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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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Different types of transmissions and how they work

In Uncategorized by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Transmissions transfer power to the wheels from the engine. They determine the force and speed based on where and how the vehicle is being driven.

There are a few different kinds of transmissions used today – manual transmissions, automatic transmissions, continuously variable transmissions (CVT) and automated manual transmissions (AMT).

Each type differs in its design, operation and components.

Manual transmissions

Manual transmissions consist of an input shaft, intermediate shaft and output shaft. 

The input and output shafts are each connected with the intermediate shaft.

There are also several gears that enable us to travel at various speeds, with lower gears used for slower speeds and top gears operating at faster speeds.

Because the gears aren’t attached to the output shaft, a hub and sleeve are needed to link them as you shift. In order to switch, the clutch must be disengaged.

It has a manual clutch where you press the pedal to disengage the transmission.

Automatic transmissions

Automatic transmissions use a planetary gearset, which is made up of an output and two inputs. As the input speeds change so does the output speed.

The output of another planetary set connects with an input of the first one.

This system also has two clutch packs, which prevent the ring gears from moving. While switching gears, the clutch pack is pressed. The ring gear stops while the carrier turns.

The output speed can rise if the ring gear is able to move. This is possible by letting go of the first clutch while simultaneously connecting with the second clutch. The ring gear then links to the carrier of the other planetary set.

An automatic transmission has a torque converter that connects the engine to the transmission, which allows a certain amount of slippage so you don’t need to push in a clutch pedal when you come to a stop.

There’s a valve body that is electronically and hydraulically controlled to change the shift points, depending on how the vehicle’s being driven.

Continuously Variable Transmissions (CVT)

A Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) is an automatic transmission that offers various perks, such as less carbon dioxide emissions and fuel consumption.

This system consists of a couple of sheathes that are located on drive and driven shafts. Between them, sits a metal push belt. 

One of the sheathes is able to move on the shaft, allowing the transmission ratio to shift automatically and continuously.

CVT components team up with an electronic system. Together, they provide a good torque and RPM ratio.

Automated Manual Transmissions (AMT)

If your vehicle has an Automated Manual Transmission (AMT), you are able to shift manually or automatically. 

When you choose the automatic option, the gear adjusts on its own.

An AMT uses several parts – change lever unit, clutch actuator, gear shift unit and transmission control unit.

The change lever unit allows you to go from neutral to drive. When you shift gears, a signal is sent to the clutch actuator and gear shift unit by the transmission control unit. 

The system chooses the correct gear needed, which decreases damage to the clutch and improves fuel economy.

With this transmission, you get the best of both worlds of a manual and an automatic transmission.

Maintaining your transmission

One way to take care of your transmission is through transmission fluid exchanges, which we recommend every 30,000 miles. The intervals also depend on the vehicle and what the manufacturer suggests.

Overtime, contaminants build up in the transmission fluid that acts as a lubricant. This can cause valves and solenoids to stick and parts to break down.

Transmission fluid exchanges help components last longer.

Some transmissions have a filter. You don’t have to necessarily change the filter during a fluid exchange, especially if they’re performed early on and through the life of the vehicle.

The filter acts like the air filter for your house. It filters out large contaminants that would normally go through the transmission. Depending on the car’s mileage and age it might be a good idea to also change the filter.

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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Electronic steering: How it works and possible problems

In Uncategorized by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Cars nowadays are more reliant on electronics than ever before.

They are made up of computers, modules, clocks, and the ability to charge items.

Many are even coming with electronic steering.

Different types of power steering

There are a couple of different types of power steering, or electronic assisted steering. One of the common ones is where it’s on the steering shaft. It turns the steering wheel and goes down the shaft to the rack and pinion or the gear box.

The electronic steering has an electronic control unit, which takes input from a steering wheel angle sensor. The sensor measures how fast and far you’re turning the steering wheel. If you’re moving a little bit, it doesn’t need to move very fast. But if you turn it really hard, it’s going to help assist that steering much faster.

