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Drive belts: When to change them and problems to look for

In Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

One of the important things to maintain on your vehicle are the drive belts, which include v-belts, timing belts, and serpentine belts.

Drive belts surround a lot of engine parts and ensure that they are operating correctly.

Types of drive belts

Drive belts and serpentine belts are two names that are often used interchangeably. Certain vehicles have multiple serpentine belts.

If you’re trying to replace the belts yourself, a lot of the time there will be a sticker under the hood of some cars and trucks that will show the serpentine belt routing. 

One vehicle we had in the shop had a regular serpentine belt and dual drive belt. In this case, you have your regular serpentine belt with the “v” grooves on one side and flat on the other. The dual drive, or serpentine, belts have “v” grooves on both sides and the front and back of the belt go around pulleys to drive different components of the car.

Then, there are timing belts, which help the crankshaft and camshaft remain in correct timing. They are located around the pulleys.

Another type of drive belt is the v belt. V belts are typically used on older vehicles. During this time, you would have anywhere between two and five v belts on any one automobile, compared to a newer car that may only use one or two serpentine belts.  

A v belt.

Stretch belts are the last ones we will talk about. Many Chevrolet SUVs and trucks use what’s called a stretch belt. There’s a special tool that you use to put it on. There’s no real adjustment anymore, it actually stretches onto the pulley and as it gets older you just change it.

When to change the serpentine belt

Serpentine belts can go as long as 100,000 miles before a new one needs to be installed. The belt replacement frequency depends on several factors – like what the car is used for and where it’s driven, how the belt is made, and recommendations from the vehicle’s manufacturer.

If you go to the beach often or drive through saltwater, you may be changing the belt more often. For example, the serpentine belts might only last about 30,000 miles for drivers who reside in Nags Head.

If you have reached 100,000 miles and are changing the belt, it may be a good idea to replace the serpentine belt tensioner as well. Even though the old tensioner may hold the belt on, it might not be holding it with enough force.

Sometimes, it makes sense to put on a new belt if nearby parts are already being replaced. A lot of the time, our Woodbridge mechanics will do this if we are installing a new water pump.

Belt wearing problems

The belt can become worn due to mileage, but you also need to make sure things are in order. This includes the tensioner, tensioner and idler pulleys, and other pulleys that may be on the alternator, power steering and air conditioning. If the bearings are starting to wear on the idler pulleys, it can get out of alignment and cause more wear on the other side of the belt. So, sometimes it actually warrants replacing some of the pulleys along with the serpentine belt.

An idler pulley and belt tensioner.

As part of our digital vehicle inspection, we check the condition of the belts, which can become worn or develop cracks overtime. There is a specification, depending on the belt and manufacturer, about the number of cracks you can have within an inch before needing a new one. We’ve also seen the “v” grooves of serpentine belts that ride in the grooves of the pulley become worn and turn more into “u” grooves or wear into the structure of the belt.

Another reason you may also need to replace the belt is if you’ve had an engine coolant or engine oil leak. That fluid can get onto the belt and ruin it or cause it to slip.

Whatever the reason why your drive belt needs to be changed, it’s important that whoever does the work knows what they’re doing and uses high quality parts. If they don’t, you may need to have the work performed again or pay a more expensive bill later on.

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 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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Virginia state inspection: Windows, windshields and mirrors

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

Safety is the main concern when a Virginia state inspection is being performed. 

Issues can occasionally arise for various reasons – whether it’s age, impact, or lack of maintenance. Inspectors are there to make sure that all parts of a vehicle check out OK.

Windows, windshields and mirrors are some of the areas that are looked over during the Virginia safety inspection, which must be conducted each year. 

We also make sure there aren’t any problems with the headlights or brakes.

Windows and the Virginia state inspection

Car windows are the first topic we’ll talk about. It’s important that a driver’s sight isn’t obscured when they are looking out.

This means, the windows aren’t allowed to be broken, or have cracks or scratches. Additionally, the driver’s view can’t be warped or cloudy.

The driver side window needs to roll down, as well. Why? Well, if a vehicle’s blinker isn’t working the way it should, the driver will be able to let others on the road know they are merging or switching lanes, by opening the window and using hand gestures.

Cracks in the windshield

Is there a crack in your windshield? Did a rock or some sort of debris come up from the road and leave a mark? These are some items that inspectors keep an eye out for.

