View Post

Why you shouldn’t ignore an overheating engine

In Uncategorized by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Your vehicle has warning lights and signals for a reason.

Choosing to ignore them can lead to trouble later on.

We worked on a Jeep Liberty that had an overheating engine. A few symptoms occurred that hinted at this problem.

First, the check engine light turned on. A check engine light can turn on for many reasons. If it comes on, we recommend having it checked out as soon as possible. This can help save the technician time in pinpointing the issue – saving you money on diagnostic testing costs.

The heat gauge also went all the way to the right and a red light appeared on the dashboard.

All of these indicators were ignored, and the engine locked up.

By the time the vehicle was brought to us, the hot engine temperature had warped the cylinder head and valve cover.

When those components become distorted, it blows out a head gasket. This causes coolant to leak into the combustion chambers.

The engine won’t run the same way again and needs to be replaced.

What causes an overheating engine

There are various causes behind an engine overheating.

In the case of the Jeep Liberty, the customer mentioned that a radiator hose had blown recently. It was fixed, but the problem continued. The vehicle was driven without coolant for an extended period of time.

Low coolant is one of the main reasons overheating occurs. Other than a coolant leak, this issue can be a sign that there’s a problem with the thermostat. The thermostat regulates how much coolant flows between the engine and radiator.

Issues with the electric cooling fan and other electrical parts are also possible culprits.

What to look for

You can’t tell with the naked eye if an engine is overheating. An engine rarely becomes so hot that parts melt. However, all sorts of warning signs will go off.

White smoke out of the exhaust may indicate a blown head gasket or a cracked cylinder head, because coolant has gotten into the exhaust.

In extreme cases, you may notice the engine emitting steam. The radiator cap serves as a pressure relief valve, which allows coolant to go into the overflow tank. Every vehicle has a tank, which is where the coolant goes when you turn off the engine so the coolant doesn’t go out on the ground. If you have too much pressure, the coolant will be pushed out of the overflow reservoir, causing steam to come up. 

Rough running is another indicator that you have a head gasket or a cracked cylinder head and coolant is entering the engine.

Continuously adding coolant and not seeing any leaking on the ground can also be a sign that you have a problem. 

On top of maintaining your vehicle, you should be aware of odd situations and noises and reach out to a repair shop when you notice them. There could be an important issue that needs to be addressed.

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

Repairing the braking system on a Ford Escape and Ford F150

In Brakes by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

When it comes to auto repair, it’s important to take those extra steps.

This can be eye opening and help technicians track down the root cause of a problem.

We worked on braking system of two vehicles – a Ford Escape and a Ford F150 – that had the same symptom and resolution.

The driver of one of the vehicles said the brakes were sticking. Meanwhile, the owner of the other felt that they’re vehicle was shifting and braking funny.

During the test drive, we experienced similar situations – when they were shifted into drive they wouldn’t go anywhere, as if the driver’s foot is barely touching the brake.

On the Ford Escape, the front left would nose dive. It felt like the rear on the right side wanted to come out from underneath, because the brake pressure was going to the left front.

The same issue was occurring to the F150 on the other side.

How we addressed the braking system problem

To determine the problem, one of our employees sat in the vehicle and stepped on the brake pedal and we cracked the bleeder on the caliper to check the flow.

For both vehicles, we had little or no flow on the side that was experiencing the issue.

There are a few components involved in the flow – the caliper, the anti-lock braking system (ABS) pump, and the brake hose. The most common issue is with the brake hose.

We removed the caliper and depressed it to confirm it wasn’t bad. When it was off the vehicle, the caliper worked fine. However, attached, it was as hard as concrete and wouldn’t let anything through.

The brake hose on the vehicles were replaced, and the vehicles are driving fine.

One of the employees took the extra step and cut the brake line into pieces and dissected it. Through this process, he learned that the crip fitting was swollen and closed up.

Overtime, the brake hose gets a little bit hotter when pieces of metal are around it and slowly deteriorates.

A lot of people would have noticed the caliper wasn’t working and just sold calipers without isolating the problem. We did recommend calipers because the amount of heat can shorten their lifespan. 

We leave the choice in the hands of our customers. Our goal is to provide as much information to help them make an educated decision.

Can you prevent this problem?

You can’t do anything to prevent this problem, it’s just the way the vehicle is designed. You need to have the metal brackets to hold the hose in place. With that amount of hydraulic pressure, the hose would move back and forth and rupture.

