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23571 Pebble Run Place #150
Sterling, VA 20166

Tire Maintenance

Learn more about tire maintenance services that save you money over time and allow you to get the best life and performance out of your tires. Our services include mounting, balancing, and alignment services. We also provide TPMS services. Don't forget that we offer free alignment inspections and diagnostic checks.

Tire Mounting

Drake Auto is proud to be using some of the latest tire installation equipment on the market. With our Hunter Revolution tire installation machine, we can mount any size tire up to a 30 inch rim or 40 inch tire with touchless technology. Our equipment is fully automatic, so you don’t have to worry about scratches or broken TPMS tire pressure sensors. As of this writing, there are only two Hunter Revolution tire installation machines in the state of Virginia, and we are proud to have one of them.

What this means to you is that most older technology tire installation equipment uses clamps that come out from the center and press against the inside of the wheel. This can lead to dents in the rim from direct contact. Our equipment uses a center mount system that goes in the center of the wheel where the lug nuts are located, so we don’t have to touch the outside of the rim.

We can easily mount the hardest tires. With wheel prices upwards of $800 each on some exotic or custom cars, you don’t want a tire installation machine that clamps against the wheel. Many cars have a new style tire called a run flat. This means the sidewall is so stiff it can actually support the weight of the car for a short period of time while you drive your car to get the tire repaired. Another style of run flat tire has an insert inside the tire, where the air is, that supports the car in the event of a flat tire. The stiff sidewall of a run flat tire makes it very hard to install. Many auto repair shops and even some tire shops cannot install run flats. Or if they do, the technician installing the tires often has to use large pry bars or additional clamps to hold the tire down while the technician fights it onto the rim risking rim or tire damage.

Our specialized, fully automatic tire installation machine can easily handle the task of installing run flat tires with the same precision as with a standard car tire. Even if you have a large diameter rim with a very low profile tire we can do a clean trouble free installation with ease.

Some wide low profile and deep dish rims are called reverse mount. This is where the step on the inside of the rim is on the opposite side of the rim when compared to standard wheels. This means the rim will have to be set on the tire installation machine upside down with the shiney outside of the rim facing down. We have special adaptors to hold the wheel in the lug nut holes so the rim does not touch the machine. Since most reverse mount wheels are quite expensive this a very important feature to keep a clean scratch free tire installation.

Another type of rim is called a chrome clad. This type of wheel is mostly used by domestic car manufactures. It is a process where the outer side of the rim has a plastic coating bonded directly to the rim that looks like chrome. This plastic is permanent and if damaged the rim needs to be replaced. Some rims have a high spoke design where the spokes are higher than the outer bead area on the rim. With older technology tire installation equipment you run a risk of the mount head contacting the spokes causing potential damage. Only with touchless technology can you assure a clean trouble free tire installation. We have all the special adaptors to handle chrome clad and high spoke wheels with ease. We are serving Sterling, Ashburn, Leesburg, Herndon, Reston and all surrounding towns in Loudoun and Fairfax counties.

We welcome race car tires as well. Track or drag racing tires are no problem. With local car clubs using race and ¼ mile drag tracks like Summit Point, VIR and Budds Creek we can handle even the toughest installations.

Tire Balancing

Have you ever wondered why a new car rides so smooth? Automobile manufacturers use a piece of equipment that can match the tire to the rim for a perfect smooth new car feel. This equipment is now being used by Drake Auto in Sterling Virginia.

Drake Auto is proud to be using the Hunter 9700 Road Force tire balancing system. We are serving Sterling, Ashburn, Leesburg, Herndon, Reston and all surrounding towns in Loudoun and Fairfax counties.

With laser guided wheel weight placement and Road Force balancing you are assured a perfect tire balance every time with the minimal amount of wheel weight.

Road Force balancing is a technology where the computer controlled balancer has the ability to tell the tire installer exactly where to orient the tire on the rim. The Hunter Road Force balancer uses a drum roller that presses on the tire with 1500 pounds of force while the tire is spinning on the machine to simulate actual road conditions while the tire is still on the balancer. No need to road test to see if there will be a vibration at higher speed with the weight of the vehicle on the tire and wheel assembly. With older technology the tire installer just puts the tire on the rim and adds whatever weight the machine says to add to get the assembly balanced. This can lead to excessive wheel weights being added to the rim causing more rotating mass and leaving more room for error. This also does not take into account any tire manufacturer variation inside the tire.

