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How to tell if your car alternator is bad

In Automotive Diagnostics by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Are you having trouble starting your vehicle?

Your car alternator going bad could be the cause behind this problem.

Here are some bad alternator symptoms:

  • Battery light comes on
  • Grinding, growling and whirring noises
  • Electronics not working correctly
  • Dead or slow car battery
  • Burning electrical or rubber smell

More in-depth explanations of each indicator can be found below.

Battery light turns on: One of the first signs that you would see if your car alternator is going bad would be when the battery light comes on. It can be mistaken for a regular battery issue, but really it’s indicating that the battery isn’t being charged. Alternators are designed to take the load from the electrical system and charge the battery. Generally, you see 13 to 15 volts with an alternator. The battery light may turn on if it goes below that, or if it starts reaching 16 or 17 volts, which indicates an overcharging problem. Overcharging can cause many other problems in your vehicle. Depending on the electrical load – that can be anything from the air conditioning running, headlights, wiper blades, the radio, even the electrical doors like those found on minivans – can make the battery warning light flicker. That’s because the alternator is fluctuating and trying to compensate for the vehicle’s electrical load. If you start seeing that, it’s a good time to bring your car in for us to check the electrical system and, specifically, the alternator. That way you don’t end up on the side of the road.

Noises from under the hood: Hearing noises that are coming from underneath the hood is another common symptom to watch out for. Due to age and wear, the bearings on alternators can start to go bad. You may notice a grinding or growling noise. You can confirm that this is the problem if the alternator is on top by placing a screwdriver on the metal part of it and holding the screwdriver near your ear. If you hear the growling sound coming from there rather than another area, then that will tell you that the bearings are the culprit. Other noises can occur if the pulleys aren’t aligned correctly or the belt pulley bearings are worn, which can create grinding or growling noises and may sound as if it’s the alternator. Whirring is another bad alternator sound that will increase in frequency when you accelerate and decrease as you let off the gas. That is a sign that the alternator is trying to work really hard and is starting to go bad.

Electronics stop working or have delayed response: If your car alternator is going bad, the electronics on a vehicle may act haywire or work slower than normal. On some cars, you can see the dashboard behaving strangely  – the gauges may be moving back and forth, the lights might turn on and off. Newer vehicles have so many electronics. The alternator’s main job is making sure the car is safe to drive on the road. So, it could begin turning off electronics to ensure the engine and brakes continue to function. Really dim or bright headlights are another sign of a bad alternator. The headlights can appear dim if the component is undercharging or overcharging, the lights may get brighter as you hit the gas.

Dead battery or battery is slow to crank: Do you have a dead car battery, or has it taken longer to crank? You might not need a new battery. The problem could lie with the alternator. As you’re driving, the alternator is responsible for charging the battery. If it isn’t able to do that well, but it has enough juice to keep the electronics running the battery won’t be charged correctly and the next time you go to start the car you’re going to either have a slow crank or no crank. It may just “click” – as if you accidentally left your headlights on. You can jump start your car so you can head over to a car repair shop. But if you experience this problem, you should bring the vehicle in so a mechanic can check it out.

Burning smell: In extreme cases, drivers may notice something that smells like rubber or electrical wires are burning. The electronics inside the alternator or the bearings become hot and, next thing you know, you’re starting to cook the insulation on the wiring in the alternator. If it’s an electrical short, that’s where you get the wire burning smell. Basically, it’s an electrical fire. When the alternator is being overworked, it tries to push too much electricity through there and will melt items. If you notice this issue, you should stop and maybe even disconnect your car battery, because if there is an electrical short you don’t want any electricity running through there.

Drivers who experience any of these bad alternator signs should bring their vehicle to a nearby repair shop. The technicians at HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire are able to check alternators, perform courtesy inspections, and conduct diagnostic testing. 

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 CrossClimate 2 Tire provides great grip, braking

In Tires & Wheels by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

This isn’t your typical tire article.

