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Transmission leaks and what can cause them

In Vehicle Fluids by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Have you noticed gold or red fluid in your garage or on your driveway? This can be a symptom of transmission leaks.

A vehicle’s transmission sends power from the engine to the wheels. The Transmission fluid lubricates components. In addition to gold and red, it can be black or pink.

If you notice any of these colors near your car, reach out to a nearby auto repair shop. You don’t want to wait long to have it checked out.

What causes transmission leaks?

Transmission fluid can leak from different areas.

You could have transmission leaks from the front pump seal and the rear output shaft seal.

Transmission leak on a Chevy Colorado.
Transmission leak on a Chevy Colorado

The pan gasket, solenoids and electrical connectors are possible places, as well. Certain vehicles are infamous for leaking through the electrical connectors.

On a lot of cars, the transmission cooler lines run to the radiator. So, transmission fluid may drip anywhere from the radiator to the transmission.

As they get older, a problem could occur with a bracket that holds the line. Sometimes, the lines rust and start leaking.

Certain trucks and vehicles used for towing have an external cooler, which might go in front of the radiator or have its own cooling fan. Transmission fluid may drain from here too.

Other leak sources include connections on the radiator and  – due to age – the cooler inside the transmission.

Transmission fluid and coolant

It’s important to be watchful of any transmission fluid floating around in the coolant reservoir. That can be an indication that there’s a problem. The transmission will push fluid into the engine coolant in the radiator. 

During an oil change, our technicians will conduct a courtesy inspection. As a part of this process, they check the fluids. The technicians aren’t just confirming the fluid levels – they’re also looking for problems like this.

Under extreme conditions, the transmission may push so much fluid into the coolant that it could appear pink.

Another possible problem that we would like to avoid is the engine coolant going back into the transmission. It’s much cheaper to replace the radiator than the transmission.

Transmission services and replacement

Certain components can be changed when transmission leaks are present.

If the problem is connected with transmission cooler lines or the cooler, new ones may be installed.

Different seals – the tailshaft seals, output shaft seals, and transmission pan seals – and o-rings are also replaceable. The type of seals on a vehicle depend on whether it’s four-wheel or front-wheel drive.

Transmission for Mustang.
Transmission replacement on Mustang

Depending on the location of the leak, a new transmission may be needed. For example, a Chevy Colorado we worked on a few months ago needed a new transmission. We believe the front pump seal behind the torque converter busted. We are capable of putting in new front pump seals, but sometimes it isn’t worth it.

You may also notice certain symptoms if you have a bad transmission, such as trouble switching gears.

A great way to reduce any transmission problems is through regular transmission fluid exchanges. This mileage-based service cleans out contaminants that buildup in the fluid overtime and helps prevent parts from breaking down prematurely.

HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire is an authorized Michelin and BFGoodrich tire dealer located near Lake Ridge, 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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The importance of transfer case fluid exchanges

In Vehicle Fluids, Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Cars today require various maintenance items once they hit a certain mileage. This can range from oil changes to flushes and the replacement of parts. 

Transfer case fluid exchanges are one of the services that tend to be overlooked. 

They aren’t needed on all cars, only those that have a transfer case. You normally see transfer cases on four-wheel drive vehicles.

Why transfer case fluid exchanges are needed

Transfer case fluid acts as a lubricant for gears, bearings and other parts. Overtime, this fluid can break down – due to heat, contaminants and moisture – and should be replaced. 

Transfer case fluid exchanges offer multiple benefits. They increase the longevity of the transfer case, which links the transmission and front axle. This type of maintenance also ensures that the component continues operating the way it should.

A transfer case that was removed from a Dodge Charger.
Transfer case from a Dodge Charger

If motorists choose not to have the flush performed or put it off too long, they could face costly repairs down the road. Worn out transfer case fluid can cause corrosion to build up and the gears to experience wear.

