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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.

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Engine problems on Kia Sportage

In Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

A Kia Sportage will be needing a new engine.

The vehicle was dropped off at our Woodbridge auto repair shop after it caught on fire. (We believe that it gave the impression of being on fire, because the oil hit the exhaust.)

We don’t know if there were any warning lights or if it was running poorly, which is usually the case before it reaches this level.

When one of our employees tried to start the engine, another employee heard the starter running very loudly. It sounded like someone was hitting the engine with a hammer. 

They discovered that the starter wasn’t louder than normal. There was a hole in the engine block, and the sound of the starter could be heard better because there was less material masking it. 

Something caused the crankshaft bearings to seize up. Because metal needs to go somewhere, something broke and shot a hole in the engine block.

A hole in the engine block of a Kia Sportage.
Hole in the engine block of a Kia Sportage

We will need to purchase a used engine, because – due to supply chain problems – any engines that are being sent over from Korea aren’t making it to us. Also, the remanufacturers we partner with don’t have any built.

How to avoid engine problems

So, what can you do to prevent this from happening to you?

Paying attention to any warning signs is one thing you can do. If a light appears on your dashboard or your vehicle isn’t running the way it should, bring it into or call a repair shop. 

You can learn more about what certain dashboard lights mean, by reading this article we posted. It’s important to remember that, depending on the vehicle, a warning light may look differently than traditional icons. So, we encourage you to check your owner’s manual to confirm which one(s) have turned on.

Being without a car for a few days and making transportation arrangements may be inconvenient. However, it could save you a lot of stress and money in the end.

Taking care of your vehicle’s engine

There are also some ways you can maintain your engine and prevent engine problems, like having regular oil changes performed and using BG MOA, an oil additive that provides additional protection to the engine.

Our Woodbridge mechanics conduct courtesy inspections with our oil change service. We’re not your “10 minute oil change” place. Through a digital vehicle inspection, we are able to take photos and short videos that show you what’s going on with your vehicle, what needs to be replaced, and if it’s a safety or maintenance item. By visiting your auto repair shop on a regular basis, we can catch things like valve cover gaskets and oil leaks ahead of time to help avoid a catastrophic engine failure like the one the Kia experienced.

As these engines get older, some oil will go past the rings and go out through the tailpipe – which you may or may not see. Along with oil leaks, that causes a low oil problem faster. Plus, not checking it on a regular basis – either not adding it or fixing oil leaks – could result in a bigger problem. 

We recommend you look for drips of oil in your driveway or garage. An older vehicle is going to have a small oil leak, and it may not be necessary to fix it. However, if you start to notice it more than normal, it would be a good idea to get to your auto repair shop and have them take a look at it. 

When it comes to an oil change, cheap doesn’t necessarily mean good. Our shop only uses full synthetic oil. It does cost a little bit more, but it’s much better for your engine. Also, we use a high quality oil filter. Cheap there really doesn’t mean good. That’s what’s filtering out those small particles of metal, brass, and whatever else that’s floating around there, or any carbon that’s building up in the oil. So, using a high quality oil and oil filter can help your engine last longer.

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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Noises from the air conditioning system

In Automotive Diagnostics by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Whenever something is wrong with your vehicle, you may begin to hear strange sounds. The a/c is no different. Noises from the air conditioning system are one symptom you may notice when there is an issue.

What does a normal AC sound like?

When the ac compressor comes on, depending on the type of vehicle, you may hear a click and you might see the tachometer go down a little bit and back up as the engine is compensating for the load of the ac compressor. 

Weird noises from the air conditioning system

Now that we’ve covered what you should be hearing, let’s move on to those odd noises, and what’s causing them. 