Once those different inputs are taken and calculated through the control unit, the motor is able to work hard or soft to make the steering effortless for the driver – whether it’s a little or a lot of turning.

The electronic motor is made onto the rack and pinion, giving it a different type of drive over the one that’s on the steering column.

You still have your input from the steering wheel that’s going down to the rack and pinion. So, if there’s a problem you can still steer the vehicle, it just may be harder. But a lot of the time it can save space by the electronic motors being on the rack and pinion.

Sometimes, when replacing them on the European vehicles – such as Audis, Volkswagens, BMWs and Mercedes – you need to recode them or update programming. This can affect the time frame of how long it takes to get your vehicle fixed. It’s not always just replacing the part and you’re good to go. You actually have to recalibrate, code the part to the car, and then go through the checks to make sure everything is OK.

Hydraulic power steering and electric power steering

We have seen electronic steering in some vehicles since 2002. So, it’s not brand new, it just wasn’t as common back then. It might have only been in certain vehicles, usually higher end models. Now, you see it across the board on every day cars. 

Is the old way of hydraulic power steering better than electric power steering?

When you’re looking at the vehicles now – because electronics have come a long way, the electric steering is a little bit more efficient. 

You don’t have the power steering pump, the hoses, more components that can fail, and more drag on the engine. When you start to take the loads off the engines that way it makes these cars a little more fuel efficient.

Things to watch for

If you see certain alerts, like electronic stability control or variable steering assist, you will want to get that checked out sooner rather than later. Sometimes, the problem can be as simple as a bad steering angle sensor. It could also be that the rack and pinion is having a problem.

Some issues are some of the same ones you would experience with the older systems. For example, if you hit a curb or a pothole, that could ruin one of the inner or outer tie rod ends. That would put a lot of force on the rack and pinion, which in turn puts a lot of force on that electric motor.

Some of the things are kind of the same, but a lot of times you don’t have as much maintenance to do.  

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 check your oil

In Uncategorized by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Oil helps protect your engine and other components.

By checking the oil level regularly, drivers can confirm that they don’t have an oil leak and prevent damage down the road.

Joe from HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire in Woodbridge demonstrates how to check your oil in the video below.

Before looking at the oil level, it’s important to make sure that your car is off and is stationed on a level surface. This will allow you to get an accurate reading. If it is on an incline or decline, the reading won’t be correct.

You also don’t want any hot components around the dipstick while you’re checking the oil. If there are, let the vehicle cool off for a couple of hours or overnight, just to be safe.

How to check your oil

Here are the steps for checking your oil:

Step 1: Remove the dipstick and clean it off. 

Step 2: Replace the dipstick. Make sure it’s going into the dipstick tube smoothly. You don’t want to force it, because it can break and would then need to be removed.

Step 3: Remove the dipstick again and check the reading. There are a couple of marks that differ among manufacturers. Some have two dots, while others have minimum and maximum lines.

Step 4: Clean the dipstick again and place it back in the tube. 

Step 5: Remove the dipstick and recheck the reading. If you have two consistent readings, there’s no need to check it again. If the readings are inconsistent, you will want to check it a third or fourth time. Some vehicles have baffles and the oil can leach down, causing you to get different readings.

Why having the right amount of oil is important

A lot of vehicles today are oil specific and pressure specific for their variable valve timing and lubricating components. 

If you have low oil and if you don’t have a warning indicator, you can run the vehicle but each time you start it it will take longer for the oil to reach the top of the engine. That can slowly wear down the components and result in a major engine repair.

We recently worked on a fairly new car that consumes about a quart of oil every 1,000 miles. Every once in a while, it needed to be topped off with oil. The timing chain eventually wore out and the sprocket had excessive wear. 

Engine oil is vital to the health and lifespan of a vehicle. It’s very important for it to be at the accurate level, and it should not be ignored.

In addition to checking your oil, we recommend having oil changes performed every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, depending on your vehicle and the manufacturer’s recommendation. You can learn more about what happens during an oil change and why they are important in this article we wrote.