You can maintain your braking system through brake fluid exchanges. This service can always help, but some of these things are inevitable.

We recommend brake fluid exchanges every 30,000 miles. You can learn about why you should have the fluid replaced by reading this article we wrote.

The same car problem can come across differently to drivers. If your vehicle sounds or is acting strange, make sure to provide as much information to the mechanic or repair shop as possible. Those little details can help narrow down the search.

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

Protect your transmission through transmission fluid exchanges

In Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Your vehicle’s transmission is responsible for sending power from the engine to the wheels.

Since it plays such an important role and is an expensive component, it should be taken care of.

Maintaining your transmission is one way to prevent problems from cropping up down the road.

How to know if you need a new transmission

There are a few indicators that your transmission is going bad. 

Those signs include trouble switching gears. Grinding or crunching sounds could be heard, as well. 

You can extend its lifespan through transmission fluid exchanges, which are important for both automatic and manual transmissions.

Reasons to have a transmission fluid exchange performed

The heavy traffic we travel through each day puts a lot of stress on the transmission. Due to the high temperatures this creates as well as oxidation, the transmission fluid degrades. Contaminants collect in the fluid and metal on components breaks down.

Transmission fluid is responsible for lubricating metal to metal surfaces. If it collects dirt and debris or water builds up – displacing the oil – it isn’t able to do that properly. 

Putting off a transmission flush can lead to heat and friction, and cause components to break down.

The service is especially important for automatic transmissions because the fluid relies on pressure to build in certain areas. 

There are also many more valves and solenoids, which can stick if it becomes too dirty. This can lead to non-shifting problems or “flairs” – when the transmission revs when the driver shifts gears.

Having transmission fluid exchanges performed regularly extends the lifespan of parts and can save you money in the long run.

When to get this service

How often you get a transmission fluid exchange depends on the manufacturer’s recommendation. We suggest having this service performed every 30,000 miles.

Many manufacturers won’t recommend it until you reach 100,000 miles, when the powertrain warranty runs up.

Unless you have a german vehicle that states not to have a transmission fluid exchange performed until a certain time, you don’t need to wait until your car hits 100,000 miles.

When your vehicle is due for this service, a couple of symptoms may appear. These indicators include a burnt smell or darker transmission fluid.

So, what happens during a transmission fluid exchange?

Our technicians begin performing a transmission fluid exchange by adding a cleaner that suspends dirt and particles that have accumulated in the fluid.

The contaminants and old transmission fluid are replaced with new fluid.

Then, we add a conditioner that enhances the fluid and helps it last longer. 

Transmission fluid exchanges are a great way to take care components, prevent non-shifting problems, and help you avoid costly work on your vehicle. 

We work on manual and automatic transmissions. Here is a video about manual transmission fluid exchanges:

This is a video about automatic transmission fluid exchanges:

Any money that you put toward maintaining your car – whether it’s oil changes or mileage-based services – are worth the investment.

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

Car squeaking sounds and what causes them

In Uncategorized by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

As you’re driving around town or on your way to work, you may notice a squeaking noise.

There are several reasons why car squeaking sounds occur. These are some of the most common causes:

  • Ball joints
  • Brakes
  • Control arm bushings
  • Sway bar bushings
  • Worn struts

Here is a more in-depth explanation behind the different components.

Ball joints

Ball joints are a pivot point for the control arm, which supports the primary load of the car.

These components can create a squeaking sound when they run out of lubrication. They also may need to be replaced to resolve the noise.

Control arm bushings and sway bar bushings

Some control arm bushings and sway bar bushings make squeaking sounds if they need to be lubricated. Others have to be replaced. 

Whether you need new control arm or sway bar bushings or they need to be lubricated depends on how they come from a manufacturer.

Car squeaking sounds

Brakes

Brakes can make squeaking sounds if they are getting low. Most brake pads contain little metal tabs called “wear sensors” that can screech on the brake rotors. 

Brakes must be at or above 2/32 an inch to pass the Virginia state inspection. We recommend getting new brakes when they hit 3/32 or 4/32 of an inch, but some manufacturers suggest they be replaced sooner.

You can read more whether you need new brakes and the brake services we offer in this article we wrote recently.

Cheap brakes and those that haven’t been maintained properly can cause a friction noise.

We don’t suggest having cheap brakes installed, because they can cause noise, vibrations and rapid wear.

To learn more about why you shouldn’t use cheap brakes, check out this article.

