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My car won’t start. What’s wrong?

In Automotive Diagnostics by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

It is very inconvenient when your car won’t start, especially if you have somewhere to be.

There are many possible culprits behind this issue.

The problem could be as simple as a car battery, alternator or starter going bad. It could also be a more complex issue.

Dead Battery 

If you hear a clicking sound or the check engine light turns on, the battery might need replacing.

Batteries can go bad for a number of reasons. Leaving your lights on is one that many of us are familiar with. 

There could also be a problem with the charging system or corrosion on the battery terminals. Electronics in your vehicle, such as clocks and computers, can eventually cause your battery to die.

Old and weak car batteries are more likely to go bad when it’s extremely hot or cold outside.

Starter going bad

A vehicle may not turn over if it has a bad starter, which is responsible for starting the engine.

It has a gear that shoots out and quickly spins, starting the flywheel.

A clicking sound can be a sign that you need a new starter. However, a car with a bad starter won’t easily start even when a jumper box or jumper cables are used. Here are some other signs that your starter is going bad.

A starter will, at times, stop working without warning.

If you turn you over a few times, you may be able to hit it right and get your car started. 

However, if this tactic doesn’t work you probably need to have it towed to a repair shop.

Alternator problems

The alternator is responsible for generating electricity, which is used for electronics or to recharge the battery.

An alternator going bad is another reason why a car won’t start.

This can be indicated by the battery light turning on or flickering. The alternator may be struggling to charge the battery, which can make it difficult to start a vehicle.

In addition to the alternator going bad, the problem may have to do with brushes or diodes. A serpentine belt could also have gotten caught around the alternator.

Other reasons why a car won’t start

Issues with a vehicle refusing to start could be more complicated and lie with a sensor or control system not functioning.

The transmission sensor, for example, could be the reason.

There may also be a problem with the fuel system, such as a bad fuel pump or the fuel filter becoming clogged.

Whatever the reason behind your car not starting, you should bring it to a mechanic or auto repair shop as soon as possible. 

Even if you’re able to get it started again, you might not be as lucky next time.

Also, the sooner you can bring it to a repair shop, the sooner they can pinpoint the issue and have you back on the road again.

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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HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire offering financing option

In Uncategorized by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire in Woodbridge, Virginia is now offering financing.

We understand that times are tight, and you may need some tires or work done on your vehicle but you don’t have the cash right now.

Customers can receive up to six months of interest-free financing on any purchases that exceed $200.

We don’t push to financing, because there is a minimum monthly payment that needs to be made.

If you are interested, make sure you pay all of it off before the six months. Otherwise, you will be charged with all the interest.

Of course, with those financing options, the interest rates can be higher than normal. But if that helps you out, we do have that option.

You can apply online through the Synchrony website before you get here, or we can complete the application for you.

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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Uniroyal tire that offers good grip year-round

In Tires & Wheels by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Many of us are on the road for extended periods – whether it’s for road trips, commuting, or weekend activities.

With the amount of time we spend traveling, we might as well feel comfortable while embarking on those adventures. Plus, it can help the miles melt away for drivers and their passengers.

This is possible when you’re using a high quality tire, like the Uniroyal Tiger Paw GTZ All Season 2 Tire.

The comfortable, quiet ride it provides – a trait that can be attributed to the tread design – is one of the all season tire’s perks. 

Reliable in wet, snowy conditions

The ride that the Uniroyal Tiger Paw GTZ All Season 2 Tire offers isn’t just comfortable and quiet. It’s a confident ride, as well.

Made up of wide, circumferential tread grooves and an all season compound, it can be trusted in dry and wet conditions. 

The Uniroyal Tire also features traction snow bars, allowing it to provide good traction in areas that see some winter weather.

This makes it a good option for those living or working in Northern Virginia, where the winters tend to be pretty mild. Other than a snowstorm that occurs every once in a while, the region typically gets a little snow and ice.

Virginia weather can be a bit unpredictable – freezing temperatures one week and feeling like summer the next. It’s nice to have a tire that can handle both.

Simply put, the Uniroyal Tiger Paw GTZ All Season 2 Tire does what a lot of drivers need it to – perform well in any season.

