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Virginia state inspection: Windows, windshields and mirrors

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

Safety is the main concern when a Virginia state inspection is being performed. 

Issues can occasionally arise for various reasons – whether it’s age, impact, or lack of maintenance. Inspectors are there to make sure that all parts of a vehicle check out OK.

Windows, windshields and mirrors are some of the areas that are looked over during the Virginia safety inspection, which must be conducted each year. 

We also make sure there aren’t any problems with the headlights or brakes.

Windows and the Virginia state inspection

Car windows are the first topic we’ll talk about. It’s important that a driver’s sight isn’t obscured when they are looking out.

This means, the windows aren’t allowed to be broken, or have cracks or scratches. Additionally, the driver’s view can’t be warped or cloudy.

The driver side window needs to roll down, as well. Why? Well, if a vehicle’s blinker isn’t working the way it should, the driver will be able to let others on the road know they are merging or switching lanes, by opening the window and using hand gestures.

Cracks in the windshield

Is there a crack in your windshield? Did a rock or some sort of debris come up from the road and leave a mark? These are some items that inspectors keep an eye out for.

Windshield with cracks that extend across it or star cracks bigger than 1 and a half inches around will fail state inspection.

A star crack on the windshield of a Volkswagen.

Having cracks develop in a windshield can happen to anyone, especially for those driving through construction areas or on the highway. In fact, I just acquired my second star crack when driving on I-95 a few weeks ago.

If any appear on your windshield, contact your insurance company. They may provide windshield coverage and fix it for free or cover some of the costs.

Cracks aren’t the only problem that may hinder a person’s ability to see. So can tinting and letters. The tint shouldn’t go under the AS-1, be cloudy, or bubble up on the rear windshield. 

Any letters, numbers or images on a windshield aren’t allowed to be more than 3 inches from the top.

There are also windshield related components that inspectors look into, like making sure the defroster is functioning and that the windshield wipers are in one piece.

Secure mirror mountings

Visibility is a concern in regards to car mirrors, as well. Drivers are expected to have a full view of the 200 feet behind themselves. This view can’t be broken up by cracks. The mirrors on trucks should go halfway from the edge of the body.

Making sure motorists can see out the mirrors isn’t the only focus of our state inspectors. They also confirm that the mounting is secure. Mirrors must not move or be held on through various means. For example, duct tape shouldn’t be holding the side view mirror or mirror mounting together.

Duct tape on a side view mirror.

In this article we have covered some problems that can prevent a car from passing the Virginia safety inspection. If you notice any of these issues with your vehicle, we recommend bringing it to a local auto repair shop or a mechanic near you.

Not only will addressing these issues now eliminate the headache of getting them fixed at state inspection time, it also improves your safety 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.

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Reasons why the oil pressure light turns on

In Automotive Diagnostics by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Over the course of using a vehicle, you may occasionally notice a dashboard light illuminate. 

Many people are familiar with the check engine light, but there’s another one that you should be aware of – the oil pressure light.

This light can appear for a few reasons. If it does turn on, there are some immediate actions you should take.

Oil pressure light on? Here’s what you should do.

You should avoid using your vehicle if your oil pressure warning light turns on. What if it appears when you’re driving? Pull over in a safe location. 

The oil level on an oil dipstick.

Then, check your oil. To learn how to do that, check out our “How to check your oil” article. If the oil level is good, don’t drive it and have it towed to a nearby auto repair shop. 

If the oil level is low, add oil and turn the vehicle on to see if the light goes out.  

What can cause the oil pressure warning the light to come on?

Low oil

Not having enough oil is one reason the light will illuminate. The oil pressure light is a lot of times going to be the same light that tells you that you’re low on oil. Low oil can be the result of an oil consumption problem or an oil leak. More information about the causes of oil leaks and the importance of addressing them can be found in this article we published.

Oil pressure switch on a Toyota Camry.

