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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.

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How you can maintain your Subaru

In Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Subaru vehicles last a long time. 

But to keep them going, you do need to maintain them.

Some of the easiest things you can for Subaru maintenance are to change your oil and check the air filter to see if it needs to be replaced.

You can pull out the air filter to see if it has a lot of dirt and leaves in it. Sometimes, if the particles are big enough, you can knock it on the ground to remove them. If it still looks good enough, you can wait until your next oil change.

Another reason that the air filter needs to be checked and changed is because if the vehicle has a turbo. You don’t want dirt ruining the impeller. 

Even if your vehicle doesn’t have a turbo, you do want to have a good air filter to improve your gas mileage.

If you live in a place where there is heavy traffic and dusty conditions, it can actually reduce the amount of time between changing your air filter.

Another maintenance item is to change the fluids. An example of this would be to change the drivetrain fluids, such as the transmission and rear differential, the engine coolant, brake fluid and power steering fluid.

Depending on driving conditions, those may need to be done anywhere from 15,000 to 16,000 miles.

Keeping your tires rotated and checking the brakes can also improve your vehicle’s lifespan.

When choosing an auto repair shop to maintain your Subaru, such as oil changes, filters and fluids, don’t focus just on the price. Consider the best air filter parts, service and warranty when making your decision.

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

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Why is my car making that noise?

In Suspension, Tires & Wheels, Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

There are many reasons why your car can make noise. If you’re married, most of them come from the passenger seat. If you have kids, most of the noise is coming from the back seat.

All kidding aside, noises can come from anywhere, such as your suspension and tires. They may also occur as engine components wear out, belts loosen, and your vehicle experiences normal wear and tear.

The hardest part sometimes is trying to describe the noises to your auto repair shop. So, when something is irritating you, pay attention to when and where the noises are happening.

We’ve had instances when the car only made noises when it was below 45 degrees and they were turning left. Another common noise description is when a driver is in a parking lot and turning the wheel.

Information about how fast you’re going, how far you’re turning the wheel, and whether you’re pressing the gas pedal can help us find your problem faster.

The other thing to consider when you’re bringing your vehicle into the shop is to schedule time to ride with the automotive technician. That way they can ride with you and you can make the exact condition that produces the noise — which saves time and money when repairing your car.

So, if you’re the only one in your car and you still hear noises, and you’re tired of turning the radio up to tune them out (Get it? Radio — tune … ) then try to be descriptive as you can and take a ride with your mechanic.

Check out this fun video we created.

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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Are you going on vacation?

In Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Are you going on vacation this year?

Here are a few vehicle maintenance checks you should make before heading down the highway.

Tire tread

Prior to your trip, you want to make sure that the tire tread is thick enough. The tires are the only things that contact the road, which has everything to do with how well you go and stop. If it’s too low, it could cause issues with stopping, and you might skid across the road when it rains.

Tire tread must be at or above 2/32 of an inch. We start recommending new tires when it hits 4/32 of an inch. After that, you start to lose your wet traction.

Tire pressure

Tire pressure that’s too low could cause damage to the overall tire. If you continue to drive on a tire that’s too low, you can damage the inside of the tire — and then a perfectly good tire has to be replaced. It can impact your fuel economy, as well.

A lot of cars today have a tire-pressure monitoring system (TPMS). You may also notice symptoms when your tire pressure is low, such as sidewalls that are wider at the bottom.

You can learn about how to check your tire pressure by reading this article we wrote.

Windshield wiper blades

Windshield wiper blades are a wearable component and, as they wear down, they won’t clear as well as they should. If a windshield wiper is torn, it’s not clearing at all. 

If that blade comes off, you could scrape your windshield. Most of the time, people don’t check windshield wiper blades before they’re on the road.

It’s important to make sure that your windshield wipers are up to date, especially if you hit any rain on your drive.

Windshield washer fluid

Windshield washer fluid is going to help you clear your windshield if it’s dirty. Make sure the fluid isn’t low in the weeks leading up to your next adventure.

Fortunately, if you keep a bottle of it in your vehicle, adding windshield washer fluid is the simplest task to do.

Oil level

It’s important to make sure that your oil level isn’t too low. With the newer types of engines, the oil pressure has a lot to do with engine performance. 

