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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.

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.

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.

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.

car shaking
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.

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.

Bad carrier bearing

Bad carrier bearings may also lead a vehicle to shake.

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.
save gas
  • 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.
save gas
  • 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.

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What does a tune up consist of?

In Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

When was the last time you had a mechanic thoroughly check over your vehicle?

Although it is important to make sure basic car maintenance – like oil changes and inspections – is performed, automobiles also require a tune up every once in a while.

“Tune up” is a term you may have heard or read in reference to regular automotive work. 

Because cars are made up of many computers and updated equipment, the procedure of a tune up looks a bit differently than years past. In the old days, you would replace the distributor cap, rotor, spark plug wires, spark plugs, PCV valve, fuel filter, air filter, and set the timing.

A tune up now could involve spark plugs, ignition coils, ignition coil boots, PCV tubes, and injector cleaning.

Even though there may not be as many parts being changed, tune ups are still just as important.

tune up

What is the purpose of a tune up?

Through tune ups, technicians are able to catch issues you may not notice in your daily travels before they become major problems.

They are also able to ensure that your vehicle is up to date on all maintenance needs. This includes mileage based services, like the fuel induction service.

The fuel induction service, which should be performed every 30,000 miles or so – depending on the vehicle – gets rid of carbon that has built up in the engine. In addition to restoring the engine’s performance, it helps prevent engine damage.

Parts may be replaced during a tune up, as well.

Spark plugs, which ignite the fuel in the cylinder head under high compression, are one example. Years ago, they were changed around 30,000 miles. Nowadays, they have a longer lifespan and can typically last for as long as 60,000 to 105,000 miles.

How much is a tune up? 

There isn’t one set answer for the cost of a tune up. Usually, it can range from $100 to $500 (or more). 

The price tag varies based on the type of vehicle, where you have it serviced, the work that the auto repair shop provides, and if new parts need to be installed.

Keep in mind that some cars require special tools in order to replace components. 

The type of work needed may also impact the cost because of the labor required. Various parts may need to be removed in order to install new spark plugs, a process that could take several hours. 

It’s important to use the correct type of spark plug. Just because it fits, it may not be the right spark plug for the vehicle. Different engines and manufacturers have different tolerances. That’s why we like to use O.E. manufacturer recommended spark plugs. Since today’s vehicles operate under much closer tolerances, it is worth spending the money on the right plug over a cheap alternative.

What happens if you don’t do a tune up?

When you hear an estimate for a tune up, it may be more than you feel like spending. But the money that you put in now may be saving you from receiving an unexpected (or possibly more expensive) bill.

For example, if bad spark plugs aren’t replaced it could ruin your catalytic converter, which can cost between $700 and $1,200 each. Some vehicles have three or four of them.

Additional parts that may need to be replaced, including intake plenum caskets as well as rubber and plastic vacuum lines, as they get brittle with age.

Avoiding a tune up doesn’t just prevent you from making sure all pieces are functioning. You could also miss out on an opportunity to help your vehicle run more efficiently and 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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Do I have a battery problem?

In Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

How do you know if your battery is going bad? 

The first indication is that you’re getting a slow crank or that your battery light is flashing or staying on. Keep in mind, that could also be a sign that the alternator is going bad. But usually the battery is the first place to check.

Here are some common problems that we see going on with the battery. 

Drivers not having a battery hold down is one of them. It’s important to securely keep the battery in place. 

Believe it or not, that $15 to $50 battery hold down – depending on the type of vehicle you have – is actually very important, not only for state inspections but also so your battery doesn’t go bad. 

Some people will try to hold them in with bungee cords, but it just doesn’t work. If it’s able to bounce up and down while you’re driving, the plates can break or become separated. The glass that separates the plates on glass mat batteries may also break and cause problems. 

Battery problem

Corrosion on the battery terminals is another battery problem. A little bit of acid seeps up from those batteries due to the electrons going through. The type of metal that the battery cables and the battery materials are made out of start to corrode and appear as though someone poured baking soda on it. That corrosion not only gets between the terminal and the battery cable That restricts the amount of electricity that’s able to flow through to the starter or the car, and if the alternator is trying to charge it up the power can’t get back to the battery.