Bad switch

There’s a common problem with certain manufacturers where the oil pressure switch will just go bad. The switch is responsible for measuring the oil pressure and sending the signal to the dashboard. It’s possible that it may just need to be replaced.

Mechanical low oil pressure

Clogged ports and channels inside of the engine will cause low oil pressure. So, mechanically, low oil pressure will cause the light to come on. There’s a threshold. That car knows what the oil pressure should be at when idle, at wide open throttle, and at certain RPMs. The pressure is going to change. So, mechanically lower pressure than the specifications will cause the light to turn on.

How we address an oil pressure warning light

If a vehicle comes in with its oil pressure light on, we first start by correcting the oil level. It’s an easy, simple thing that a lot of people forget.

The second step is testing our switch and making sure it’s working. If it is, then we measure the mechanical oil pressure. We, basically, figure out what needs to be fixed.

Our findings will determine what the repair is going to be. The most common problem is sludge. Sludge buildup on these vehicles will lead to low oil pressure, because it blocks the passages. In that situation, we try to restore rather than repair.

Two GM engines we worked on had low oil pressure. One of the vehicles had mechanically low oil pressure and its low oil pressure light was on. We ran a cleaner through the engine and did some restore with transmission fluid. It cleared up the passages and the driver got his oil pressure back.

The other vehicle had a timing code that kept coming back from the variable valve timing system. A BG restoration kit was used, and the code never came back. This van always had good oil pressure, but it had a phaser that operated from oil pressure and was clogged.

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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Rear ac system repair on van

In Cabin Air Filter, Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Even though it’s September, it’s still pretty warm. So, for many of us, our vehicle’s air conditioning system is still working in high gear.

We’re working on an E-350 van with a rear ac system. 

Most of these vehicles – whether it’s a minivan or a full sized van, like this one – have air conditioning lines and heater lines going to the back. This van has a heater core, an evaporator, and a separate blower motor to help cool it down.

The inner panel removed on an E-350 van.

Fixing the rear ac system

With the way they pack these vehicles in – to keep the interior room open – the rear ac system is normally on the side or back of the van. We generally have to pull the seats out and the side panels off to reach the components.

These ac systems can stop working if there is a leak in the rear evaporator. In that case, we need to evacuate the system to remove the freon. Then, the evaporator and expansion valve are replaced and a recharge is performed on the a/c system. Our technicians also conduct a re-test to make sure everything is working correctly.

Air conditioning problems can also occur if the air conditioning condenser is blocked or if the Electronic Climate Control System, which impacts the temperature in the front of the car, is failing.

If the ac problem is happening sporadically, it can be more difficult to pinpoint the cause. The vehicle might need to be left at an auto repair shop for a few days, so it can be looked into or a deeper level.

Make sure that when you drop your car off to explain what you are noticing. Is cold air not blowing out of the vents? Are you not feeling any airflow? Does it seem like the air isn’t blowing as strongly? These details and other relevant information helps our Woodbridge mechanics narrow down their search.

Replacing and maintaining the cabin air filter

When you’re working in this part of the vehicle it can be a good time to check the air intake to see if there’s a bunch of trash or dust. Sometimes, they have a filter – this van didn’t – that needs to be changed, just like a cabin air filter. If you have kids or pets, the hair, dirt and dust can collect in the filter and clogs everything up.

It’s also a good idea to use the BG Frigi-Clean, especially if you have an older van that’s used to transport children and pets. This product is a foaming agent that goes in and helps wash the dirt out of the evaporator. Another cleaner we use – BG Frigi Fresh – kills germs and microbes.

Even though the front a/c system is working fine, we recommend getting that cabin air filter checked, as well.

Cabin air filters should be changed every 10,000 to 20,000 miles. This frequency depends on what kind of vehicle you drive and where. A musty smell is a sign that it may be time to replace them. It’s also important to clean the cowling area once or twice a year, which keeps the filter clean.