Running on too little oil can prevent it from getting to parts. If it’s too low, you can also experience lower fuel economy, rough running and other engine problems. 

Watch for warning lights and, if they come on, stop your engine immediately to prevent further engine damage.

Antifreeze level

The antifreeze is what circulates through the radiator and the engine, keeping it cool. It can prevent your engine from overheating.

Before hitting the road, it’s a good idea to check the antifreeze level and confirm there aren’t any leaks.

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

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Windshield wipers play large role in driving safety

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

A driver’s safety is largely affected by visibility.

It can be dangerous when something impedes their vision, such as a dirty windshield, according to a release.

A vehicle’s windshield wipers help clear debris and moisture, making them important safety features.

According to HomeTowne Auto Repair and Tire Service Manager Joe Wood, windshield wipers should be checked regularly.

“Windshield wiper blades should be checked every oil change and for any type of safety inspection,” Wood wrote in an email. “An inspection should consist of checking channels for tears, build up, or ozone cracking (dry cracking).”

A driver’s routine, the climate they reside in, and their driving style can impact how often windshield wipers should be replaced.

However, drivers shouldn’t wait too long before replacing them.

“They wear down like any rubber component whether in heavy use or not,” Wood wrote. “So, it is always a good idea to utilize your washer fluid feature to spray the windshield and actuate your wipers to detect poor performance early, rather than later in a flash rain storm when it is too late.”

Here’s a New Year’s resolution: Take better care of your car

In Cabin Air Filter, Oil Change, Tires & Wheels, Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

We’re now in the new year, and it’s time to make the annual commitments to improving your body, spending more time working on something you care about, saving money for vacation, etc.

But what if you made your New Year’s resolution a commitment to taking better care of your car?

It’s a win-win – by taking care of your car, and investing in some basic maintenance items, you’re not only extending the life of your vehicle, but you’re saving money in the long run.

Here are some ways you can take better care of your car this year.

tire pressure is important to your tires lasting a long time and helps save on gas

Tire pressure is important to your tires lasting a long time and helps save on gas

Keep an eye on the tire pressure.

If the air pressure in your tires is too low, it can cause several issues, so it’s important to keep an eye on the pressure level, and keep your tires full per the manufacturer’s guidelines.

If your tire pressure is low, it can cause steering issues, which leads to abnormal tire wear. And over time, that abnormal wear means your tires wear down faster. That also means you’ll be spending money on replacing your tires sooner than you would normally.

“Buy a good tire gauge, because some of the cheap ones are like a dollar, and they may not work that well. You need to spend $5 and $20 for a good tire gauge. Therefore, you know you’ll have the correct pressure in the tire,” said HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire owner ST Billingsley.

Billingsley also recommends keeping a 12-volt air pump in your vehicle at all times. That way, if you find one of your tires is low, you can simply add air wherever you are, instead of trying to find a gas station with a working pump that offers air.

Wash your car.

washing your car underneath helps keep the metal from rust and corrosion

Washing your car underneath helps keep the metal from rust and corrosion

It sounds simple, but keeping your car washed regularly is an important part of upkeep.

“The reason you want to wash your car, especially with all of this road salt through the winter time – even in the summertime though – if you wash your car…you’re helping to remove road grime and road salts, whatever you’re picking up while driving,” said Billingsley.

According to Billingsley, when you’re driving, dirt and mud can fly underneath your car and pack in near the car’s ball joints and bushings. If moisture is left to collect there, it can rust the parts and lead to the need to repair and replace these components more often.

Replace your cabin air filters regularly.

People have started to understand the importance of cabin air filters, and how they provide clearer air when driving in your vehicle, but making sure they’re regularly changed is something you need to commit to as well.

cabin air filters clean up the air coming into the passenger compartment of a car or truck

Cabin air filters clean up the air coming into the passenger compartment of a car or truck

According to Billingsley, the key is to change them at least twice a year, depending on manufacturer’s guidance and the environmental conditions where you live.

“You really need to be changing them twice a year. And a good time to change it is right after pollen season, because it’s going to be clogged with pollen, and right before wintertime – right before Thanksgiving,” said Billingsley.

While no one’s perfect, if you commit to making even some of these changes this year, you’ll be on your way to better maintenance and upkeep of your vehicle, which will save you in the long run.