Replacing only the brake pads and not the rotors may result in a squeaking sound.

Worn struts

Shocks and struts go bad overtime. The tires wearing unevenly and the handling feeling off are other indicators that these parts need to be replaced. These are some other signs.

We typically recommend replacing shocks and struts around 100,000 miles. However, if you’re getting new tires and your car is at 80,000 or 90,000 miles, we may suggest getting new ones earlier. This can help protect the next set tires.

How we address car squeaking sounds

To find the cause behind squeaking noises, we start by taking the car on a test drive. Then, we look for any problems by performing a visual and digital inspection.

After the inspection, our technicians recreate the issue. This allows us to isolate it.

Please make sure to provide the auto repair shop as much information as possible.

A customer recently had their vehicle towed for a brake check. The brakes were making noise, and he believed it was a caliper problem. 

When we touched the brakes during a test drive, they locked up and the truck slid. The customer didn’t mention that he recently had new brakes installed. Turns out, one of the calipers was missing. 

One of the more dangerous things you can do, as a customer, is not give us all of the information. When you don’t, it can be unsafe.

Having the whole story, including noises, problems you’ve noticed, and even a timeline, helps us solve the problem.

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

BG MOA provides additional protection to engine

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

Staying on top of your car’s oil changes can prevent expensive repairs in the future.

Recommended every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, this service keeps your engine working right.

You can read more about oil changes and why they are important by checking out one of our previous articles.

There is a way to protect the engine even further – BG MOA

About BG MOA

BG MOA prevents sludge build up and reduces engine wear. 

This oil additive also helps your oil protect the engine better and last longer.

It can help improve fuel efficiency, as well.

During a BG MOA oil change, our technicians change the oil and oil filter and add the BG MOA.

This supplement offers great protection for stop-start engines as well as turbocharged engines, which are becoming more prominent on so many vehicles today because of fuel economy and power.

Some people talk about oil additives taking regular oil and turning it into synthetic oil. That isn’t the case. The BG MOA takes regular oil and not only gives more protection but helps it last longer.

All of the stop and go traffic many of us experience while commuting in Northern Virginia is really hard on these engines.

If you’re like a lot of people who miss their oil change interval, this helps keep your engine protected, even during your busy time of life.

Another myth is that you can’t add BG MOA to synthetic oil. That’s not true. For many years, we have been using synthetic oil in oil vehicles and do add the MOA to it. The additive just helps protect the engine even better. 

Even though it does help extend the life of oil and its synthetic fluid – which you would normally have a longer oil change interval anyway – we still suggest changing the oil at about 5,000 miles for synthetic oil, or whenever your car’s manufacturer recommends. Because of the stop and go traffic, you want to keep the engine clean and prevent expensive repairs down the road.

The amount of money it costs to add MOA to your oil change – whether it’s conventional oil or synthetic oil – is minute compared to the cost of replacing an engine. 

Engines today are made up of variable valve timing, multiple camshafts and turbo chargers that have bearings with tight tolerances. Preventing sludge build up and making sure those parts are working correctly is one of the best things you can do to maintain your car.

BG Lifetime Protection Plan

If you have your oil changed at HomeTowne and decide to have BG MOA added, ask a service adviser if your vehicle qualifies for the BG Lifetime Protection Plan.

It covers several areas, including the engine, power steering, transmission and brakes.

We had a customer who had regular BG Transmission Fluid services performed on their Dodge, which are notorious for having transmission problems. It had nothing to do with the fluid, they just broke. This customer did have a transmission problem and BG held into its end of the bargain. 

So, there can be benefits with using BG services.

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

Car AC repair and maintenance

In Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Spring has arrived. 

With the warmer temperatures beginning to settle in, now is a good time to make sure your car’s air conditioning is working correctly. That way you’re not realizing there’s a problem when it’s 80 degrees out.

Possible air conditioning problems

There are several possible culprits behind air conditioning problems, including a constricted air conditioning condenser and being low on freon. You can read about other causes in this article we wrote last year.

If you find out the system isn’t working, you should pay attention to whether the car AC has lost its performance over time, if the problem is intermittent, or the system stopped abruptly. This information will help us narrow down the cause and diagnose it faster. 

We have found that a good portion of the time, the system will gradually stop working due to a refrigerant leak. 

Intermittent problems are more complicated. They could indicate that components, like the compressor, are going bad or that you have a weak relay.

Car AC repair services

HomeTowne Auto Repair performs car AC repairs on all makes and models. 

