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Five possible reasons why your air conditioning isn’t working

In Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

It’s that time of the year where the sun is beating down and many drivers are starting to notice that their vehicle’s air conditioning system isn’t doing the job.

Here are a few possible causes behind this problem:

Low on freon: The car could be low on refrigerant, which means that it likely has a leak. Air conditioning leaks could be coming from multiple locations, including fittings and rubber gaskets.

Freon being added to Buick

Malfunctioning expansion valve: It’s possible that the problem lies with the expansion valve, which helps control the amount of freon that flows through the A/C system. This component may not be working correctly.

Expansion valve
Expansion valve

Electronic Climate Control System: Another part that could be failing is the Electronic Climate Control System. This function determines how cold or hot it gets in the front of the car.

air conditioning
Electronic Climate Control System

Operator error: Today, the setup for car A/C systems vary. So, it’s very easy to hit a wrong button — or not the one you should. It’s a good idea to read the owner’s manual and make sure you aren’t missing something.

air conditioning
Turning on the air conditioning

Constricted air conditioning condenser: You might also want to check to see if the condenser is constricted. Due to improper cleaning or an impact, the fins could become bent and block the airflow.

condenser
Old Air Conditioning Condenser

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 keep your car air conditioning condenser clean

In Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Air conditioning offers sweet relief from the hot summer sun.

Like other parts of your vehicle, maintaining it is necessary.

Many parts make up an air conditioning system. The condenser is responsible for condensing the refrigerant that runs through it.

Cleaning your air conditioning condenser is one way you can maintain it.

You will want to start by removing leaves, bugs and other debris. This can be done using a shop vacuum that has a soft bristle brush.

Then, spray the condenser with air conditioning cleaner and rinse it off. For vehicles that have a compressor, a blow gun can remove some of the water.

On some higher end cars, there are air vents controlled by the car’s computer. They open and close when the air conditioning is on.

You may also want to check out the small fins on the air conditioning condenser. If there is some sort of impact or they are cleaned improperly, they can block the airflow that’s coming through. The fins will need to be straightened, which is a very time consuming task.

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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State Inspections help keep roads safe

In Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Written by Sydney Jones, General Service Technician for HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Annual state inspections have become a thing of controversy in recent years all over the country. Many states have removed them from their vehicle requirements altogether, and Virginia is considering doing the same. But is this really a good idea? 

As of 2017, Utah is one of seven states in the United States that not does not require state inspections. This past summer, I traveled to Utah with my boyfriend and his family and immediately noticed that the cars with in-state licence plates had no inspection stickers.

At the time, I was unaware that they were not required to have inspections done every year, like Virginia. However, I did notice many more broken down cars on the side of the roads or in peoples’ driveways. 

We even drove around town in his grandmother’s car, which was in very poor shape itself and an inspector would more than likely deem it an unsafe vehicle. 

Between November 27 and December 1 of 2019, Utah State Police responded to 598 motor vehicle accidents during snowy weather. 

Part of this can be attributed to the fact that Utah doesn’t often get snow, but a very large part of the reasoning is the fact that Utah does not require state inspections, and most of these cars were not safe to drive in any condition other than sunny and dry. 

It is immensely dangerous for states to stop requiring annual state inspections because people have no idea what they’re driving. 

The majority of people do not know how to measure their brakes or tell if their exhaust pipe has a hole in it under their cab, causing them to breathe harmful emission gases. 

It’s difficult for someone whose expertise is not in the general automotive field to diagnose a misfiring cylinder or tell if their upper and lower radiator hoses need replacing. 

For someone who doesn’t know these things, maintaining a vehicle is nearly impossible. 

Being required to take your car to a professional in the automotive field once a year should absolutely remain a requirement to keep everyone on roads safe. 

If your vehicle is falling apart in places that you don’t know about, you put yourself and everyone else on the road in danger. 