Yes, we will be talking about the Michelin CrossClimate 2 Tire. However, we were able to test it for ourselves and compare it with a competitor on a Toyota RAV4 at a recent ride and drive event.

Made up of angled blocks and interlocking sipes, this tire can be a bit intimidating at first look. Its design is different from more traditional ones that many people are used to seeing on the road.

However, the all season option comes with many great benefits.

Michelin CrossClimate 2 Tire
We’re big into training. Here is a photo from a Michelin ride and drive event we attended.

Traction in all seasons

Let’s talk about traction.

The Michelin CrossClimate 2 Tire offers awesome dry and wet grip, even after it has experienced some wear and tear.

The ride and drive instructors made sure to add water to the course. The Michelin CrossClimate 2 tires didn’t lose contact with the wet pavement. 

Not only can it be trusted in wet and dry conditions, it also works well in snowy weather. When worn, the snow traction is 30 percent better than other tires.

Stopping capabilities of the Michelin CrossClimate 2 Tire

We can’t cover the Michelin CrossClimate 2 Tire without mentioning its braking ability.

In dry weather, it stops up to 16 feet sooner than the leading competitor. That’s roughly how long a car is. When compared to competitive tires in standing water, it stops up to 56 feet shorter – the length of a greyhound bus. 

During testing, the Michelin CrossClimate 2 had stopped while the four leading competitors were still traveling more than 24 miles per hour.

If that isn’t enough to assure you of the safety it provides, here’s another fact: It’s Michelin’s most tested tire ever.

No noise

When driving down the highway, hearing sounds coming from your tires is normal – unless it’s a clacking sound, which may mean that you have a flat.

Noise isn’t an issue for the Michelin CrossClimate 2. Thanks to alternating tread locks of various sizes, you don’t hear a whirring sound.

After taking this tire on a test drive, a Michelin representative pointed out that it isn’t a noisy tire. As soon as he mentioned it, we realized that it was true – we heard no noise, even while weaving in and out of cones and going around sharp corners. 

The Michelin CrossClimate 2 Tire lasts

This tire is backed by a 60,000 mile warranty.

With proper maintenance, such as tire rotations, it will have no problem making it that long. 

A lot of everyday drivers travel 12,000 or 13,000 miles a year. In that case, the Michelin CrossClimate 2 can last as long as four years, nearly a year longer than other tires.

The Michelin CrossClimate 2 Tire may look a bit odd, but remember: appearances can be deceiving. Don’t let its design lead you to overlook its benefits.

Because of the design of this tire, it has more contact with the road than the standard design.

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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HomeTowne offering after hours key return option

In Uncategorized by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Life is hectic, as you are probably well aware of. 

On top of work, there is a flurry of activities, including spending time with loved ones and an array of tasks that need to be completed.

With the busyness of life, sometimes picking up your vehicle after it has been serviced while the repair shop is open just isn’t possible.

HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire is now offering an after hours vehicle pickup option. 

Our new after hours key return provides a secure way for you to retrieve your key.

For safety, we don’t like to leave the doors unlocked with the keys in them. Also, with new technology on vehicles today, a lot of cars have a key fob where you don’t need to put the key in the ignition. If the key fob is in the vehicle, it may not allow us to lock the doors.

How does the after hours key return work?

We are open between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 7 a.m. to 5 p.m on Saturday.

If you aren’t able to pick up your car during these times, you can pay for your service over email or text.

We will send you a code that you will need to retrieve your car key. When you arrive at HomeTowne, which is located at 15698 Jefferson Davis Highway in Woodbridge, simply type the code into the after hours key return. 

HomeTowne Auto Repair wants to make sure you’re taken care of, even beyond our hours of operation.

The after hours key return is one way we try to make it convenient for everyone’s busy schedule.

You can read about our other pickup and drop off options in this article.

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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Suspension noises and what they could mean for your vehicle

In Suspension by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Contrary to what many people believe, a car’s suspension isn’t responsible for holding the vehicle off the ground. 

The shock absorber prevents the tire from bouncing, allowing it to stay in contact with the road. This enables drivers to maintain control.

