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Why is a brake fluid exchange important?

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

Car maintenance isn’t just about oil changes and wheel alignments. It also extends to your brake system.

When you step on the brake, the brake pad and brake rotor press against each other, creating heat and moisture. They don’t move very far, and neither does the brake fluid between them. 

The moisture that accumulates causes corrosion to build up. Corrosion can destroy a brake system from the inside out.

We recommend brake fluid exchanges every 30,000 miles. Because this typically coincides with brakes, which should be replaced every 40,000 to 50,000 miles, it’s a good idea to have both services done at the same time.

Why you should get a brake fluid exchange

Regular brake fluid exchanges prolongs the life of anti-lock braking systems (ABS), which prevents the brakes from locking up during emergencies, allowing you to maintain steering control.

This maintenance option also ensures that your brake pedal is firm.

If you wait too long for a brake fluid exchange, corrosion can build up on the inside of the calipers, which may result in the calipers dragging. Internal seals will deteriorate and prevent the calipers from pushing in and out correctly.

Another consequence is that the inside of the soft brake hoses will break down, restricting brake fluid flow.

The bleeders, which enable mechanics to perform a brake fluid exchange and release air, can also rust shut if they aren’t moved every once in a while.

Signs that you need a brake fluid exchange

It can be hard to know if you need a brake fluid flush, but there are some indicators. A low brake pedal is one of them. Another sign is a soft brake pedal, which can be caused by moisture in the system that’s starting to boil.

You also need to look into testing the brake fluid for contaminants and moisture. Just because the brake fluid looks dark – rather than clear – doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad. 

However, if the fluid is very dark and you can see particles floating in it, that’s the rubber material from the master cylinder or ABS that’s starting to come apart and mix with the brake fluid. That’s a good indicator that you need to change it.

Test strips and true boiling point measure for moisture are ways you can determine if you need a brake fluid flush. 

For most cars, every 30,000 miles is a good time to have this service performed. How often you have it done also depends on the manufacturer. If you are at 50,000 or 55,000 miles when you go in for your first brake job and a brake fluid exchange hasn’t been performed yet, you definitely need to do it.  

A lot of cars have computerized brake systems, such as ABS and traction control, where the manufacturer is starting to recommend brake fluid exchanges every 18 to 24 months to ensure the brake system is working correctly. So, you need to check your owner’s manual.

Brake Fluid Exchange
Brake Fluid Exchange

What happens during a brake fluid exchange

During a brake fluid exchange, our technicians connect a pressurized machine to the master cylinder. After adding new brake fluid to the machine and setting it to the appropriate pressure, they go to each wheel and remove the old brake fluid.

We use BG DOT 4 Brake Fluid, which aims to combat moisture, prevent rust and provides protection to the brake system. 

If you are considering a brake fluid exchange, it’s also important to make sure your vehicle doesn’t have electric brakes, which don’t require it.

How well a vehicle runs and lasts is determined, in part, by its maintenance. By staying up to date on braking fluid exchanges and other services, you can get the most out of your car.

You can learn more about brake fluid exchanges by checking out this video:

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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Brake failure symptoms and causes

In Brakes by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Many factors can lead to brake failure – cheap brakes, brake parts installed incorrectly, and brake wear are among them. 

Several symptoms indicate that brake repair is needed.

Grinding, squealing, rattling and groaning noises are all signs that there is a problem with your car’s brake pads.

The causes range from loose parts to a lack of lubrication, depending on the sound.

You should be watchful for excessive brake dust on the wheels. Brake dust can be a normal wear condition – as brakes wear down, they produce dust. But if you see a lot of brake dust on one or more wheels, that could be an indicator that your brakes may be getting low. If you have an excessive amount of brake dust on one wheel, you could have a brake caliper issue.

Cheap brake rotors and significant wear of pads and rotors could problems, as well.

If you’re driving down highway, or hills, or in traffic and you notice the brake pedal is pulsating, or moving back and forth, it’s an indication that your brake rotors have an excessive amount of run out, usually due to significant heat.

This can be caused by age and components becoming worn over time. Cheap brake parts may not have the same tolerances as your O.E. fitment parts and hold up to the heat as well. In addition, they could also give you a pulsating feeling sooner.

Not using high quality brake pads will wear more quickly than high quality ones. Whether their organic or semi-metallic will also determine how quickly they wear out.

TIP: One thing you don’t want to do is drive with two feet, with one resting on the brake pedal. Even resting your foot on the brake pedal will cause a small amount of pressure on the brake pads, causing them to wear faster. The pads putting constant pressure on brake rotors could cause excessive heat and warp your rotors. There are many times we’ve ridden with a customer who was wondering about having brake issues, and they didn’t realize they were driving with two feet. 