When to get a transfer case fluid flush

With other mileage-based services, like brake fluid exchanges and power steering fluid exchanges, you can check the fluid and see if it’s dark. This isn’t the case with transfer case fluid exchanges.

There is no way to tell if the transfer case fluid needs to be changed. So, we normally go based on mileage.

How often your vehicle needs a transfer case fluid exchange depends on the type of car you have, its purpose, and what the manufacturer suggests. This information should be found in your owner’s manual.

We recommend conducting the service every 30,000 miles. Some makes and models can go longer without a transfer case fluid exchange. A lot of manufacturers recommend them at 100,000 or 120,000 miles. Meanwhile, trucks that are used for towing may need them more often.

There aren’t any signs that indicate this maintenance is needed. Once the transfer case starts making noise, it means that something must be replaced or repaired. In addition to conducting transfer case fluid flushes, we are able to replace transfer cases.

How we perform this service

Before beginning a transfer case fluid exchange, we make sure there aren’t any leaks. When having work done on your vehicle – whether it’s transfer case maintenance or just a state inspection – it’s also a good idea to make sure the seals are good.

After confirming there aren’t any problems, we remove the old transfer case fluid and any impurities that have accumulated using our driveline service center machine. 

Then, our Woodbridge mechanics add BG Syncro Shift II into the system. This product is a full synthetic gear lubricant that can be used for transfer cases, manual transmissions and trans-axles. It protects components from wearing out and offers great shear resistance. 

The right type of fluid must be used when this service is being performed. Not all vehicles have the same needs.

For example, we used the syncro shift on the rear differential of a Highlander, because that’s what it called for. Then we used gear oil for the transfer case. Other vehicles require the exact opposite.

So, it’s important to be careful and have the work completed by an expert.

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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Coolant leaking from Volkswagen Beetle

In Automotive Diagnostics, Vehicle Fluids by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

This is the latest chronicle on the most recent car problem I had with my Volkswagen Beetle. I hope that my experience helps you address any issues you face.

I was taking my exit off I-95 South when I noticed what sounded like a rattling noise – and then turned into a grinding noise – as I stepped on the gas. 

I reached out to the General Manager at HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire, thinking it was some sort of belt issue. 

However, as I spoke with him, I began to see other problems. Smoke was emitting from the front of my vehicle and I heard a loud beeping noise. That’s when I saw the engine temperature light and low oil pressure icons appear on the dashboard. This information was shared with the General Manager, who recommended I check my oil level.

The engine temperature warning light, which appeared on the dashboard of a Volkswagen.
Engine temperature warning light

I safely arrived home, where my fiance and I confirmed that there was oil in the system but saw that the coolant reservoir appeared empty. When he heard this, the General Manager suggested we add refrigerant to see if it had a fast leak. If it did, I would need to have the vehicle towed to their Woodbridge auto repair shop. Coolant was added and, sure enough, it leaked out immediately.

Why is coolant leaking from my car?

My Volkswagen Beetle was towed to HomeTowne Auto Repair the next morning. 

When it was brought into the shop, they found that one of the heater hose connectors had broken.

A broken heater hose connector.
Broken heater hose connector

What appeared to be smoke was actually steam. This occurred because the coolant was leaking directly onto the hot exhaust, which was burning it.

After replacing the connectors, one of the technicians topped the system off with coolant. However, when he turned the vehicle on coolant once again poured out.

Why was coolant leaking out of my vehicle?

Through a deeper investigation of the problem, they found that there was a crack in the oil filter housing. 

A crack that was found in a Volkswagen's oil filter housing.
Crack in oil filter housing

After replacing this part, a coolant system flush was performed to ensure that there weren’t any air pockets. My Volkswagen was then taken on a test drive to confirm that no other leaks were present.

A Volkswagen Beetle receiving a coolant fluid exchange.

Other possible causes behind coolant leaks

Coolant leaks are usually a matter of time and age. Rust, corrosion and impact are factors, as well.

They can be the result of many different components going bad. These include the water pump, radiator, heater core, thermostat, heater hoses, and radiator hoses. You also have multiple bypass hoses, depending on the car.