Windshield with cracks that extend across it or star cracks bigger than 1 and a half inches around will fail state inspection.

A star crack on the windshield of a Volkswagen.

Having cracks develop in a windshield can happen to anyone, especially for those driving through construction areas or on the highway. In fact, I just acquired my second star crack when driving on I-95 a few weeks ago.

If any appear on your windshield, contact your insurance company. They may provide windshield coverage and fix it for free or cover some of the costs.

Cracks aren’t the only problem that may hinder a person’s ability to see. So can tinting and letters. The tint shouldn’t go under the AS-1, be cloudy, or bubble up on the rear windshield. 

Any letters, numbers or images on a windshield aren’t allowed to be more than 3 inches from the top.

There are also windshield related components that inspectors look into, like making sure the defroster is functioning and that the windshield wipers are in one piece.

Secure mirror mountings

Visibility is a concern in regards to car mirrors, as well. Drivers are expected to have a full view of the 200 feet behind themselves. This view can’t be broken up by cracks. The mirrors on trucks should go halfway from the edge of the body.

Making sure motorists can see out the mirrors isn’t the only focus of our state inspectors. They also confirm that the mounting is secure. Mirrors must not move or be held on through various means. For example, duct tape shouldn’t be holding the side view mirror or mirror mounting together.

Duct tape on a side view mirror.

In this article we have covered some problems that can prevent a car from passing the Virginia safety inspection. If you notice any of these issues with your vehicle, we recommend bringing it to a local auto repair shop or a mechanic near you.

Not only will addressing these issues now eliminate the headache of getting them fixed at state inspection time, it also improves your safety on the road.

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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Rear ac system repair on van

In Cabin Air Filter, Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Even though it’s September, it’s still pretty warm. So, for many of us, our vehicle’s air conditioning system is still working in high gear.

We’re working on an E-350 van with a rear ac system. 

Most of these vehicles – whether it’s a minivan or a full sized van, like this one – have air conditioning lines and heater lines going to the back. This van has a heater core, an evaporator, and a separate blower motor to help cool it down.

The inner panel removed on an E-350 van.

Fixing the rear ac system

With the way they pack these vehicles in – to keep the interior room open – the rear ac system is normally on the side or back of the van. We generally have to pull the seats out and the side panels off to reach the components.

These ac systems can stop working if there is a leak in the rear evaporator. In that case, we need to evacuate the system to remove the freon. Then, the evaporator and expansion valve are replaced and a recharge is performed on the a/c system. Our technicians also conduct a re-test to make sure everything is working correctly.

Air conditioning problems can also occur if the air conditioning condenser is blocked or if the Electronic Climate Control System, which impacts the temperature in the front of the car, is failing.

If the ac problem is happening sporadically, it can be more difficult to pinpoint the cause. The vehicle might need to be left at an auto repair shop for a few days, so it can be looked into or a deeper level.

Make sure that when you drop your car off to explain what you are noticing. Is cold air not blowing out of the vents? Are you not feeling any airflow? Does it seem like the air isn’t blowing as strongly? These details and other relevant information helps our Woodbridge mechanics narrow down their search.

Replacing and maintaining the cabin air filter

When you’re working in this part of the vehicle it can be a good time to check the air intake to see if there’s a bunch of trash or dust. Sometimes, they have a filter – this van didn’t – that needs to be changed, just like a cabin air filter. If you have kids or pets, the hair, dirt and dust can collect in the filter and clogs everything up.

It’s also a good idea to use the BG Frigi-Clean, especially if you have an older van that’s used to transport children and pets. This product is a foaming agent that goes in and helps wash the dirt out of the evaporator. Another cleaner we use – BG Frigi Fresh – kills germs and microbes.

Even though the front a/c system is working fine, we recommend getting that cabin air filter checked, as well.

Cabin air filters should be changed every 10,000 to 20,000 miles. This frequency depends on what kind of vehicle you drive and where. A musty smell is a sign that it may be time to replace them. It’s also important to clean the cowling area once or twice a year, which keeps the filter clean.

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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Electrical problem with alternator

In Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Your vehicle can have an electrical problem for many reasons. 

When it comes to the alternator, we will typically see a lack of power. However, the opposite occurred with a Ford van.

A customer brought the vehicle to HomeTowne Auto Repair, because it was overcharging while they were on a trip. All of a sudden it started charging over 18 volts, and it had to do with the rectifier bridge inside of the alternator. Something went wrong and it got fried somehow, causing it to overcharge while they were driving.