With the Hunter Road Force balancer we use the drum system to show variation of the inner tire cords as well as the overall balance. Using this technology gives us the ability to mark the tire and wheel in different spots and then dismount the tire from the rim and align the marks to make the smoothest balance and least necessary wheel weights in the industry.

We also have the ability to use a system called Straight Track developed by Hunter equipment that gives us the ability to show lateral pull on all tires. With this we know exactly where to place each tire on the car to get the best balance between smooth ride and least lateral tire pull.

Improper tire balance can lead to other problems with your vehicle as well as excessive tire wear. Suspension shock absorbers and struts as well as ball joints, tie rods, control arms, motor mounts and bushing can all suffer from the excess vibration of an improper tire balance. Manufactures recommend tire balance check as often as every 5000 miles to help protect the investment you have in your vehicle.

Wheel weights are also a concern during tire balancing. The Hunter Road Force Balancer has hide behind the spoke technology as well. No more unsightly stick on wheel weights being visible between the spokes. We can split the weights up so they are installed behind the spokes. Here at Drake Auto we also use True Zinc coated wheel weights. Many tire shops use steel weights which can cause galvanic corrosion leading to rust between the weight and the rim due to the different types of metal reacting between the wheel weight and the metal rim. Some shops use coated steel weights which coats the weight with paint to insulate it from the metal wheel. The over time the steel inside the coated weight starts to corrode and eats through this paint coating leading to the same corrosion and rust problem as uncoated weights. This is why we use zinc. It will not corrode inside the coating so the next time you have your tires balanced you won’t have a corroded rust mark under the wheel weight. It is also important to install the wheel weight with a plastic tip hammer, not metal. A metal hammer can chip the wheel weight causing an open spot in the coating.

The next time you get your tires installed or balanced and the shop has a very low or free price for installation or balance you may want to remember the info above so you can ask the right questions.

Tire rotation is one of the most simple but neglected things to do to protect your tire investment. Many manufacturers recommend a tire rotation at each oil change or every 5,000 miles.

There are mainly 4 tire rotation patterns.

The modified X rotation pattern is where the rear wheels are crossed to the front and the front stay on the same side and move to the back for front wheel drive vehicles. For rear wheel drive vehicles the front tires are crossed to the rear and the rear stay on the same side and move to the front. Exceptions to this would be on SUV’s the tires get crossed and switched front to rear. Directional tires stay on the same side and go front to rear. Some vehicles have different size directional tires which can not be rotated. This makes proper alignment and balance even more critical.

Wheel Alignment

The Drake Auto team of Sterling, Virginia has the latest state of the art alignment machine available in the industry today. Our Hunter HawkEye Elite alignment system uses precision cameras to measure the targets on the wheels instead of older less accurate alignment machines that have the electronics on each wheel. With features like live ride height we can make even the finest adjustments to get the perfect alignment every time.

A good alignment machine in the hands of a skilled technician can make the difference between 5,000 mile tire life and a 50,000 mile tire life. Many tire problems are caused by misalignment. A bent control arm from a pothole impact or a bent tie rod from sliding into a curb in the snow can be hard to diagnose with older alignment technology.

Other tire problems like feathering and scalloping can be caused by worn suspension components like shock and struts or loose ball joints. The art is in being able to use modern technology to display things like thrust angle and steering axis inclination to properly diagnose what is causing premature tire wear.

Tires are one of the most expensive things that need to be replaced at a predetermined interval on your vehicle. When you spend extra money to get a 70,000 mile tire and it only lasts 50,000 miles due to poor alignment you have not spent your money well. You may have been better off getting a 50,000 mile tire and an alignment and saving money.