A vehicle’s Anti-Lock Brake System (ABS) warning light is another sign that something is wrong.

brake failure
ABS warning light

The ABS prevents brakes from becoming locked in an emergency. This enables you to keep steering control.

Various issues could prompt this light to turn on. These include a bad hydraulic pump or ABS module, malfunctions with the speed sensor or bulb check, and low brake fluid.

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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Common car heater problems

In Uncategorized by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Now is a good time to make sure your car heater is working properly.

When checking your heater or using it for the first time this season, you may notice that cold air is blowing out of the vents. Here are some common causes:

It needs more coolant: Hot air generates from the heater core. Coolant, which runs through the engine and heater core, becomes hot. Coolant has to go somewhere, so if you need to add coolant, it’s likely that there’s a leak. Coolant leaks, which are also known as “water leaks”, can develop anywhere – the heater core, radiator, heater hoses, thermostat, and other areas.

Problems with the heater core: The heater core can become blocked by scale, which is debris created by a chemical reaction. If the heater core is blocked, coolant isn’t able to enter it and send cold or hot air through the vents. 

The thermostat is malfunctioning: The thermostat expands and contracts, depending on the coolant’s temperature. If it’s stuck open, too much coolant is flowing, causing the engine temperature to stay too low. This can cause cold air to come through the vents. If the thermostat is stuck closed, the engine temperature becomes too hot.

Heater control is broken or blocked: The blendor actuator, or “blendor switch” – the knob on your dashboard – tells the actuator how much to open the door. This determines how hot or cold the air that enters your vehicle is. If it breaks or gets clogged, air – or the type of air you want – won’t flow through.

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

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What causes a check engine light to turn on?

In Automotive Diagnostics by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

A car’s check engine light isn’t an indicator that should be ignored.

The symbol clues you in that there’s a problem. The issue itself can span a number of components.

If your car’s check engine light is blinking, which means that there’s an engine issue, we recommend bringing it to a mechanic as soon as you can.

Waiting to have it checked out can cause catalytic converter damage.

A light that remains solid should be looked at soon.

Some causes include a dead car battery and spark plugs or ignition coils going bad.

The check engine light could indicate that the catalytic converter isn’t working right. This was the case with a Dodge Caravan we worked on last year.

Problems with the circuit, catalyst system and coolant system are also reasons why it turns on.

A misfiring engine is a more serious problem that the light would point out.

Before dropping your car off at an auto repair shop, make sure the gas cap isn’t loose. Loose fuel caps can trigger it, as well.

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

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Why you should change your cabin air filter and clean the cowling

In Cabin Air Filter by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Leaves will soon begin falling across Virginia.

They can become lodged in your car’s cabin air filter or the cowling area.

Cabin air filters clean the air that goes into the front of vehicles and prevent bacteria, dirt, dust and pollen from entering.

They keep the heating core and evaporator from getting blocked, as well.

Once or twice a year, it’s a good idea to clean out and vacuum the cowling area, where leaves, sticks and pine needles can build up.

Cowling area

The windshield wipers hook up at the cowling area and water from the windshield drains into it before running off the sides under the car.

It also houses the windshield wiper motor and air intake for the heating and air conditioning system and cabin air filter. 

Cleaning the cowling area can help keep your cabin air filter clean and prevents your car from smelling moldy. 

It’s important to have the cabin air filter replaced regularly. If it isn’t, it becomes more clogged and may add more stress to the blower motor.

In addition to leaves, cabin air filters may become home to animals that are seeking warmth or shelter.

One indicator that your cabin air filter isn’t working properly or it’s blocked by too many leaves or a mouse nest, is that particles will come out of the vent when you turn the air conditioning or heat on the highest setting. 

Cabin air filters should get changed every 10,000 to 20,000 miles, depending on the car’s make and model and where it’s driven.

A vehicle that travels down a dirt road every day may need to be replaced more often than one that goes from a driveway to the interstate.

Our technicians check cabin air filters during oil changes, as part of our courtesy inspection. They also spray the disinfectant BG Frigi Fresh into the air intake system.

So, what kind of cabin air filter should you use?

It’s like getting an air filter for your house – you can buy a $3 air filter or $30 air filter. 

Depending on the make model of the vehicle, you can spend $3 to 5 or up to $75 or $80 for a cabin air filter.

How the air filter is made, if it will get distorted, and the materials the filter is made out of also impact the price.

On some vehicles, like BMWs and Mercedes, they may have a charcoal filter built into them, which are going to be more expensive. Some vehicles have two cabin air filters, others have none.

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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Tell your auto repair shop everything

In Vehicle Alignment by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Details are key.

When dropping off your vehicle at an auto repair shop, it’s important to provide as much information as possible – whether it’s a noise you hear, work that has been done, or a recent incident. 

