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Five tips for when you’re driving in fog

In Car Safety by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Fog can make it really difficult and dangerous when you’re out there driving on the road. At HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire, we’re committed to keeping our customers safe, so we’ve put together some important tips to help you when you’re driving in fog.

  1. Slow down. It may be frustrating when you’re trying to get somewhere, but slowing down is one of the best ways to prevent incidents from occurring. When slowing down, you’re going to want to keep an eye on your speedometer to double check your speed, because thick fog has the ability to mask your speed, due to the fact that you’re not able to see objects around you.
  2. Turn on your low-beams. When it’s difficult to see, a lot of drivers have a default of turning on their high-beams, but that’s actually the opposite of what you want to do. The high-beams in foggy weather actually make it more difficult for you to see, because the illumination from the high-beams can reflect off of the fog and back to your vehicle.
  3. Use your fog-lights. Not all vehicles have them, but if you do have front fog-lights, it will make it easier to light up the road, and make your car more visible to other people driving on the road. If you have rear fog-lights, it’s also a good idea to turn them on because it allows drivers that are following behind you to see your vehicle more clearly.
  4. The right-side pavement line should be your guide. Especially when there’s thick fog in the air, the clear and thick white line painted on the right side of the road is going to be a huge guide for you as you’re driving. You might be tempted to use the pavement lines in the center of the road, but they are more difficult to see, and it can lead to accidents if other drivers can’t see as clearly and veer toward the center.
  5. Don’t stop. If you’re having difficulty seeing while driving in the fog, you may be inclined to want to drive very slowly, or even stop in the road. But when it’s driving in fog, you should not be stopping on the road at all. If you absolutely have to, what you need to do is find a safe area to pull over away from traffic, and then turn off your lights. If you pull over and leave your lights on, drivers could think that your lights show a travel lane, which could potentially lead to a collision.

Follow these tips and exercise caution on the road when there’s fog, and it will go a long way to help avoid a collision or incident.

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.

Foggy parking lot.

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HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire assisting Salvation Army with Angel Tree

In Community Involvement, The Salvation Army by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire is stepping in to help with this year’s Angel Tree program, run by the Prince William Salvation Army.

This year, the Salvation Army is hoping to assist more than 6,200 families in the area, with holiday assistance. According to the Salvation Army, more than 14,000 children need toys, bikes, clothing and educational games this holiday season.

ST Billingsley, owner of HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire, was at the Manassas Mall this weekend, manning the Angel Tree, and helping residents select tags to provide gifts to families in need. Each year, we sponsor children from the Angel Tree, as well as fill in the gaps for any items children in the program have requested.

“At HomeTowne, we’re proud to support the Salvation Army, and their effort to provide gifts with the Angel Tree program for the holidays,” said Billingsley.

To get involved, all you need to do is go to one of the Angel Tree locations and select a tag with the wish list of a child in the program, then purchase the items and return them to the tree where you selected the tag, or HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire, which is a designated drop-off location.

Locations in Prince William.

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.

All-season versus snow tires: What’s the difference?

In Tires & Wheels by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

All-season tire.

All season tires can perform reasonably well in most weather, but not quite as much on snow and ice.

When you think of ‘all-season’ tires and ‘winter’ or ‘snow’ tires, do you think that they’re the same, or that they perform equally?

Many people think that all-season tires work equally well in all weather conditions, but when it comes to snow and icy patches on the road this winter, those tires may not be your best option.

According to HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire manager Rich Campbell, all-season tires are designed to perform reasonably well in all seasons, but that doesn’t mean they’re the best tires to put on your car for the winter months.

“In an all-season tire you’ll feel relatively comfortable, but as soon as you get some snow and ice in there, they don’t perform nearly as well. You may lose the ability to brake – which in winter driving, is one of the important things is being able to stop. You can get moving on almost any tire, but they will lose grip when you start to apply the brakes, whereas a winter and snow tire, you’ll gain that grip back,” said Campbell.

Winter tire.

Winter and snow tires give you extra grip on those icy roads.

One way to ensure that you get additional traction, grip and safety without purchasing winter or snow tires is to select tires with the mountain snowflake rating. But if you’re serious about ensuring that your vehicle has as much traction as possible in the snow and ice, then snow tires are the way to go, according to Campbell.

“Typically snow tires are purposefully built. They have a chemical compound that keeps them pliable – or soft – in the extreme cold, to maximize grip. They also are designed with certain siping, a certain tread block, to give maximum traction. Also, some of those come with the ability to be studded,” said Campbell.

Many performance vehicles, like Audi and BMW, tend to come with a summer tire, which won’t safely get you through the winter months.

“You can’t really put a price on being able to stop 10 to 15 feet sooner, to avoid an accident,” said Campbell.

