Articles:

That Sinking Feeling (Suspension Failure)

There's nothing quite like the feeling of driving down the road and, suddenly, the back end of your vehicle collapses. A possible cause is that something in your suspension has broken.  Suspension components gradually wear out – you may not even notice the ride and handling slowly getting worse.  But a sudden failure is unnerving and will often leave you unable to drive your vehicle. A broken spring can cause your suspension to drop suddenly.  There are different types of springs, including coil springs, leaf springs, and air springs.  Most vehicles these days use coil springs, and they look just like you think they'd look: a coiled-up metal spring like what you'd find if you took apart a ballpoint pen.  Coil springs fail from rust (thanks, brine and road salt), trauma (think potholes, speed bumps, curbs) and just plain metal fatigue.  Leaf springs are often used in larger vehicles such as trucks and large SUVs.  The design has bee ... read more

Brake Maintenance

If you feel a slight shudder or vibration coming through your brake pedal when you stop, it could be a sign you need some brake work done. That gets you thinking, how long should my brakes last anyway? It depends on a lot of factors.  But for discussion's sake, let's talk about the components that wear out most often, the pads and rotors. One factor is how you drive.  If you drive on highways a lot, you won't use your brakes as much as, say, someone who lives in the city and is in the middle of a lot of stop-and-go traffic. Do you drive a lot in the mountains? Do you tow a trailer or haul heavy loads? Those driving habits will all wear down your pads and rotors more quickly than someone who doesn't put that extra friction on their brake components. Do you love jackrabbit starts and squealing stops?  That will wear out your brakes more quickly than smoother driving habits.  Do you drive a hybrid or electric vehicle? In that case, you may have reg ... read more

Tire Rotation and Balancing Q&A

Question How do I know when I should get my tires rotated and balanced? Answer The interval for tire rotation could depend on a recommendation from either the tire manufacturer or the vehicle maker.  The interval is typically around 5,000 miles but could range from 3,000 to 8,000 miles.  The background question is why do tires need to be rotated? Front tires wear differently than the rear tires because steering wears the shoulders faster up front.  Rotating the position of the tires allows for more even wear among all the tires.  Now the suspension set-up on certain vehicles may also affect the relative wear between the front and rear. There are several rotation patterns – your service advisor will see that you get the correct pattern for your particular vehicle. Wheels and tires are not perfectly balanced due to slight variations in the manufacturing process and the placement of tire pressure monitoring sensors.  So, weights are strategically place ... read more

Air Conditioning Q&A

Question:Why isn't my air conditioner blowing cold air? Hometown Garage Answer: Your air conditioning system uses refrigerant to create cold air. The most common reasons Portland drivers lose their cold air have to do with the refrigerant. The first is not enough refrigerant. Refrigerant is a gas in the system, and very small holes in a hose, seal or coupler can allow enough to leak out to prevent the creation of cold air. Another potential problem for Portland auto owners is contamination. Over time the inside of the rubber hoses can deteriorate, and little bits of rubber can clog up various filters and other parts of the vehicle A/C system, preventing proper circulation of the refrigerant. And a component could also be worn or broken. So the first step for Portland drivers who can't cool their vehicle is a thorough ... read more

Wiper Blade Design

Wiper blades may not be the most exciting topic – but they are pretty important.  Most of us have had an experience when a sudden snow or rainstorm hits while we’re driving; then when we turn on the wipers – nothing but streaks.  This can be especially disconcerting at night when the glare of on-coming headlights distorts your vision. Simple answer: change your wiper blades before they fail.  Check them out every couple of months just to see how they are working.  Of course, the more you use your wipers, the sooner they’ll wear out.  People living with lots of storms or those who drive a lot where there are bugs and road grime will use their blades more. But even when you’re not using your blades, they are exposed to sunlight, ozone, soap, and extreme hot and cold temperatures which lead to deterioration.  Your blades can just rot away and fall apart before you need them.  Of course, using your wipers when the blades ar ... read more

Questions Answered-Air Conditioning

Question:Why isn't my air conditioner blowing cold air? Hometown Garage Answer: Your air conditioning system uses refrigerant to create cold air. The most common reasons Portland drivers lose their cold air have to do with the refrigerant. The first is not enough refrigerant. Refrigerant is a gas in the system, and very small holes in a hose, seal or coupler can allow enough to leak out to prevent the creation of cold air. Another potential problem for Portland auto owners is contamination. Over time the inside of the rubber hoses can deteriorate, and little bits of rubber can clog up various filters and other parts of the vehicle A/C system, preventing proper circulation of the refrigerant. And a component could also be worn or broken. So the first step for Portland drivers who can't cool their vehicle is a thorough ... read more

Tire Wear

Hometown Garage Tech Question: My name is Dan. My vehicle tires wore out early and I had to replace them. What can I do to make my tires last longer? Hometown Garage Answer: Dan's problem – premature tire wear – is very common for Portland residents. Here are several ways to lengthen the life of your tires: First, tires lose air pressure over time, so check them at least once a month and fill them up as necessary. A sticker on the driver's side door jamb has the recommended pressure. Tire rotation is also important to increase the life of tires. Your front tires take the brunt of stopping and steering forces so they wear faster than the rear tires. They should be rotated regularly so that all four tires wear more evenly. Talk to us at Hometown Garage in Portland for more information. Out of balance wheels can also cause a tire to wear too fast. Portland drivers who feel a vibration in their seat or steering ... read more

Cooling System

Question: My engine never overheats. Why should I get a cooling system service in Portland? Hometown Garage Answer: That's a really good question for Portland drivers to ask, because if you don't have the full answer you may end up in trouble. It would seem that if your engine is running at the proper temperature that everything must be OK. But the fact is that engine overheating is the most common cause of mechanical failure for Portland drivers. So how do you get from everything is just fine to suddenly overheating and potential engine damage? Truth is, it is not a sudden process, but it is an invisible one. Your engine coolant circulates through your engine where it absorbs heat and then flows through the radiator where it is cooled – and then back to the engine again. As long as the coolant is able to flow freely – and there are no leaks – t ... read more

Do I Need A New Battery?

Today’s vehicles have more electrical components and do-dads than ever before.  This really strains your electrical system, making it hard for the battery to keep up. Think about it: electric seats, seat heaters, power locks, windows and sunroofs.  And then we have all the power outlets for our cell phones, computers, and DVD players. We also have navigation systems and powerful stereos.  Plus, there are all the engine and transmission computers, traction control, stability control, anti-lock brakes, sensors and on and on. Even the security system is running off the battery while the car is turned off.  And of course, summer heat can take a real toll on battery life. Fortunately, battery technology has given us resilient batteries that are able to meet these strenuous requirements.  But the fact is; batteries just wear out over time.  Eventually, every battery gets to the point where it cannot hold enough of a charge to start your car. Sometimes bat ... read more

Fuel Pump

Hometown Garage Tech Question: I was driving on a local Portland road and my vehicle started sputtering. And then the engine finally quit and I couldn't get it started. I was towed to a shop in Portland and found out I had to replace my fuel pump. What could I have done to have saved my fuel pump? Hometown Garage Answer: This is a tough one for Portland residents because there isn't any maintenance recommended for fuel pumps. They're inside the fuel tank and you really can't get to them without removing the tank. But Portland drivers can do some things to make their job easier so they last a little longer. A lot of vehicles are equipped with a fuel filter on their gas line. This filters out dirt and rust from the gas tank before it gets to the engine. Replacing a clogged fuel filter as recommended reduces the strain on your fuel pump. Many newer vehicles driving around Portland have their fuel filter inside the ... read more

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