View Post

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. 

View Post

Buick tire alignments

In Vehicle Alignment by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

While you’re driving your Buick, you may feel that the car is pulling to one side. It could be time for you to get a wheel alignment.

A vehicle pulling in one direction, uneven tire wear, and a crooked steering wheel are signs that a tire alignment is needed.

Read about problems that could be mistaken for a tire alignment problem in this article.

Curbs, potholes and suspension wear can cause tires to go out of alignment.

We recommend tire alignments when you get new tires and every 15,000 miles.

What happens if you don’t get regular Buick tire alignments

If you drive a Buick and don’t have an alignment performed regularly, you run the risk of having tire wear problems. This not only means that your tires will wear out sooner, but there will also be a chain reaction of symptoms. 

For example, if you have a tire that wears out on the outer shoulders and it gets bad enough, then your car might start traveling to the left.

At that point, a new alignment won’t address the issue, because it has become a tire problem. 

We have state-of-the-art equipment, and specs for all makes and models.

More information about what happens during tire alignments can be found in this blog post.

In addition to alignments, we provide an assortment of services, including repair for Buick cars and SUV’s.

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.

View Post

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.

View Post

Signs that you need a new engine

In Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

The engine is one of the most vital parts of a vehicle. How long it lasts can range from a couple of years to the lifetime of the vehicle.

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

In addition to its check engine light turning on, the vehicle hesitated when accelerating. A tapping sound could be heard from inside the engine, as well.

Checking the spark plugs was the first step for the technician. During a diagnostic test, there was a misfire on one of the cylinders.

Misfires can happen when there’s an excessive amount or not enough air or fuel. They may be caused by bad spark plugs, ignition coils, timing belt or fuel injectors.

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

Sometimes, metal shavings in oil mean that there’s a design flaw. It can also be a sign that certain components – like the timing chain or intake or exhaust valves – are experiencing wear or that maintenance is needed.

Metal shavings in oil.
Metal shavings in oil

Other signs that a new engine is needed

Misfires and a car that seems to be struggling to accelerate aren’t the only symptoms you may notice when it’s time for engine replacement.

Knocking noises can be heard if you need a new engine. Certain codes could appear, too.

There’s no code that tells you that you have a bad engine, but codes can serve as a starting point and indicate related problems. These include knock sensor codes, codes associated with timing and cam position, misfire codes and cam and crank correlation codes.

Shuddering, a car that won’t start, and smoke coming from the exhaust are other possible signs that engine replacement might be required.

A flashing check engine light is another indicator you should be watchful for. When this happens, the vehicle could be telling you that there’s an engine problem. You shouldn’t drive it if the check engine light is flashing.

What can cause engine problems?

Some engine problems can’t be prevented or resolved.

For example, we found a hole in the engine block of a Hyundai Santa Fe when removing the starter. It appeared that the hole was caused by something breaking. This led to the motor locking up.

A hole in the engine block of Hyundai Santa Fe.
A hole in the engine block of Hyundai Santa Fe

Engine replacement extends to problems with other components, too.

If the timing chain or timing belt breaks on an interference engine, the valves can come in contact with the pistons, causing the valves to bend.

Investing in a new engine could also be in your best interest if there are cylinder head problems or common variable valve timing (VVT) issues, such as sludge buildup.

Taking care of your car

The lifespan of an engine can be extended through proper maintenance. This includes regular oil changes – typically every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, depending on the vehicle. 

There are also oil additives, such as BG MOA, that keep sludge from collecting and offer additional protection.

You should also make sure that air filters are replaced and fluid exchanges and tune ups are performed.

Taking care of your car doesn’t just keep the engine running correctly. It could also prevent problems and expensive repairs in the future.

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.

View Post

Why is diagnostic testing important?

In Automotive Diagnostics by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

A customer came to HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire, because their vehicle’s check engine light had turned on.

They stated that they weren’t having any problems when driving the car, but the light had turned on a couple days earlier. 

The check engine light coming on is one problem that can be addressed through diagnostic testing.

You may have heard of this process if you’ve had something going on with your car. 

