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Repairing the braking system on a Ford Escape and Ford F150

In Brakes by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

When it comes to auto repair, it’s important to take those extra steps.

This can be eye opening and help technicians track down the root cause of a problem.

We worked on braking system of two vehicles – a Ford Escape and a Ford F150 – that had the same symptom and resolution.

The driver of one of the vehicles said the brakes were sticking. Meanwhile, the owner of the other felt that they’re vehicle was shifting and braking funny.

During the test drive, we experienced similar situations – when they were shifted into drive they wouldn’t go anywhere, as if the driver’s foot is barely touching the brake.

On the Ford Escape, the front left would nose dive. It felt like the rear on the right side wanted to come out from underneath, because the brake pressure was going to the left front.

The same issue was occurring to the F150 on the other side.

How we addressed the braking system problem

To determine the problem, one of our employees sat in the vehicle and stepped on the brake pedal and we cracked the bleeder on the caliper to check the flow.

For both vehicles, we had little or no flow on the side that was experiencing the issue.

There are a few components involved in the flow – the caliper, the anti-lock braking system (ABS) pump, and the brake hose. The most common issue is with the brake hose.

We removed the caliper and depressed it to confirm it wasn’t bad. When it was off the vehicle, the caliper worked fine. However, attached, it was as hard as concrete and wouldn’t let anything through.

The brake hose on the vehicles were replaced, and the vehicles are driving fine.

One of the employees took the extra step and cut the brake line into pieces and dissected it. Through this process, he learned that the crip fitting was swollen and closed up.

Overtime, the brake hose gets a little bit hotter when pieces of metal are around it and slowly deteriorates.

A lot of people would have noticed the caliper wasn’t working and just sold calipers without isolating the problem. We did recommend calipers because the amount of heat can shorten their lifespan. 

We leave the choice in the hands of our customers. Our goal is to provide as much information to help them make an educated decision.

Can you prevent this problem?

You can’t do anything to prevent this problem, it’s just the way the vehicle is designed. You need to have the metal brackets to hold the hose in place. With that amount of hydraulic pressure, the hose would move back and forth and rupture.

You can maintain your braking system through brake fluid exchanges. This service can always help, but some of these things are inevitable.

We recommend brake fluid exchanges every 30,000 miles. You can learn about why you should have the fluid replaced by reading this article we wrote.

The same car problem can come across differently to drivers. If your vehicle sounds or is acting strange, make sure to provide as much information to the mechanic or repair shop as possible. Those little details can help narrow down the search.

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 a brake fluid exchange important?

In Brake Fluid Flush, Brakes by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Car maintenance isn’t just about oil changes and wheel alignments. It also extends to your brake system.

When you step on the brake, the brake pad and brake rotor press against each other, creating heat and moisture. They don’t move very far, and neither does the brake fluid between them. 

The moisture that accumulates causes corrosion to build up. Corrosion can destroy a brake system from the inside out.

We recommend brake fluid exchanges every 30,000 miles. Because this typically coincides with brakes, which should be replaced every 40,000 to 50,000 miles, it’s a good idea to have both services done at the same time.

Why you should get a brake fluid exchange

Regular brake fluid exchanges prolongs the life of anti-lock braking systems (ABS), which prevents the brakes from locking up during emergencies, allowing you to maintain steering control.

This maintenance option also ensures that your brake pedal is firm.

If you wait too long for a brake fluid exchange, corrosion can build up on the inside of the calipers, which may result in the calipers dragging. Internal seals will deteriorate and prevent the calipers from pushing in and out correctly.

Another consequence is that the inside of the soft brake hoses will break down, restricting brake fluid flow.

The bleeders, which enable mechanics to perform a brake fluid exchange and release air, can also rust shut if they aren’t moved every once in a while.

Signs that you need a brake fluid exchange

It can be hard to know if you need a brake fluid flush, but there are some indicators. A low brake pedal is one of them. Another sign is a soft brake pedal, which can be caused by moisture in the system that’s starting to boil.

You also need to look into testing the brake fluid for contaminants and moisture. Just because the brake fluid looks dark – rather than clear – doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad. 