If you have any questions or concerns, or would like to schedule an appointment reach out to HomeTowne Auto Repair. Our service advisers are happy to set up an appointment or answer your questions. 

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 ignore an overheating engine

In Uncategorized by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Your vehicle has warning lights and signals for a reason.

Choosing to ignore them can lead to trouble later on.

We worked on a Jeep Liberty that had an overheating engine. A few symptoms occurred that hinted at this problem.

First, the check engine light turned on. A check engine light can turn on for many reasons. If it comes on, we recommend having it checked out as soon as possible. This can help save the technician time in pinpointing the issue – saving you money on diagnostic testing costs.

The heat gauge also went all the way to the right and a red light appeared on the dashboard.

All of these indicators were ignored, and the engine locked up.

By the time the vehicle was brought to us, the hot engine temperature had warped the cylinder head and valve cover.

When those components become distorted, it blows out a head gasket. This causes coolant to leak into the combustion chambers.

The engine won’t run the same way again and needs to be replaced.

What causes an overheating engine

There are various causes behind an engine overheating.

In the case of the Jeep Liberty, the customer mentioned that a radiator hose had blown recently. It was fixed, but the problem continued. The vehicle was driven without coolant for an extended period of time.

Low coolant is one of the main reasons overheating occurs. Other than a coolant leak, this issue can be a sign that there’s a problem with the thermostat. The thermostat regulates how much coolant flows between the engine and radiator.

Issues with the electric cooling fan and other electrical parts are also possible culprits.

What to look for

You can’t tell with the naked eye if an engine is overheating. An engine rarely becomes so hot that parts melt. However, all sorts of warning signs will go off.

White smoke out of the exhaust may indicate a blown head gasket or a cracked cylinder head, because coolant has gotten into the exhaust.

In extreme cases, you may notice the engine emitting steam. The radiator cap serves as a pressure relief valve, which allows coolant to go into the overflow tank. Every vehicle has a tank, which is where the coolant goes when you turn off the engine so the coolant doesn’t go out on the ground. If you have too much pressure, the coolant will be pushed out of the overflow reservoir, causing steam to come up. 

Rough running is another indicator that you have a head gasket or a cracked cylinder head and coolant is entering the engine.

Continuously adding coolant and not seeing any leaking on the ground can also be a sign that you have a problem. 

On top of maintaining your vehicle, you should be aware of odd situations and noises and reach out to a repair shop when you notice them. There could be an important issue that needs to be addressed.

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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Car squeaking sounds and what causes them

In Uncategorized by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

As you’re driving around town or on your way to work, you may notice a squeaking noise.

There are several reasons why car squeaking sounds occur. These are some of the most common causes:

  • Ball joints
  • Brakes
  • Control arm bushings
  • Sway bar bushings
  • Worn struts

Here is a more in-depth explanation behind the different components.

Ball joints

Ball joints are a pivot point for the control arm, which supports the primary load of the car.

These components can create a squeaking sound when they run out of lubrication. They also may need to be replaced to resolve the noise.

Control arm bushings and sway bar bushings

Some control arm bushings and sway bar bushings make squeaking sounds if they need to be lubricated. Others have to be replaced. 

Whether you need new control arm or sway bar bushings or they need to be lubricated depends on how they come from a manufacturer.

Car squeaking sounds


Brakes can make squeaking sounds if they are getting low. Most brake pads contain little metal tabs called “wear sensors” that can screech on the brake rotors. 

Brakes must be at or above 2/32 an inch to pass the Virginia state inspection. We recommend getting new brakes when they hit 3/32 or 4/32 of an inch, but some manufacturers suggest they be replaced sooner.

You can read more whether you need new brakes and the brake services we offer in this article we wrote recently.

Cheap brakes and those that haven’t been maintained properly can cause a friction noise.

We don’t suggest having cheap brakes installed, because they can cause noise, vibrations and rapid wear.

To learn more about why you shouldn’t use cheap brakes, check out this article.