You really don’t want it to do that, because you can start having other electrical problems. For example, too much power can start melting wires.

Alternator electrical problem and electrical loads

So an electrical problem with the alternator isn’t limited to undercharging, it could be overcharging. Most of the time, it is undercharging. You should see at least 12.8 volts when the vehicle is at idle and there isn’t much of an electrical load. The ideal range is up to 14 or 14.8 volts.

The alternator is responsible for powering the lights, fans, the radio, the DVD player and other accessories. So, your vehicle’s alternator will work to compensate for that electrical load while also making sure that the car battery is charged up – but not overcharged.

A lot of the newer vehicles have LED lights that don’t take a lot of power. Fortunately, the computers are really good now and will warn you early if they are seeing things that are out of the parameters. 

For some of the older cars that are using incandescent lights and regular wiring, if you start to see dimming at a stop light, flickering, or intermittent starting issues, that’s definitely the time to get your vehicle checked.

Other indicators of an alternator going bad – aside from electronics not working the way they should – include a burning rubber or electrical smell and growling, whirring or grinding sounds.

Car battery problems

For our standard electrical test, we want to test the battery and ensure that the starter is working correctly. We also look at the charging system to confirm that everything is functioning, there isn’t too much electrical noise, and the diodes aren’t bad.

The results of a starter test, alternator charging test and battery test.

It’s also important to check on the car battery, which can last about 5 years. It may be able to go longer, depending on the manufacturer, how well it’s made, and how much abuse it takes. You would be surprised by how many batteries die in the summertime. Most people believe they fail in the winter, but they go bad in the heat a lot.

Checking on the battery connections is a good idea, as well. Them being loose or having too much corrosion can lead to problems with the alternator and starting problems. So, it may not be that a part has failed – like the alternator or starter – it could be as simple as a battery cable or corrosion on them.

Corrosion buildup on battery terminals. Corrosion can cause alternator and starting problems.

We like to use the BG protection pads, which prevents the battery acid from coming up and causing corrosion buildup on the terminals.More information about battery problems and battery maintenance can be found in this article we published.

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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When and why to replace spark plugs

In Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Drivers who have had the misfortune of unsuccessfully starting their vehicle tend to consider a few common problems: a dead battery, a bad starter, or the alternator needs to be replaced.

However, there are other possible culprits that can be overlooked, such as bad spark plugs. These components help turn on a vehicle by igniting fuel in the cylinder head.

Changing them is an important part of car maintenance.

Not only does replacing spark plugs allow you to start your vehicle, it also prevents bigger problems and is one thing you can do to get better gas mileage.

How often to replace spark plugs

As the automotive industry has evolved, the amount of time certain components can last has increased. At one point, new spark plugs were needed every 30,000 miles. Now, they can make it twice that distance or longer.

Depending on the vehicle and what the manufacturer suggests, spark plugs could last anywhere from 60,000 to 105,000 miles.

Other than time, they may fail because of various circumstances – carbon buildup, oil getting into the combustion chamber, and overheating of the spark plug tip.

As it comes time to change out old spark plugs, there are some things you should keep in mind. 

First of all, it’s a good idea to go with those that are high quality and Original Equipment (O.E.) manufacturer specific. This is because some part producers specialize in certain makes. Also, the type of material that a spark plug is made out of can play a role in its lifespan.

Bad spark plug symptoms

Time isn’t the only way to determine if these components are ready to be replaced. Various problems can be the marking of a bad spark plug. 

In addition to having trouble starting a car, you may notice other indicators. Some signs include misfires, the check engine light turning on, and a vehicle running rough when it’s idle.

Misfires happen if fuel doesn’t ignite the way it should. They may be accompanied by the check engine light coming on and shuddering.

An important safety note: It’s safe to use a vehicle if the check engine light is on steadily. However, if it’s flashing, you should pull over or avoid driving it.

The importance of changing spark plugs

The type of metal the tip is made out of – whether it’s platinum or iridium – will determine how long the spark plug lasts. Every time it sparks, the metal wears down a bit.

For one vehicle we worked on, the spark plugs hadn’t been changed for 130,000 or 140,000 miles. Because the gap was so large, it ruined the ignition coil.

One reason you should replace them on a mileage-based timeframe is because the electronics in the vehicle are so much better and can produce a higher spark to jump that gap. What you don’t notice is how it affects a catalytic converter overtime. The computer is trying to compensate for the gap and make everything run correctly. 

