmissions and trans-axles. It protects components from wearing out and offers great shear resistance. 

The right type of fluid must be used when this service is being performed. Not all vehicles have the same needs.

For example, we used the syncro shift on the rear differential of a Highlander, because that’s what it called for. Then we used gear oil for the transfer case. Other vehicles require the exact opposite.

So, it’s important to be careful and have the work completed by an expert.

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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Virginia state inspection: Windows, windshields and mirrors

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

Safety is the main concern when a Virginia state inspection is being performed. 

Issues can occasionally arise for various reasons – whether it’s age, impact, or lack of maintenance. Inspectors are there to make sure that all parts of a vehicle check out OK.

Windows, windshields and mirrors are some of the areas that are looked over during the Virginia safety inspection, which must be conducted each year. 

We also make sure there aren’t any problems with the headlights or brakes.

Windows and the Virginia state inspection

Car windows are the first topic we’ll talk about. It’s important that a driver’s sight isn’t obscured when they are looking out.

This means, the windows aren’t allowed to be broken, or have cracks or scratches. Additionally, the driver’s view can’t be warped or cloudy.

The driver side window needs to roll down, as well. Why? Well, if a vehicle’s blinker isn’t working the way it should, the driver will be able to let others on the road know they are merging or switching lanes, by opening the window and using hand gestures.

Cracks in the windshield

Is there a crack in your windshield? Did a rock or some sort of debris come up from the road and leave a mark? These are some items that inspectors keep an eye out for.

Windshield with cracks that extend across it or star cracks bigger than 1 and a half inches around will fail state inspection.

A star crack on the windshield of a Volkswagen.

Having cracks develop in a windshield can happen to anyone, especially for those driving through construction areas or on the highway. In fact, I just acquired my second star crack when driving on I-95 a few weeks ago.

If any appear on your windshield, contact your insurance company. They may provide windshield coverage and fix it for free or cover some of the costs.

Cracks aren’t the only problem that may hinder a person’s ability to see. So can tinting and letters. The tint shouldn’t go under the AS-1, be cloudy, or bubble up on the rear windshield. 

Any letters, numbers or images on a windshield aren’t allowed to be more than 3 inches from the top.

There are also windshield related components that inspectors look into, like making sure the defroster is functioning and that the windshield wipers are in one piece.

Secure mirror mountings

Visibility is a concern in regards to car mirrors, as well. Drivers are expected to have a full view of the 200 feet behind themselves. This view can’t be broken up by cracks. The mirrors on trucks should go halfway from the edge of the body.

Making sure motorists can see out the mirrors isn’t the only focus of our state inspectors. They also confirm that the mounting is secure. Mirrors must not move or be held on through various means. For example, duct tape shouldn’t be holding the side view mirror or mirror mounting together.

Duct tape on a side view mirror.

In this article we have covered some problems that can prevent a car from passing the Virginia safety inspection. If you notice any of these issues with your vehicle, we recommend bringing it to a local auto repair shop or a mechanic near you.

Not only will addressing these issues now eliminate the headache of getting them fixed at state inspection time, it also improves your safety on the road.

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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Reasons why the oil pressure light turns on

In Automotive Diagnostics by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Over the course of using a vehicle, you may occasionally notice a dashboard light illuminate. 

Many people are familiar with the check engine light, but there’s another one that you should be aware of – the oil pressure light.

This light can appear for a few reasons. If it does turn on, there are some immediate actions you should take.

Oil pressure light on? Here’s what you should do.

You should avoid using your vehicle if your oil pressure warning light turns on. What if it appears when you’re driving? Pull over in a safe location. 

The oil level on an oil dipstick.

Then, check your oil. To learn how to do that, check out our “How to check your oil” article. If the oil level is good, don’t drive it and have it towed to a nearby auto repair shop. 

If the oil level is low, add oil and turn the vehicle on to see if the light goes out.  

What can cause the oil pressure warning the light to come on?

