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What is an intercooler?

In Automotive Diagnostics by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Parts of a vehicle heat up as it’s driven.

Certain components help cool them off.

Charles, one of our technicians, replaced the intercooler of a 2015 Audi A4 last month.

Audi A4

Intercoolers are heat exchanging devices that are found on top or in front of the engine of supercharged or turbocharged cars. 

The turbo takes pressure from the exhaust. It spools up and sends more air into the air intake, creating more power — also known as “boost”. More power equals more heat.

A heat exchanger is needed to lower the intake air temperatures, which can prevent damage to the engine.

Air to water intercoolers are used on drag racing cars. Those using them will add ice to the intercooler, so the intake air temperature becomes even cooler.

The Audi was brought in when the check engine turned on. It had a running rich code. 

Charles disconnected the intake tube from the throttle body. He performed a smoke test and smoke started pouring out of the intercooler.

Some type of impact caused the air leak. When the air was passing through, it sucked in unmetered air, causing it to run rich.

New intercooler and old intercooler

When you notice a problem with your vehicle, it’s important to share as much information as you can with the mechanic or auto shop.

These details — even the ones that seem irrelevant — can help them address the issue and get you back on the road sooner.

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 is diagnostic testing important?

In Automotive Diagnostics by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

A customer came into HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire with a check engine light on.

They stated that there were no problems with driving the car, but the light had turned on a couple days earlier. 

This is one problem that can be addressed through diagnostic testing.

Diagnostic testing goes beyond reading a code or looking over a vehicle.

Anybody can take a car to have a code read, or check it out themselves with a flashlight. Diagnostic testing enables technicians to dig deeper into the problem.

Codes are like zip codes — they tell us where in the neighborhood you’re supposed to be. However, further investigation is necessary, because they can mask other issues.

For example, there could be a code for a catalytic converter and we could say, “OK. We read the code. Replace it.” But the code could really be caused by oxygen sensors that aren’t reading correctly.

Through diagnostic testing, technicians are able to determine the actual reason for a failure or problem, which can help you save money in the long run.

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 is a fuel injector?

In Automotive Diagnostics by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

This week, a 2008 Jeep Wrangler was brought to HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire.

The check engine light was on, and it had a fuel injector code.

Fuel injectors send fuel into the cylinder, allowing your vehicle’s engine to run. 

To reach them, we needed to remove the intake manifold. On this Jeep Wrangler, the exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) tube runs from the valve on top of the intake.

Fuel injector
Intake Manifold

While working on the vehicle, we realized that a fuel injector was out of speculation. We will need to install new injectors and recheck it.

The check engine light turning on isn’t the only sign that the fuel injectors aren’t working correctly. You may also notice the vehicle is riding rough and lacking power.

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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Is your check engine light on?

In Automotive Diagnostics by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

A catalytic converter helps reduce pollution by changing a vehicle’s exhaust emission.

Ray from HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire installed a new one on a Dodge Caravan on Monday.

The vehicle was brought to the shop when the check engine light came on. 

When checking the O2 sensors on the computer, he realized that the catalytic converter wasn’t working properly.

Catalyic Converter
An old catalytic converter and a new catalytic converter

Different types of two-way and three-way converters are available. Years ago, one-way converters were used. 

Ray installed a two-way converter, which contains chemicals that changes the air.

The type of converter a vehicle needs depends on the make and model, and how the engine runs. 

Some converters don’t go bad. 

Others may need replacing if a misfire occurs. A misfire shoots raw fuel in the converter, which can’t switch over raw fuel. 

In addition to the check engine light coming on, the smell of raw fumes is another sign that a vehicle needs a new one. However, the check engine light would be your first indicator.

There are many reasons why the check engine light turns on. If it does, it’s a good idea to bring the vehicle into an auto repair shop soon.

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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Is your battery light on?

In Automotive Diagnostics, News by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

If your battery light comes on or flickers on your dashboard, it could be a sign of an alternator going bad.

The alternator is driven by the engine to produce electricity to run the accessories in a vehicle and recharge the battery.

Some common problems that could lead to an alternator not working correctly can be normal wear and tear, and the brushes or diodes going bad. A common overlooked problem is a drive belt — or serpentine belt — becoming loose or stretched and slipping around the alternator.

The large number of electronics in today’s vehicles and all the accessories drivers like to plug in puts a heavy load on the alternator. The alternators actually have to be more heavy duty than before so they can charge the battery at a consistent rate. 

The battery light coming on steady or flickering, especially when you come to a stop, are some signs that you’re having an alternator problem.

If you’re having a problem starting your car, it could be because the alternator is struggling to charge the battery.

If you believe you’re having any problems, you’ll want to have your vehicle checked with good electrical diagnostic equipment at your local auto repair shop. Because of the demand on the electrical system and the way alternators are designed, the old way of checking alternators isn’t always accurate.

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. 

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

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


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.

Does your Mercedes vehicle have one battery – or two?

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

Do you own a Mercedes or BMW?  Then it’s important to know if the model of your vehicle has one battery – or two.

The Mercedes S550 is one model that has two batteries; one to start the engine, and another – called the auxiliary battery – to run the car.

We recently had a Mercedes S550 in the shop that was experiencing some battery issues and wouldn’t start.

“If the auxiliary battery dies, the power locks don’t work, all of the accessories that work with without the key won’t work…but the car will still be able to start,” said HomeTowne Master Technician Keith Clausson.

One of the benefits of having a two battery system is that if your car’s main battery goes dead, you still have the ability to work the locks and get into the vehicle. But, it can also sometimes be a challenge for drivers to identify the problem if they’re not aware of the two batteries.