If you need to change the spark plugs at 60,000 or 90,000 miles and you replace them on time, your vehicle will run better and experience less wear, allowing the subsystems to last longer. Some vehicles – even a lot of performance vehicles – may use regular, copper spark plugs that need to be changed every 30,000 to 50,000 miles.

So, you really need to look at your owner’s manual to find out what frequency you need to be on.

Tip: Depending on the manufacturer, you may want to change the components earlier than normal. If it’s a lifetime spark plug or one that can last up to 100,000 miles, it may be a good idea to replace them at 50,000 or 60,000 miles. Based on the metal the cylinder head and spark plugs consist of, they could seize inside the cylinder head and you won’t be able to get them out. If you take them out earlier – even if they aren’t worn out – you’ll be able to replace them again in another 50,000 miles, rather than them getting stuck and costing you more money.

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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Engine problems on Kia Sportage

In Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

A Kia Sportage will be needing a new engine.

The vehicle was dropped off at our Woodbridge auto repair shop after it caught on fire. (We believe that it gave the impression of being on fire, because the oil hit the exhaust.)

We don’t know if there were any warning lights or if it was running poorly, which is usually the case before it reaches this level.

When one of our employees tried to start the engine, another employee heard the starter running very loudly. It sounded like someone was hitting the engine with a hammer. 

They discovered that the starter wasn’t louder than normal. There was a hole in the engine block, and the sound of the starter could be heard better because there was less material masking it. 

Something caused the crankshaft bearings to seize up. Because metal needs to go somewhere, something broke and shot a hole in the engine block.

A hole in the engine block of a Kia Sportage.
Hole in the engine block of a Kia Sportage

We will need to purchase a used engine, because – due to supply chain problems – any engines that are being sent over from Korea aren’t making it to us. Also, the remanufacturers we partner with don’t have any built.

How to avoid engine problems

So, what can you do to prevent this from happening to you?

Paying attention to any warning signs is one thing you can do. If a light appears on your dashboard or your vehicle isn’t running the way it should, bring it into or call a repair shop. 

You can learn more about what certain dashboard lights mean, by reading this article we posted. It’s important to remember that, depending on the vehicle, a warning light may look differently than traditional icons. So, we encourage you to check your owner’s manual to confirm which one(s) have turned on.

Being without a car for a few days and making transportation arrangements may be inconvenient. However, it could save you a lot of stress and money in the end.

Taking care of your vehicle’s engine

There are also some ways you can maintain your engine and prevent engine problems, like having regular oil changes performed and using BG MOA, an oil additive that provides additional protection to the engine.

Our Woodbridge mechanics conduct courtesy inspections with our oil change service. We’re not your “10 minute oil change” place. Through a digital vehicle inspection, we are able to take photos and short videos that show you what’s going on with your vehicle, what needs to be replaced, and if it’s a safety or maintenance item. By visiting your auto repair shop on a regular basis, we can catch things like valve cover gaskets and oil leaks ahead of time to help avoid a catastrophic engine failure like the one the Kia experienced.

As these engines get older, some oil will go past the rings and go out through the tailpipe – which you may or may not see. Along with oil leaks, that causes a low oil problem faster. Plus, not checking it on a regular basis – either not adding it or fixing oil leaks – could result in a bigger problem. 

We recommend you look for drips of oil in your driveway or garage. An older vehicle is going to have a small oil leak, and it may not be necessary to fix it. However, if you start to notice it more than normal, it would be a good idea to get to your auto repair shop and have them take a look at it. 

When it comes to an oil change, cheap doesn’t necessarily mean good. Our shop only uses full synthetic oil. It does cost a little bit more, but it’s much better for your engine. Also, we use a high quality oil filter. Cheap there really doesn’t mean good. That’s what’s filtering out those small particles of metal, brass, and whatever else that’s floating around there, or any carbon that’s building up in the oil. So, using a high quality oil and oil filter can help your engine last longer.

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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Hyundai radiator overheating Woodbridge, Virginia

In Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

A car overheating is a good indicator that something is wrong.

If you pair smoke coming from under the hood with the vehicle being low on coolant, the signs may be pointing to a bad radiator. This happened to a Hyundai Santa Fe, which received a new radiator on Tuesday.

After completing the Hyundai radiator replacement, a coolant fluid exchange was performed.