Snow tire.

Those extra 10 to 15 feet of brake time you gain with snow tires can make a huge difference.

Drivers can invest in a good set of winter or snow tires for the colder months, and then store them during the summer, and switch over to summer or all season tires. This helps keep your vehicle and passengers safe in all weather, throughout the year.

There are many options available for winter and snow tires. HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire carries winter and snow tires from several established tire companies including Michelin, Bridgestone, Goodyear and Pirelli.

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Here’s what you need to have in your vehicle’s emergency supply kit

In Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Being prepared is one of the smartest things you can do in life. Many people keep supplies in their homes for an emergency, but what about your car?

So many people spend hours driving in their vehicle each day, and anything can happen when you’re out there on the road. That’s why it’s so important to make sure you keep a well-stocked emergency supply kit in your vehicle at all times. Especially with the winter weather coming, it can make a huge difference if you have a kit ready for when problems arise.

Here are some important things to include in your emergency supply kit:

A cell phone charger. If you’re stuck or in an accident, having a fully charged cell phone can be a real lifesaver.

First aid kit: Make sure you have a small and portable first aid kit with all of the basic medical essentials.

Jumper cables: Sometimes your car won’t start in cold weather, so make sure you have some jumper cables on hand.

Flares: If there’s an accident or situation, having flares in your car ensure that you’ll be visible to the police and other drivers.

A full tank of gas: Whether you’re traveling long or short distances, having a full tank of gas will ensure that you can get to your destination safely.

Bag of sand or cat litter: Having this will give you weight in the back of the car, help with traction, and you can use it to get over patches of ice.

Shovel, ice scraper and snow brush: When you’re getting ready for your daily commute in the winter, it’s important to have tools to remove snow from your vehicle.

Tow rope: If you’re stuck and person with a four wheel drive vehicle comes along, they can assist you and get you back on the road.

Blankets, mittens, and warm clothes: If you get stuck on the side of the road, or you need to leave your car for any reason, having these on hand can mean the difference between being chilly and frostbite.

Flashlight: In storms or for nighttime driving, having a flashlight on hand will make it easier to see and be seen.

Water and snacks: With car trouble and bad traffic, you never know how long you’ll have to wait for help or to make it home. Having water and snacks on hand is a good idea in any season.

Snow tires: Snow tires are important, especially if you live in areas that get a lot of snow. Not only do they perform better in the snow to get you going, but they also make it possible for you to safely stop in the snow and ice.

At HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire we sell a wide range of snow tires that will ensure that your car is as safe as possible this winter.

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Get the Facts on Virginia State and Emissions Inspections

In Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Understanding what you need to do to ensure you car is in compliance for state and emissions inspections can be confusing. We’ve created this post to try and help answer any questions you may be having.

So you’ve just moved to Virginia. What do you need to do to register your car?

Well, the first thing you need to get is the Virginia Safety Inspection. That’s the sticker you see in your window that is related to safety items. The safety inspections are regulated by the Virginia State Police. During a safety inspection an inspector is going to look at your tires, steering, and suspension – hundreds of items in your car – to make sure that those items are working properly, and are safe to operate on the roads.

Aside from a safety inspection, the second item you’re going to need is called the Virginia Emissions Inspection. This is related to your license plates which come from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The Virginia Emissions Inspection is regulated by the Department of Environmental Quality.

The Virginia Safety Inspections are conducted every year, prior to the end of the month that’s currently on the sticker. The Virginia Emissions Inspection is conducted every two years.

What inspections you need may be confusing for some individuals, like our military members who have moved to Virginia from another state. We checked with the Quantico Marine Corps. Base, to ask what inspection documentation was needed to access Virginia military bases.

If you’ve just moved here from your home state, wherever that may be, you may have your vehicle still registered there, and that’s perfectly legal. However, if your home state requires some sort of safety inspection – and then that inspection has expired on your windshield – Quantico, which is the base we contacted, requires you to have a current safety inspection.

And you can use the Virginia Safety Inspection to qualify to still get on base, even if your vehicle is not from Virginia.

Another important point to know about Virginia Safety Inspections are the rules for cars that are issued a rejection sticker for a safety issue with your vehicle. Once the rejection has been issues you have 15 days to make those repairs, and then you can come back to the original inspection station to have that re-inspection performed.

With safety inspections, it’s important to understand that those rules can change on a yearly basis. We do our best to keep up on those rules. There is a Virginia State Police website to help you understand some of those rules, but that can be confusing, so please ask your service advisor at HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire if you have any questions, prior to these inspections being performed.

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.