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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Electrical problem with alternator

In Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Your vehicle can have an electrical problem for many reasons. 

When it comes to the alternator, we will typically see a lack of power. However, the opposite occurred with a Ford van.

A customer brought the vehicle to HomeTowne Auto Repair, because it was overcharging while they were on a trip. All of a sudden it started charging over 18 volts, and it had to do with the rectifier bridge inside of the alternator. Something went wrong and it got fried somehow, causing it to overcharge while they were driving.

You really don’t want it to do that, because you can start having other electrical problems. For example, too much power can start melting wires.

Alternator electrical problem and electrical loads

So an electrical problem with the alternator isn’t limited to undercharging, it could be overcharging. Most of the time, it is undercharging. You should see at least 12.8 volts when the vehicle is at idle and there isn’t much of an electrical load. The ideal range is up to 14 or 14.8 volts.

The alternator is responsible for powering the lights, fans, the radio, the DVD player and other accessories. So, your vehicle’s alternator will work to compensate for that electrical load while also making sure that the car battery is charged up – but not overcharged.

A lot of the newer vehicles have LED lights that don’t take a lot of power. Fortunately, the computers are really good now and will warn you early if they are seeing things that are out of the parameters. 

For some of the older cars that are using incandescent lights and regular wiring, if you start to see dimming at a stop light, flickering, or intermittent starting issues, that’s definitely the time to get your vehicle checked.

Other indicators of an alternator going bad – aside from electronics not working the way they should – include a burning rubber or electrical smell and growling, whirring or grinding sounds.

Car battery problems

For our standard electrical test, we want to test the battery and ensure that the starter is working correctly. We also look at the charging system to confirm that everything is functioning, there isn’t too much electrical noise, and the diodes aren’t bad.

The results of a starter test, alternator charging test and battery test.

It’s also important to check on the car battery, which can last about 5 years. It may be able to go longer, depending on the manufacturer, how well it’s made, and how much abuse it takes. You would be surprised by how many batteries die in the summertime. Most people believe they fail in the winter, but they go bad in the heat a lot.

Checking on the battery connections is a good idea, as well. Them being loose or having too much corrosion can lead to problems with the alternator and starting problems. So, it may not be that a part has failed – like the alternator or starter – it could be as simple as a battery cable or corrosion on them.

Corrosion buildup on battery terminals. Corrosion can cause alternator and starting problems.

We like to use the BG protection pads, which prevents the battery acid from coming up and causing corrosion buildup on the terminals.More information about battery problems and battery maintenance can be found in this article we published.

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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Steering and suspension components we check

In Suspension by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

We can address and even prevent car problems by taking the time to look things over.

Sometimes, a customer will complain about something that has to do with their steering and suspension. At other moments, we are simply performing a courtesy inspection as part of our oil change service.

In both situations, there are several problems we keep an eye out for.

Ball joints and bushings

When checking the steering and suspension components on a vehicle – especially as we get ready to conduct a car alignment – we’re looking for worn parts. 

These items include worn tie rod ends, where there can be some play, and the ball joints to determine if they are worn down. Some ball joints have indicators that show you, for some you just have to load up a certain way, which means support the lower control arm or let them hang. 

The process for checking them depends on the vehicle. But you want to make sure you’re looking it over correctly and making sure there isn’t any play. By “play”, we mean back and forth or up and down.

The other thing we’re looking for is the bushings, such as the control arm bushings. Depending on if they’re upper or control arm bushings. The Chevy pickup that we have included photos of in this article is a street strip vehicle. These are aftermarket upper control arms. 

The ball joint, upper control arm and upper control arm bushings on a Chevrolet pickup.

In this particular project, we performed a wheel alignment where we put shims between the control arm and the frame to bring the alignment back into specifications.

While looking at suspension components – whether they’re shocks or struts or a combination of the two – you’ll want to make sure that the mounting plates and bushings are good, because that’s what keeps the tire in contact with the road.