Before 1995 and 1996, vehicles used refrigerate 12, or R-12. They switched to R-134, and today manufacturers are moving to R-1234yf.

R-1234yf’s Global Warming Potential and impact on the Earth’s climate in less than R-134. It also doesn’t deplete the ozone layer.

We can service vehicles that use R-134 or R-1234yf.

In addition to replacing components, our technicians can look for leaks and perform electrical diagnostics.

How to maintain your air conditioning

Not all car AC problems can be prevented. Sometimes, parts simply go bad from everyday use. 

However, you could prolong the life of certain components, such as the air conditioning condenser, through maintenance. Cleaning the condenser is one way to take care of it, especially if it has a lot of bugs and debris. 

But you have to be careful while cleaning the condenser. Don’t scrub it with a brush or use a high pressure hose, because you don’t want to bend the fins. To learn more about how to clean it, check out this article we wrote.  

We also recommend changing the cabin air filter once or twice a year. How often you should replace it depends on different factors, like if it’s parked outside and under trees. It’s a good idea to get a new filter right after pollen season. As the air is coming through, especially on recirculation, that helps your air conditioning work more efficiently.

You can also have a BG Evaporator Service performed. This foaming service cleans out the dirt and kills mold. 

If you have an older vehicle and the A/C isn’t working as well, that’s a good time to have it serviced or to have an evac or recharge. Putting in synthetic air conditioning oil could help your system last longer.

Before the temperatures rise to unbearable conditions, we recommend checking your car’s A/C. This way, you can receive relief from those hot spring, summer and fall days.

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 you should have a power steering fluid exchange performed

In Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Your vehicle’s power steering system undergoes a lot of heat and pressure to help you maintain control. 

The high pressure and temperatures eventually lead power steering fluid to deteriorate and lose its ability to lubricate parts.

Over a period of time, power steering fluid – just like oil, brake fluid, and transmission fluid – will start to break down. 

Contaminants collect in the fluid and may cause components to wear out earlier than expected. 

Some metal and material from oil seals start to deteriorate and float around the system. As it does, it can put more wear on the power steering pump and – on most cars – the rack and pinion system.  

To keep the system running properly, it’s a good idea to have regular power steering fluid exchanges. HomeTowne Auto Repair and Tire suggests this service every 30,000 miles.

Some manufacturers, like those of performance cars, recommend you have it performed at shorter intervals.

Thirty thousand miles is a good time to do it, because that’s when you need to change other fluids.

What happens during a power steering fluid exchange?

Our technicians use a cleaner, BG Quick Clean for Power Steering, when they are conducting a power steering fluid exchange. The cleaner, which goes in the reservoir, collects contaminants as it travels through the power steering system. 

We use a push and pull strategy to remove old fluid. Then, we add in new fluid, BG Power Clean.

What are the benefits?

In addition to cleaning the power steering system, power steering fluid exchanges ensure that steering remains smooth. 

They also extend the life of the power steering pump, rack and pinion, power steering hoses, and electric steering components that are exposed to the fluid. This service delays break downs, as well.

Overtime, your steering may feel a little wonky or loose. With new fluid, it’s going to feel much more firm and steady as you’re heading down the road. That can depend on the type of car.

What are signs that you need a power steering fluid exchange?

When you need a power steering fluid exchange, the power steering fluid will be dark.

In addition to seeing dark fluid, you might have trouble steering. It may feel choppy, rather than smooth. A whining or grinding noise could also be heard.

When repairing a vehicle, certain parts may require a power steering fluid exchange.

It’s important to make sure that your service center is using the right type of power steering fluid on your car.

Certain vehicles, such as Volkswagens and Audis, use mineral hydraulic fluid. Some older cars use transmission fluid. Most use what we call “regular power steering fluid”. 

BG produces a wide variety of power steering fluid products.

We use BG Power Clean, a synthetic fluid that guards against heat and wear. We also have the mineral hydraulic fluid as well as regular power steering fluid, which is made by BG and features additives that help the system last longer.

BG Universal Synthetic Power Steering Fluid provides even better protection when it’s very hot or cold. It can also stand up against sub-zero conditions.

BG Full Synthetic Electric Power Steering Fluid is made for vehicles that have electric-hydraulic power steering systems.

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

Does my car need new brakes?

In Uncategorized by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Typically, drivers don’t know that their car needs new brakes until they bring it to a repair shop for an oil change or to address a problem.

