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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 types of transmissions used today – manual transmissions, automatic transmissions, continuously variable transmissions (CVT) and automated manual transmissions (AMT).

Each kind differs in design, operation and components.

Types of transmissions

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

No matter which of the types of transmissions your vehicle uses, it’s important to maintain it.

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 electronic 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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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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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.

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Signs your water pump is going bad

In Uncategorized by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Your car’s water pump ensures that coolant is moving through the engine, preventing it from overheating.

You may need a new one if it’s corroding or loose, or the radiator is emitting steam.

An overheating engine and coolant leaking in the center of the car’s front end are also signs of a bad water pump.

Here are some recommendations for those who may have water pump problems and technicians who are looking into them.

One of our technicians installed a new pump on a Cadillac, which was overheating and had a coolant leak.

As the technician worked on it, he noticed that the drive belt and drive pulley had been shredded. We think this was caused by the pump locking up. 

Water pump
Shredded drive belt and drive pulley

To access it, the technician needed to remove the water pump housing, which includes part of the EGR system and Evaporative Emission Control System (EVAP) system.

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 windows on Subaru wouldn’t roll down

In Uncategorized by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Are your car windows refusing to roll up or down? There are a few different causes behind this.

A Subaru driver dropped off their vehicle at HomeTowne after realizing the passenger car windows weren’t working.

First, Charles checked the window switches. He then moved on to the motors for the passenger windows and learned they weren’t working.

Located in the car door, the window motor is one part that is needed to open and close the window.

When you press the switch, a current goes to the motor. This starts the regulator, which causes the window to go up and down.

For some vehicles, the motor and regulator can be ordered separately. In this case, they came as one assembly. 

car windows
Window Motor and Regulation Assembly

The motor going bad is one car window problem that can occur. It could also be installed incorrectly.

A window with automatic up and down may not roll down if a car battery has been changed or disconnected. Some drivers believe that the window is broken, when it just needs to be reprogrammed.

This issue can also happen with sunroofs. 

The window switch is another part that can stop working.

If your window isn’t opening or closing, it’s also a good idea to make sure the window lock button hasn’t been pressed.

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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Mercedes parts replaced after wheel falls off

In Uncategorized by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

One of our customers was driving down the road when a wheel on their Mercedes fell off.

The impact resulted in damage to the steering knuckle, which connects suspension and steering parts.

Mercedes parts
Steering Knuckle

It also damaged the hub bearing, which allows the wheels to rotate.

Mercedes parts
Old and New Hub Bearing

Charles replaced them and the brake dust shield last month.

Mercedes parts
Brake dust shield

This is one reason why it’s important to torque lug nuts correctly.

We hand torque all of our lug nuts when putting wheels back on a vehicle after completing a project, such as a tire rotation or brake repair. 

Our technicians use torque limiters and torque wrenches.

If you don’t torque the lug nuts enough, it will leave the wheel loose and ruin the wheel, the wheel studs, and wheel bearing. 

Overtightening the lug nuts, however, will weaken the threads on the wheel studs, which can cause a failure.

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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Dynamic engine service addresses sludge buildup

In Uncategorized by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Engine sludge buildup is a recurring issue in some vehicles.

Dynamic engine service can help address this problem.

This service was performed on a Honda Odyssey. It was running rough and the check engine light had turned on.

We started the process by adding engine cleaner. Once the engine reached its operating temperature, we drained the oil and changed the oil filter.

Draining engine oil

Engine cleaner was added again and the engine ran in neutral for 45 minutes.

Then, our technician drained the engine cleaner and replaced the oil filter before adding new engine cleaner and running the engine in neutral for 20 minutes. 

Afterward, the oil filter was changed, and new oil and oil conditioner was installed.

Throughout the dynamic engine service, we watched the engine oil pressure. If the pressure drops, it could mean that something is blocking the oil pump suction line strainer.

Monitoring engine oil pressure

This procedure is recommended for cars that experience sludge buildup as a repeat problem.

Sludge — old, thick oil that is sticking to the engine — can get sucked into solenoids and other components, causing them to go bad.

Some vehicles are prone to sludge buildup. It also depends on the driving style.

Having proper oil maintenance performed with high quality oil is another way to prevent sludge from building up.

With today’s engine and the variable adjustable camshafts, making sure the oil ports are clear are very important. It can cause rough running conditions, as was the case with this Honda. 

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.