However, if the fluid is very dark and you can see particles floating in it, that’s the rubber material from the master cylinder or ABS that’s starting to come apart and mix with the brake fluid. That’s a good indicator that you need to change it.

Test strips and true boiling point measure for moisture are ways you can determine if you need a brake fluid flush. 

For most cars, every 30,000 miles is a good time to have this service performed. How often you have it done also depends on the manufacturer. If you are at 50,000 or 55,000 miles when you go in for your first brake job and a brake fluid exchange hasn’t been performed yet, you definitely need to do it.  

A lot of cars have computerized brake systems, such as ABS and traction control, where the manufacturer is starting to recommend brake fluid exchanges every 18 to 24 months to ensure the brake system is working correctly. So, you need to check your owner’s manual.

Brake Fluid Exchange
Brake Fluid Exchange

What happens during a brake fluid exchange

During a brake fluid exchange, our technicians connect a pressurized machine to the master cylinder. After adding new brake fluid to the machine and setting it to the appropriate pressure, they go to each wheel and remove the old brake fluid.

We use BG DOT 4 Brake Fluid, which aims to combat moisture, prevent rust and provides protection to the brake system. 

If you are considering a brake fluid exchange, it’s also important to make sure your vehicle doesn’t have electric brakes, which don’t require it.

How well a vehicle runs and lasts is determined, in part, by its maintenance. By staying up to date on braking fluid exchanges and other services, you can get the most out of your car.

You can learn more about brake fluid exchanges by checking out this video:

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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Brake failure symptoms and causes

In Brakes by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Many factors can lead to brake failure – cheap brakes, brake parts installed incorrectly, and brake wear are among them. 

Several symptoms indicate that brake repair is needed.

Grinding, squealing, rattling and groaning noises are all signs that there is a problem with your car’s brake pads.

The causes range from loose parts to a lack of lubrication, depending on the sound.

You should be watchful for excessive brake dust on the wheels. Brake dust can be a normal wear condition – as brakes wear down, they produce dust. But if you see a lot of brake dust on one or more wheels, that could be an indicator that your brakes may be getting low. If you have an excessive amount of brake dust on one wheel, you could have a brake caliper issue.

Cheap brake rotors and significant wear of pads and rotors could problems, as well.

If you’re driving down highway, or hills, or in traffic and you notice the brake pedal is pulsating, or moving back and forth, it’s an indication that your brake rotors have an excessive amount of run out, usually due to significant heat.

This can be caused by age and components becoming worn over time. Cheap brake parts may not have the same tolerances as your O.E. fitment parts and hold up to the heat as well. In addition, they could also give you a pulsating feeling sooner.

Not using high quality brake pads will wear more quickly than high quality ones. Whether their organic or semi-metallic will also determine how quickly they wear out.

TIP: One thing you don’t want to do is drive with two feet, with one resting on the brake pedal. Even resting your foot on the brake pedal will cause a small amount of pressure on the brake pads, causing them to wear faster. The pads putting constant pressure on brake rotors could cause excessive heat and warp your rotors. There are many times we’ve ridden with a customer who was wondering about having brake issues, and they didn’t realize they were driving with two feet. 

A vehicle’s Anti-Lock Brake System (ABS) warning light is another sign that something is wrong.

brake failure
ABS warning light

The ABS prevents brakes from becoming locked in an emergency. This enables you to keep steering control.

Various issues could prompt this light to turn on. These include a bad hydraulic pump or ABS module, malfunctions with the speed sensor or bulb check, and low brake fluid.

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 shouldn’t use cheap brakes

In Brakes by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

The quality of the parts used on a vehicle can play a large role in how it runs.

Brakes are no exception.

We don’t recommend installing cheap brakes, which promote noise, vibrations, and road symptoms — such as rapid wear.

Another reason why you don’t want to use cheap brake pads and rotors is because the Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) is programmed to have a certain amount of braking force and the computers know when the brakes are cold or hot. 

If you replace them with inferior parts, the control systems can be affected in an emergency situation. They may not grab as hard or they could have too much of a fade, impacting the safety of those in the car.

Brakes are one of the parts checked during the Virginia Safety Inspection.

The minimum Virginia State Safety recommendations is no less than 2/32 of an inch. 