Comparing the quality, price and warranty of brake and rotor replacement

In Brakes, Service Standards by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

If you’re hearing a squeaking sound or experiencing difficulty braking, then it may be time to bring your vehicle to an automotive repair shop. When it comes to making a big purchase, or investing in the maintenance of your vehicle, a lot of people want to ‘shop around’ and compare prices for a brake and rotor replacement.

If are the kind of customer that wants to search for the best value, it’s important that you take a minute and make sure that you’re actually doing an even comparison of automotive services and prices. In order to look at this further, we reached out to dealership to comparing pricing and services.

We contacted the Hyundai of Alexandria dealership, and we found that the brake job they quoted us for was $325 dollars, which included resurfacing of the front rotors, and replacement of the brake pads. Resurfacing rotors is an option, but it’s not necessarily what’s best for the life and safety of your vehicle. Resurfacing rotors actually shorten the lifespan of your braking system and cause early, premature wear on the rotors that will give you a pulsation in your brake pedal.

That’s why at HomeTowne, we replace pads and rotors as a set, and the replacement of the pads and rotors costs $450 dollars. We did a comparison shop, to do the same job at Hyundai of Alexandria, and it was $600 to replace the pads and rotors. So when you are comparing brake jobs, make sure you’re comparing ‘apples to apples’ and not ‘apples to oranges’.

In addition to looking at a cost comparison, a factor in your decision making should be the brake replacement quality. When having your brakes replaced you can opt for an original equipment replacement pad, like what you’d find at a dealership, or you can opt for aftermarket upgrade brake pads. The aftermarket pads are actually a full ceramic pad that gives you a longer pad life, and we all know those Friday traffic days around here, that stop and go, which is really hard on your braking system. These upgraded pads perform better, last longer, and that’s why we use them here at HomeTowne.

Finally, think about the brake service options you have, and their warranty. Here at HomeTowne, we carry a 2-year, 24,000 mile parts and labor warranty. On the flip side, many dealerships, like the one we contacted, only offer a workmanship defect warranty. So that tells you right there, there’s a big difference in quality. If you want the best product on your car, that’s what we provide here at 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.

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What You Need to Know About Brake Fluid Flushes for Your Vehicle

In Brake Fluid Flush, Brakes by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Over the course of your vehicle’s lifetime, you’re going to have to bring it in for routine maintenance. Many people think that this primarily means oil changes, because of how frequently cars require an oil change, but there are actually some other key components to good car maintenance – like brake fluid flushes.

Brake fluid is the essential fluid in your braking system, so that needs to be serviced periodically. The brake fluid works in your cars braking system to transfer pressure, allowing you to have more stopping power and force when you push on the brakes. Over time, the brake fluid becomes dirty and change color as it picks up contaminants, including copper, dirt, and moisture. Those contaminants will start to impact the way that braking system performs – ABS systems, calipers – and promote early wear.

Many automotive repair shops and dealerships will recommend that you have a brake fluid flush service done every 50,000 miles, to replace the fluid. And if you look in the service manual for your vehicle, it does tell you to check the fluid every 15,000 miles. Additionally, it’s also a good idea get brake fluid flushes when the car is already being serviced, especially when your braking system is serviced, such as replacing pads and rotors.

Every shop uses different machines and products for the job, but at HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire, we use a BG Service machine, and Dot4 BG fluid, which has got a higher boiling point, and it’s got absorption material that keeps that moisture at bay. The quality of the brake flush product used will make a big difference on the life of the fluid, and how your car performs.

If you’re interested in having brake service completed, or you’ve hit 50,000 miles on your vehicles, stop by at HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire of Woodbridge, and see if it’s time to have a brake fluid flush as well.

To read more about brake fluid flushes, check out this article we wrote.

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 you shouldn’t lie to your mechanic

In Automotive Diagnostics by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

You hear a clunking sound. Or maybe you hit a pothole.

Whatever the reason, you’re having an issue with your car, and you need to bring it in for service. When you’re speaking with a service writer and dropping your vehicle off, it’s crucial that you be honest and give as much information as possible. You shouldn’t lie to your mechanic.

In some cases, customers will not tell the full truth about what’s going on with their vehicle. Maybe they’re embarrassed about what happened, or maybe they don’t want to pay what they think will be more money if they’re honest. But no matter what the reason, you need to be completely honest with your auto technician.

“Don’t be embarrassed about what’s going on with your car. Just like a doctor – tell me anything. Full disclosure can lead to a better car diagnosis,” said Robert Moser, a technician at HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire.

Reasons why you shouldn’t lie to your mechanic

If you’re not telling a technician or service advisor what the problem is, it makes it hard for the technician to pinpoint the problem so that it can be fixed.

“I might hear several funny noises on a test drive, but I need to know which one you want me to fix. I’d hate to fix something, only to find out it wasn’t the issue you were originally having,” said Moser.