On the strut system, the coil spring is built onto the shock absorber. There are gas charged shocks and struts and oil filled shocks and struts. The valving and how they’re made is based on how much dampening control they have. 

Suspension noises

Everything from the lower control arm with the control arm bushings – which connect the control arm with the frame of the vehicle – to the ball joints can cause suspension noises.

Some vehicles – due to age and wear – are more prone to a creaking or groaning noise when the wheel is turned. 

On older cars, almost all ball joints had a zerk fitting that would allow you to service it. Oil changes were called “lube, oil and filter” because you would put grease on the different components. A lot of automobiles nowadays don’t have them. So, if you need to replace a part, like a tie rod end or a ball joint, you can put in a piece that has a greased fitting and is serviceable, and it’s a little better than the component from the factory. 

Here are some suspension noises you may hear and what’s causing them:

  • Control arm bushings: The control arms where the control arm bushings connect is another possible area for noise. They can get dry and start to crack. You may hear a knocking noise while you’re driving down the road, or a thunk when turning. It takes a bit of force to create sound from the control arm bushings.
  • Tie rod ends: Tie rod ends will make more of a squeaking sound, but if it’s worn out or there’s a lot of play you can also get some clunking noise if you move the wheel left and right, even just a little bit. 
  • Sway bars and sway bar links: There are little rubber bushings there too that help when you’re going around a turn and with how much the body sways. When they break, a lot of the time they’ll make some knocking noises when you’re going over bumps because it’s banging against the lower control arm or the frame of the vehicle. Very rarely do they squeak, unless all the bushings are gone and it’s just a metal rod.
  • Pitman arms: On older vehicles, the pitman arm may connect to the center link, or drag link. That would make a squeaking noise too. Today, that’s usually found more on trucks than cars.
  • Struts: For vehicles with struts, the upper strut mount design varies. Upper end vehicles have a bearing while others have a rubber and a metal plate. As you turn the wheel, it turns. When they wear out or parts that aren’t equal to the original are installed, you may experience vibrating, thumping and some resistance while turning left to right. 
  • Coil springs and spring isolators: Between the strut mount and the strut itself are generally rubber spacers called “isolators” that help keep the spring in line. Sometimes, the spring wants to move as you’re turning and you can hear a big clanking noise when the rubber is gone. On the regular control arm and shock system – where the springs are separate – you might get some spring popping noise every once in a while, especially if you’re going over bumps, if the springs are worn or they aren’t doing their job because of age. Generally, however, you see it more on the strut system.    

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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What kind of shocks or struts do I need?

In Shocks & Struts, Suspension by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

If you’re due to have your shocks and struts replaced, then it’s important to choose the right ones for your vehicle. Our certified technicians at HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire will recommend struts or shocks if your car is over 50,000 or shows some signs that they’re worn down – but how do you know which ones to choose?

Before you can move forward with deciding what kinds of shocks and struts you want, you first need to have a full understanding of what they are and how they work in your vehicle. Being informed about your car – including the parts in it – will ensure that you are confident in your purchase and that you’re caring for your vehicle.

You can find shocks and struts in your car, and while they do the same thing for your car, remember – you can not replace shocks for struts, and vice versa, as your car is designed to handle either one or the other. These components work to eliminate or at least minimize the amount of bouncing your car does, which will not only provider you with more control over the vehicle, but it will also avoid some potentially costly repairs.

Let’s go a little further and talk about what they look like, and where they are located in the car. A shock is attached to a coil spring and is located near the wheels. Struts are a little different, as they do not have the spring and they are actually mounted into the car’s suspension system.

Types of shocks and struts

Now that you know what shocks and struts are, and what they do, we can move on to looking at the types you’ll have to choose from.

The two most well-known shocks and strut designs are the mono tube and twin tubes.

When the monotube shocks and struts are placed in your vehicle, they use a gas charge that keeps the oil and nitrogen inside of them separate. What does this really mean? It means that your ability to ‘dampen’ or soften the force of breaking and running over bumps is enhanced and you have more driving control. Monotube are good with cars that need high quality performance or for drivers that like a slightly more aggressive ride. Mostly likely you’ll see these used with SUVs or light trucks.