Depending on the make and model of the vehicle and your driving conditions, it’s a good idea to start changing your brakes around 3/32 of an inch to 4/32 of an inch. For some vehicles, the manufacturer’s recommendation could be higher.

Brake rotors should be changed with a brake job because most of the rotors on today’s vehicles wear down. Rotors need to be able to dissipate heat so you don’t get a pulsation or vibration type feeling in the steering wheel and brake pedal. That pulsation symptom can impact the ADAS system. 

Some indications you may need a brake job are grinding noises and brake pedal pulsation. You may also notice a low pedal or a high end squeak noises, which could be the pad low indicator rubbing on the brake rotor.

Keep in mind, if it has rained or been humid recently, you may notice squeaking when you first start braking early in the morning. If it goes away after you’ve pressed on the brake a couple times, it’s most likely a little bit of rust built up due to the humidity or the brake rotors being wet. 

At HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire, part of our inspection process during our oil change is to do a visual inspection of the brakes to see if they’re getting low or if we notice any other problems. Many of the vehicles today have electronically controlled components, such as steering and brake callipers, that can hide some of the normal symptoms you would notice in older cars.

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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Brake service: When and why to have it done

In Brakes by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Written by Sydney Jones, General Service Technician for HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

The most crucial safety device in your car is the brakes. 

As Newton’s first law of motion tells us, an object in motion will stay in motion until stopped by an external force such as friction. We can’t rely on friction to stop our cars while going 70 miles per hour on the highway, so we have brakes to stop our wheels from turning. 

It’s not as simple as “hit the pedal, stop the car,” though. Laws of physics and elements of chemistry come into play, as well. 

You hit the brake pedal with your foot, yes. This action then sets off a chain of reactions. When you push down the brake pedal, you tell the master cylinder to apply pressure to the brake fluid running through the brake lines underneath your car. 

You have four brake lines, each one going to one of your four wheels. The pressurized brake fluid causes the calipers to press inward on the brake pads, which provide a much greater level of friction than the road and stop your car much faster.

Overtime, the fluid running through your brake lines will get old and obtain air bubbles, and condensated water is created when liquid is on the brake pads. More liquid in the system causes the brake fluid boiling point to decrease whereas it is normally very high to withstand the heat produced from braking. 

The lower boiling point will allow for metal pieces to begin to deteriorate. Since the brake lines are made of copper, they leave copper residue in the fluid, resulting in lower braking power and eventually the costly replacement of calipers and brake lines.

To combat this you should have your brake fluid serviced every 30,000 miles. The BG Brake Service is done by taking contaminated fluid out of the master cylinder, pressurizing it, and adding DOT 3 or DOT 4 Ultra Drive Flushing Formula Brake Fluid — depending on the needs of your car — into the master cylinder until only new fluid is coming out of the lines at each wheel. 

This removes air and condensated liquid, leaving only your incompressible brake fluid and giving you maximum braking power. 

It is important to get this service done every 30,000 miles in order to be covered under the BG Lifetime Protection Plan, which will protect your Master Cylinder, Brake Lines, and Calipers up to $4,000 should they ever fail. 

You can have brake service performed at any BG Certified shop, such as Hometowne Auto Repair & 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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Brakes and the Virginia Safety Inspection

In Brakes by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Bringing your vehicle in for the Virginia safety inspection is one way you can protect yourself and others.

The brakes of your vehicle have to be working properly in order to pass the yearly requirement.

There can’t be a soft brake pedal.

A hard brake pedal or a vehicle having a hard time stopping can be caught during the state inspection, as well.

This can be caused by a problem with the vacuum. Many vehicles now have electric pressure pumps, rather than old components, such as the vacuum brake booster.

Twisted brake hoses is another problem we keep an eye out for.

Brake hoses can become twisted for various reasons. Perhaps someone who was putting a caliper back on turned it one too many times.

The inspectors ensure that nothing is rubbing on or starting to wear through the brake hoses and they haven’t begun to develop excessive cracks.

A vehicle will fail if any active leaks or oil contamination is found.

Brake pads must be at or above 2/32 inches.