Automotive alignments don’t last forever. Even if you never hit a curb or a pothole your alignment can change. With as little as 20,000 miles on a car the suspension springs can start to sag. If they sag evenly you may never notice a difference in the steering wheel angle or the car pulling to one side or the other. But the alignment will be off since ride height effects a tire angle called camber and camber angle effects another angle called toe. Both camber and toe are tire wearing angles. They can cause uneven treadwear called scrubbing. Which can be noticed by running your hand in one direction around the tire tread and then moving in the other direction you can feel sharp edges on the rubber tread. This can contribute to tire noise and poor handling since the whole tire tread is not contacting the road. Tire noise is a symptom telling us something is wrong. Scalloping or uneven tread wear can lead to poor handling or hydroplaning since the whole tire tread is not contacting the road.

Proper alignment has a safety factor also. A poorly aligned car will not respond properly to steering wheel input and may cause unsafe handling characteristics with the vehicle.

Driving in heavy traffic like we have in our local Northern Virginia areas or even in the suburbs like Sterling and Ashburn, VA you may have to make fast driving decisions. And if your car’s alignment is not up to the task an unfavorable situation may result. Many manufacturers recommend an alignment check once a year or every 12,000 miles. We are serving Sterling, Ashburn, Leesburg, Herndon, Reston and all surrounding towns in Loudoun and Fairfax counties.

TPMS Services

Drake Auto of Sterling, Virginia is proud to be using the state-of-the-art Ateq VT-56 tire pressure monitor repair system. Tire pressure monitoring systems became mandatory in September 1, 2007 on all vehicles under 10,000 pounds. You may have seen the tire pressure light on your dash and thought I have survived all these years without it. If its on what can it hurt. Well actually the way modern cars are designed there are crush zones in the vehicle made to bend and flex in the event of an accident. These soft crush zones are designed around the fact that all the vehicle systems are functioning properly. Anti lock brakes are the first system affected by tire pressure. Improper tire to road contact or traction will alter the way the car skids. Or hopefully does not skid since that is the purpose of the “anti lock” brake system. There are also yaw rate sensors that tell when the car is leaning like at an exit ramp on the highway, as well as steering angle sensors and ride height sensors. All these systems are directly or indirectly affected by tire pressure.

There are mainly two types of TPMS systems. Direct and Indirect. A direct system has a monitor in each wheel that uses a transmitter and battery setup similar to your bluetooth headset. This battery is activated by the rotation of the wheel usually above 5 mph so it may last many years even if the car is sitting. They can go into sleep mode after just a few minutes of sitting still. Indirect tire pressure monitor system actually use the anti lock brake wheel speed sensors that are on each wheel already for the ABS brake system. The ABS sensors are so sensitive they can tell the difference in wheel rotational speed caused by a tire with low air pressure being a different circumference. There is some debate with this type of system since all the tires may be low on pressure at the same time and the handling would be affected but there would not be a difference in tire circumference so the light would not come on. This may happen on seasonal changes like summer to winter when the air pressure changes volume due to air temperature.

Whenever you have a tire mounted or even a tire rotation many manufacturers require that the TPMS system be reset since each wheel has a unique identification code. Here at Drake Auto we are fully capable of all types of repairs and resetting of any type of Tire pressure monitoring system TPMS. Each manufacturer uses a different procedure but with our Ateq VT-56 we can reset with ease and even give you a printout of the results. Often there will be a drive cycle procedure after the reset to get the light to finally clear. This may involve driving over 5 mph for up to 20 minutes or 20 miles depending on manufacturer. It is critical that TPMS repair is done properly. Something as simple as using a TPMS torque wrench on the valve stem is very important since replacement tire pressure sensors can cost from $50 to $150 each. Valve stem caps are also important with a tire pressure monitor. Replacing a corroded or leaking tire valve stem in an old style tire used to be simple and cost effective compared to removing the tire and replacing a $60 valve stem. We have replacement valve stems in stock as well as common replacement parts for TPMS systems. We are serving Sterling, Ashburn, Leesburg, Herndon, Reston and all surrounding towns in Loudoun and Fairfax counties.

Combined with our Hunter alignment Hunter tire installation and Hunter Balance system we can give you the most professional TPMS service available.

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Phone: (571) 244-6963
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Address: 23571 Pebble Run Place #150
Sterling, VA 20166
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