Checking on the coil springs

Our Woodbridge mechanics are also looking for springs and making sure they aren’t worn and causing body sag. If it starts to sag, that can throw off the alignment specifications because the vehicle is lower than it was originally.

Our customer replaced the upper and lower control arms, the tie rod ends and the springs. So we’re getting the alignment fixed up for them. The rear of this vehicle just has regular shocks that go to the differential. We also replaced the coil springs on the back to bring the height to a certain level.

A tie rod, pitman arm and sway bar link.

Over a period of time the springs can become worn. You want to look at springs – especially on older vehicles that are at 100,000, 200,000 or 300,000 miles – because they can start to compress. They’re not going to be able to hold the vehicle up to the correct ride height that they were designed for. This can impact handling and the way things work.

A shock absorber and coil spring.

All these steering and suspension components work together. You don’t have to replace all of them at the same time. It was just in this particular case that this was a project car and the driver decided to change the parts at once.

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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Problems that can cause a hard brake pedal

In Brakes by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

We do a lot of braking in Northern Virginia, where there are many commuters and traffic is a daily expectation.

For this reason, it’s important to make sure the braking system is working correctly and any abnormal symptoms are addressed.

A hard brake pedal is one problem you should watch out for.

Hard brake pedal causes

There are several possible reasons why a brake pedal is hard to push.

Brake booster not working correctly

The brake booster may not be able to provide vacuum pressure. This can occur if there is a diaphragm tear or a broken check valve. You can confirm the brake booster is the problem by turning off the vehicle and stepping on the brake pedal multiple times. Continue to press it and restart the car. The brake pedal should go down if the brake booster is functioning the way it should. A brake pedal that remains firm is an indicator that the brake booster has gone bad.

Vacuum pump or power steering pump going bad

What’s causing a stiff brake pedal can differ among vehicles and the type of brake booster they have. Some cars use a hydraulic brake booster, where the power steering pump – rather than the engine vacuum – creates pressure. Certain brake boosters use the intake manifold while others have an electrical driven pump or a mechanical driven pump.

A bad electric pump, not having enough power steering fluid, and a missing serpentine belt can result in a hard brake pedal among vehicles with a hydraulic brake booster or vacuum pump.

A vacuum brake booster.
Vacuum brake booster

Vacuum hose becomes cracked

Is the brake pedal hard to push and hisses? The problem could have to do with the vacuum hose, which links the engine and brake booster. A vacuum is made due to air being drawn in. Cracks can form where the vacuum connects with other components.

Electronics associated with the electro hydraulic brake booster: With the brake systems having a lot of electronic controls – such as anti-lock brakes and traction control – that can be integrated with the master cylinder and the brake booster, especially if it’s an electro hydraulic brake booster. For example, Toyota 4Runners have an electro hydraulic brake booster, meaning that there’s an electric pump that will pump up the pressure to the accumulator. That allows you to have easy brake pressure when applying the brakes. But if there’s a problem with the solenoid or module, that could make it so the brake pedal feels hard. In this case, we need to go in and perform diagnostic testing to determine the problem.

An electro hydraulic brake booster.
Electro hydraulic brake booster

Caliper or caliper slides have seized: If the caliper or caliper slides have seized, the caliper isn’t able to move back and forth or the piston isn’t able to move out as you press the brake pedal. That can give you a harder brake pedal feel, but you would notice the car isn’t stopping as well as it used to. Rust and caliper seizing problems are more common among vehicles that are used in areas like Nag’s Head – where you might get a lot of salt air and salt water, and maybe some water coming up on the roads – and New England – where drivers see a lot of salt on the roads.

Note: This may seem silly, but make sure to take a look at the floor when trying to figure out why the brake pedal is hard to push. The floor mat could have become caught underneath the pedal. This used to be a more common problem years ago, but stranger things have happened.