Low oil

Not having enough oil is one reason the light will illuminate. The oil pressure light is a lot of times going to be the same light that tells you that you’re low on oil. Low oil can be the result of an oil consumption problem or an oil leak. More information about the causes of oil leaks and the importance of addressing them can be found in this article we published.

Oil pressure switch on a Toyota Camry.

Bad switch

There’s a common problem with certain manufacturers where the oil pressure switch will just go bad. The switch is responsible for measuring the oil pressure and sending the signal to the dashboard. It’s possible that it may just need to be replaced.

Mechanical low oil pressure

Clogged ports and channels inside of the engine will cause low oil pressure. So, mechanically, low oil pressure will cause the light to come on. There’s a threshold. That car knows what the oil pressure should be at when idle, at wide open throttle, and at certain RPMs. The pressure is going to change. So, mechanically lower pressure than the specifications will cause the light to turn on.

How we address an oil pressure warning light

If a vehicle comes in with its oil pressure light on, we first start by correcting the oil level. It’s an easy, simple thing that a lot of people forget.

The second step is testing our switch and making sure it’s working. If it is, then we measure the mechanical oil pressure. We, basically, figure out what needs to be fixed.

Our findings will determine what the repair is going to be. The most common problem is sludge. Sludge buildup on these vehicles will lead to low oil pressure, because it blocks the passages. In that situation, we try to restore rather than repair.

Two GM engines we worked on had low oil pressure. One of the vehicles had mechanically low oil pressure and its low oil pressure light was on. We ran a cleaner through the engine and did some restore with transmission fluid. It cleared up the passages and the driver got his oil pressure back.

The other vehicle had a timing code that kept coming back from the variable valve timing system. A BG restoration kit was used, and the code never came back. This van always had good oil pressure, but it had a phaser that operated from oil pressure and was clogged.

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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Rear ac system repair on van

In Cabin Air Filter, Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Even though it’s September, it’s still pretty warm. So, for many of us, our vehicle’s air conditioning system is still working in high gear.

We’re working on an E-350 van with a rear ac system. 

Most of these vehicles – whether it’s a minivan or a full sized van, like this one – have air conditioning lines and heater lines going to the back. This van has a heater core, an evaporator, and a separate blower motor to help cool it down.

The inner panel removed on an E-350 van.

Fixing the rear ac system

With the way they pack these vehicles in – to keep the interior room open – the rear ac system is normally on the side or back of the van. We generally have to pull the seats out and the side panels off to reach the components.

These ac systems can stop working if there is a leak in the rear evaporator. In that case, we need to evacuate the system to remove the freon. Then, the evaporator and expansion valve are replaced and a recharge is performed on the a/c system. Our technicians also conduct a re-test to make sure everything is working correctly.

Air conditioning problems can also occur if the air conditioning condenser is blocked or if the Electronic Climate Control System, which impacts the temperature in the front of the car, is failing.

If the ac problem is happening sporadically, it can be more difficult to pinpoint the cause. The vehicle might need to be left at an auto repair shop for a few days, so it can be looked into or a deeper level.

Make sure that when you drop your car off to explain what you are noticing. Is cold air not blowing out of the vents? Are you not feeling any airflow? Does it seem like the air isn’t blowing as strongly? These details and other relevant information helps our Woodbridge mechanics narrow down their search.

Replacing and maintaining the cabin air filter

When you’re working in this part of the vehicle it can be a good time to check the air intake to see if there’s a bunch of trash or dust. Sometimes, they have a filter – this van didn’t – that needs to be changed, just like a cabin air filter. If you have kids or pets, the hair, dirt and dust can collect in the filter and clogs everything up.

It’s also a good idea to use the BG Frigi-Clean, especially if you have an older van that’s used to transport children and pets. This product is a foaming agent that goes in and helps wash the dirt out of the evaporator. Another cleaner we use – BG Frigi Fresh – kills germs and microbes.

Even though the front a/c system is working fine, we recommend getting that cabin air filter checked, as well.

Cabin air filters should be changed every 10,000 to 20,000 miles. This frequency depends on what kind of vehicle you drive and where. A musty smell is a sign that it may be time to replace them. It’s also important to clean the cowling area once or twice a year, which keeps the filter clean.