Replacing only the brake pads and not the rotors may result in a squeaking sound.

Worn struts

Shocks and struts go bad overtime. The tires wearing unevenly and the handling feeling off are other indicators that these parts need to be replaced. These are some other signs.

We typically recommend replacing shocks and struts around 100,000 miles. However, if you’re getting new tires and your car is at 80,000 or 90,000 miles, we may suggest getting new ones earlier. This can help protect the next set tires.

How we address car squeaking sounds

To find the cause behind squeaking noises, we start by taking the car on a test drive. Then, we look for any problems by performing a visual and digital inspection.

After the inspection, our technicians recreate the issue. This allows us to isolate it.

Please make sure to provide the auto repair shop as much information as possible.

A customer recently had their vehicle towed for a brake check. The brakes were making noise, and he believed it was a caliper problem. 

When we touched the brakes during a test drive, they locked up and the truck slid. The customer didn’t mention that he recently had new brakes installed. Turns out, one of the calipers was missing. 

One of the more dangerous things you can do, as a customer, is not give us all of the information. When you don’t, it can be unsafe.

Having the whole story, including noises, problems you’ve noticed, and even a timeline, helps us solve the problem.

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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Does my car need new brakes?

In Uncategorized by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Typically, drivers don’t know that their car needs new brakes until they bring it to a repair shop for an oil change or to address a problem.

While performing an oil change, our technicians do a tire rotation and look over the vehicle. During this courtesy inspection, we may find that it requires new brakes or they are reaching the end of their lifespan.

To pass the annual state inspection, brakes must be a least 2/32 of an inch. However, we suggest replacing them when they get to 3/32 or 4/32 of an inch, depending on the vehicle and driving conditions.

Read more about brakes and the Virginia safety inspection.

When you go in for your next oil change, it’s a good time to have all four of your brakes checked.

Signs that new brakes, brake repair are needed

Overtime, you may start to notice certain signs, such as squealing and the vehicle taking longer to stop.

If you put off replacing brakes, it will likely lead to further damage down the road.

How often brakes need to be replaced depends on many factors, including the make and model. Driving behaviors, how much someone drives, and stop and go traffic also play a role.

Generally, brakes can last anywhere from 36,000 to 80,000 miles. We have replaced them at 18,000 miles, which was extremely low. 

It’s important to make sure the types of brakes put on your car are of good quality and meet Original Equipment (OE) specifications, because the way the vehicle safety system works they are programmed to operate with certain types of parts. 

If you put inferior parts on, the systems like Advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), Traction Control System (TCS), Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) may not perform correctly.

Sometimes, brake repair is needed between brake jobs.

These are some symptoms that a vehicle is in need of brake repair.

Brake services we offer

HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire offers an array of brake services.

Our technicians can replace various components. These include: the master cylinder, vacuum or hydraulic boosters, brake lines, calipers or wheel cylinders, brake pads and rotors, and brake drums and shoes. 

We are also able to replace the entire parking brake system, whether it’s electric or not. The parking brake is made up of the handle or pedal, and linkage from the handle or pedal to the rear caliper or shoe. 

Brake fluid exchanges are performed at HomeTowne Auto Repair, as well. 

Recommended every 30,000 miles, this service prevents corrosion from building up on the inside of the calipers.

If your Anti-Lock Brake System (ABS) warning light comes on, we can look into that too.

The brake system is made up of many parts, and it’s important to keep up with it. If you notice something out of the ordinary, it won’t hurt to call a local repair shop and ask them about it.

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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Diagnostic testing on a Toyota Tacoma

In Uncategorized by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Diagnostic testing is a process of elimination.

As our technicians work on vehicles, they determine where the problem lies and, through research and communication with the customer, figure out the cause.

Some issues, however, aren’t so cut and dry.

A Toyota Tacoma was brought in because it would occasionally stutter when going uphill, even after the driver let off of the accelerator. The symptom started recently and was growing worse.