Diagnostics might sound unnecessary, but it’s a very helpful and important part of getting your vehicle back on the road.

The importance of performing diagnostics

Diagnostic testing goes beyond reading a code or looking over a vehicle.

Anybody can take a car to have a code read, or check it out themselves with a flashlight. Diagnostic testing enables technicians to dig deeper into the problem.

Codes are like zip codes — they tell us where in the neighborhood you’re supposed to be. However, further investigation is necessary, because they can mask other issues.

For example, there could be a code for a catalytic converter and we could say, “OK. We read the code. Replace it.” But the code could really be caused by oxygen sensors that aren’t reading correctly.

Through diagnostic testing, technicians are able to determine the actual reason for a failure or problem, which can help you save money in the long run.

Diagnostic testing process

The diagnostic testing process begins by gathering relevant information from our customers. 

This includes any sounds, a problem (or problems) they are experiencing, when they are noticing an issue, and any incidents that may be connected with it.

Providing as much information you can helps us narrow down the investigation and come up with a solution more quickly.

Once all of the details have been collected, our Woodbridge mechanics will conduct a courtesy inspection, where they ensure that nothing seems amiss on the vehicle.

Then, the technicians try to encourage the problem to reoccur. This includes performing a test drive, which helps them determine if there are any odd noises or the car isn’t running correctly. As the procedure continues, we hope to zone in on a certain part of the vehicle and, eventually, the cause itself.

While diagnosing a noise or behavior, we also do our own research using Technical Service Bulletins (TSBs) – in case it’s a common problem with this type of vehicle. Additionally, our employees utilize diagnostic equipment with built in diagnostic capabilities and other resources that are tailored to auto repair shops.

Using a scan tool on a Jeep.
Using a scan tool on a Jeep

It can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint the problem, especially if what the driver is experiencing isn’t occurring all the time. 

For example, the A/C on a Chevy Colorado we’re working on next week will randomly stop blowing air. That could be caused by a few different problems – it may have a bad blower motor or the wiring may need to be replaced.

So, performing diagnostics can take time. You may even need to pick up the vehicle and bring it back when the problem starts happening more frequently.

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.

View Post

What is a timing chain?

In Auto Parts by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

A new timing chain has been installed on a 2007 Mazda Miata.

The vehicle was brought in when the driver heard a noise at certain revolutions. This sound was caused by a variable valve timing sprocket, which had a broken pin. 

Special tools were needed to make sure everything was lined up properly.

Located in the front of the engine, the timing chain connects the camshaft and the crankshaft, which controls the valves.

Hearing a noise when starting the vehicle is one sign that it needs a new one.

Timing chain maintenance

Motorists can help prevent the chain and the guides from going bad by having oil changes performed regularly.

Contaminants in the oil can eat away at the plastic, causing the chain to go into it.

Regular oil changes can also help you save 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.

View Post

Ripped CV Boots found during Virginia Safety Inspection

In Tires & Wheels by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Written by Erin Flynn

This week, I decided to have the oil changed for my Volkswagen Beetle at HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire.

Since it was already going to be in the shop, I also asked them to do a Virginia Safety Inspection.

While they were conducting the inspection, they discovered that the Constant-Velocity (CV) Boots have ripped.

What are CV boots?

The CV Boot is part of the CV Axle, and it holds in grease for the CV Joint. The CV Axle powers the wheels from the transmission.

If a vehicle loses the grease, it will cause more metal on metal friction overtime. This creates more heat and shortens the CV Joint’s shelf life.

If properly maintained, CV Boots can last 20 years. However, as soon as you get any type of oil or air mixture, it’s really bad for the rubber and causes the rubber to crack and break. 

I wouldn’t have known about the CV Boots being ripped if they hadn’t performed a Virginia Safety Inspection. Depending on where you go, that sort of problem can be missed during a regular oil change.

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.

View Post

Tire shop compared to discount tire place

In Tires & Wheels by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire in Woodbridge is a Michelin, BFGoodrich and Uniroyal tire dealer.

We do sell other tires, depending on the needs of the customer and what kind of vehicle they have.