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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Electrical problem with alternator

In Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Your vehicle can have an electrical problem for many reasons. 

When it comes to the alternator, we will typically see a lack of power. However, the opposite occurred with a Ford van.

A customer brought the vehicle to HomeTowne Auto Repair, because it was overcharging while they were on a trip. All of a sudden it started charging over 18 volts, and it had to do with the rectifier bridge inside of the alternator. Something went wrong and it got fried somehow, causing it to overcharge while they were driving.

You really don’t want it to do that, because you can start having other electrical problems. For example, too much power can start melting wires.

Alternator electrical problem and electrical loads

So an electrical problem with the alternator isn’t limited to undercharging, it could be overcharging. Most of the time, it is undercharging. You should see at least 12.8 volts when the vehicle is at idle and there isn’t much of an electrical load. The ideal range is up to 14 or 14.8 volts.

The alternator is responsible for powering the lights, fans, the radio, the DVD player and other accessories. So, your vehicle’s alternator will work to compensate for that electrical load while also making sure that the car battery is charged up – but not overcharged.

A lot of the newer vehicles have LED lights that don’t take a lot of power. Fortunately, the computers are really good now and will warn you early if they are seeing things that are out of the parameters. 

For some of the older cars that are using incandescent lights and regular wiring, if you start to see dimming at a stop light, flickering, or intermittent starting issues, that’s definitely the time to get your vehicle checked.

Other indicators of an alternator going bad – aside from electronics not working the way they should – include a burning rubber or electrical smell and growling, whirring or grinding sounds.

Car battery problems

For our standard electrical test, we want to test the battery and ensure that the starter is working correctly. We also look at the charging system to confirm that everything is functioning, there isn’t too much electrical noise, and the diodes aren’t bad.

The results of a starter test, alternator charging test and battery test.

It’s also important to check on the car battery, which can last about 5 years. It may be able to go longer, depending on the manufacturer, how well it’s made, and how much abuse it takes. You would be surprised by how many batteries die in the summertime. Most people believe they fail in the winter, but they go bad in the heat a lot.

Checking on the battery connections is a good idea, as well. Them being loose or having too much corrosion can lead to problems with the alternator and starting problems. So, it may not be that a part has failed – like the alternator or starter – it could be as simple as a battery cable or corrosion on them.

Corrosion buildup on battery terminals. Corrosion can cause alternator and starting problems.

We like to use the BG protection pads, which prevents the battery acid from coming up and causing corrosion buildup on the terminals.More information about battery problems and battery maintenance can be found in this article we published.

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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Steering and suspension components we check

In Suspension by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

We can address and even prevent car problems by taking the time to look things over.

Sometimes, a customer will complain about something that has to do with their steering and suspension. At other moments, we are simply performing a courtesy inspection as part of our oil change service.

In both situations, there are several problems we keep an eye out for.

Ball joints and bushings

When checking the steering and suspension components on a vehicle – especially as we get ready to conduct a car alignment – we’re looking for worn parts. 

These items include worn tie rod ends, where there can be some play, and the ball joints to determine if they are worn down. Some ball joints have indicators that show you, for some you just have to load up a certain way, which means support the lower control arm or let them hang. 

The process for checking them depends on the vehicle. But you want to make sure you’re looking it over correctly and making sure there isn’t any play. By “play”, we mean back and forth or up and down.

The other thing we’re looking for is the bushings, such as the control arm bushings. Depending on if they’re upper or control arm bushings. The Chevy pickup that we have included photos of in this article is a street strip vehicle. These are aftermarket upper control arms. 

The ball joint, upper control arm and upper control arm bushings on a Chevrolet pickup.

In this particular project, we performed a wheel alignment where we put shims between the control arm and the frame to bring the alignment back into specifications.

While looking at suspension components – whether they’re shocks or struts or a combination of the two – you’ll want to make sure that the mounting plates and bushings are good, because that’s what keeps the tire in contact with the road.