First, we took the truck on a couple of test drives and checked for Technical Service Bulletins (TSBs). 

Then, one of the techs performed a transmission drain and fill to get rid of any contaminants. While the problem did get better, it didn’t go away completely.

This led us to take a look over parts and determine that it may need a new transmission.

There’s not always one way to approach everything. Sometimes, cars have mechanical failures that don’t trigger a trouble code, which acts as a starting point. 

In the case of the Toyota, the symptom being described felt like many problems – a shift shutter, a misfire, a bad tire – and was intermittent. 

Rather than following a diagnostic tree that a manufacturer provides, we need to use logic and experience to isolate the issue. 

This includes checking fluid levels and, sometimes causing a fault to ensure that components are working. For example, we may purposefully leave a sensor unplugged to see if it will cause a circuit code.

With the Tacoma, it was a mixture of possible misfires, differential problems and transmission problems.

This is why we can’t say that one level of diagnostic testing is needed to address an issue. It could require further investigation. We just don’t know until we start working on it. 

Read about why diagnostic testing is important.

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 Auto Repair & Tire offering financing option

In Uncategorized by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire in Woodbridge, Virginia is now offering financing.

We understand that times are tight, and you may need some tires or work done on your vehicle but you don’t have the cash right now.

Customers can receive up to six months of interest-free financing on any purchases that exceed $200.

We don’t push to financing, because there is a minimum monthly payment that needs to be made.

If you are interested, make sure you pay all of it off before the six months. Otherwise, you will be charged with all the interest.

Of course, with those financing options, the interest rates can be higher than normal. But if that helps you out, we do have that option.

You can apply online through the Synchrony website before you get here, or we can complete the application for you.

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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Common car heater problems

In Uncategorized by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Your car heater can be just what you need on chilly winter, fall or spring days. However, there may come a time where you flip it on and feel cold air blowing through the vents – even after the vehicle has been running for a while. 

What can cause this unpleasant occurrence? Well, a car heater blowing cold air can be the result of a few problems. It could indicate:

  • More coolant is needed
  • There is a problem with the heater core
  • The thermostat isn’t functioning correctly
  • The heater control has become blocked or broken

Below is more information about these different issues.

Car heater problems? Here’s what it could be.

It needs more coolant: Hot air generates from the heater core. Coolant, which runs through the engine and heater core, becomes hot. Coolant has to go somewhere, so if you need to add coolant, it’s likely that there’s a leak. Coolant leaks, which are also known as “water leaks”, can develop anywhere – the heater core, radiator, heater hoses, thermostat, and other areas.

Problems with the heater core: The heater core can become blocked by scale, which is debris created by a chemical reaction. If the heater core is blocked, coolant isn’t able to enter it and send cold or hot air through the vents. 

The thermostat is malfunctioning: The thermostat expands and contracts, depending on the coolant’s temperature. If it’s stuck open, too much coolant is flowing, causing the engine temperature to stay too low. This can cause cold air to come through the vents. If the thermostat is stuck closed, the engine temperature becomes too hot.

Heater control is broken or blocked: The blendor actuator, or “blendor switch” – the knob on your dashboard – tells the actuator how much to open the door. This determines how hot or cold the air that enters your vehicle is. If it breaks or gets clogged, air – or the type of air you want – won’t flow through. Blockages may be caused by papers, mouse nests or other objects. If the car heating problem is occurring on an older car, there might be something wrong with the cables for the heater control.

What do I do if my heater is blowing cold air?

When you realize you have a car heater problem, take a few minutes to look at the heating system. You or one of your passengers could have accidentally pressed the wrong button or adjusted the settings.

Once you have confirmed that everything appears to be set correctly, contact a nearby car repair shop. They may be able to help you troubleshoot it. They can also have one of their mechanics take a look if it seems to be a deeper issue, or diagnostic testing is needed to resolve the problem.

HomeTowne Auto Repair offers car heater repair services. Our automotive technicians can help you figure out where the trouble lies and restore that precious heat to your vehicle.

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.