Looking then at the twin tube shocks and struts, the most immediate difference is that they have two cylinders instead of one. Inside of these cylinders there are shafts and pistons that move, along with hydraulic fluid to again ‘dampen’ the force of breaking and driving over rough road. These shocks and struts don’t have same emphasis on performance as the mono tubes do, but they are an affordable option that provides good vehicle control for light trucks, SUVs and cars.

Ultimately, the shocks and struts you replace your current ones with need to coincide with driving conditions, your car and what you are looking for. Having a conversation with one of our technicians at HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire will help you make that important decision.

Factors to consider

Some things to ask yourself when selecting shocks and struts:

  • What do I use my car for?
  • Does my car regularly carry heavy loads?
  • Do I want shocks that are designed more for performance?
  • What are the driving conditions where I live?
  • What kind of car do I drive?
  • Will I need shocks that are adjustable?

You’re not expected to have full answers to these questions or know everything about shocks and struts – and that’s where we’re here to help. By making an appointment to get your car looked at, and talking to one of our guys in the shop, we can make sure you get the right shocks and struts in your vehicle so you can get back 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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What we do during an oil change

In Brakes, Oil Change, Tires & Wheels, Vehicle Fluids, Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Oil changes are a form of maintenance that most drivers are familiar with.

This service is necessary for your vehicle to run properly. Oil is needed to lubricate many components and some parts feature oil pressure sensors. 

Regular oil changes, which are suggested every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, prevent engine damage from occurring down the road. You can read more about why they are important in this blog post we wrote.

During this service, the oil and oil filter are replaced. HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire takes it a few steps further by providing additional services.

What an oil change looks like at HomeTowne Auto Repair

While completing an oil change, we always use seat covers, floor mats, and steering wheel covers to protect the vehicle.

In addition to replacing the oil and oil filter, our technicians perform a courtesy inspection. This includes several safety checks, such as testing the battery. They also examine the air filters and look over the belts and pulleys. 

The fluids are checked, as well. We look at the windshield washer fluid, brake fluid, coolant, power steering fluid, and transmission fluid.

Not all of the fluids have a warning light when they’re low and you may not know until something happens. Being low on oil or coolant might cause an alert. That isn’t the case with power steering fluid and transmission fluid.

Measuring the brake pad depth is another part of the process. To pass the Virginia state inspection, they must be at least 2/32 of an inch. We start suggesting replacing the brakes when they reach 3/32 or 4/32 of an inch, but some manufacturers recommend them sooner.

The tires are also measured and rotated, which helps them last longer.

To confirm there isn’t any play or damage, the steering and suspension are inspected. Parts can become loose or go bad overtime. If they aren’t replaced early on, they could lead to more expensive repairs in the future.

Additionally, our technicians make sure the lights are working properly.

The courtesy check and tire rotations are services provided at no additional charge.

We believe in maintaining your car before it breaks down. If we can catch problems early, then we can potentially save people money.

Digital inspections

Any observations our technicians make while performing an oil change or courtesy inspection are noted in digital inspections.

Through digital inspections, we are able to share photos, videos and information about the health of your vehicle. This includes details about what’s looking good, repairs that need to be made, and services we recommend.

These reports can be sent via text or email, allowing you to receive an update wherever you are.

Is your vehicle due for an oil change? You can schedule one at HomeTowne Auto Repair by calling (703) 594-4646.

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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Why you should buy Michelin tires, BFGoodrich tires now

In Tires & Wheels by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Whether you’re driving a performance car or an offroading vehicle, Michelin has plenty of options available.

It produces a variety of tires that meet the needs of today’s vehicles.

If you’re thinking about investing in some new Michelin tires, BFGoodrich tires, or Uniroyal tires, you may want to consider buying them sooner rather than later.