We may start recommending new brakes at 3/32 or 4/32 of an inch, but they have to be under 2/32 to fail inspection. At 2/32 of an inch, brakes will technically pass, but they might not within a week or a month, depending on your driving conditions.

Rotors need a certain thickness that’s based on a manufacturer’s recommendations. 

Excessive rust on the rotors is another symptom we look for.

You could have a caliper that is seized, or maybe a piston is pushing in but a caliper isn’t sliding. This means one pad isn’t making contact with the rotor and the wheel only has half of its braking ability. When we see a lot of rust built up on the rotor, it’s a good indication that the brakes aren’t working correctly.

Vehicle safety inspectors are also checking to make sure the parking brake is able to hold on a slight incline.

Some of the vehicles driven today use an electronic parking brake. They don’t even have a handle that you pull up; instead, it’s run by a computer.

There are different ways that the electronic parking brake needs to be tested during the state inspection.

The anti-lock braking system (ABS) light is another component that’s checked. A vehicle can still pass inspection, even if the yellow ABS light is on. However, it will not pass if the red brake light is on, because that could indicate a problem with the parking brake system or fluid.

If it feels like there is a mechanical issue, inspectors can take the car for a test drive.

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.

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.

7 things to do, to get your car ready for the spring

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

Now that the hard winter months are behind us and we’re moving into spring, it may be time for you to do some ‘spring cleaning’ and bring your car to the shop for some maintenance.

Here are some seven things we recommend for your vehicle, now that spring is on its way:

7 things to do, to get your car ready for the springGet your cabin air-filter swapped out.

While getting your cabin air-filters changed regularly is an important part of regular maintenance, it’s even more important when it’s springtime, in order to keep pollen and other things in the air out of your car.

“That cabin air filter filters your pollen, the dust, and getting ready for spring you want a good, fresh cabin air filter in there,” said Rich Campbell, manager at HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire.


Get your car’s fluids flushed, especially your coolant.

7 things to do, to get your car ready for the spring

Radiator hose replacement at HomeTowne Auto Repair and Tire

Now that winter is pretty much over, it’s a good idea to get all of your car’s fluids checked, flushed, and refilled – especially your coolant, as the coolant keeps your car cool and working properly, as temperatures continue to climb.

“Given the fact that we’re going to start coming in to warmer weather, your car’s going to be running a little hotter because the ambient temperature’s going to be warmed up, so coolant’s a good fluid to get changed now,” said Campbell.


Get your tires inspected, to make sure they’re in good shape.

7 things to do, to get your car ready for the spring

Brake fluid flush on Jeep at HomeTowne Auto Repair and Tire

During the winter, driving through snow and ice can really take a toll on your tires. Having your tires inspected, to make sure that they’re still safe to drive and have enough tread on them is huge as spring rains move through the area. If your tires are worn down, you won’t be able to have the traction you need, for stopping time on wet surfaces. A few seconds may not sound like much when it comes to traction on your tires, but can make a huge difference when your stopping time is impaired.

“You need to make sure you’ve got adequate traction,” said Campbell.

If you use winter tires, it’s time to swap them out.

While many people now opt for an all season tire, if you’ve invested in winter tires for the bad weather in Virginia, then now it’s time to preserve the life of those tires, and switch over to some all season or summer tires.

Get all of your bulbs and lights checked.

7 things to do, to get your car ready for the spring

Replacing tail light bulb at HomeTowne Auto Repair and Tire

This is another part of good vehicle maintenance that you should be doing year round, but as part of your vehicle ‘spring cleaning’ it’s a good idea to make sure that all of your lights and bulbs are working correctly, and replace the ones that have fizzled out.

Get your hoses checked for dirt and grime buildup.

During the winter time, things like salt and grime can work their way into your car, specifically your houses, and cause a problem later if it goes unchecked. You don’t want to wait until you’re having a problem with your hoses, to find it was something that could have been prevented with a little maintenance.

“Dirt and grime accumulates from the winter salts we’ve endured. That salt’s pretty tough on the underside of a car,” said Campbell.

7 things to do, to get your car ready for the spring

Wheel Alignment at HomeTowne Auto Repair and Tire

Get your alignment checked.