A coolant fluid exchange was conducted on a Hyundai after the radiator was replaced.
Coolant fluid exchange

We could have simply topped off the coolant after replacing the radiator. However, a coolant flush comes with a couple of benefits. Not only does it help clean out the rest of the system, it also speeds up the process of moving air out. 

Check out this article to learn more about coolant fluid exchanges and why they’re important.

What does a radiator do in a car? How do I know when my radiator is bad?

A car radiator is one of the components that is responsible for keeping the engine cool. If everything is working correctly, hot coolant goes into the radiator and exits at a cooler temperature.

There is no set length for a radiator’s lifespan. They typically need to be replaced when they begin to leak or get clogged.

There are a few clues that you have radiator problems. Other than the car overheating or having less coolant than it should, you may notice a coolant leak or that the color of the fluid has changed.

Different reasons why your Hyundai radiator overheating

There is a large variety of Hyundai vehicles. These include: the Hyundai Accent, Hyundai Elantra, Hyundai Ioniq, Hyundai Palisade, Hyundai Kona, Hyundai Santa Cruz, Hyundai Santa Fe, Hyundai Sonata, Hyundai Tucson, Hyundai Veloster, and Hyundai Venue.

Different culprits could cause a Hyundai radiator overheating problem. Most likely, there is a coolant leak or some sort of issue with the cooling system.

These are some possible reasons:

  • Radiator leaking from seals and the plastic end caps: A common place for a leak is the end caps. The middle of the radiator is made out of aluminum and a seal connects it with the end caps, which are plastic. Something also could have hit the radiator, and it’s leaking due to damage.
  • Radiator coolant reservoir leaking: Radiator coolant reservoirs have hoses that go to them. Sometimes, the plastic cracks a little and coolant seeps out overtime. Next thing you know, you’re low on coolant. 
  • Thermostat problems: The thermostat could be stuck. Also, a lot of times on Hyundais the thermostat housing will have a couple of hoses going to it. There are a couple of seals where the housing bolts to the cylinder head. That is a common area where leaks occur.
  • Bad water pump: As the water pump starts to go bad – due to age or mileage – coolant may start to leak out of the weep hole, which tells you the water pump seals are going bad. Sometimes, the water pump belt can break, preventing the water pump from spinning and coolant from circulating through the engine.
  • Radiator fan: The fans on these vehicles are electric, and the motor can just go bad. It could even be a fuse or a control problem, such as a cooling fan sensor. This measures the temperature of the coolant and, once it reaches a certain temperature, the fan will turn on. There’s also a coolant fan resistor, an electronic component that helps keep things from burning up electrically. However, if that goes bad, the cooling fan won’t work.
  • Cracked cylinder head: The cylinder head having a crack in it is a more drastic problem. This can result in exhaust gasses being pushed into the cooling system. Coolant may also be leaking into the cylinder and burning out through the engine and out of the tailpipe. Cylinder gaskets can also go bad and start to deteriorate, causing coolant to leak into the engine or exhaust gasses entering the cooling system.
  • Car repair not done correctly: Drivers could have their vehicle repaired and still be experiencing an overheating problem. There is a bleed procedure, where air is bled out of the cooling system. If that isn’t done correctly, there’s still air traveling through the system and could still cause the car to overheat, even if you replaced something that was broken or leaking earlier.

Radiator repair services at HomeTowne

When it comes to radiators, you get what you paid for. Investing in a good radiator and high quality coolant can prevent engine damage and other problems in the future.

Our Woodbridge mechanics are able to perform radiator repair services and address Hyundai radiator overheating issues. In addition to replacing the radiator, we are able to remove and install new components that are associated with it and the cooling system.

Two of our technicians replacing the radiator on a Hyundai.
Hyundai radiator replace in

If you are replacing the radiator, it’s a very good idea to change the upper and lower radiator hose, especially if you’re over a certain mileage – like about 50,000 or 60,000 miles.

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 shaking when driving

In Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Have you noticed your car shaking? If so, it may be telling you that there’s a problem.

One of our customers felt a vibration when driving. It was taken on a test drive and it seemed that the issue was somewhere in the drive train.

We put it up on a lift and when we ran it at about 40 miles per hour, we were able to move the drive shaft, which should be tight. This indicated that the transfer case was failing.

An old transfer case.
Old transfer case

There were also metal flakes in the fluid coming out of the seal where the driveshaft goes into the transfer case.