Strange air conditioning sounds include:

  • Buzzing noises: If you notice a buzzing noise, it could be an ac compressor relay.
  • Clicking sounds: You should also keep an ear out for clicking sounds. A loud clicking is one indicator that the a/c compressor clutch is going bad. If it’s happening quickly, it could be that the system is low on Freon.
  • Clicking sounds inside the car: This noise may be due to actuators behind the dash that control the vent doors. Sometimes, the plastic pieces break or the motors go bad, and they will make a clicking noises.
  • Squealing noise: Squealing sounds are sometimes created if the a/c compressor clutch wears out. Other potential culprits include a bad pulley or pulley bearing, oil getting onto the clutch, or the compressor seizing up. The squealing could also be a loose a/c compressor belt.
  • Rattling sounds: The ac compressor or the compressor clutch going bad produce rattling sounds, at times. This noise – as well as knocking sounds and groaning noises – can also be heard if mounts are loose or broken. The drive belts becoming worn or damaged is another possibility. 
  • Rattling noise inside the vehicle: If you hear a rattling noise from within the car and you have kids or you put stuff up on the dashboard, we have found that paper clips and pens will fall down in the vents. Depending on how high you have the blower motor up, they might rattle around in there.  
  • Vibrating noises: An a/c hose rubbing against a component could lead to vibrating sounds. The blower motor going bad electrically or being unbalanced can create a vibration noise inside the car.
  • Swooshing sounds: As the ac system starts to build pressure, you may hear what sounds like water going through pipes or a swooshing noise. It usually has to do with the expansion valve or the orifice tube that the Freon is expanding through.

Other a/c problems

A leaking air conditioning condenser.
Leaking air conditioning condenser.

In addition to hearing noises from the air conditioning system, drivers may notice that it just isn’t working correctly. Maybe hot air is blowing out of the vents when the AC is turned on, or no air is coming out at all.

Air conditioning problems can be the result of several issues. A constricted air conditioning condenser and being low on freon are among the possible reasons why the a/c isn’t working.

Our Woodbridge mechanics can perform car ac repair services. This includes a/c diagnostics and electrical diagnostics, replacing parts, and tracking down any leaks. Check out this article we wrote to learn more about the a/c repair services we offer and what you can do to maintain this system. Conducting noise diagnostics is another service we offer.

An air conditioning condenser fan.
Air conditioning condenser fan.

If you are hearing any noises that are listed above or others that we didn’t mention – whether they are coming from the air conditioning or not – reach out to us. We can help you determine 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.

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Hyundai radiator overheating Woodbridge, Virginia

In Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

A car overheating is a good indicator that something is wrong.

If you pair smoke coming from under the hood with the vehicle being low on coolant, the signs may be pointing to a bad radiator. This happened to a Hyundai Santa Fe, which received a new radiator on Tuesday.

After completing the Hyundai radiator replacement, a coolant fluid exchange was performed.

A coolant fluid exchange was conducted on a Hyundai after the radiator was replaced.
Coolant fluid exchange

We could have simply topped off the coolant after replacing the radiator. However, a coolant flush comes with a couple of benefits. Not only does it help clean out the rest of the system, it also speeds up the process of moving air out. 

Check out this article to learn more about coolant fluid exchanges and why they’re important.

What does a radiator do in a car? How do I know when my radiator is bad?

A car radiator is one of the components that is responsible for keeping the engine cool. If everything is working correctly, hot coolant goes into the radiator and exits at a cooler temperature.

There is no set length for a radiator’s lifespan. They typically need to be replaced when they begin to leak or get clogged.

There are a few clues that you have radiator problems. Other than the car overheating or having less coolant than it should, you may notice a coolant leak or that the color of the fluid has changed.

Different reasons why your Hyundai radiator overheating

There is a large variety of Hyundai vehicles. These include: the Hyundai Accent, Hyundai Elantra, Hyundai Ioniq, Hyundai Palisade, Hyundai Kona, Hyundai Santa Cruz, Hyundai Santa Fe, Hyundai Sonata, Hyundai Tucson, Hyundai Veloster, and Hyundai Venue.

Different culprits could cause a Hyundai radiator overheating problem. Most likely, there is a coolant leak or some sort of issue with the cooling system.