Uniroyal Tiger Paw GTZ All Season 2 Tire lasts up to 50,000 miles

The last thing you should be concerned about when driving down the road is whether your tires are going to make it to your destination.

Anyone who purchases the Uniroyal Tiger Paw GTZ All Season 2 Tire doesn’t need to be concerned about it wearing out anytime soon. 

Tru-Last Technology handles stress this Uniroyal tire experiences, enabling it to wear evenly and over a long period of time. Because it comes with a 50,000 mile warranty, it can last the average driver a few years.

The Uniroyal Tiger Paw GTZ All Season 2 Tire comes in a wide range of sizes and can be found on vehicles that use a sporty size tire, including Mercedes, Audis, or Honda Civics.

Uniroyal Tire has been around for many years. It produces dependable tires that enable drivers to stay on budget. The Uniroyal Tiger Paw Touring A/S Tire is another great option. 

If you aren’t sure what tire is best for your vehicle and fits your budget, contact a local tire shop near you. The staff should be able to share the different options available and discuss the benefits they offer. 

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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Is your car ready for winter?

In Vehicle Maintenance by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Is your car ready for winter?

As the upcoming season approaches, it’s important to make sure that it’s prepared as much as possible.

Here are a few items you should check as the cooler months begin to settle in:

  • Windshield wipers: One of the things that you’ll want to look at are your wiper blades to see if they are streaking on the windshield, or if the ends are cracked or damaged. 
  • Windshield washer fluid: You’ll want to take a look at your washer fluid to make sure it’s set for the correct temperature levels. Around here, – 20 is good. There’s another good reason why the windshield washer fluid should be checked – sometimes, drivers will pre-dilute it during the warmer months. This can result in the tank freezing and cracking as colder temperatures set in.
  • Defroster and heat: Speaking of the windshield, make sure to test the defroster, which is especially handy on those mornings we see frost and after we get some snow. We also recommend you check to see if you have any car heater problems.
  • Antifreeze: Checking your antifreeze level and also the protection level of the antifreeze are a couple of other ways you can get your car ready for winter. Just because the antifreeze may look green, or red, or blue – depending on the car – you actually want to make sure that the temperature protection level is good.
  • Coolant: Coolant is another important fluid that needs to be looked at. This fluid helps the engine continue to run at a safe temperature, preventing it from overheating. 
  • Car battery: Check the level in the battery, make sure that it’s alright. Weak batteries often die in extremely hot or cold temperatures. Some of them don’t have a way for you to check the water, but you can actually have a little eyelet that shows green or red if it’s good.
  • Tire pressure: It’s a great time to check your tire pressure, because the PSI can drop with the temperature. If you notice that the tires seem lower than usual, this is probably the issue. Only one tire looking low, however, could mean that you have a flat. It’s OK to run maybe 1 pound extra, just for the temper variation with the Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS), trying to keep that light out as the temperature drops.
  • Lights: With it getting dark as early as it is right now, it’s a great time to check the lights, but especially your headlights – making sure that they’re working and that the lenses are clear.

If you aren’t sure whether something needs to be repaired or serviced or have any questions, reach out to a repair shop near you. It’s best to take care of it now, rather than trying to figure it out on the side of the road or when you need to be somewhere.

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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CrossClimate SUV Tire – an all season tire for SUVs, crossovers

In Tires & Wheels by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Having tires that you can count on whether it’s sunny or snowing is important.

The Michelin CrossClimate SUV tire is an all season tire available for SUVs and crossovers.

Featuring wet and dry traction, it is certified for snow traction.

This tire’s V-shaped tread design, deep sipes and emerging grooves enable it to last longer in wet and snowy weather.

It has a 50,000 mile tread life warranty and provides great grip in the warmer and cooler months.

In addition to the CrossClimate SUV, Michelin also produces the CrossClimate 2 tire and CrossClimate Plus tire. 

All of these tires and more options can be found at HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire. 

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

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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 flush

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 being performed.
Brake Fluid Exchange

What happens during brake fluid exchanges

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.

Indicators of brake failure

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 cause 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 the result of 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.