Many argue that doing away with state inspections saves the $20 a year or the extra $150 they would have to pay for an unexpected repair in order to pass an inspection. But that $20 to tell you your car is fine, or that $150 to fix an unsafe component is far cheaper than a lost life or a totaled car when that unsafe car loses a wheel or the brakes go out.  

Annual State Inspections are required for everyone’s safety and removing this is compromising the safety of millions. Do yourself and everyone around you a favor, and get your state inspection done every year and don’t drive an unsafe car.

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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An Automatic Transmission Fluid Exchange can prevent early wear

In Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Do you want to save money and prevent auto repairs from cropping up down the road?

You can by taking care of your vehicle.

One way to maintain it is through an automatic transmission fluid exchange.

On Monday, Sydney and Jason performed an Automatic Transmission Fluid exchange on a 2010 Kia Forte.

They used a BG Transmission Fluid Exchange Machine.

“We hook it up in series to the car, and as the car is running it pumps out old fluid while the machine pumps in new fluid,” Sydney, a General Service Technician, explained.

For some vehicles, an automatic transmission fluid exchange is recommended every 35,000 to 45,000 miles. Others may not need it until they reach 120,000 miles.

The transmission fluid helps keep the transmission clean, so it’s important to change it regularly.

As the fluid breaks down, it doesn’t function the way it should. 

Automatic transmissions use hydraulic pressure and clutch plates. If the hydraulic fluid isn’t at the right level or working correctly, it can do premature wear on the clutch, which can lead to transmission problems.

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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Signs that you need a new engine

In Oil Change, Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

The engine is one of the most vital parts of a vehicle.

Without it, a car is useless.

Its lifespan can range from a couple of years to a vehicle’s lifetime.

A 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT 8’s engine reached its limit last month.

In addition to its check engine light turning on, the vehicle hesitated when accelerating and a tapping could be heard from inside the engine.

Checking the spark plug was the first step for the technician, Jason. 

During a diagnostic test, there was a misfire on one of the cylinders.

The Jeep was also in need of an oil change. When he was removing the oil, Jason noticed metal shavings that resembled glitter. This led him to believe that the issue laid deeper in the engine.

Engine
Metal shavings in oil

A vehicle that needs a new engine may shudder or experience slower acceleration.

Other signs can include smoke from the exhaust and the check engine light turning on.

Proper maintenance, including regular oil changes, can help extend it.

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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Air induction service for GDI engines

In Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Written by Sydney Jones, General Service Technician for HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

The GDI (Gasoline Direct Inject) fuel and air induction service is specifically catered to GDI engines, which aim to provide greater power in a smaller engine.

It was standard that a 4-cylinder engine had excellent gas mileage but not a whole lot of power. Meanwhile, a V8 engine had a huge amount of power but was a complete gas guzzler, so it wasn’t very cost effective. 

GDI engines are made to combine the best of both worlds by providing the gas mileage of a 4-cylinder engine with the power of a V8 engine. This is done by taking a 4-cylinder engine, adding a turbo, and running it like a diesel, making it the most powerful and efficient car currently available. 

Of course, nothing is completely perfect without proper maintenance and care.

The problem that GDI engines encounter most often is a build up of carbon on injectors. They are constantly subjected to the harsh environment of the combustion chamber, causing them to quickly clog up with carbon and misfire.  

In the advancement of the GDI engine, the injectors were placed where fuel does not get the opportunity to wash over the intake valves to prevent carbon build up.

Air induction service
Intake Manifold and Throttle Body

This is where the GDI Fuel and Air Induction Service comes into play. 

It is recommended to have this service performed every 15,000 miles, though it can be done earlier because carbon can start to build up as early as 3,000 miles. The induction services is done by a BG certified mechanic and they work to clean the areas that carbon has built up. 