Even if you don’t think a piece of information is fully relevant, telling our staff as much detail as possible will actually help you out in the long run.

“When you disconnect your battery or do an emissions repair that requires you to disconnect your battery, there are several monitors on your car that need to be set…even though it’s not necessarily a lie, some people don’t think that it’s important, even if we ask,” said Joe Wood, service advisor for HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire.

By hiding or leaving out information, it can have a big impact on the amount of time you’re waiting for your car to be repaired.

“A customer came in, complaining of no cool air coming from the dashboard, and that’s all the information that she gave us. We pulled the car in, checked the gauges on the AC equipment…after talking customer we had to call back and found that she was losing air at a higher RPM…then we were finally able to track down the problem. If we had known that from the start, it would’ve helped us to speed up the process of finding her problem,” said Eddie Carico, service advisor for HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire.

And if you think that it’s going to be a way to save money on repairs, you’ll actually end up spending more overall, because of the extra time it takes for technicians to diagnose the problem.

“The less information they can feed us, they think the cheaper it’s going to be in repairs, but it doesn’t work that way,” said Carico.

“Lying to your mechanic can create more problems than it can solve. For example, customer comes in, says their engine light turned on and they said that no work had been done on it – the light had just come on. Look at the car, find that the intake had been off, wires were not connected, the vacuum line was not connected properly and a gasket had been put on upside down. If the customer had told us that work had been done, we’d have known where to look a lot sooner…and it would have saved about two hours of diagnostic time,” said Keith Clausson, a technician for HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire.

So the next time you have a problem with your car, be honest and tell us the full story. There’s no judgment and we’ll be happy to work on your car, knowing that we have all of the information to fix it quickly and properly.

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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Little free library at HomeTowne Auto is a hit in the community

In Community Involvement by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire’s little free library has become a popular destination in the community.

Yesterday we saw a family at the little library, looking through books, and taking some home with them.

Our little free library is internationally chartered, and is part of the Greater Prince William Little Free Libraries initiative in the community.

The library is located right in front of our store, off of Route 1 in Woodbridge.

“We know that promoting literacy in the community is one of the most important things anyone can do. The HomeTowne Auto Repair and Tire team enjoyed working on this project to create this little free library in order to give residents the chance to read a great book. Being on route 1 with many people walking by we thought it would be a great place to put one up,” said HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire owner ST Billingsley.

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.

How Tire Speed Ratings Affect the Safety of Your Car

In Tires & Wheels by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

This is a condensed speed rating chart for most cars and trucks on the road today.

This is a condensed speed rating chart for most cars and trucks on the road today.

When it comes to tires and the safety of those inside the vehicle, there’s a lot riding on the letters of the alphabet.

All tires have a speed rating, and those tire speed ratings determine how fast the vehicle can safely travel on those tires, from about 75 mph to 186 mph.

An “H” rated tire, originally known as a high performance tire, will allow a car to go up to 130 mph.

A customer recently came into our shop and told us his Nissan was pulling to the right when driven. A perfect candidate for an alignment, we pulled the tires from the car and noticed two different tires on the front and two matching tires on the rear. The right front tire, a T-rated tire capable of traveling up to 118 mph, and an S-rated tire that can go up to 112 mph.

This is where you find the speed rating on the tire.

This is where you find the speed rating on the tire.

The matching rear tires installed by the factory were faster, H-rated tires.

It was clear that the tires were causing the alignment issue, but we also know having three different speed rated tires on the same vehicle is an issue that impact the car’s overall ability to run safely. The higher “H” speed-rated tires originally installed on the rear of the car were the right tires for the vehicle.

So, how did the car come to have tires with three separate safety ratings? The customer told us a local shop that deals in used tires put them on the car. Afterward, the customer called the tire shop and was told “tire ratings don’t matter.”

We couldn’t disagree more.

Michelin tire with a Y rating.

Michelin tire with a Y speed rating

“As professionals, we are counted on to provide expert opinions and advice based on facts and supported by experience,” said Rich Campbell, manager of Hometowne Tire and Auto.

“The customer’s safety and security was compromised by a shop that first installed the incorrect tires with different speed ratings,” said Campbell.

Cooper tire with a V speed rating.

Cooper tire with a V speed rating

Hometowne put on new tires to match the speed ratings of the rear tires, and that not only fixed the alignment problem, it allowed our customer to drive away with four evenly matched speed rated tires making for a safer drive on the road.

So the next time you’re due for new tires, or you’d like to make a tire upgrade, make sure you talk with our technicians about the speed rating of your current tires, and how a higher speed rating could improve your vehicle’s performance.

Toyo tire with a T speed rating.

Toyo tire with a T speed rating

BFGoodrich tire with a T speed rating.

BFGoodrich tire with a T speed rating.