“Nine times out of ten that battery will give you a warning when that fails, with an indicator on the dash, this one did not. So we just had to go in and test, and see why it wasn’t working,” said Clausson.

If you’re experiencing a problem with your Mercedes or BMW vehicle, and you’ve changed the main battery but there are still issues, make sure you’re checking the panel with the relay boxes in the trunk, to look at the rear auxiliary battery, or bring it into the shop for a diagnosis.

Regular maintenance can save you money on car repairs

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


Chances are, that whenever possible, you’re trying to save money – particularly when it comes to big ticket items like car repair. While some car repair is unavoidable – like normal wear and tear on the vehicle, or getting into a road incident – there are actually ways that you can avoid major repair work. In order to do that, you need to make sure your car is getting regular maintenance.


This is why it’s important to get your car inspected regularly.

“Most repairs come from lack of maintenance,” said HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire Manager Rich Campbell.

Just like with preventative medical care, regular and preventative maintenance on your vehicle can fix problems when they’re still small, or help you to avoid them altogether.

Each time you bring your car in for an oil change – 3,000 to 7,000 miles depending on specifications for your vehicle and the type of oil you use – technicians need to do a full inspection of the vehicle’s fluids, steering, suspension, and brakes.

If the shop you’re going to now isn’t doing this full inspection with every oil change, you need to find a new shop.

This full inspection looks at all of the common places where wear and damage can start to show in your vehicle, and provides service advisors with the information they need, so they can make appropriate recommendations for your vehicle.


Keeping your car maintained with regular oil changes and tire rotations will help your vehicle last longer.

At HomeTowne we provide recommendations ranked by level of urgency, so that even if you can’t handle all of the maintenance immediately, you can come up with a game plan.

Spending a few hundred dollars on importance maintenance here and there is far more reasonable than thousands on unexpected repairs, so make sure that you’re maintaining your vehicle and budgeting for maintenance work, so you can keep you and your car happy, and out on the road.

HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire learn more about catalytic converters

In Auto Parts, Auto Repair Warranty, Automotive Diagnostics, Service Standards, Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Walker exhaust

A Tenneco representative, which makes Walker exhaust parts, was at HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire giving a class.

At HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire we recently hosted an employee training with a Tenneco rep about catalytic converters, shocks and struts, and other aftermarket vehicle parts.

Tenneco is the world’s largest manufacturer of aftermarket vehicle parts.

During the training, our technicians and service writers learned some interesting facts that will help them to better diagnose and understand vehicle issues.

“We learned that 95% of the catalytic converters that are sent back – that are claimed to be not working, or malfunctioning, are actually found to be still working as designed. And that’s typically because there’s another issue that has caused the readings to indicate that the catalytic converter has gone bad – usually a misfire, or a component in the engine that is not performing like it’s supposed to. Typically people will replace the catalytic converter because they’re not trained or skilled enough to know there’s an issue that’s further up in the engine assembly that actually causes the damage to the converter,” said HomeTowne General Manager Rich Campbell.

Muffler and catalytic converter class

Auto repair shop holding classes from Tenneco at night.

A major upside of having technicians and staff specially trained on these parts is that we can potentially save our customers money. By knowing to check for things like misfires, and related problems in the engine assembly, we can potentially avoid having to replace your vehicle’s catalytic converter, which xan be a costly repair.

One reason why we’re proud to use parts made by Tenneco and their subsidiaries, is that they often the same warranty as the OEM parts already on your vehicle.

“The original equipment catalytic converter that you buy at a Toyota dealership, or a Lexus dealership, is no different, and carries basically the same warranties as the aftermarket. However, Tenneco differentiates itself and adds 125% of the precious metals the original equipment came with, therefore giving you a better, longer lasting aftermarket replacement converter,” said Campbell.

Get a pre-purchase inspection before buying your next used car

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


Pre-purchase inspections can help to spot problems with a used vehicle you want to purchase.

Are you looking to purchase a used car? Buying a used car can be nerve-wracking, even if you already know a fair bit about cars. That’s where HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire can help.

At our shop we offer a pre-purchase inspection service for used cars – perfect for if you’re planning on buying a car and want to check it out first.

Our technicians will do a thorough inspection of the vehicle, looking for any damage, system failures, problem areas and indicators of a lack of regular maintenance. We also run a test on all of the systems in the vehicle, to pinpoint any issues.

We offer different levels of pre-purchase inspections, depending on your needs and what you already know about the vehicle. With our most basic inspection we offer a state inspection-style check with an oil change, to look for problems with the vehicle.

In our more in-depth pre-purchase inspections we’ll hook the car up to our computer diagnostics and look for error codes, and check the entire vehicle’s body, frame and suspension for even minor issues that could be costly later on.


We inspect the entire car and test it’s systems to look for failures and a lack of maintenance.

With our third level inspection check, we’ll also test all of the buttons in the vehicle to ensure that they’re working properly and do a function test that includes climate control (heating and air conditioning) which can be costly fixes when buying a used car.

If you’re interested in getting a pre-purchased inspection on a used vehicle, give our advisers at HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire a call. The inspection can take up to an hour and a half, so we recommend scheduling ahead of time.

We care about our customers, and we’re hoping that getting an inspection with help you to make a decision on whether or not it’s right to purchase the vehicle you’re considering, and to help you make sure that you know what you’re getting.

It’s always good to double check, as buying any car is a huge investment. We’ve seen firsthand, with previous pre-purchase inspections, how it can save you thousands of dollars in repairs down the road.