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Rear ac system repair on van

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

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

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

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

The inner panel removed on an E-350 van.

Fixing the rear ac system

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

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

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

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

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

Replacing and maintaining the cabin air filter

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

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

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

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

HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire is an authorized Michelin and BFGoodrich tire dealer located in Woodbridge, Virginia. Automotive repair services are performed on all makes and models, including oil changes, brakes, alignments, inspections, and computer engine diagnostics.

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Why you should change your cabin air filter and clean the cowling

In Cabin Air Filter by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Leaves will soon begin falling across Virginia.

They can become lodged in your car’s cabin air filter or the cowling area.

Cabin air filters clean the air that goes into the front of vehicles and prevent bacteria, dirt, dust and pollen from entering.

They keep the heating core and evaporator from getting blocked, as well.

Once or twice a year, it’s a good idea to clean out and vacuum the cowling area, where leaves, sticks and pine needles can build up.

Cowling area

The windshield wipers hook up at the cowling area and water from the windshield drains into it before running off the sides under the car.

It also houses the windshield wiper motor and air intake for the heating and air conditioning system and cabin air filter. 

Cleaning the cowling area can help keep your cabin air filter clean and prevents your car from smelling moldy. 

It’s important to have the cabin air filter replaced regularly. If it isn’t, it becomes more clogged and may add more stress to the blower motor.

In addition to leaves, cabin air filters may become home to animals that are seeking warmth or shelter.

One indicator that your cabin air filter isn’t working properly or it’s blocked by too many leaves or a mouse nest, is that particles will come out of the vent when you turn the air conditioning or heat on the highest setting. 

Cabin air filters should get changed every 10,000 to 20,000 miles, depending on the car’s make and model and where it’s driven.

A vehicle that travels down a dirt road every day may need to be replaced more often than one that goes from a driveway to the interstate.

Our technicians check cabin air filters during oil changes, as part of our courtesy inspection. They also spray the disinfectant BG Frigi Fresh into the air intake system.

So, what kind of cabin air filter should you use?

It’s like getting an air filter for your house – you can buy a $3 air filter or $30 air filter. 

Depending on the make model of the vehicle, you can spend $3 to 5 or up to $75 or $80 for a cabin air filter.

How the air filter is made, if it will get distorted, and the materials the filter is made out of also impact the price.

On some vehicles, like BMWs and Mercedes, they may have a charcoal filter built into them, which are going to be more expensive. Some vehicles have two cabin air filters, others have none.

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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BG Frigi Fresh kills bacteria, viruses

In Cabin Air Filter by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Do you want to clear the air inside your vehicle?

BG Frigi Fresh, a disinfectant and air freshener, is one product HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire uses to do that.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registered product removes odors and kills harmful bacteria, molds and viruses. These germs build up in the climate control system and result in a musty odor and affects allergies.  

We spray BG Frigi Fresh into the air intake system when replacing the cabin air filter. It goes through the vent system, including the heater core and evaporator.

About cabin air filters

The cabin air filter blocks some dirt, dust and bacteria from coming into the front of your vehicle.

Most cars use one filter, but some higher engineered vehicles — including Mercedes and BMWs — have two. Other vehicles don’t have any, so make sure to check before setting up an appointment.

There are several kinds of cabin air filters. The cost of a cabin air filter depends on how it’s made, what it’s made out of, and if it gets distorted.

Our technicians use a mid-grade filter, but even better filters are out there.

The Enviroshield Cabin Air Filter clear out various impurities, including pollen, dust, and exhaust system smells from other vehicles.

PureFlow is a filter that gets rid of particles, soaks up odors, and makes germs less effective.

How often you should replace them

Cabin air filters should be replaced at least once a year, but — depending on the driving conditions — they could require additional changes.

If you live or travel on a dirt road, you may need to replace the cabin air filter more often than if you typically use major roads and highways.

The amount of pollen can also impact how frequently it’s changed.