On September 1, 2021, Michelin North America, Inc. is raising its prices for certain Michelin, BFGoodrich and Uniroyal tires, according to an email from the company. They will increase up to 8 percent for passenger and light truck tires, up to 4 percent on motorcycle tires, and up to 14 percent for on and off road commercial tires.

HomeTowne Auto Repair sells a wide range of tires, including those produced by Michelin North America. 

Below are some great all season tires you should consider. (You can receive $40 off when you buy a set of four of the tires listed below, a wheel alignment, and road hazard – simply mention this article.)

Tires

Michelin Tires

Michelin Defender Tire: This tire has grown in popularity over the years. Available for all types of vehicles – including SUVs, trucks and passenger cars – it comes with a mileage warranty of up to 80,000 or 90,000 miles.  

Michelin Premier A/S Tire: Do you drive a passenger car or minivan? The Michelin Premier A/S Tire, which is backed by a 60,000 mile warranty, is one that offers safety and a comfortable ride. 

Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3 + Tire: If you’re looking for a tire that works well in snowy, wet and dry weather, the Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3 + Tire is a good choice. It comes with a 45,000 mile warranty.

BFGoodrich Tires

BFGoodrich Advantage T/A Sport Tire: This high quality tire is similar to the Michelin Defender Tire. The BFGoodrich Advantage T/A Sport Tire lasts up to 70,000 miles and offers better traction during rainy and light snowy conditions.

BFGoodrich Advantage Control Tire: The BFGoodrich Advantage Control Tire has biting edges that offer wet weather traction as well as grooves, which push away water. This tire also features a 75,000 mile treadlife warranty.

BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2 Tire: Those with light trucks, SUVs and CUVs may like the BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2 Tire, which is designed with more rubber thickness and 3-D sipes. Rated for severe snow, it provides a 50,000 mile warranty.

Uniroyal Tires

Uniroyal Tiger Paw Touring A/S Tire: If you are in need of a long lasting tire that’s safe, consider the Uniroyal Tiger Paw Touring A/S tire. It can be used on most CUVs, small and medium SUVs, and passenger vehicles and is backed by a 75,000 mile warranty.

Uniroyal Tiger Paw GTZ All Season 2 Tire: Commuters can receive a quiet ride with the Uniroyal Tiger Paw GTZ All Season 2 tire. Wide grooves, snow bars, and a 50,000 mile warranty are among its features.

Uniroyal Laredo Cross Country Tour Tire: Light truck, SUV and CUV owners – check out the Uniroyal Laredo Cross Country Tour tire. Thanks to wide, circumferential grooves, this all season option is able to evacuate water. Offering a 60,000 mile warranty, the Uniroyal Laredo Cross Country Tour tire is great in wet and dry weather, and a bit of snow.

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 role car computers play

In Automotive Diagnostics by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

When you turn on your car, you’ll notice lots of lights on the dash and it may take a few moments before it stops looking like a Christmas tree.

The reason? There are many computers and modules that run various systems, such as the transmission and engine. Giving the car a minute allows these computers – called Electronic Control Units (ECUs) – to reset. Together, the ECUs form the Controller Area Network (CAN).

Sensors and modules send information to the computers and there are gateway modules that help direct traffic. So not only do you have sensors, you’ve got modules that actually control things, gateway modules that allow access, the CAN network, and the computer.  

Signs of computer problems and how we address them

If there’s a problem with a computer, the vehicle won’t work the way it should. You may notice a few issues. In addition to triggering the check engine light, a malfunctioning computer can impact the fuel economy and result in a no start.

Depending on what it is, there are driver information centers. It can be done through the dashboard lights or small computer screens that explain what’s going on or the system being affected.

Electronic problems can be difficult and time consuming to fix. Our technicians begin addressing the problem by performing a visual inspection. Then, we hook up the computer. We have special scan tools and we even have different ones depending on the type of car we’re working on. The scan tools at the auto parts stores may give you a code, but they don’t allow you to have full access. 

Reasons car computers fail

There are many possible culprits that can lead car computers to fail. It can be as simple as a sensor going bad and needing to be replaced.