These are some possible reasons:

  • Radiator leaking from seals and the plastic end caps: A common place for a leak is the end caps. The middle of the radiator is made out of aluminum and a seal connects it with the end caps, which are plastic. Something also could have hit the radiator, and it’s leaking due to damage.
  • Radiator coolant reservoir leaking: Radiator coolant reservoirs have hoses that go to them. Sometimes, the plastic cracks a little and coolant seeps out overtime. Next thing you know, you’re low on coolant. 
  • Thermostat problems: The thermostat could be stuck. Also, a lot of times on Hyundais the thermostat housing will have a couple of hoses going to it. There are a couple of seals where the housing bolts to the cylinder head. That is a common area where leaks occur.
  • Bad water pump: As the water pump starts to go bad – due to age or mileage – coolant may start to leak out of the weep hole, which tells you the water pump seals are going bad. Sometimes, the water pump belt can break, preventing the water pump from spinning and coolant from circulating through the engine.
  • Radiator fan: The fans on these vehicles are electric, and the motor can just go bad. It could even be a fuse or a control problem, such as a cooling fan sensor. This measures the temperature of the coolant and, once it reaches a certain temperature, the fan will turn on. There’s also a coolant fan resistor, an electronic component that helps keep things from burning up electrically. However, if that goes bad, the cooling fan won’t work.
  • Cracked cylinder head: The cylinder head having a crack in it is a more drastic problem. This can result in exhaust gasses being pushed into the cooling system. Coolant may also be leaking into the cylinder and burning out through the engine and out of the tailpipe. Cylinder gaskets can also go bad and start to deteriorate, causing coolant to leak into the engine or exhaust gasses entering the cooling system.
  • Car repair not done correctly: Drivers could have their vehicle repaired and still be experiencing an overheating problem. There is a bleed procedure, where air is bled out of the cooling system. If that isn’t done correctly, there’s still air traveling through the system and could still cause the car to overheat, even if you replaced something that was broken or leaking earlier.

Radiator repair services at HomeTowne

When it comes to radiators, you get what you paid for. Investing in a good radiator and high quality coolant can prevent engine damage and other problems in the future.

Our Woodbridge mechanics are able to perform radiator repair services and address Hyundai radiator overheating issues. In addition to replacing the radiator, we are able to remove and install new components that are associated with it and the cooling system.

Two of our technicians replacing the radiator on a Hyundai.
Hyundai radiator replace in

If you are replacing the radiator, it’s a very good idea to change the upper and lower radiator hose, especially if you’re over a certain mileage – like about 50,000 or 60,000 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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Wheel alignment machine upgraded

In Vehicle Alignment by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire is keeping up with advancements in technology.

Our wheel alignment machine has received some upgrades. It may not seem like a big deal, but these improvements are helping speed up the process and increase our capabilities.

Before these changes, we needed to find the specifications and perform a custom alignment, a time consuming process. Now, we have the information we need for vehicles that have come out between 2018 and 2022.

Depending on the car, we may have to recalibrate the steering angle sensor. We have the computers and software to do that.

A lot of shops haven’t been able to keep up with upgrades, due to COVID-19, and can even be 2 to 5 years behind. We try to stay up-to-date on technology so we can better serve our customers.

We also provide our technicians with training on the latest techniques, tools and tips.

In addition to working on vehicles owned by our customers, our Woodbridge tire shop performs car alignments on those from other auto repair shops as well as body shops.

When and why to get a wheel alignment

Wheel alignments are one of the services our Woodbridge mechanics are able to perform.

Recommended once a year or when you have tires replaced, a car alignment prevents premature tire wear. You can learn more about why we suggest having it checked yearly by reading this article we published. An alignment can also be thrown off by suspension wear, or hitting a curb or pothole.

There are a few symptoms that could make an appearance when you need a tire alignment. When you have a bad wheel alignment, you may notice uneven tire wear, the vehicle pulling to one side, and a steering wheel that seems to be crooked or uncentered.

The car alignment process

During the tire alignment process, special targets are attached to and read the direction of the wheels. The CCD camera reads the targets showing where the angles are. The technicians use this information as they manually adjust the car until the readings are correct.

Caster, camber and toe are the specifications checked during a wheel alignment. “Camber” describes how tires are angled in or out, and “caster” explains how much they tilt to the front or back. “Toe” refers to their position in relation to a vehicle’s center.

We also have the equipment to reset the Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS). ADAS, which is used on a lot of vehicles nowadays, includes park assist, collision avoidance, and blind spot detection. 