Checking on the coil springs

Our Woodbridge mechanics are also looking for springs and making sure they aren’t worn and causing body sag. If it starts to sag, that can throw off the alignment specifications because the vehicle is lower than it was originally.

Our customer replaced the upper and lower control arms, the tie rod ends and the springs. So we’re getting the alignment fixed up for them. The rear of this vehicle just has regular shocks that go to the differential. We also replaced the coil springs on the back to bring the height to a certain level.

A tie rod, pitman arm and sway bar link.

Over a period of time the springs can become worn. You want to look at springs – especially on older vehicles that are at 100,000, 200,000 or 300,000 miles – because they can start to compress. They’re not going to be able to hold the vehicle up to the correct ride height that they were designed for. This can impact handling and the way things work.

A shock absorber and coil spring.

All these steering and suspension components work together. You don’t have to replace all of them at the same time. It was just in this particular case that this was a project car and the driver decided to change the parts at once.

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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Problems that can cause a hard brake pedal

In Brakes by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

We do a lot of braking in Northern Virginia, where there are many commuters and traffic is a daily expectation.

For this reason, it’s important to make sure the braking system is working correctly and any abnormal symptoms are addressed.

A hard brake pedal is one problem you should watch out for.

Hard brake pedal causes

There are several possible reasons why a brake pedal is hard to push.

Brake booster not working correctly

The brake booster may not be able to provide vacuum pressure. This can occur if there is a diaphragm tear or a broken check valve. You can confirm the brake booster is the problem by turning off the vehicle and stepping on the brake pedal multiple times. Continue to press it and restart the car. The brake pedal should go down if the brake booster is functioning the way it should. A brake pedal that remains firm is an indicator that the brake booster has gone bad.

Vacuum pump or power steering pump going bad

What’s causing a stiff brake pedal can differ among vehicles and the type of brake booster they have. Some cars use a hydraulic brake booster, where the power steering pump – rather than the engine vacuum – creates pressure. Certain brake boosters use the intake manifold while others have an electrical driven pump or a mechanical driven pump.

A bad electric pump, not having enough power steering fluid, and a missing serpentine belt can result in a hard brake pedal among vehicles with a hydraulic brake booster or vacuum pump.

A vacuum brake booster.
Vacuum brake booster

Vacuum hose becomes cracked

Is the brake pedal hard to push and hisses? The problem could have to do with the vacuum hose, which links the engine and brake booster. A vacuum is made due to air being drawn in. Cracks can form where the vacuum connects with other components.

Electronics associated with the electro hydraulic brake booster: With the brake systems having a lot of electronic controls – such as anti-lock brakes and traction control – that can be integrated with the master cylinder and the brake booster, especially if it’s an electro hydraulic brake booster. For example, Toyota 4Runners have an electro hydraulic brake booster, meaning that there’s an electric pump that will pump up the pressure to the accumulator. That allows you to have easy brake pressure when applying the brakes. But if there’s a problem with the solenoid or module, that could make it so the brake pedal feels hard. In this case, we need to go in and perform diagnostic testing to determine the problem.

An electro hydraulic brake booster.
Electro hydraulic brake booster

Caliper or caliper slides have seized: If the caliper or caliper slides have seized, the caliper isn’t able to move back and forth or the piston isn’t able to move out as you press the brake pedal. That can give you a harder brake pedal feel, but you would notice the car isn’t stopping as well as it used to. Rust and caliper seizing problems are more common among vehicles that are used in areas like Nag’s Head – where you might get a lot of salt air and salt water, and maybe some water coming up on the roads – and New England – where drivers see a lot of salt on the roads.

Note: This may seem silly, but make sure to take a look at the floor when trying to figure out why the brake pedal is hard to push. The floor mat could have become caught underneath the pedal. This used to be a more common problem years ago, but stranger things have happened.

It’s important to take care of your brake system, which can help extends its lifespan. This includes replacing brake pads and rotors and other components, such as brake hoses and brake lines, when needed. We also recommend regular brake fluid exchanges every 30,000 miles.

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.