Wiring can also become chafed. We’ve seen everything from too much being crammed under the seats, where a lot of modules are now located. In low end and high end vehicles, we have seen problems that have been the result of people spilling drinks or leaving the windows open. 

Sometimes, water leaks can occur due to windshield seals. The water goes in and it will corrode the connectors. You may not see it, so it could be difficult to diagnose because the water goes in, gets in the connector and starts to corrode it, causing an intermittent problem.

car computers
Water collected in the well of a Mercedes, causing a module to corrode.

In the case of one Mercedes, water soaked into the carpet and collected in the well, which was below the floor mat level. Overtime, this issue caused the module to corrode.

We’re finding water intrusion problems with all of the electronics in these cars – not just with the Mercedes. Even with the way the metals are sometimes made, you’re getting corrosion or connection problems, and that’s what’s leading components to fail. 

Some modules are underneath the vehicle or behind bumpers on panels. Even though they aren’t out in the elements, they see a lot of water and salt from the road. We’ve seen modules corrode on the outside and ruin the modules.

Shortage of car parts

With the parts shortages right now, where we used to be able to get just about any part within 2 to 4 days – even if it wasn’t as common – we’re starting to receive them in 2 to 4 weeks. 

For some of these older vehicles, we’re needing to rely on remanufacturers. You’re not able to get some new old stock from the dealer anymore. There’s even a shortage of used parts for some remanufacturers to rebuild them. So we may have to remove the part, send it off for repairs, and wait for them to send it back. That can take 3 to 6 weeks. 

With all that’s going on with the economy, it can delay vehicles getting fixed because we don’t have any other choice.

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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All about axles: Different types and signs that they’re going bad

In Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

In our daily rush with work, errands and family activities, we heavily rely on our vehicles.

Axles play the important role of making sure that the wheels keep turning. These parts connect the wheels and bear a car’s weight.

A few kinds of axles are found on automobiles today. 

CV Axles

Constant-Velocity Axles, or CV Axles, are found on most front wheel drive vehicles and can be used on four wheel drive cars. 

Four wheel drive trucks with CV Axles typically have them on the front wheels due to independent suspension. 

Some vehicles, like Subarus, have all wheel drive and CV Axles on four corners because they have independent suspension on the front and rear.

Certain trucks use CV Axles up front and Solid Axles in the back.

CV Axles have CV joints, which enable the transmission to run the front wheels evenly.

Straight Axles

Straight axles used to be used all the time. Now, they are usually on heavier duty trucks.

A rear differential is normally a straight axle.

They feature a simple setup and can be found on various types of suspension. 

You may see this kind of axle on the front of work vehicles.

It’s also popular among lifted trucks and Jeeps, especially if their owners go offroading. Some Jeeps have u-joints up front with four wheel drive, which allow the wheels to turn.

Rear Axles

Rear axles are made up of axle shafts that are connected through the differential. Different types of rear axles are produced, such as semi-floating and full-floating axles.

A Semi-floating axle links the wheel and the flange. Cars, SUVs and light trucks use this type.

Heavy duty trucks or some that are mid-size or have four-wheel drive require a full-floating axle, which is able to “float” due to the support of two bearings.

Signs of a bad axle

Your mechanic or the auto repair shop you bring your car to should be able to tell when your axle is going bad.

The technicians at HomeTowne recently let me know when I brought my Volkswagen in for another service that we will need to keep an eye on one of my axles.

There are also some symptoms to be watchful for.

Clicking: As an axle goes bad, you might notice a clicking sound as you turn or speed up.

Grease: Grease on the edge of a tire can be another indicator that the axle needs to be replaced. This can begin to leak if a boot is torn.

Vibrating: Axle problems could cause a vehicle’s steering wheel to start shaking (so much so that you can’t ignore it).

Leaking axle seals: If the bearings on a Solid Axle start going bad, they can start to put grooves in the axle shafts. If your axle seals are leaking, you definitely want to have that addressed. If the bearings wear out due to a lack of lubrication or water gets in there, then it can cause premature wear and do more damage than just the bearings. 