This article we wrote talks about some signs that you have a bad water pump.

Some high performance vehicles have two water pumps – a main one that’s belt or chain driven and there’s usually one that’s electric which supplements the cooling system. For hybrids, there’s a completely separate cooling system for the hybrid battery. Your hybrid vehicles will have their own water pump, hoses and thermostat.

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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What we do during an oil change

In Brakes, Oil Change, Tires & Wheels, Vehicle Fluids, Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Oil changes are a form of maintenance that most drivers are familiar with.

This service is necessary for your vehicle to run properly. Oil is needed to lubricate many components and some parts feature oil pressure sensors. 

Regular oil changes, which are suggested every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, prevent engine damage from occurring down the road. You can read more about why they are important in this blog post we wrote.

During this service, the oil and oil filter are replaced. HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire takes it a few steps further by providing additional services.

What an oil change looks like at HomeTowne Auto Repair

While completing an oil change, we always use seat covers, floor mats, and steering wheel covers to protect the vehicle.

In addition to replacing the oil and oil filter, our technicians perform a courtesy inspection. This includes several safety checks, such as testing the battery. They also examine the air filters and look over the belts and pulleys. 

The fluids are checked, as well. We look at the windshield washer fluid, brake fluid, coolant, power steering fluid, and transmission fluid.

Not all of the fluids have a warning light when they’re low and you may not know until something happens. Being low on oil or coolant might cause an alert. That isn’t the case with power steering fluid and transmission fluid.

Measuring the brake pad depth is another part of the process. To pass the Virginia state inspection, they must be at least 2/32 of an inch. We start suggesting replacing the brakes when they reach 3/32 or 4/32 of an inch, but some manufacturers recommend them sooner.

The tires are also measured and rotated, which helps them last longer.

To confirm there isn’t any play or damage, the steering and suspension are inspected. Parts can become loose or go bad overtime. If they aren’t replaced early on, they could lead to more expensive repairs in the future.

Additionally, our technicians make sure the lights are working properly.

The courtesy check and tire rotations are services provided at no additional charge.

We believe in maintaining your car before it breaks down. If we can catch problems early, then we can potentially save people money.

Digital inspections

Any observations our technicians make while performing an oil change or courtesy inspection are noted in digital inspections.

Through digital inspections, we are able to share photos, videos and information about the health of your vehicle. This includes details about what’s looking good, repairs that need to be made, and services we recommend.

These reports can be sent via text or email, allowing you to receive an update wherever you are.

Is your vehicle due for an oil change? You can schedule one at HomeTowne Auto Repair by calling (703) 594-4646.

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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The importance of addressing oil leaks

In Vehicle Fluids by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Oil leaks are nothing to brush off.

When you’re running on too little oil, damage can eventually occur to the engine and other parts. So, it’s important to have this problem addressed as soon as possible.

A 2005 Dodge Caravan was brought in because it was leaking oil. In order to safely get it to HomeTowne Auto Repair, the driver needed to add a quart or two of oil. There was a trail of fluid seen in the parking lot.

While working on the vehicle, we found that there was a major oil leak behind the timing cover, which was cracked. Because some bolts were missing, the technician needed to replace the timing cover and all related hardware. New seals, a new water pump, and a new timing belt were installed, as well.

Fluid leaking from your vehicle can be a warning sign that there’s a problem. You can figure out what’s leaking by looking at the color and location.

How to tell if you have an oil leak

There are a couple of different ways to tell if your vehicle is leaking oil.

If you check your oil and notice that it’s low, you may have a leak. This could also indicate an oil consumption issue.

The other thing you can do is check underneath the vehicle after it’s been sitting for a while. You should see fresh drips below the splash shields. 

Oil is typically yellow, brown or black.

What causes an oil leak? 

There are a number of possible causes behind an oil leak.