The process is as follows:

  • BG 44k is poured into the gas tank as a cleanser that will continue to run through the engine until your next gas fill up.
  • Two 11oz cans of GDI Intake Valve cleaner are poured into the BG VIA — this is the machine that runs the actual cleaning process.
  • The solution is sprayed into the intake with the Air Intake Cleaning tool on the machine.
  • A can of fuel injection and combustion chamber cleaner is then poured into the BG VIA.
  • And the BG VIA is connected to the fuel rail and the fluid is sent into the engine.

Once this service is performed, the customer will notice quite an improvement in gas mileage, power, and a decrease in emissions. This service should be performed regularly in order to keep the GDI engine running smoothly and at peak performance.

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 you should replace a timing belt

In Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

A vehicle’s timing belt goes around pulleys — the crankshaft, camshaft(s), tensioner and sometimes water pump.

When everything is correct, the belt keeps the crankshaft and the camshafts in correct timing, and if it fails on an interference engine you could catastrophic damage to the engine, such as bending the valves or breaking the pistons.

Timing Belt Routing

Timing Belt Routing

New timing belts should be installed between 50,000 and 105,000 miles. This depends on the make and model of a vehicle, the manufacturer recommendations, and the driving conditions.

From my personal experience, even though it has been recommended to change the timing belt at 90,000 miles, I haven’t had a problem pushing it to 105,000 miles. But these were Toyotas with two-inch-wide timing belts.

If the belt is a one-inch wide belt, you might want to keep it closer to 60,000 miles. 

Not to sound derogatory, but the soccer mom — or dad — minivan gets driven hard like a high performance vehicle, just from running around and the stop-and-go driving. So you may want to stay on the manufacturer’s recommendation.

Besides, you don’t want to be stuck on the side of the road with a bunch of kids.

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 doesn’t start? Dash lights on?

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

Your vehicle’s dashboard contains a number of tools that assure you that it’s working properly.

It also houses lights that have various meanings.

Here’s a guide to what each of the symbols indicate.

Dashboard Lights

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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Replacing an alternator on a Ford Fusion

In Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Ray, an automotive technician at HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire, spent part of his Friday replacing a Ford Fusion’s alternator.

When the car came in, it’s battery light was on. He tested the battery, which was good, but the alternator wasn’t charging to its full potential. 

The alternator is on the back side of the engine and you need to replace it from underneath the vehicle, which makes it more difficult than replacing the alternators of other vehicles.

To reach it, he removed the serpentine belt. The serpentine belt is one belt that goes around all of the engine accessories, including the power steering pump, air compressor and alternator.

He also checked the belt tensioner to make sure its spring pressure was working, in case he needed to replace it.

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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Oil changes: how are we different than other shops

In Oil Change, Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Having your oil changed regularly is one way you can make sure your engine continues working properly.

So what do we different than other shops during an oil change?

In addition to changing the oil and oil filter, we do a courtesy inspection. 

The inspection covers safety items, such as your wiper blades and brakes, and maintenance items — whether something is leaking or if a part is wearing out.

Tires is one thing we check out.

Maybe the tires are at 4/32 inches, and they don’t have to be changed right this minute but we give you a heads up that you’re getting close to the end of the service life.

It’s not just the oil change that we do, it’s looking over your vehicle to make sure we can stay on the road.

Tire rotation is another service that we try to include with oil changes.

A lot of shops charge an extra $20 or $25 to perform a tire rotation.

We are able to include it up to a certain size tire rim.

Our switch to full synthetic oil

When doing an oil change, our automotive technicians use full synthetic oil.

Manufacturers having many different vehicles and various types of engines that require certain oil specifications — regular oil, semi-synthetic oil, or full synthetic oil. 

HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire decided to use full synthetic oil in all vehicles rather than carry 30 different types of oil.

The change has allowed us to reduce the price of full synthetic oil for oil changes. 

Synthetic is also better for vehicles that use regular or semi-synthetic oil. It has better properties that help their engines last longer.

We still use the weight that manufacturers recommend for each vehicle.

If you own a car that requires Mobil 1 oil, such as a BMW or a Mercedes, we do offer it as a full synthetic option.  

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.