Squeaking u-joints: If the u-joints are squeaking or making noises, that can be an indicator that the u-joints on the Straight Axles are bad. 

Other maintenance

Depending on the type of vehicle you have and whether it uses four-wheel drive, there are u-joints that you need to keep greased and check to make sure they aren’t wearing out or experiencing play. 

If your car or truck has CV Axles, you should have the boots looked over during an oil change.

The owners of vehicles with solid axles should also ensure that the vent cap is functioning.

A lot of the time solid axles have a tube that runs from the differential to the body and a vent cap. Due to everyday use, heat and bugs, the vent cap may stop working correctly. As it heats up, lubrication could be pushed out of the seals.

For straight axles, you want to make sure that the correct type of differential fluid is used. Also, some of them need a limited slip additive and it’s important to confirm that it’s in there. Otherwise, you could cause problems just by servicing the differential.

Why you should have them replaced

Although you don’t need to have a bad axle replaced immediately, it’s a good idea to have a new one installed soon.

Choosing to put it off will cause the problem to become worse overtime.

The issue could also impact other components. For example, brakes may not work the way they should if grease leaks on them. 

If CV Axles are bad and causing problems, such as lots of clicking or you’re feeling shaking in the steering wheel, that could put extra wear on the bearings that are going into the transmission.

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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How to tell if your car radiator is going bad

In Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

To work correctly, the items we use regularly and for long periods of time need to be able to release heat.

That is the role a car radiator plays – it helps keep the engine cool.

This component sits out front, where the air is coming in. Coolant entering the radiator is hot and must leave at a cooler state.

Radiators don’t necessarily go bad. However, they may start leaking or become clogged. 

Symptoms of car radiator problems

Car is overheating: A vehicle overheating multiple times may be an indicator that the radiator is failing. Keep in mind that just because it’s overheating doesn’t mean the radiator is bad. The coolant needing to be changed is another possible reason.

Low on coolant: As we mentioned, sometimes coolant simply needs to be replaced or topped off. But if you’re noticing a recurring low coolant issue, there may be a leak in the radiator.

Coolant is leaking: You may see coolant under a car if there’s a problem with the radiator. It may be green, orange, pink, red or yellow. In addition to the radiator, this can be caused by a bad hose or water pump.

Coolant is a different color: The coolant changing colors could hint at rust, scale and sludge buildup in the coolant lines.

Cheap vs. good radiators

It seems like just about every manufacturer has some kind of small engine that has one or two turbos on it. That’s a lot of heat that is generated. 

Not using a good radiator with the full amount of flow that is going to hold up under pressure can be detrimental to your engine. 

If the vehicle overheats or the side tanks blow out due to cheap manufacturing, you have a chance of ruining a $5,000 to $25,000 engine. Buying that $150 radiator compared to the $300 to $500 radiator can make the difference of whether or not you could have an engine problem.

Just because it fits doesn’t mean it’s the right radiator. 

Radiator replacement

Radiator maintenance

It’s a good idea to keep an eye on your vehicle’s coolant level. If you notice that it’s low, make sure to have it topped off or – if it’s a continuous problem – checked for leaks.

Coolant fluid exchanges are another way you can maintain your vehicle’s cooling system. On top of cleaning out the system, this service restores coolant. We recommend it every 30,000 to 50,000 miles, depending on the vehicle and manufacturer’s recommendations.

You should also make sure that a high quality coolant is being used. With today’s engines and how they’re manufactured you want to make sure you’re using the right type of coolant for that vehicle. Putting the wrong one in can actually cause overheating problems.

In addition to replacing the radiator and conducting coolant fluid exchanges, our technicians perform cooling system repairs. This includes installing new components, such as the thermostat and water pump. 

With most cooling system repairs, we offer to change the thermostat, which determines the amount of coolant that flows between the radiator and engine.

For example, say you have a leaking radiator and your car overheated. That maxed out your thermostat, and it might not always bounce back.

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.