It’s important to take care of your brake system, which can help extends its lifespan. This includes replacing brake pads and rotors and other components, such as brake hoses and brake lines, when needed. We also recommend regular brake fluid exchanges every 30,000 miles.

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 to replace spark plugs

In Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Drivers who have had the misfortune of unsuccessfully starting their vehicle tend to consider a few common problems: a dead battery, a bad starter, or the alternator needs to be replaced.

However, there are other possible culprits that can be overlooked, such as bad spark plugs. These components help turn on a vehicle by igniting fuel in the cylinder head.

Changing them is an important part of car maintenance.

Not only does replacing spark plugs allow you to start your vehicle, it also prevents bigger problems and is one thing you can do to get better gas mileage.

How often to replace spark plugs

As the automotive industry has evolved, the amount of time certain components can last has increased. At one point, new spark plugs were needed every 30,000 miles. Now, they can make it twice that distance or longer.

Depending on the vehicle and what the manufacturer suggests, spark plugs could last anywhere from 60,000 to 105,000 miles.

Other than time, they may fail because of various circumstances – carbon buildup, oil getting into the combustion chamber, and overheating of the spark plug tip.

As it comes time to change out old spark plugs, there are some things you should keep in mind. 

First of all, it’s a good idea to go with those that are high quality and Original Equipment (O.E.) manufacturer specific. This is because some part producers specialize in certain makes. Also, the type of material that a spark plug is made out of can play a role in its lifespan.

Bad spark plug symptoms

Time isn’t the only way to determine if these components are ready to be replaced. Various problems can be the marking of a bad spark plug. 

In addition to having trouble starting a car, you may notice other indicators. Some signs include misfires, the check engine light turning on, and a vehicle running rough when it’s idle.

Misfires happen if fuel doesn’t ignite the way it should. They may be accompanied by the check engine light coming on and shuddering.

An important safety note: It’s safe to use a vehicle if the check engine light is on steadily. However, if it’s flashing, you should pull over or avoid driving it.

The importance of changing spark plugs

The type of metal the tip is made out of – whether it’s platinum or iridium – will determine how long the spark plug lasts. Every time it sparks, the metal wears down a bit.

For one vehicle we worked on, the spark plugs hadn’t been changed for 130,000 or 140,000 miles. Because the gap was so large, it ruined the ignition coil.

One reason you should replace them on a mileage-based timeframe is because the electronics in the vehicle are so much better and can produce a higher spark to jump that gap. What you don’t notice is how it affects a catalytic converter overtime. The computer is trying to compensate for the gap and make everything run correctly. 

If you need to change the spark plugs at 60,000 or 90,000 miles and you replace them on time, your vehicle will run better and experience less wear, allowing the subsystems to last longer. Some vehicles – even a lot of performance vehicles – may use regular, copper spark plugs that need to be changed every 30,000 to 50,000 miles.

So, you really need to look at your owner’s manual to find out what frequency you need to be on.

Tip: Depending on the manufacturer, you may want to change the components earlier than normal. If it’s a lifetime spark plug or one that can last up to 100,000 miles, it may be a good idea to replace them at 50,000 or 60,000 miles. Based on the metal the cylinder head and spark plugs consist of, they could seize inside the cylinder head and you won’t be able to get them out. If you take them out earlier – even if they aren’t worn out – you’ll be able to replace them again in another 50,000 miles, rather than them getting stuck and costing you more 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.

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BFGoodrich Advantage Control Tire gives drivers a quiet ride

In Tires & Wheels by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Did you hear that sound? No. That’s because “quiet” is one characteristic that drivers will notice about the BFGoodrich Advantage Control Tire.

Life brings many noises – whether it’s through human interaction, various forms of media, or the completion of tasks.

The BFGoodrich Advantage Control Tire ensures that road sounds aren’t added to that mix.

A smooth, quiet ride is among the various benefits this tire offers users.