As a tire shop, we can repair tires, as well. We use a patch plug from the inside, according to the Tire Industry Association guidelines.

Doing a patch plug from the inside allows you to see if there is other tire damage on the inside that you wouldn’t be able to see if you used a string plug.

We have employees who have completed training on tires.

Other tire shop services

A tire shop is also able to check your vehicle’s wheel alignment and make any needed adjustments.

You should get an alignment when you’re getting tires. This helps with the longevity of the tires, so they don’t wear out too quickly because of a suspension or steering component  problem.

Some of the discount tire places only put on tires, they don’t perform alignments and they may not necessarily do a patch plug from the inside.

HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire also recommends road hazard warranty on the tires. Therefore, if you have a problem with your tire — like, if you hit a curb or something damages the tire’s sidewall — it would be covered. At discount tire places, they may not offer that. 

A lot of the time, the manufacturer’s warranty doesn’t cover items that puncture the tire while driving on the road.

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

View Post

Is your vehicle overheating?

In Vehicle Fluids by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Last month, Jason worked on a 2012 Buick Enclave that had a leaking water pump.

The vehicle’s owner mentioned that it was overheating.

When he noticed that the vehicle didn’t have any coolant in it, Jason filled it up and pressure tested it. The coolant poured out of the water pump area.

Typically, water pumps can last between 1 and 140,000 miles. Their lifespan depends on the vehicle.

Sometimes, the seal can fail. There are also wearable items on pulleys, such as bearings, that can go bad.

A vehicle overheating doesn’t necessarily mean that the water pump is leaking.

Additional repairs performed on Buick

Jason also replaced the thermostat on the Buick Enclave. 

Thermostats have a thermal element, which tells it when to open. It’s preset to a certain temperature, and when it reaches it, the valve in the thermostat will open. This allows coolant to travel from the hot engine into the radiator. 

The radiator, then, cools off the coolant and returns it back to the engine 35 percent cooler than how it entered. That’s what prevents a vehicle from overheating.

If a car doesn’t have coolant, the heat is contained in the engine.

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.

View Post

Brake service: When and why to have it done

In Brakes by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

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

The most crucial safety device in your car is the brakes. 

As Newton’s first law of motion tells us, an object in motion will stay in motion until stopped by an external force such as friction. We can’t rely on friction to stop our cars while going 70 miles per hour on the highway, so we have brakes to stop our wheels from turning. 

It’s not as simple as “hit the pedal, stop the car,” though. Laws of physics and elements of chemistry come into play, as well. 

How brakes work

You hit the brake pedal with your foot, yes. This action then sets off a chain of reactions. When you push down the brake pedal, you tell the master cylinder to apply pressure to the brake fluid running through the brake lines underneath your car. 

You have four brake lines, each one going to one of your four wheels. The pressurized brake fluid causes the calipers to press inward on the brake pads, which provide a much greater level of friction than the road and stop your car much faster.

Overtime, the fluid running through your brake lines will get old and obtain air bubbles, and condensated water is created when liquid is on the brake pads. More liquid in the system causes the brake fluid boiling point to decrease whereas it is normally very high to withstand the heat produced from braking. 

The lower boiling point will allow for metal pieces to begin to deteriorate. Since the brake lines are made of copper, they leave copper residue in the fluid, resulting in lower braking power and eventually the costly replacement of calipers and brake lines.

About the BG Brake Service

To combat this you should have your brake fluid serviced every 30,000 miles. The BG Brake Service is done by taking contaminated fluid out of the master cylinder, pressurizing it, and adding DOT 3 or DOT 4 Ultra Drive Flushing Formula Brake Fluid — depending on the needs of your car — into the master cylinder until only new fluid is coming out of the lines at each wheel. 

This removes air and condensated liquid, leaving only your incompressible brake fluid and giving you maximum braking power. 

It is important to get this service done every 30,000 miles in order to be covered under the BG Lifetime Protection Plan, which will protect your Master Cylinder, Brake Lines, and Calipers up to $4,000 should they ever fail. 

You can have brake service performed at any BG Certified shop, such as Hometowne Auto Repair & Tire.

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.