When removing the transfer case, our technician needed to drain the fluid. As he did this, he saw metal chunks coming out of the drain band.

What is a transfer case? How do you maintain a transfer case?

Found on four-wheel drive vehicles, a transfer case connects the transmission to the front axle.

We recommend having regular transfer case fluid exchanges performed to extend the component’s lifespan.

During this maintenance service, old transfer case fluid is exchanged with new fluid. Transfer case fluid is responsible for keeping components, such as gears and bearings, lubricated. Overtime, it isn’t able to do its job as well and needs to be changed. 

Make sure that the correct type of fluid is being used. We see more problems with transfer cases, because somebody put the wrong fluid in.

It’s also a good idea to have your vehicle looked over to ensure that the transfer case isn’t leaking and any nearby parts don’t need to be replaced.

Symptoms of a bad transfer case

Even if you do keep up with transfer case maintenance, this part can still go bad from daily use.

A vehicle vibrating is just one indicator of a bad transfer case. Other symptoms include a growling noise.

You may also notice issues with the 4-wheel-drive. When you engage the system, the  4-wheel drive light might start flashing, which means that there’s a computer code indicating a problem. The system might also engage intermittently or not work at all.

Is your car shaking? Here’s what you should do.

If you notice your car is vibrating, you should have it checked out at a nearby car repair shop.

A drive shaft. Unbalanced drive shafts can cause vibration.
Drive shafts

The problem may have to do with the transfer case, or it could lie with another part. Unbalanced drive shafts and can cause a vibration.

A bad carrier bearing.
Bad carrier bearing

Bad carrier bearings may also lead a vehicle to shake.

One of our mechanics working on a constant velocity drive shaft.
Constant velocity drive shaft

Other possible causes behind this symptom include bad constant velocity joints and bad universal joints.

Because various components could be the culprit, it’s best to have an expert take a look at your vehicle and perform any needed diagnostic testing. They will be able to pinpoint the issue and get your vehicle back up and running the way it should be.

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

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How to save gas and get better gas mileage

In Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

As gas prices have increased throughout the year, a lot of commuters are considering how they can cut down on their bill at the pump.

While you can’t change how much gas costs, there are many things you can do to make the fuel you do buy last.

How to save gas while driving

  • Clean your vehicle (including the trunk): Clear out the clutter and dirt, which can add weight and cause you to travel slower.
  • Reduce the amount of time you leave your engine running at idle: Many of us have the habit of running the engine when we first get into the car or are about to get out. This is especially true during colder months, when we run the defroster. While it’s a great idea to let the engine warm up, we suggest limiting it to a couple of minutes. And when you arrive at your destination, turn the vehicle off when sending a text or gathering your items.
  • Minimize trips around town: Try to combine stops at the grocery store, dry cleaner, the post office, and other errands into one trip. That way, you are reducing the amount of trips out and back home.
  • Reduce your speed and use cruise control: Do you have a lead foot? Consider letting up on the gas pedal and using cruise control. Both of these strategies can help improve your gas mileage.
  • Brake gradually: Bumper to bumper traffic is a common trait of Northern Virginia. If you are experiencing heavy congestion, give yourself enough space between your vehicle and the one in front of you, and brake slowly. Your gas usage is lower when you don’t brake suddenly.

How to get better gas mileage

  • Make sure your oil isn’t low: When you don’t have enough oil in the system, engine components aren’t properly lubricated. This also means that the engine needs to put in more effort, in order to function correctly.
  • Use high quality oil and change the oil filters: Regular oil changes are a very important part of maintaining your vehicle. This service should be done every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, depending on the vehicle. Simply having the oil filter changed can reduce the chance of gas being wasted.
A spark plug.
  • Have spark plugs replaced: Spark plugs are responsible for igniting the fuel in the cylinder head under high compression. Replacing them when needed ensures that you will be able to start your car and that it is fuel-efficient.
  • Regular tune-ups: Tune-ups enable mechanics to take a deeper look at a vehicle and spot any problems. These include any issues that may impact gas mileage, like bad spark plugs and any needed transmission services.
Fuel induction service that is being done on a Nissan.
  • Take care of the fuel system: Maintaining the fuel system is another great way to improve fuel economy. This can be done through a fuel induction service, which we recommend every 30,000 miles. The service also restores engine power and reduces emissions that are released through the tailpipe.

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.