Articles:

Wheel Bearings

Question: I remember my dad having the shop “pack the bearings” on the family car. Is this something I need to have done? Hometown Garage Answer: That's a really good question. At one time, all wheel bearings were “serviceable” and needed to be taken care of from time to time. It's a little trickier these days. First off, the wheel bearings in your vehicle make sure your wheels rotate smoothly. As you can imagine, with all those revolutions per minute your wheels can generate a lot of heat. The bearings keep that heat down as much as possible. They're packed in grease for lubrication. The term “packing the bearings” refers to putting fresh grease around the bearings. On many modern vehicles, the wheel bearing assembly is sealed. These wheel bearings are not serviceable so there is no maintenance that can be performed on them. When the bearings wear, the entire assemb ... read more

Engine Air Filter

Today's Hometown Garage post focuses on the importance of protecting your mass air flow sensor or MAF. Air and fuel are mixed together to be burned in your engine. The amount is controlled by how hard you press on the accelerator or by external factors like climbing hills or hauling loads. Based on how much air you need – and how much is available – your engine management computer tells your fuel injection system how much fuel to send to your engine. But what if the computer is getting the wrong information about how much air is coming into your engine? Well, it would send the wrong amount of fuel and your engine performance would suffer. The Mass Air Flow (MAF) sensor measures the volume, temperature and density of the air flowing into your engine. With that information, the computer calculates how much oxygen is available to burn and adjusts the amount of fuel it sends. A dirty or damaged MAF sensor can give the wrong readings, hurt your fuel economy, damage the cata ... read more

Alternator

Your alternator makes electricity to start and run your engine and all of the electrical systems in your vehicle. That’s everything from the on-board computers to the turn signals. And of course there is the entertainment system, seat heaters, power window, and everything you plug into the power outlets. After your alternator makes enough electricity to do all that, it recharges your battery with what’s left over. When you constantly have a low or dead battery, the alternator is usually a prime suspect. However, the alternator is just one component of the starting/charging system, and a problem with any of the other components could be the actual cause. In addition to the alternator, the charging/starting system includes the battery, starter, serpentine belt system and all of the electrical cables that connect them. Your Hometown Garage technician has a systematic process of testing components and connections to get to the source of your problem. The initial symptoms dete ... read more

Anti-Lock Brakes

Anti-lock brakes (ABS) help you stop faster. That is not always the case on loose gravel or snowy surfaces. Anti-lock brakes, in fact, are designed to help you maintain control of your vehicle in an emergency braking situation. Imagine you are driving on a snowy CT road. You need to slam on your brakes and your rear wheels lock up. Chances are good that the rear end of your vehicle will try to pass the front end and you can easily lose control. What would happen in the same circumstance if your front wheels locked up? Well you certainly would not be able to steer properly and your front end would go to wherever momentum leads it. The ABS modulates your brakes on and off as many as 15 times a second. This keeps your wheels from locking up while providing the greatest amount of braking possible. You are better able to steer your vehicle and maintain control. Portland service advisors often talk about the 3 S's of anti-lock brakes: Stomp – Stay – Steer. Stomp on ... read more

Exhaust

Question:My car failed its emissions test – what do I need to do? Hometown Garage Answer: Let's get this out of the way: a leak in your exhaust system could be deadly. If Portland drivers smell exhaust in the passenger cabin or hear an unusual exhaust sound, they should get their exhaust system checked and repaired. Talk to your friendly and knowledgeable service advisor at Hometown Garage. Carbon monoxide in your exhaust is odorless, colorless and tasteless can be fatal to you and your passengers, so don't delay if you suspect an exhaust leak. There could be a number of reasons for a failed CT emissions test so some diagnostic work is in order. A common reason is that the catalytic converter has failed. The catalytic converter removes some of the harmful elements in exhaust. When a catalytic converter fails it must be replaced, which isn't cheap for Portland drivers. Many Portland folks stop th ... read more

Spark Plugs

In Portland, CT, the days when Portland drivers changed their spark plugs every couple of years has ended. Back in the day, spark plugs really did wear out that often. A couple of things are different now… First, spark plugs are made of better materials that last longer for Portland drivers and they're designed better. The second reason spark plugs used to have to be changed in vehicles and other autos was that they were fouled up with carbon deposits. The deposits built up when fuel wasn't burned completely. With modern engine management controls that just doesn't happen as often. Engine control computers precisely time when fuel is injected into the engine and when spark plugs fire. Unless something's wrong, spark plugs just don't foul like they used to. Electricity from the battery goes into a coil that allows power to build up to anywhere from 12,000 to 45,000 volts, depending on the vehicle. The engine management computer tells the coil when to releas ... read more

Check Engine Light

When your Check Engine light comes on, you may be torn between utter panic and just wanting to ignore it and hope it goes away. That's perfectly understandable. That same Check Engine light could come on for anything from a serious engine or transmission problem all the way down to a loose gas cap. There's a very common misconception that the trouble codes stored in your engine computer when your check engine light comes on will specifically identify a problem. It's really more like pointing to the symptoms of a problem. Call Hometown Garage at 860.342.5777 for help with your Check Engine light. Think of taking your temperature. Say it's 101°. Your heat sensor – the thermometer – tells you that your temperature is out of the normal range. But it doesn't tell you why you have a fever. Is it the flu or a sinus infection? You need more information, more tests. For any ... read more

Steering

Steering is one of the things we Portland drivers take for granted in our vehicles. Let's break it down into two areas: first, the power assist and second,  the actual parts that steer the vehicle. Most drivers in Portland, CT, who are under 40 have never driven a vehicle without power steering. Most vehicles in CT today have a hydraulic power steering pump that provides boost to help you steer. The pump is usually driven by the serpentine belt, but some newer vehicles in CT have an electric pump. Some Portland vehicles even have an electric motor that directly powers the steering. The important thing to keep in mind is that these pumps and motors will eventually wear out and the hoses will start to leak. Portland drivers can postpone that day by having a power steering service at Hometown Garage from time to time. We will drain the old fluid and replace it with fresh fluid. This rem ... read more

Axles

Question: I hear a clunking sound from my front wheel when I make a turn. What could be the problem? Question: I hear a clunking sound from my front wheel when I make a turn. What could be the problem? Hometown Garage Answer: One possible cause of the problem is a worn axle. Front-wheel drive vehicles have axles that transfer power from the transmission to your front wheels. There is one for each front wheel. These axles are called constant velocity axles or CV axles for short. Rear-wheel drive vehicles have axles that are in back and run between the differential and the rear wheels. Of course, all-wheel drive vehicles will have an axle at each wheel. When a front CV axle goes bad, it will make a clunking noise as you make a slow turn. When a rear axle goes bad, the clunking or moaning sound will be in the back. Now there really isn't any preventive maintenance you can have performed to make your axles last longer, but you can ha ... read more

Alignments

It's no surprise that your vehicle will drive better in the Middletown area if all the wheels are pointed in the same direction. That's called wheel alignment. If your wheels are out of alignment you may notice that your vehicle pulls to one side or the other. Something that you won't notice right away, but you will if you keep driving around when you're out of alignment, is that your tires are wearing unevenly and fairly quickly. That's because when the vehicle is pulling to one side, you have to steer it back straight. The outside of the tire just wears out faster because you're constantly turning, which can be very exhausting on a long road trip – fighting to keep the vehicle going straight down the road. Some of the things that commonly throw a wheel out of alignment are slamming into a pothole, smacking a curb or something like a rock. And it doesn't have to be a big shock, i ... read more

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