This problem can occur if a gasket or seal is bad. Various parts could also need to be replaced. These components include crank seals, cam seals and oil cooler seals. The valve cover is the most common culprit.

Vehicles that use turbochargers have inlet and outlet tube seals that can cause a leak.

Drivers who recently had an oil change performed should bring their car back to the repair shop, because it may not have been done correctly.

How oil leaks can impact other components

Oil leaks can have a negative effect on various parts, including the timing belt.

They may cause a problem with the timing belt if they are coming from the valve covers, front camshaft seals, sometimes the crankshaft seals, and even a balance shaft or oil pump shaft seal.

If that oil leaks on the timing belt, it can weaken the belt and cause it to break. This may lead to engine damage. 

Oil leaks can also impact the serpentine belt, which is the drive belt that wraps around the engine accessories.

If the front crankshaft seal or another part of the top of the engine is leaking onto the belt, then the belt has a greater chance of slipping. That means your vehicle may not charge correctly, and the water pump may not turn properly if it’s driven by the serpentine belt.

The belt could also start to break or fray, preventing you from being able to drive your car.

If an oil leak is dripping on the exhaust you are more likely to see smoke. If there’s a significant drip – especially near the catalytic converter – the vehicle could catch on fire … which is bad.

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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A valve cover gasket can prevent oil leaks

In Vehicle Fluids by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Have you noticed an oil leak between your vehicle’s front two tires?

There are a number of reasons that could be behind it.

Needing a new valve cover gasket is one of them. Technician Jason replaced this part on a 2015 Jeep Patriot on Tuesday.

What is a valve cover gasket?

The valve cover covers the rocker arms, valve springs and seals on top of the engine. It goes between the valve cover and cylinder head, so oil doesn’t leak from the top of the engine.

“It can also cover up any other oil leaks, so it’s very important to keep this … up to par,” Jason explained.  

Other oil leak culprits

An oil leak doesn’t necessarily mean that the valve cover gasket needs to be replaced.

Many components can leak oil, including the oil pan, oil filter housing — also known as the oil filter adapter — drain plugs, and front and rear crankshaft seals.

Depending on the make and model, a vehicle may have oil cooler lines that can leak.

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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Is your vehicle overheating?

In Vehicle Fluids by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Last month, Jason worked on a 2012 Buick Enclave that had a leaking water pump.

The vehicle’s owner mentioned that it was overheating.

When he noticed that the vehicle didn’t have any coolant in it, Jason filled it up and pressure tested it. The coolant poured out of the water pump area.

Typically, water pumps can last between 1 and 140,000 miles. Their lifespan depends on the vehicle.

Sometimes, the seal can fail. There are also wearable items on pulleys, such as bearings, that can go bad.

A vehicle overheating doesn’t necessarily mean that the water pump is leaking.

Additional repairs performed on Buick

Jason also replaced the thermostat on the Buick Enclave. 

Thermostats have a thermal element, which tells it when to open. It’s preset to a certain temperature, and when it reaches it, the valve in the thermostat will open. This allows coolant to travel from the hot engine into the radiator. 

The radiator, then, cools off the coolant and returns it back to the engine 35 percent cooler than how it entered. That’s what prevents a vehicle from overheating.

If a car doesn’t have coolant, the heat is contained in the engine.

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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Maintaining your vehicle’s coolant level

In Vehicle Fluids by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Written by Erin Flynn

When I started my Volkswagen Beetle a few days ago, I heard a beeping sound and noticed that one of my dashboard lights was blinking.

A few seconds later, it turned off. I learned, later on, that it had been the coolant level light.

One of the staff members from HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire checked my vehicle’s coolant level and added fluid.

The light, he explained, turns on when the coolant goes below two metal rods that are located in the reservoir. However, each vehicle is designed differently.

Coolant Level Warning Light.
Coolant Level Warning Light

A vehicle’s engine operates at the same temperature throughout the year. Its coolant level fluctuates when it’s extremely hot or cold outside.

What can cause the Coolant Level Light to turn on?