In the winter you’re bound to deal with all of the potholes that have accumulated from snow and plowing, and maybe you even ran into a few curbs during a storm. No matter what the reason is, getting your alignment checked and corrected, and having a technician check for tire wear are important parts of springtime maintenance.

The multi-point courtesy check that HomeTowne does will pick up a lot of these issues and more, and comes free with all of our standard oil changes. Be smart this spring, and make sure your car is ready to go for spring and summer road trips, not stuck in the shop for costly problems.

Comparing the quality, price and warranty of brake and rotor replacement

In Brakes, Service Standards by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

If you’re hearing a squeaking sound or experiencing difficulty braking, then it may be time to bring your vehicle to an automotive repair shop. When it comes to making a big purchase, or investing in the maintenance of your vehicle, a lot of people want to ‘shop around’ and compare prices for a brake and rotor replacement.

If are the kind of customer that wants to search for the best value, it’s important that you take a minute and make sure that you’re actually doing an even comparison of automotive services and prices. In order to look at this further, we reached out to dealership to comparing pricing and services.

We contacted the Hyundai of Alexandria dealership, and we found that the brake job they quoted us for was $325 dollars, which included resurfacing of the front rotors, and replacement of the brake pads. Resurfacing rotors is an option, but it’s not necessarily what’s best for the life and safety of your vehicle. Resurfacing rotors actually shorten the lifespan of your braking system and cause early, premature wear on the rotors that will give you a pulsation in your brake pedal.

That’s why at HomeTowne, we replace pads and rotors as a set, and the replacement of the pads and rotors costs $450 dollars. We did a comparison shop, to do the same job at Hyundai of Alexandria, and it was $600 to replace the pads and rotors. So when you are comparing brake jobs, make sure you’re comparing ‘apples to apples’ and not ‘apples to oranges’.

In addition to looking at a cost comparison, a factor in your decision making should be the brake replacement quality. When having your brakes replaced you can opt for an original equipment replacement pad, like what you’d find at a dealership, or you can opt for aftermarket upgrade brake pads. The aftermarket pads are actually a full ceramic pad that gives you a longer pad life, and we all know those Friday traffic days around here, that stop and go, which is really hard on your braking system. These upgraded pads perform better, last longer, and that’s why we use them here at HomeTowne.

Finally, think about the brake service options you have, and their warranty. Here at HomeTowne, we carry a 2-year, 24,000 mile parts and labor warranty. On the flip side, many dealerships, like the one we contacted, only offer a workmanship defect warranty. So that tells you right there, there’s a big difference in quality. If you want the best product on your car, that’s what we provide here at HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire.

What You Need to Know About Brake Fluid Flushes for Your Vehicle

In Brake Fluid Flush, Brakes by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Over the course of your vehicle’s lifetime, you’re going to have to bring it in for routine maintenance. Many people think that this primarily means oil changes, because of how frequently cars require an oil change, but there are actually some other key components to good car maintenance – like brake fluid flushes.

Brake fluid is the essential fluid in your braking system, so that needs to be serviced periodically. The brake fluid works in your cars braking system to transfer pressure, allowing you to have more stopping power and force when you push on the brakes. Over time, the brake fluid becomes dirty and change color as it picks up contaminants, including copper, dirt, and moisture. Those contaminants will start to impact the way that braking system performs – ABS systems, calipers – and promote early wear.

Many automotive repair shops and dealerships will recommend that you have a brake fluid flush service done every 50,000 miles, to replace the fluid. And if you look in the service manual for your vehicle, it does tell you to check the fluid every 15,000 miles. Additionally, it’s also a good idea get a brake fluid flush when the car is already being serviced, especially when your braking system is serviced, such as replacing pads and rotors.

Every shop uses different machines and products for the job, but at HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire, we use a BG Service machine, and Dot4 BG fluid, which has got a higher boiling point, and it’s got absorption material that keeps that moisture at bay. The quality of the brake flush product used will make a big difference on the life of the fluid, and how your car performs.

If you’re interested in having brake service completed, or you’ve hit 50,000 miles on your vehicles, stop by at HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire of Woodbridge, and see if it’s time to have a brake fluid flush as well.