While performing an oil change, our technicians do a tire rotation and look over the vehicle. During this courtesy inspection, we may find that it requires new brakes or they are reaching the end of their lifespan.

To pass the annual state inspection, brakes must be a least 2/32 of an inch. However, we suggest replacing them when they get to 3/32 or 4/32 of an inch, depending on the vehicle and driving conditions.

Read more about brakes and the Virginia safety inspection.

When you go in for your next oil change, it’s a good time to have all four of your brakes checked.

Signs that new brakes, brake repair are needed

Overtime, you may start to notice certain signs, such as squealing and the vehicle taking longer to stop.

If you put off replacing brakes, it will likely lead to further damage down the road.

How often brakes need to be replaced depends on many factors, including the make and model. Driving behaviors, how much someone drives, and stop and go traffic also play a role.

Generally, brakes can last anywhere from 36,000 to 80,000 miles. We have replaced them at 18,000 miles, which was extremely low. 

It’s important to make sure the types of brakes put on your car are of good quality and meet Original Equipment (OE) specifications, because the way the vehicle safety system works they are programmed to operate with certain types of parts. 

If you put inferior parts on, the systems like Advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), Traction Control System (TCS), Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) may not perform correctly.

Sometimes, brake repair is needed between brake jobs.

These are some symptoms that a vehicle is in need of brake repair.

Brake services we offer

HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire offers an array of brake services.

Our technicians can replace various components. These include: the master cylinder, vacuum or hydraulic boosters, brake lines, calipers or wheel cylinders, brake pads and rotors, and brake drums and shoes. 

We are also able to replace the entire parking brake system, whether it’s electric or not. The parking brake is made up of the handle or pedal, and linkage from the handle or pedal to the rear caliper or shoe. 

Brake fluid exchanges are performed at HomeTowne Auto Repair, as well. 

Recommended every 30,000 miles, this service prevents corrosion from building up on the inside of the calipers.

If your Anti-Lock Brake System (ABS) warning light comes on, we can look into that too.

The brake system is made up of many parts, and it’s important to keep up with it. If you notice something out of the ordinary, it won’t hurt to call a local repair shop and ask them about 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.

View Post

My car is making a clunking noise

In Uncategorized by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Are you hearing a clunking noise when you’re driving? Don’t worry, you’re not going crazy (well … hopefully not).

Clunking and rattling sounds may indicate problems with your car’s steering and suspension.

Parts can wear out over time and cause a clunking noise, such as strut mounts and bushings.

The issue could have to do with the drag link, control arms or coil springs, as well.

Other culprits include: idler arms, pitman arms – which are part of a drag link-type steering system – and tie rod ends.

Sway bar end links and sway bar bushings are common problems that are often misdiagnosed because they sound worse than they are.

We recently worked on a Range Rover that had a clunking sound. Not only had the ball joint come out of the steering knuckle, but the sway bar end link was broken.

Struts can also make a clunking noise if they’re bottoming out.

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

Diagnostic testing on a Toyota Tacoma

In Uncategorized by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Diagnostic testing is a process of elimination.

As our technicians work on vehicles, they determine where the problem lies and, through research and communication with the customer, figure out the cause.

Some issues, however, aren’t so cut and dry.

A Toyota Tacoma was brought in because it would occasionally stutter when going uphill, even after the driver let off of the accelerator. The symptom started recently and was growing worse.

First, we took the truck on a couple of test drives and checked for Technical Service Bulletins (TSBs). 

Then, one of the techs performed a transmission drain and fill to get rid of any contaminants. While the problem did get better, it didn’t go away completely.

This led us to take a look over parts and determine that it may need a new transmission.

There’s not always one way to approach everything. Sometimes, cars have mechanical failures that don’t trigger a trouble code, which acts as a starting point. 

In the case of the Toyota, the symptom being described felt like many problems – a shift shutter, a misfire, a bad tire – and was intermittent. 

Rather than following a diagnostic tree that a manufacturer provides, we need to use logic and experience to isolate the issue. 

This includes checking fluid levels and, sometimes causing a fault to ensure that components are working. For example, we may purposefully leave a sensor unplugged to see if it will cause a circuit code.

With the Tacoma, it was a mixture of possible misfires, differential problems and transmission problems.

This is why we can’t say that one level of diagnostic testing is needed to address an issue. It could require further investigation. We just don’t know until we start working on it. 

Read about why diagnostic testing is important.

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.