Silent and smooth

Why is it quiet? Well, the passenger tire is designed with a Computer Optimized Footprint, which controls how it wears overtime. This feature also extends the lifespan (more about that in a bit) and ensures the trip is a quiet one.

The journeys aren’t just enjoyable because of the lack of noise. 

Thanks to Next Generation g-Wedge Sidewall Stabilizer, the all season tire gives drivers a comfortable ride as well as solid control.

So travelers can embark on their adventures feeling confident and worry free.

All season reliability

Speaking of “all season”, the BFGoodrich Advantage Control Tire can be used throughout the year.

Made with Active Sipe Technology, it has biting edges that improve its grip in wet weather.

The BFGoodrich Tire also features Silica-infused Advanced All-Season Tread Compounds, which ensure that drivers maintain traction across the different seasons.

Made up of a curvilinear groove network, this passenger tire is able to push water away from the contact patch. The Aqua-Flume Technology aids with braking during wet weather.

Those aren’t the only ways this tire is reliable in wet conditions. It can also stop 8 feet shorter on wet roads than other tires.

BFGoodrich Advantage Control Tire.
BFGoodrich Advantage Control Tire

BFGoodrich Advantage Control Tire: Here for the long haul

People want to get the most out of what they invest in. The BFGoodrich Advantage Control Tire is a worthwhile purchase. 

Let’s back up for just a second. Earlier, we mentioned that the Computer Optimized Footprint plays a part in how long the tire lasts.

This tire comes with a long lifespan and can last as long as 75,000 miles.

What does that mean? For the average driver, it could mean going several years without replacing their tire. That helps keep money that might be spent on multiple low quality tires during that same time frame in their wallet.

This BFGoodrich Tire is a great value for those who chose to purchase it.

Other BFGoodrich Tires

The BFGoodrich Advantage Control Tire isn’t the only option in the BFGoodrich Tire family.

The BFGoodrich Advantage T/A Sport Tire and the BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2 Tire are other all-season tires we recommend.

BFGoodrich Tire, which is owned by Michelin Tire, tends to produce economical tires. As does Uniroyal Tire. So, if you are looking for budget-friendly tires that are still high quality, that may be the route you want to go in.

Michelin Tire itself makes great, dependable options too. (The Michelin Defender Tire and the Michelin Premier A/S Tire, for example). Of the three tire producers, Michelin Tire has the highest quality tires.

Between BFGoodrich Tire, Uniroyal Tire, and Michelin Tire, there are many reliable choices available. Our staff members are happy to provide recommendations to any drivers who aren’t sure which tires are the best fit for their vehicle.

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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Benefits of wheel alignments

In Vehicle Alignment by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Are parts of the tires on your vehicle wearing more quickly than others? Is your steering wheel crooked? Did a mechanic recently install new tires or work on your suspension?

If so, your vehicle might have a bad wheel alignment. A tire alignment is a form of maintenance that should be performed yearly and whenever certain types of work are done, like suspension part replacement or new tires are put on.

These checkups aren’t just an excuse that auto repair shops use to get you to bring your car in. They offer multiple perks that drivers may notice immediately or over the long haul.

A few benefits of wheel alignments are described below.

Some benefits of wheel alignments

A new Michelin CrossClimate 2 Tire and a Michelin CrossClimate 2 Tire with 50,000 miles on it.

Prevents uneven tire wear

In the photo above, you will see a brand new Michelin CrossClimate 2 Tire (the left one) and a Michelin CrossClimate 2 Tire with 50,000 miles on it (the right one). If you look closely at the one that has been used for 50,000 miles, you will see that the treadwear is even all the way across. This is because the customer had a wheel alignment or alignment check performed once a year. That way, the tire didn’t experience any abnormal wear on one side or the other.