Decreases in coolant could also mean that there’s a coolant leak, which can be difficult to determine. Parts of a cooling system may leak when the vehicle is moving or when it’s stationary. 

The coolant light could also be triggered if an engine is overheating.

Some vehicles have a dual purpose light, and others have a separate one.

Dashboard lights have various meanings.

You can learn about those specific to your vehicle by reading your owner’s manual.

Whether your vehicle has a spare tire and the location of your vehicle’s tire parts are also covered in the handbook.

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

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Why is my car leaking?

In Vehicle Fluids by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

When moving your car from its parking spot, you may notice that a puddle has formed. A car leaking fluid could indicate a number of issues.

The location and color of the leak can help you and the car repair shop you take your vehicle to determine what is leaking and the culprit.

Types of car fluids

Antifreeze: Antifreeze can be blue, green, red or yellow, depending on the vehicle. The fluid helps prevent the engine block from freezing and cracking, or running too hot.

Brake Fluid: Brake Fluid is clear, yellow or brown. A hydraulic fluid, it applies pressure to your braking components. Don’t drive your vehicle if you notice brake fluid near the wheel well. It may be a sign that your brakes are failing.

A puddle of coolant.

Coolant: Coolant is used to maintain the temperature of your vehicle’s engine. When you see a puddle that’s green, orange or pink, it could indicate that your coolant is leaking. It can be red or yellow for some vehicles. The coolant can begin to leak if a water pump or hose fails. Some electric and hybrid vehicles have another coolant system that runs to the back to keep the electronics cool. You can get a coolant leak near the back of the vehicle, which most people aren’t used to.

Engine Oil: Engine oil can be yellow, brown or black. If it’s leaking, there might be a failure with a gasket or seal. If you have had an oil change recently, bring your vehicle back to the auto repair shop.

Transmission Fluid: Transmission fluid allows the transmission to shift gears, based on pressure demand. It cools the transmission and prevents contaminants from settling, as well. It appears as gold, pink, red or black. If any of these colors are seen near your vehicle, it could mean that a seal or gasket isn’t working.

You might also see clear water, and that’s generally from your air conditioner, where the moisture is condensing and the fluid is draining out from underneath your car. That isn’t something you should be concerned about.

How to address a car leaking

The steps you should take if you notice any of these fluids depends on what’s leaking, the amount, and how the vehicle is operating.

For example, if you notice a small amount of brown fluid and it’s engine oil, you could probably just drive to our Woodbridge auto repair shop. However, if the brake pedal is soft, that is a car you don’t drive.

Whether you can drive a vehicle that has transmission fluid leaking out also depends on the situation. If you have red fluid the size of a half dollar but it doesn’t seem like it wants to shift as you are putting it in reverse, we recommend you tow it.

If you aren’t sure if your vehicle is driveable, contact a mechanic or local auto repair shop. Our Woodbridge mechanics are able to perform a variety of services, including transmission repair and brake repair.

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 your vehicle have a water pump problem?

In Vehicle Fluids by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

A few signs could mean that there’s a problem with an important vehicle part.

Those who find engine coolant on the ground, notice that their vehicle’s temperature gauge is running higher than normal, or see the check engine light turn on may have water pump issue.

Water pumps help keep engines from overheating by circulating antifreeze through the engine to the radiator.

How to handle water pump problems

It’s recommended that motorists experiencing these issues have their vehicle checked at an automotive service center.

Technicians should do a visual inspection and perform a cooling system pressure test to determine where the leak may be.

“External leaks are easier to find than internal engine leaks, but with today’s cars being so compactly built the technician may need to remove shield and other items to see where the coolant is leaking from,” the General Manager for HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire said.

A Dodge Charger that had a leaking water pump was recently brought to HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire.

“To address the issue, we replaced the timing chain and timing chain guides,” the manager explained. “We also used high quality valve cover gaskets to avoid future oil leaks.”

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 diagntics.

Water PumpWater Pump