View Post

Car maintenance tips for winter

In Uncategorized by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Winter is almost upon us.

Before the frigid temperatures and unpredictable weather make their appearance, it’s important to check in on your vehicle.

Does it need any repairs? Is it all caught up on car maintenance?

Addressing any problems or concerns now helps extend the lifespan of different components and systems, and improves your safety on the road.

There are many items we recommend looking over. They include:

  • Battery
  • Tires
  • Tire pressure
  • Brakes
  • Belts
  • Windshield wipers
  • Headlights
  • Fluids

Car maintenance checklist

"Replace battery" on battery test for Nissan Xterra battery.

Battery

Confirming that your car has a good, high quality battery is one part of car maintenance.

When you bring it in to a mechanic or auto repair shop, see if they can perform a car battery test. 

During very hot and cold months, a weak car battery can die – and potentially leave you stranded.

To work properly, the battery must be secured properly and not have any corrosion buildup on the terminals.

Additional details are provided in an article we wrote about battery problems.

BFGoodrich Train-Terrain T/A Tire.

Tires

Tires play a large part in your safety. A dependable tire with a good tread depth can prevent you from hydroplaning on rainy days.

To pass the Virginia state inspection, the tread should be at least 2/32 of an inch. Based on the tire and the car you drive, you might want to replace them sooner.

You also don’t want to use tries that are too old or have tire damage.

There are plenty of winter tires and all season tires to choose from. You can learn about a few new Michelin tires we recommend in this article we wrote.

Tire pressure

It’s not only a good idea to replace tires when it’s necessary. With the colder days, you should take a closer look at your current tires, especially if the tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) light turns on. 

If all of the tires are low this time of year, it’s probably a result of the drop in temperatures. One tire having less air than the rest could indicate that it has been injured by a nail or other object. 

You don’t want to drive on low tires for very long, because it can lead to the outside edges wearing prematurely.

Check out our article about tire pressure and why it matters for more information.

Heat spots on brake rotor.

Brakes

Brakes require regular checkups, too. Brake pads, rotors and other components wear out overtime. 

It’s important that the brake system is in good working order, in case inclement weather hits.

Brake replacement should be performed when they reach 2/32 of an inch (or sooner). Grinding and squealing sounds can also clue you in that it’s time for brake repair.

Our article “Does my car need new brakes” talks about how often brakes should be replaced and brake services we offer. 

Dark power steering fluid on Nissan Altima.

Fluids

How is your coolant, windshield washer fluid, oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, and power steering looking?

Are any of them low? There might be a leak that needs to be resolved. 

Does the power steering, transmission, or brake fluid appear dark? You may want to have it replaced through a mileage-based service. These flushes ensure that related parts last as long as possible. 

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

View Post

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.

View Post

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.

View Post

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.

View Post

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.

View Post

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.

View Post

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.

Those who are having water pump problems and technicians who are looking into these issues: You can read some recommendations in this article we wrote.

Installing a water pump on a Cadillac

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. 

Shredded drive belt and drive pulley.
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. 

View Post

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, the technician 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. 

Window Motor and Regulation Assembly.
Window Motor and Regulation Assembly

What can cause problems with car windows?

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. 

View Post

Signs that your car needs a new clutch

In Uncategorized by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Last month, a customer brought in their 2005 Volvo S60 after noticing that it wasn’t accelerating correctly.

Ray, one of our technicians, took it for a test drive and could feel the clutch slipping when he went up hill.

After checking out the car, he determined that it needed a new one. A new pressure plate and flywheel had to be installed, as well.

Old clutch and old pressure plate.
Old clutch and old pressure plate

When you push in the clutch, it releases the pressure plate and is able to spin. As you let go, it presses against the pressure plate, connecting the transmission and the engine.

The clutch, pressure plate and flywheel should be replaced at the same time. If you don’t replace the flywheel at the same time, it can leave heat marks and scratches.

New clutch and new pressure plate.
New clutch and new pressure plate

This particular vehicle had a dual mass flywheel and a self adjusting pressure plate, meaning that it required a clutch that didn’t have spring dampeners.

A high release point — when the pedal has to go a really long travel to engage — is one sign that your clutch disc is going bad.

The problem can mask itself as something else.

Every day drivers become used to subtle changes over time and may suddenly feel the transmission is going bad because it’s not engaging all the way.

It can feel like it’s not staying in gear, that the engine is running rough, or the transmission isn’t shifting properly.

Thickness of Old clutch and New clutch.
Thickness of old and new clutch

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. 

View Post

Oil leaks in Toyota Tundra’s and Sequoia’s

In Uncategorized by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Oil leaks are a common problem with some Toyota Tundra’s and Sequoia’s. HomeTowne Auto Repair and Tire has certified technicians who can help solve them.

This week, Technician Ray addressed an oil leak by replacing a camshaft cover seal. The seal was located between the camshaft housing and head of the Toyota V8 engine. To get to the seal, he needed to remove the valve covers, front cover, timing chain, and camshafts.

How to tell if a vehicle is experiencing oil leaks

Drivers can have their vehicles checked during oil changes to make sure there aren’t any issues.

Parking on a clean surface will allow them to see if a puddle is forming. 

Typically, engine oil is black, brown or yellow. Check out this article to read about other reasons why a vehicle may be leaking.

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.