Don’t end up stranded on the side of the road this holiday season

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


It’s almost Thanksgiving, and if you’re like one of the 1.4 million other Virginians planning to travel for the holiday, or throughout the holiday season, then you need to make sure you’re prepared – otherwise you may end up on the side of the road.

According to AAA, the travel numbers for 2017 are up by 44,000 people – a 3.2% increase from the last year. In fact, they’re expecting Thanksgiving to be the most heavily traveled holiday in a dozen years. Totals for Christmas traveling may be even higher.

AAA says that they plan on rescuing more than 330,000 motorists left on the side of the road for the Thanksgiving weekend, primarily due to lockouts, flat tires, and battery issues. And whether you’re going just down the road, or traveling several hours out of state, it pays to be ready.

Here’s what you can do to prepare your vehicle for the holiday season:

  • Check the air pressure in all of your tires, including the spare tire you keep in the back. “If you end up with a flat, and you go to put the spare tire on, next thing you know the spare tire is flat,” said HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire owner ST Billingsley.
  • Check the oil level and fluid levels. These may need to be topped off to prevent overheating and other issues on that long holiday drive.
  • Make sure that you have windshield washer fluid in your wiper blades. “A lot of times when you’re driving on dirty roads, you go to use the windshield wipers, and there’s no washer fluid in there,” said Billingsley.
  • Check for any obvious battery corrosion. This could be a sign that something is wrong with the battery terminals, or that your car battery needs to be replaced before you head out of town.
  • Double-check that you have roadside assistance as part of your car insurance, or through a company like AAA. It’s easy to call the insurance company and check if you have roadside assistance in your plan. Don’t? It’s worth adding it for situations like this.

But even the best laid plans can go awry. If you’re on your travels and end up on the side of the road, here are some things you should have stocked and ready to go in your vehicle: engine-oil-level-check

  • Flares or safety triangles. If you are on the side of the road, you want your car to be visible, and make other drivers aware that you’re there for a reason, especially if you need assistance. Make sure you’re careful when placing them on the side of the road during a breakdown, to prevent being injured or hit in the process.
  • Heavy duty work gloves. “Say that your tire’s flat and you’re in the dirt or all that, or you know sometimes it might be cold, grabbing all that metal…it’s just nice to have,” said Billingsley.

And if you’re too busy to do all of the checking and maintenance yourself, consider bringing it in to HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire so we can check it out before you head home for the holidays. Basic checks can be done by any windshield-washer-fluid-valvolineautomotive shop, although what they check varies from place to place.

At HomeTowne, we check the fluids and top them off, check the air pressure, check washer fluid, check the vehicle lights, rotate the tires, check the brakes, and more.

HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire becomes Virginia Certified Emissions Repair Facility

In News, Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire is a now a Virginia Certified Emissions Repair Facility.

Are you having problem with your vehicle’s emission system? Did you fail your most recent emissions test? Now HomeTowne can help.

“What that means for you is if you have an emissions test and your car fails, you must return to an emissions certified repair facility, and any of the work that is documented can go towards a waiver. This year, the waiver is $815,” said HomeTowne General Manager Rich Campbell.

The emissions system controls how much air is being released from your vehicle back out into the atmosphere.

Per Virginia guidelines, drivers whose vehicle fails an emissions test must spend at least $815 in repairs before being given a two-year emissions waiver. The only catch? The work must be done by a Certified Emissions Repair Facility.

“It’s designed to have people make a good faith effort to keep their cars running as cleanly and efficiently as possible,” said Campbell.

Only a handful of shops in the Northern Virginia area are certified for emissions repair.

“It’s beyond just being an emissions shop, where you can have an emissions test done. You actually have to go to an emissions repair facility to have the repairs certified by a qualified technician, which we now have on staff. You have to go through the process of being certified by the state in order to do that,” said Campbell.

Emissions components in a vehicle that can cause failure vary, and can include a vacuum line, exhaust, etc.

“If you go to have an emissions inspection with a ‘Check Engine’ light, generally you will fail,” said Campbell.

For more information about Certified Emissions Repair Facilities, click here.

What is a coolant service and why is it important?

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

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

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

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

Why is a cooling system flush important?

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

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

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

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

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

How often do I need to change the coolant?

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