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Did your check engine light turn on? Here’s what you need to know.

In Automotive Diagnostics by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

The check engine light turning is one problem that can be worrisome for drivers. 

When this indicator refuses to go off when someone is starting their car, or when it appears as they’re heading down the highway, it tends to come with the “Uh-oh,” reaction.

So, what should you do when a check engine light turns on?

If the symbol is flashing, you need to have it looked at right away. 

A flashing check engine light means that there’s a problem with the engine. Choosing to wait it out could damage the catalytic converter.

If the indicator is solid, it doesn’t need immediate attention. However, it’s important to have a mechanic check it out as soon as possible.

Can you drive with a check engine light on?

You shouldn’t drive if the light is flashing.

It’s OK to keep driving if it is solid, but it’s a good idea to have it checked out that same day. 

We recommend this because if it’s dangerous you’ll want to have it fixed immediately. Secondly, if you put it off too long you can get several more codes that could be related to the first one. You will likely spend more money on diagnostic testing so the auto repair shop can sort it all out.

What can cause a check engine light to come on?

There are many reasons why the light turns on, some are simple while others are more complex.

It could be anything from low oil to issues with a component, such as the catalytic converter or the coolant system.

Others causes include problems with the ignition system, fuel injection system, evaporative system – which has to do with your gas tank and gas cap – and sensors that are on various parts of the engine.

There are many reasons why the check engine light turns on.

What do we do during check engine light diagnostic testing?

Check engine light diagnostic testing starts with performing a basic check, which helps us rule out any simple problems.

Our technicians then do a preliminary code scan, which gives us a starting point, and start testing related parts.

We follow the testing procedures the manufacturers recommend and look for any Technical Service Bulletins (TSBs) and updates.

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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My car won’t start. What’s wrong?

In Automotive Diagnostics by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

It is very inconvenient when your car won’t start, especially if you have somewhere to be.

There are many possible culprits behind this issue.

The problem could be as simple as a car battery, alternator or starter going bad. It could also be a more complex issue.

Dead Battery 

If you hear a clicking sound or the check engine light turns on, the battery might need replacing.

Batteries can go bad for a number of reasons. Leaving your lights on is one that many of us are familiar with. 

There could also be a problem with the charging system or corrosion on the battery terminals. Electronics in your vehicle, such as clocks and computers, can eventually cause your battery to die.

Old and weak car batteries are more likely to go bad when it’s extremely hot or cold outside.

Starter going bad

A vehicle may not turn over if it has a bad starter, which is responsible for starting the engine.

It has a gear that shoots out and quickly spins, starting the flywheel.

A clicking sound can be a sign that you need a new starter. However, a car with a bad starter won’t easily start even when a jumper box or jumper cables are used. Here are some other signs that your starter is going bad.

A starter will, at times, stop working without warning.

If you turn you over a few times, you may be able to hit it right and get your car started. 

However, if this tactic doesn’t work you probably need to have it towed to a repair shop.

Alternator problem

The alternator is responsible for generating electricity, which is used for electronics or to recharge the battery.

An alternator going bad is another reason why a car won’t start.

This can be indicated by the battery light turning on or flickering. The alternator may be struggling to charge the battery, which can make it difficult to start a vehicle.

In addition to the alternator going bad, the problem may have to do with brushes or diodes. A serpentine belt could also have gotten caught around the alternator.

Other issues

Issues with a vehicle refusing to start could be more complicated and lie with a sensor or control system not functioning.

The transmission sensor, for example, could be the reason.

There may also be a problem with the fuel system, such as a bad fuel pump or the fuel filter becoming clogged.

Whatever the reason behind your car not starting, you should bring it to a mechanic or auto repair shop as soon as possible. 

Even if you’re able to get it started again, you might not be as lucky next time.

Also, the sooner you can bring it to a repair shop, the sooner they can pinpoint the issue and have you back on the road again.

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 causes a check engine light to turn on?

In Automotive Diagnostics by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

A car’s check engine light isn’t an indicator that should be ignored.

The symbol clues you in that there’s a problem. The issue itself can span a number of components.

If your car’s check engine light is blinking, which means that there’s an engine issue, we recommend bringing it to a mechanic as soon as you can.

Waiting to have it checked out can cause catalytic converter damage.

A light that remains solid should be looked at soon.

Some causes include a dead car battery and spark plugs or ignition coils going bad.

The check engine light could indicate that the catalytic converter isn’t working right. This was the case with a Dodge Caravan we worked on last year.

Problems with the circuit, catalyst system and coolant system are also reasons why it turns on.

A misfiring engine is a more serious problem that the light would point out.

Before dropping your car off at an auto repair shop, make sure the gas cap isn’t loose. Loose fuel caps can trigger it, as well.

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 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.

intercooler
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.

intercooler
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

tire-pressure-road-trip

It’s almost Thanksgiving, and if you’re like one of the 1.4 million other Virginians planning to travel for the holiday, or throughout the holiday season, then you need to make sure you’re prepared – otherwise you may end up on the side of the road.

According to AAA, the travel numbers for 2017 are up by 44,000 people – a 3.2% increase from the last year. In fact, they’re expecting Thanksgiving to be the most heavily traveled holiday in a dozen years. Totals for Christmas traveling may be even higher.

AAA says that they plan on rescuing more than 330,000 motorists left on the side of the road for the Thanksgiving weekend, primarily due to lockouts, flat tires, and battery issues. And whether you’re going just down the road, or traveling several hours out of state, it pays to be ready.

Here’s what you can do to prepare your vehicle for the holiday season:

  • Check the air pressure in all of your tires, including the spare tire you keep in the back. “If you end up with a flat, and you go to put the spare tire on, next thing you know the spare tire is flat,” said HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire owner ST Billingsley.
  • Check the oil level and fluid levels. These may need to be topped off to prevent overheating and other issues on that long holiday drive.
  • Make sure that you have windshield washer fluid in your wiper blades. “A lot of times when you’re driving on dirty roads, you go to use the windshield wipers, and there’s no washer fluid in there,” said Billingsley.
  • Check for any obvious battery corrosion. This could be a sign that something is wrong with the battery terminals, or that your car battery needs to be replaced before you head out of town.
  • Double-check that you have roadside assistance as part of your car insurance, or through a company like AAA. It’s easy to call the insurance company and check if you have roadside assistance in your plan. Don’t? It’s worth adding it for situations like this.

But even the best laid plans can go awry. If you’re on your travels and end up on the side of the road, here are some things you should have stocked and ready to go in your vehicle: engine-oil-level-check

  • Flares or safety triangles. If you are on the side of the road, you want your car to be visible, and make other drivers aware that you’re there for a reason, especially if you need assistance. Make sure you’re careful when placing them on the side of the road during a breakdown, to prevent being injured or hit in the process.
  • Heavy duty work gloves. “Say that your tire’s flat and you’re in the dirt or all that, or you know sometimes it might be cold, grabbing all that metal…it’s just nice to have,” said Billingsley.

And if you’re too busy to do all of the checking and maintenance yourself, consider bringing it in to HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire so we can check it out before you head home for the holidays. Basic checks can be done by any windshield-washer-fluid-valvolineautomotive shop, although what they check varies from place to place.

At HomeTowne, we check the fluids and top them off, check the air pressure, check washer fluid, check the vehicle lights, rotate the tires, check the brakes, and more.

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.