Replacing a coil spring strut assembly.
coil spring strut assembly

Ensures steering capability is correct

If you’re having work performed on your car – like replacing the shock-strut assembly or changing any suspension components – you’ll want to have an alignment done. In some cases, you may be restoring some ride height. Also, moving parts around when installing something is going to change the parameters – whether it be caster, camber or toe. So, you want to make sure everything is aligned with the front and back, to make sure your tires wear right. Along with that – because components are replaced – it’s important to make sure the steering capability is correct.

A tire that has become worn down, due to too much negative camber.
Tire worn down, due to too much negative camber

Extends lifespan of tires

There’s a lot of road construction occurring right now, especially in the Woodbridge, Virginia area. During your daily travels, you may hit potholes or road patches, which act like mini speed bumps. That puts a lot of wear, especially on the steering components. Your tires are also taking that abuse. You want to get your alignment checked and have a wheel alignment conducted if need be, so your tires last.

Allows safety features to function right

Many of today’s vehicles use Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS), such as lane assist. If a vehicle is out of alignment, those safety systems may not work the way they should. A lot of the time, we need to complete the alignment before we can reset the parameters for the ADAS system.

Helps with fuel economy

The more aligned tires are with the vehicle, front and back, the less rolling resistance. The less rolling resistance you have, the better your fuel efficiency will be. If the tires are off a bit, they will drag across the pavement. That increases tire wear and decreases fuel economy.

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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Coolant leaking from Volkswagen Beetle

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

This is the latest chronicle on the most recent car problem I had with my Volkswagen Beetle. I hope that my experience helps you address any issues you face.

I was taking my exit off I-95 South when I noticed what sounded like a rattling noise – and then turned into a grinding noise – as I stepped on the gas. 

I reached out to the General Manager at HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire, thinking it was some sort of belt issue. 

However, as I spoke with him, I began to see other problems. Smoke was emitting from the front of my vehicle and I heard a loud beeping noise. That’s when I saw the engine temperature light and low oil pressure icons appear on the dashboard. This information was shared with the General Manager, who recommended I check my oil level.

The engine temperature warning light, which appeared on the dashboard of a Volkswagen.
Engine temperature warning light

I safely arrived home, where my fiance and I confirmed that there was oil in the system but saw that the coolant reservoir appeared empty. When he heard this, the General Manager suggested we add refrigerant to see if it had a fast leak. If it did, I would need to have the vehicle towed to their Woodbridge auto repair shop. Coolant was added and, sure enough, it leaked out immediately.

Why is coolant leaking from my car?

My Volkswagen Beetle was towed to HomeTowne Auto Repair the next morning. 

When it was brought into the shop, they found that one of the heater hose connectors had broken.

A broken heater hose connector.
Broken heater hose connector

What appeared to be smoke was actually steam. This occurred because the coolant was leaking directly onto the hot exhaust, which was burning it.

After replacing the connectors, one of the technicians topped the system off with coolant. However, when he turned the vehicle on coolant once again poured out.

Why was coolant leaking out of my vehicle?

Through a deeper investigation of the problem, they found that there was a crack in the oil filter housing. 

A crack that was found in a Volkswagen's oil filter housing.
Crack in oil filter housing

After replacing this part, a coolant system flush was performed to ensure that there weren’t any air pockets. My Volkswagen was then taken on a test drive to confirm that no other leaks were present.

A Volkswagen Beetle receiving a coolant fluid exchange.

Other possible causes behind coolant leaks

Coolant leaks are usually a matter of time and age. Rust, corrosion and impact are factors, as well.

They can be the result of many different components going bad. These include the water pump, radiator, heater core, thermostat, heater hoses, and radiator hoses. You also have multiple bypass hoses, depending on the car.

This article we wrote talks about some signs that you have a bad water pump.

Some high performance vehicles have two water pumps – a main one that’s belt or chain driven and there’s usually one that’s electric which supplements the cooling system. For hybrids, there’s a completely separate cooling system for the hybrid battery. Your hybrid vehicles will have their own water pump, hoses and thermostat.

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.