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Car backup sensor repairs offered at auto shop in Woodbridge, Virginia

In Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

One malfunctioning sensor can throw a car’s system off.

Jason replaced a backup sensor on a 2011 Cadillac CTS. There was a code that the rear object detection system wasn’t working properly.

When this system is disabled, the vehicle isn’t able to identify an object a driver can’t see.

This affects parallel parking and how close the car is to another car, a tree, or a curb.

The rear object detection system is one component we can address through our Advanced Driving Assistance Systems (ADAS) system.

Driver assist, which can be found in many cars, also includes emergency braking, traffic sign recognition and surround view.

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 conducted this service on a 2010 Kia Forte.

Performing an automatic transmission fluid exchange

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.

Why this service is important

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 the vehicle’s lifetime.

This component reached its limit on a 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT 8 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.

Metal shavings in oil.
Metal shavings in oil

Other possible indicators that a new engine is needed

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

GDI Fuel and Air Induction Service

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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Signs that your starter is going bad

In Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Click. Click. Click.

It’s a dreaded sound for many drivers, especially when they are trying — unsuccessfully — to start their car. This is also a telltale sign that a vehicle’s starter is going bad.

A bad starter is one reason why a car won’t start. Having a dead battery or the alternator going bad are other possibilities.

What are the symptoms of a bad starter?

Aside from a clicking noise, drivers may notice some other indicators when the starter needs to be replaced.

You may also hear a slight grinding noise. When you turn your key in the ignition, the bendex shoots out and spins at a high rate, starting the flywheel. This is what starts your car. A grinding sound could mean the bendex is wearing down. 

Another giveaway is if your vehicle won’t start, even when a jumper box or a jumper cable are attached to it. If this is the case, try to jump start your car and turn it over a few times to see if you can hit it just right.

Once you get it started, drive the vehicle directly to a mechanic or auto repair shop, and don’t turn it off until you arrive. If you do, you will have to redo the process of starting your car (and this time, you may need to have it towed).

Keep in mind that sometimes a starter doesn’t show any signs of going bad. It just stops working.

What can cause it to go bad?

There are three culprits behind a starter going bad: corrosion, time and overuse.

Corrosion can build up wherever there is copper. For example, there are copper bindings in this component.

Time is your biggest factor. It’s hard to say how long a starter will last. The lifespan varies, but you can usually make it around 100,000 to 150,000 miles before needing a new one. However, we’ve seen some cars reach 300,000 miles with the original starter.

The longevity is impacted by how often you turn a vehicle on. Do you start it twice a day because you are commuting, or is it more like 6, 7, or 8 times?

Starter replacement cost

Starter replacement cost isn’t set in stone. There are quite a few variables that affect the price tag. Starters themselves can range from $200 to $1,400.

It depends, in part, on where you buy it and the type of vehicle. You will be spending a little more money on a starter for a European car or a vehicle equipped with auto start, which has more features and is a bit heavier duty.

Whether the part is new, used or remanufactured also plays a role in the cost. Remanufactured starters are typically cheaper, and sometimes that’s all you can get for some of these older vehicles.

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? Dashboard lights on?

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

Your vehicle’s dashboard contains a number of tools that share important information with you – are there any problems or is everything running smoothly?

It also houses an array of dashboard lights that have various meanings. These alerts can warn you if something is malfunctioning and the vehicle needs to be checked by a mechanic.

You may not be able to determine what a warning means at a glance, especially if it’s your first time seeing it or it doesn’t appear often.

Below is a guide for what each of the symbols indicate and any steps you should take.

Dashboard Lights

What the different car dashboard lights mean

Check Engine Light: The check engine light turning on can be an indicator of numerous problems. If the vehicle has a flashing check engine light, it shouldn’t be driven and needs to be brought to a mechanic or car repair shop as soon as possible. A check engine light that is remaining solid doesn’t require immediate attention, but we suggest you schedule an appointment for the near future.

Battery Alert Light: Has your battery alert light illuminated? It could be that enough power isn’t making it to the battery. This can happen if you need a new battery or alternator, or there are electrical issues.

Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) Warning Light: The purpose of the Anti-Lock Brake System (ABS) is to make sure that a vehicle’s brakes don’t lock up during emergencies. The Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) Warning Light can clue you in when the system isn’t working correctly.

Oil Pressure Alert Light: If your oil pressure alert light appears, it’s a good idea to check your oil. (You can read about and see our video on how to check your oil in this blog post. This symbol lets you know that the engine is experiencing a decrease in oil pressure. 

Tire Pressure Monitoring Light: A problem with tire pressure or a tire sensor can cause the tire pressure monitoring light to come on. Check to see where the pressure of each tire is at. (This article and video we produced explains when and how to check the tire pressure.) If you notice that all of them are lower than they should be, it may be the result of the temperature. Having one with less tire pressure could be a sign that you have a flat.

Keep in mind that there are all kinds of vehicles on the road today, which means that there can be even more alerts than the ones listed here. The dashboard lights may also look differently.

If you notice a warning light is on and you don’t recognize it, take a look at the owner’s manual. That should help you narrow it down. If you still aren’t sure what the alert means or if you need to have it addressed right away, reach out to a car repair shop near you. 

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. 

Courtesy inspections during our oil changes

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.