The life of the battery may also be impacted when you use cheap, universal battery terminals. Don’t get me wrong, they’re great when you’re working on an older vehicle or trying to get down the road after a cable breaks. We’ve used them for years. However, if you don’t protect them and use battery sealant, moisture can get in and cause the battery cable going into the terminal to corrode or rust.

How to maintain a car battery

When you think you have a battery problem, you should visit a nearby repair shop, and they can perform a battery test. Our technicians conduct battery tests as part of our courtesy inspections

You should make sure the auto repair shop you go to is using a good tester. There are a lot of cheap ones on the market, but it’s important that the battery tester they have is able to check many different types of batteries. The universal testers may indicate that your battery is bad when it isn’t. 

Certain models, such as Mercedes, use an auxiliary 12 volt battery that has to do with brakes or other subsystems. So you could have a 12 volt battery for the car, another 12 volt battery for the brakes, and on some hybrids you may have a hybrid battery. For the electrical system on most vehicles, it’s the 12 volt that’s experiencing a battery problem. 

Some batteries that are serviceable do use battery water. In a pinch, just use distilled water. You can’t do anything on the ones that are sealed up. Certain car batteries contain a battery eye, which is a clear disc that will show green or red and let you know if it’s bad.   

A good battery will last four to six years, depending on the climate and where the battery was produced. A cheap battery may not last as long. Sometimes they go bad, due to age. They only last so long.

HomeTowne Auto Repair uses Interstate Batteries, because of the way they are constructed, the warranty that comes with them, and we know – with experience – the batteries last a while.

When you replace the batteries, you will want to place corrosion pads underneath the terminal. These help prevent corrosion from building up. 

Helpful tip: Say you’re at home and your car’s not starting. You can tell it has a little bit of power, you open the hood, and you notice you have a lot of corrosion on your battery terminals. You pour some baking soda and water (mixed together) on the corrosion. Also, believe it or not, a can of coca cola will sort of do the same thing. You just need to make sure to wash all the sugar off. So, if you use one of those two options and a wire brush or a piece of sandpaper to clean inside the terminal it may be just enough to get it cleaned up and create a connection so you can start your car. These are just some things you can do in a pinch  

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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All about axles: Different types and signs that they’re going bad

In Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

In our daily rush with work, errands and family activities, we heavily rely on our vehicles.

Axles play the important role of making sure that the wheels keep turning. These parts connect the wheels and bear a car’s weight.

A few kinds of axles are found on automobiles today. 

CV Axles

Constant-Velocity Axles, or CV Axles, are found on most front wheel drive vehicles and can be used on four wheel drive cars. 

Four wheel drive trucks with CV Axles typically have them on the front wheels due to independent suspension. 

Some vehicles, like Subarus, have all wheel drive and CV Axles on four corners because they have independent suspension on the front and rear.

Certain trucks use CV Axles up front and Solid Axles in the back.

CV Axles have CV joints, which enable the transmission to run the front wheels evenly.

Straight Axles

Straight axles used to be used all the time. Now, they are usually on heavier duty trucks.

A rear differential is normally a straight axle.

They feature a simple setup and can be found on various types of suspension. 

You may see this kind of axle on the front of work vehicles.

It’s also popular among lifted trucks and Jeeps, especially if their owners go offroading. Some Jeeps have u-joints up front with four wheel drive, which allow the wheels to turn.

Rear Axles

Rear axles are made up of axle shafts that are connected through the differential. Different types of rear axles are produced, such as semi-floating and full-floating axles.

A Semi-floating axle links the wheel and the flange. Cars, SUVs and light trucks use this type.

Heavy duty trucks or some that are mid-size or have four-wheel drive require a full-floating axle, which is able to “float” due to the support of two bearings.

Signs of a bad axle

Your mechanic or the auto repair shop you bring your car to should be able to tell when your axle is going bad.

The technicians at HomeTowne recently let me know when I brought my Volkswagen in for another service that we will need to keep an eye on one of my axles.

There are also some symptoms to be watchful for.

Clicking: As an axle goes bad, you might notice a clicking sound as you turn or speed up.

Grease: Grease on the edge of a tire can be another indicator that the axle needs to be replaced. This can begin to leak if a boot is torn.

Vibrating: Axle problems could cause a vehicle’s steering wheel to start shaking (so much so that you can’t ignore it).