The driver of a Dodge Avenger brought their car in for a wheel alignment and explained that they had hit a curb.

Before performing alignments, our technicians complete a free courtesy inspection. During courtesy checks, they check various components, including the brakes and lights.

When looking over the Dodge Avenger, we noticed that a wheel and tire were damaged and that the wheel would shift back and forth when the brakes were applied. The lower control arm was broken, as well.

Auto repair shop
Broken lower control arm

Lower control arms are responsible for linking the frame with the suspension.

As one of the technicians removed the broken lower control arm, he saw that the subframe was bent and needed to be replaced.

auto repair shop
Old subframe

Providing details to your mechanic an idea of things we should be watchful for and steps we need to take to care of your car.

It can also prevent more damage from occurring.

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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Headlights: What’s checked during the Virginia Safety Inspection

In Car Safety by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

It’s starting to become darker earlier.

With the nights lengthening, it’s even more important that drivers have functioning headlights.

Headlights are among the parts that are looked over during the annual Virginia Safety Inspection. Brakes are another component.

In addition to making sure the assembly doesn’t shift, inspectors ensure there aren’t any cracks, which can alter the aiming pattern.

Why do we focus on this?

When you’re stopped at a traffic light or traveling down the highway, the headlights must be aligned in a certain way so you don’t blind oncoming traffic.

If a headlight is pointed up or to the left too much, it could impair the vision of other drivers and cause an accident.

We also check for headlights that are foggy or those that are too dim or too bright.

Our technicians can determine the candlepower and aiming with a headlight aligner machine.

The lifespan of a headlight depends on the type and how often it’s used.

If you choose to replace yours, verify that it’s approved by the SAE with the correct number. This will determine if the headlight can be used on the road.

Cheap headlights that fit your vehicle are available for purchase online; however, they might not be allowed for highway use. If not, you could get a ticket. Headlights that aren’t SAE approved also won’t pass the Virginia Safety Inspection.

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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Signs your water pump is going bad

In Uncategorized by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Your car’s water pump ensures that coolant is moving through the engine, preventing it from overheating.

You may need a new one if it’s corroding or loose, or the radiator is emitting steam.

An overheating engine and coolant leaking in the center of the car’s front end are also signs of a bad water pump.

Here are some recommendations for those who may have water pump problems and technicians who are looking into them.

One of our technicians installed a new pump on a Cadillac, which was overheating and had a coolant leak.

As the technician worked on it, he noticed that the drive belt and drive pulley had been shredded. We think this was caused by the pump locking up. 

Water pump
Shredded drive belt and drive pulley

To access it, the technician needed to remove the water pump housing, which includes part of the EGR system and Evaporative Emission Control System (EVAP) system.

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 T/A Sport Tire: A high quality, all-season tire

In Tires & Wheels by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Are you in the market for a high quality tire with a lower price point?

The BFGoodrich Advantage T/A Sport Tire may be the right fit for your vehicle.

With a 65,000 to 75,000 mile treadlife, this all season tire works well in dry and wet weather conditions. It features siping that helps push away water.

The BFGoodrich Advantage T/A Sport Tire is very similar to the Michelin Defender Tire, Michelin’s top tire.

Sizes are available for different types of vehicles, including trucks, SUVs and smaller cars.

HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire has a wide selection of tires. We also offer a nationwide road hazard warranty for all tires that we sell. 

This month, if you buy a set of four tires and a wheel alignment, you can receive road hazard at no charge.

To learn more about this BFGoodrich tire or any other tires, give us a call at (703) 594-4646 or visit us at 15698 Jefferson Davis Highway in Woodbridge.

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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Car windows on Subaru wouldn’t roll down

In Uncategorized by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Are your car windows refusing to roll up or down? There are a few different causes behind this.

A Subaru driver dropped off their vehicle at HomeTowne after realizing the passenger car windows weren’t working.

First, Charles checked the window switches. He then moved on to the motors for the passenger windows and learned they weren’t working.

Located in the car door, the window motor is one part that is needed to open and close the window.

When you press the switch, a current goes to the motor. This starts the regulator, which causes the window to go up and down.

For some vehicles, the motor and regulator can be ordered separately. In this case, they came as one assembly. 

car windows
Window Motor and Regulation Assembly

The motor going bad is one car window problem that can occur. It could also be installed incorrectly.

A window with automatic up and down may not roll down if a car battery has been changed or disconnected. Some drivers believe that the window is broken, when it just needs to be reprogrammed.

This issue can also happen with sunroofs. 

The window switch is another part that can stop working.

If your window isn’t opening or closing, it’s also a good idea to make sure the window lock button hasn’t been pressed.

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.