There are some signs that a cabin air filter is ready to be replaced. These include a musty smell and the vents not blowing air as strongly.

Technician Tip: Other than regularly changing out your cabin air filter, we also recommend removing leaves and pine needles from the cowling area. If you do not, they can clog up the cabin air filter.

Other air filters

Vehicles can have several filters. 

In addition to cabin air filters, there are engine air filters. They filter air that’s entering the combustion chamber.

Overtime, engine air filters become dirty or smushed and need to be replaced. Certain performance filters may be washed and reused. If you don’t change or wash them, the filters won’t work as well. It could also lead to engine damage. 

There are also filters for fans on temperature control seats and blower motor filters, which maintain the battery’s cool temperature. 

While you’re driving around, you want to breathe in pure air. Changing the cabin air filter and using BG Frigi Fresh are a couple of ways you keep it clean. 

HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire is an authorized Michelin and BFGoodrich tire dealer located in Woodbridge, Virginia. Automotive repair services are performed on all makes and models, including oil changes, brakes, alignments, inspections, and computer engine diagnostics.

Here’s a New Year’s resolution: Take better care of your car

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

We’re now in the new year, and it’s time to make the annual commitments to improving your body, spending more time working on something you care about, saving money for vacation, etc.

But what if you made your New Year’s resolution a commitment to taking better care of your car?

It’s a win-win – by taking care of your car, and investing in some basic maintenance items, you’re not only extending the life of your vehicle, but you’re saving money in the long run.

Here are some ways you can take better care of your car this year.

tire pressure is important to your tires lasting a long time and helps save on gas

Tire pressure is important to your tires lasting a long time and helps save on gas

Keep an eye on the tire pressure.

If the air pressure in your tires is too low, it can cause several issues, so it’s important to keep an eye on the pressure level, and keep your tires full per the manufacturer’s guidelines.

If your tire pressure is low, it can cause steering issues, which leads to abnormal tire wear. And over time, that abnormal wear means your tires wear down faster. That also means you’ll be spending money on replacing your tires sooner than you would normally.

“Buy a good tire gauge, because some of the cheap ones are like a dollar, and they may not work that well. You need to spend $5 and $20 for a good tire gauge. Therefore, you know you’ll have the correct pressure in the tire,” said HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire owner ST Billingsley.

Billingsley also recommends keeping a 12-volt air pump in your vehicle at all times. That way, if you find one of your tires is low, you can simply add air wherever you are, instead of trying to find a gas station with a working pump that offers air.

Wash your car.

washing your car underneath helps keep the metal from rust and corrosion

Washing your car underneath helps keep the metal from rust and corrosion

It sounds simple, but keeping your car washed regularly is an important part of upkeep.

“The reason you want to wash your car, especially with all of this road salt through the winter time – even in the summertime though – if you wash your car…you’re helping to remove road grime and road salts, whatever you’re picking up while driving,” said Billingsley.

According to Billingsley, when you’re driving, dirt and mud can fly underneath your car and pack in near the car’s ball joints and bushings. If moisture is left to collect there, it can rust the parts and lead to the need to repair and replace these components more often.

Replace your cabin air filters regularly.

People have started to understand the importance of cabin air filters, and how they provide clearer air when driving in your vehicle, but making sure they’re regularly changed is something you need to commit to as well.

cabin air filters clean up the air coming into the passenger compartment of a car or truck

Cabin air filters clean up the air coming into the passenger compartment of a car or truck

According to Billingsley, the key is to change them at least twice a year, depending on manufacturer’s guidance and the environmental conditions where you live.

“You really need to be changing them twice a year. And a good time to change it is right after pollen season, because it’s going to be clogged with pollen, and right before wintertime – right before Thanksgiving,” said Billingsley.

While no one’s perfect, if you commit to making even some of these changes this year, you’ll be on your way to better maintenance and upkeep of your vehicle, which will save you in the long run.

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.