Leaking axle seals: If the bearings on a Solid Axle start going bad, they can start to put grooves in the axle shafts. If your axle seals are leaking, you definitely want to have that addressed. If the bearings wear out due to a lack of lubrication or water gets in there, then it can cause premature wear and do more damage than just the bearings. 

Squeaking u-joints: If the u-joints are squeaking or making noises, that can be an indicator that the u-joints on the Straight Axles are bad. 

Other maintenance

Depending on the type of vehicle you have and whether it uses four-wheel drive, there are u-joints that you need to keep greased and check to make sure they aren’t wearing out or experiencing play. 

If your car or truck has CV Axles, you should have the boots looked over during an oil change.

The owners of vehicles with solid axles should also ensure that the vent cap is functioning.

A lot of the time solid axles have a tube that runs from the differential to the body and a vent cap. Due to everyday use, heat and bugs, the vent cap may stop working correctly. As it heats up, lubrication could be pushed out of the seals.

For straight axles, you want to make sure that the correct type of differential fluid is used. Also, some of them need a limited slip additive and it’s important to confirm that it’s in there. Otherwise, you could cause problems just by servicing the differential.

Why you should have them replaced

Although you don’t need to have a bad axle replaced immediately, it’s a good idea to have a new one installed soon.

Choosing to put it off will cause the problem to become worse overtime.

The issue could also impact other components. For example, brakes may not work the way they should if grease leaks on them. 

If CV Axles are bad and causing problems, such as lots of clicking or you’re feeling shaking in the steering wheel, that could put extra wear on the bearings that are going into the transmission.

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 tell if your car radiator is going bad

In Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

To work correctly, the items we use regularly and for long periods of time need to be able to release heat.

That is the role a car radiator plays – it helps keep the engine cool.

This component sits out front, where the air is coming in. Coolant entering the radiator is hot and must leave at a cooler state.

Radiators don’t necessarily go bad. However, they may start leaking or become clogged. 

Symptoms of car radiator problems

Car is overheating: A vehicle overheating multiple times may be an indicator that the radiator is failing. Keep in mind that just because it’s overheating doesn’t mean the radiator is bad. The coolant needing to be changed is another possible reason.

Low on coolant: As we mentioned, sometimes coolant simply needs to be replaced or topped off. But if you’re noticing a recurring low coolant issue, there may be a leak in the radiator.

Coolant is leaking: You may see coolant under a car if there’s a problem with the radiator. It may be green, orange, pink, red or yellow. In addition to the radiator, this can be caused by a bad hose or water pump.

Coolant is a different color: The coolant changing colors could hint at rust, scale and sludge buildup in the coolant lines.

Cheap vs. good radiators

It seems like just about every manufacturer has some kind of small engine that has one or two turbos on it. That’s a lot of heat that is generated. 

Not using a good radiator with the full amount of flow that is going to hold up under pressure can be detrimental to your engine. 

If the vehicle overheats or the side tanks blow out due to cheap manufacturing, you have a chance of ruining a $5,000 to $25,000 engine. Buying that $150 radiator compared to the $300 to $500 radiator can make the difference of whether or not you could have an engine problem.

Just because it fits doesn’t mean it’s the right radiator. 

Radiator replacement

Radiator maintenance

It’s a good idea to keep an eye on your vehicle’s coolant level. If you notice that it’s low, make sure to have it topped off or – if it’s a continuous problem – checked for leaks.

Coolant fluid exchanges are another way you can maintain your vehicle’s cooling system. On top of cleaning out the system, this service restores coolant. We recommend it every 30,000 to 50,000 miles, depending on the vehicle and manufacturer’s recommendations.

You should also make sure that a high quality coolant is being used. With today’s engines and how they’re manufactured you want to make sure you’re using the right type of coolant for that vehicle. Putting the wrong one in can actually cause overheating problems.

In addition to replacing the radiator and conducting coolant fluid exchanges, our technicians perform cooling system repairs. This includes installing new components, such as the thermostat and water pump. 

With most cooling system repairs, we offer to change the thermostat, which determines the amount of coolant that flows between the radiator and engine.

For example, say you have a leaking radiator and your car overheated. That maxed out your thermostat, and it might not always bounce back.

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.