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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. Jason replaced this part on a 2015 Jeep Patriot on Tuesday.

The valve cover covers the rocker arms, valve springs and seals on top of the engine.

The valve cover gasket 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.  

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

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
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.

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 level 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.

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.

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.

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.

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


What is a coolant service and why is it important?

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

If you’ve brought your car in for service lately, maybe you heard that it’s time for your vehicle to have a coolant service.

What exactly is a coolant service, also known as a cooling system flush?

A coolant service is where we remove all of the rust, sludge, and dirty coolant (also known as antifreeze) fluid from your car’s radiator, water pump, and water houses. Technicians working on a coolant service will drive the coolant from your vehicle, flush the car’s system, and replace it with a fresh mixture of coolant. Coolant is made up of a mixture of either ethylene or propylene glycol and water – 50/50.

Why is a cooling system flush important?

The most obvious reason would be to ensure that your vehicle’s cooling system is working well, but let’s dig a bit deeper into exactly why getting a coolant service is important. The coolant flows through your radiator and water pump, which is an important piece of keeping your engine cool. Another reason why a cooling system flush is beneficial is that it provides heat through the heater core, and lastly because it lubricates the water pump.

Why does my vehicle’s coolant need to be changed?

As with almost everything in your vehicle, over time things will need to be repaired, replaced, and swapped out – your coolant is no different. Over time the coolant in your vehicle will become contaminated through the contact with the aluminum (think radiators and cylinder heads), iron (your car’s engine block or water pumps), and rubber, and this will lead to material buildup over time in your coolant.

All of that material moves through your vehicle, getting deposited in areas like the heater core and the radiator. Why does that matter? Because with that buildup, it reduces your cars ability to remove hear and can damage the internal pieces of your vehicle due that heat and buildup.

“As the coolant gets contaminated it loses its ability to lubricate which can cause early failure of the water pump. Changing the coolant removes the old fluid and contaminants restoring performance and lubrication of your cars cooling system,” said HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire General Manager Richard Campbell.

How often do I need to change the coolant?

Every vehicle is different, and you should always consult your vehicle’s manual for specific intervals, but it is generally recommended that you have a coolant system flush at 30,000, 50,000, and 100,000 miles. Over the past few years some vehicle manufacturers have been extending coolant service intervals, but getting regular service can help you prevent costly repairs and breakdowns in the long run.

Make sure your vehicle is ready for the winter – what to look for

In Car Safety, Tires & Wheels, Vehicle Fluids, Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

The colder months are approaching in Virginia, and with that cold comes snow, ice, and changing road conditions.

As a driver in the Northern Virginia area, it’s always a good idea to keep your eye on the condition of your vehicle. Especially as a driver in the Washington, D.C. area you need to be following the severe service intervals per the owner’s manual for your vehicle, in order to ensure that your car is ready year round. This is a great basic service interval to go off of, because the wear and tear on the cars from traffic and congestion. And when the seasons change, it is very important that you get some key things looked at on your vehicle, to make sure you’ll make it through the winter safely.

Here’s what we recommend that you have inspected at a qualified automotive shop, before the winter weather really sets in.

check your tire pressure monthly as the tempurature drops

Check your tire pressure monthly, as the temperature drops

Your tires.

Your vehicle’s tires need to be in good shape in the winter, as they’re what help you to brake quickly and steer through icy road conditions. If you typically use a summer tire for your vehicle in the warmer months, then it’s time to change over to an all season or winter tire, depending on your vehicle and driving needs.

In addition to potentially switching the set of tires on your vehicle, you need to also make sure that the tires are being checked for air pressure and tread depth. Your tires need to be properly inflated in order to work effectively – and prevent you from ending up on the side of the road with a flat tire. The tread depth is equally important, as worn down tires with minimal to no tread make it more difficult to brake and handle the vehicle safety in adverse weather conditions.

Your lights.

Especially with it getting dark earlier in the day, it is important that all of your vehicle’s lights are working properly, in order to ensure full visibility. You can walk around your vehicle with the lights on to check that no bulbs are blown out – grab a friend to help if need be. We can also assist you with checking the bulbs and replacing them.

Your vehicle’s battery.

get your battery checked and tested before winter sets in

Get your battery checked and tested before the winter

When it gets colder, a lot of drivers find that they have issues with their car’s battery – often in cases where you need it the most. At our shop we’re able to hook up our battery analyzer to your vehicle to test that the battery is in good condition, and that it can still produce the electrical load that your vehicle requires for starting.

We can also help to make sure that the cells on the battery are good, which can help you to avoid electrical problems with your car.

The vehicle’s cooling system.

Your vehicle’s cooling system makes sure that parts of your vehicle don’t freeze up, and that everything works smoothly. So when the winter comes, you need to make sure your cooling system has been services. The first thing you’ll want to have done is to have a technician check the antifreeze in your car. Is it the correct level? Does the fluid look dirty? What is the alkaline level? These are all things that need to be checked to make sure your cooling system is working properly.

Changing out the fluids is also an important part of servicing your cooling system before the winter season. The coolant fluid needs to have a proper mixture in order for it to work properly and keep your vehicle from freezing up. We can replace those fluids, and drivers should have their coolant inspected and changed out around every 60,000 miles as a standard.

check your cars heater and defrost controls before winter sets in

Check your car’s heater and defrost controls before winter sets in

Your heater and defroster functions on the vehicle.

While this may sound simple, going through each of the modes on your cars temperature controls with heating, air conditioning, and defrosting functions, is important to ensure that they’re working. Especially with the defrost function, you need to test this to make sure air is fully blowing air on the windshield.

Your wiper blades.

In the winter your wiper blades can take a serious beating, especially when you’re dealing with rain, ice, and snowfall. Before winter hits, consider changing out your wiper blades, and have them inspected to see if they’re still in good shape. You should be looking for small cracks or if the rubber is hard – good signs that they need to be swapped out. Also, if they haven’t been changed in one year, it is most likely time to invest in a replacement.

Your vehicle’s transmission.

replacing your dirty air filter can save money on gas

Replacing your dirty air filter can save money on gas

Regardless of what season it is, it is very important for drivers to take care of their vehicle’s transmission. You want to have the transmission inspected to make sure that the levels are correct and that there are no signs of burning – which is the wear from the friction material in the car – that could cause issues for your vehicle later.

Also, make sure you’ve got a snow brush and ice scraper, so that you’re prepared when the snow and ice does come.