The Anti-Lock Brake System (ABS) Light on a vehicle.
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 Automotive Diagnostics by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Your car heater can be just what you need on chilly winter, fall or spring days. However, there may come a time where you flip it on and feel cold air blowing through the vents – even after the vehicle has been running for a while. 

What can cause this unpleasant occurrence? Well, a car heater blowing cold air can be the result of a few problems. It could indicate:

  • More coolant is needed
  • There is a problem with the heater core
  • The thermostat isn’t functioning correctly
  • The heater control has become blocked or broken

Below is more information about these different issues.

Car heater problems? Here’s what it could be.

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. Blockages may be caused by papers, mouse nests or other objects. If the car heating problem is occurring on an older car, there might be something wrong with the cables for the heater control.

What do I do if my heater is blowing cold air?

When you realize you have a car heater problem, take a few minutes to look at the heating system. You or one of your passengers could have accidentally pressed the wrong button or adjusted the settings.

Once you have confirmed that everything appears to be set correctly, contact a nearby car repair shop. They may be able to help you troubleshoot it. They can also have one of their mechanics take a look if it seems to be a deeper issue, or diagnostic testing is needed to resolve the problem.

HomeTowne Auto Repair offers car heater repair services. Our automotive technicians can help you figure out where the trouble lies and restore that precious heat to your 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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What causes a check engine light to turn on?

In Automotive Diagnostics by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

During your daily travels or on extended trips, you may have noticed your car’s check engine light turn on.

This symbol isn’t one that should be ignored for long. When it appears on the dashboard, it’s cluing you in that there’s a problem. What that issue is exactly … well, that mystery can take some time to solve. The root cause could span a number of components and various systems.

Every vehicle is made up of a different set of monitors. Some examples include fuel monitors, EVAP monitors, and catalyst monitors.

The car is constantly testing itself, with several tests performed at one time. Each test has a certain parameter, and a code is sent if something is wrong.

Flashing check engine light

Check engine light on Kia Optima.

Before we delve into the possible culprits behind a check engine light, we want to point out that you should avoid driving a vehicle if the icon is blinking.

If you’re driving when this occurs, pull over to a safe location and have it towed to a mechanic or auto repair shop you trust. Continuing to drive the car when the light is blinking can lead to catalytic converter damage.

A lot of times, a flashing check engine light may indicate a large misfire. You could have a bad spark plug or ignition coil. It’s also possible that a fuel injector is failing or the driver inside the computer isn’t sending the signal to that cylinder.

It’s OK to use the car if the light remains solid, but we recommend getting it looked at as soon as possible. Bringing the vehicle in sooner rather than later allows the automotive expert to address any major problems. This also makes it easier for them to figure out the initial code (and helps up the diagnostic testing process).

Check engine light causes

Numerous problems can lie behind a check engine light.

Maybe the spark plugs or ignition coils are going bad, or there’s a malfunctioning sensor. You might have a loose gas cap that needs to be tightened. Being low on oil is another possibility.

Spark plugs.

The could be a sign that the catalytic converter isn’t working right. This was the case with a Dodge Caravan we worked on.

Problems with the circuit system, catalyst system and coolant system are also reasons why the symbol appears.

A misfiring engine is a more serious issue that the icon would point out.

Here are other potential check engine light causes:

  • Problems with the transmission
  • Oxygen sensors
  • Evaporative system issues
  • Anti-lock braking system (ABS) problems
  • Wrong oil

Other symptoms to watch for

If you see the check engine light turn on, make sure to note when it appeared. We also recommend that you keep an eye (or ear) out for other symptoms. 

Does the vehicle feel like it’s running rough? Do you hear any noises? Did any other dashboard lights come on?

The sounds and behaviors you notice can vary. So, just be aware of anything out of the ordinary.

Some of your observations might not seem important. However, sharing these details with an automotive professional can narrow down their search as they track down what’s causing your check engine light problem.

HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire is an authorized Michelin and BFGoodrich tire dealer located near Lake Ridge, 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.

Leaves and pine needs in a car's cowling area.
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.

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. 

Why you should clean the cowling area

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.

Cabin air filter types

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.