The vehicle’s alignment has to be within specification in order to reset anything in the ADAS system.

One aspect that is missed at a lot of shops is the ride height of the car. Most vehicles have struts. On cars and SUVs, there will be a strut coil spring set up on all four corners. The height can drop, due to the spring losing a little bit of their tension. That can impact the handling of the vehicle, as well.

We measure the ride height, measure the angles of the wheels, because sometimes it will require replacing some parts to bring everything back to the way the manufacturer intended.

So, it isn’t just a matter of setting the toe. It’s about looking at the ride height, and checking the caster, camber and thrust angle. All these factors can affect other systems in a 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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When to replace tires

In Tires & Wheels by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Car tires nowadays are more durable and last longer than they used to.

However, they only last so long, and at some point they need to be replaced.

Drivers shouldn’t wait more than 8 to 10 years before getting new tires, but – depending on weather conditions – it might be closer to 6 years.

As tires age, the compound can start to harden a bit, possibly causing some traction issues – especially if it’s cold.

How do you know when to replace tires?

There are a few indicators that will tell you when to replace tires.

Cracked tires, or tires that have cracks on the sidewall, is one sign. This can occur because of age or the climate.

At that stage, the chance of the tire blowing out when you hit a rock, curb or pothole also increases. Depending on where it blows out, it could impact your ability to control the vehicle safely.

Taking a look at the tire tread depth will also give you an idea of where your tires are at. Performing the penny test is a quick way to check the tire tread, which must be at least 2/32 of an inch to pass the Virginia safety inspection. Most manufacturers start to recommend changing out the tires at 3/32, 4/32 or 5/32 of an inch, because the ability to stop, go, and move water away to maintain contact with the road diminishes greatly. 

Technician performing the penny test on a tire.
Tire penny test

To conduct the tire penny test, hold a penny on the grooves, with the top of Abraham Lincoln’s head down. If you can see the top of his head, you should replace the tire.

The tread wear indicators becoming visible means it’s definitely time to change the tires. For some vehicles – if the alignment is out – the tread wear indicator can hit on the inside or outside of the tire, compared to the rest of it. So, not only should you get a new tire you also need to figure out what’s going on with the alignment. Do you have a problem with the suspension system? Is it just out of alignment?

Tire damage: Not all tires are repairable

You may also need to get new tires when there is tire damage.

Maybe you were driving in a construction zone and ran over a nail, causing you to end up with a flat tire. You might hit a pothole or a curb a certain way, and cause damage to the sidewall or the tire to blow.

Sometimes, a tire just needs a plug patch. But other times – depending on the location and angle of the injury, a tire may not be repairable. It can’t be fixed if the damage is on the inner or outer shoulder. We talk more about when a tire is repairable in this article.

How to maintain your tires

Maintenance can help extend the life of your vehicle’s tires. Wheel alignments and tire rotations are two ways to do that.

One benefit of tire alignments, which are recommended once a year or when you purchase new tires, is that they prevent uneven tire wear. If you notice that your tires aren’t wearing evenly, it’s one sign you may notice when it’s time for a wheel alignment.

Having tire rotations done on a regular basis prevents tires from getting used to being on the front or back of the vehicle, which have different weight distributions.

Lifespan of tires

When to replace tires depends, in part, on their lifespan. So, how long do tires last? That depends on the manufacturer, the quality of the tire, and how it’s produced. 

Cheap tires, for example, won’t hold up as well or handle different weather conditions as others.

The lifespan of tires can vary. Good tires can last anywhere from 45,000 miles to 90,000 miles. This can be impacted by driving and weather conditions.

Michelin, BFGoodrich and Uniroyal produce a variety of reliable, all season tires. Some that we recommend include the Michelin CrossClimate 2 Tire, the BFGoodrich Advantage T/A Sport Tire, and the Uniroyal Tiger Paw Touring A/S Tire.

Vehicles, however, come in different sizes and have differing needs. So, before you buy a set of tires, reach out to a tire repair shop you trust to get their feedback and make sure any you are considering will be a good fit.

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.