Cars are intricate machines comprising tens of thousands of individual parts. Over time, these parts wear down, can become damaged, and cause problems. Repairing them can be costly, but it makes better financial sense to get bad or failing parts fixed right away. That way, you will avoid bigger and more costly problems further down the road. Not to mention the safety aspect, and the dangers posed to yourself and others.
Message & Warning Lights Appear- Most of today’s vehicles have a sophisticated diagnostic system that alerts you when something is wrong. Like most people, you probably do your best to ignore most messages that you don’t feel are important. We’ve all been there. When the car starts alerting you, it’s vital that you take it seriously. Among all the lights and messages, never ignore these five:
- a) Low Engine Oil Pressure,
- b) Engine Coolant Temperature Warning,
- c) Charging System Warning,
- d) Check Engine Light,
- e) Tyre Pressure (TPMS) Warning (if applicable)
Grinding or Squeaking While Braking- Generally, squealing or squeaking brakes indicate that it’s time for a new set of brake pads. Brake pads have a metal tab that becomes exposed as pad material wears away. When this tab contacts the brake rotor, it makes a high-pitched sound. It’s an audible signal that the pads need to be replaced, and the longer you wait, the worse the sound and your braking ability is going to become.
Tapping, Knocking or Clicking of the Engine- When the engine is running right, you shouldn’t hear any strange noises while driving. If you begin to hear tapping or clicking, you want to have it checked out immediately. If the oil pressure drops, it can lead to these noises. Left alone, this causes permanent, and expensive to repair, damage to your engine and other components.
Squeaky belts- Drive, serpentine, or timing belts help keep your engine running in time and power electrical systems. If you hear a squeaking or chirping noise from under the hood, it’s a sign that a belt is worn down. Sometimes a fix is as simple as making an adjustment, but some cars have belts which can’t be adjusted. Either way, get it fixed ASAP – worn belts can snap and damage your engine beyond repair.
Wobbly Steering - Different problems can all lead to the same feeling of shakiness when you hold the steering wheel. Failing or improperly aligned suspension could be a cause. An out of balance wheel and tyre, which also results in premature tyre wear, could be the culprit. If a wheel bearing is worn it could cause shaking, and in a worst case scenario could fail and let the wheel detach from the car. Regardless of the cause, a wobbly steering wheel limits the amount of control you have over your car.
Excessive Oil Consumption- The oil in your vehicle is essential to proper function. You must change the oil regularly to ensure optimal engine life. While it’s normal for cars to use some oil over time, you shouldn’t need to top it off frequently. If you begin to see a dip in performance or the oil light comes on, this might be a sign that you need oil. If you run the vehicle without the right amount of oil, you risk harming the engine. Top it up and then watch to see how long it is before the level drops again.
Uneven Tyre Wear- Many blowouts and flat tyres come from external forces, but there are also times you can prevent this from happening. While it’s normal for your tyre tread to wear out over time, you should be alert for anything excessive. Inspect your tyres regularly and watch for these signs:
- a) Sawtooth appearance on the edges – requires a toe-in or toe-out alignment
- b) Rapid wear on the outer edges – signifies the tyre is underinflated
- c) Rapid wear on the front or rear tyres with a front-wheel drive car – requires rotation
- d) Excessive wear on just one side – signifies toe-in or camber misalignment
- e) Dips or cups in the tread – indicates worn suspension or misalignment
- f) Vibration – might be suspension issue
Radiator Leaks- Corrosion leads to radiator leaks, but there’s normally a deeper cause to the wear. Typically, it stems from poor maintenance practices or contaminated fluid. At the sign of the first leak, you still have the chance for a simple repair. Whatever you decide to do, don’t ignore coolant leaks. Driving a car with a leaky radiator leads to overheating, engine fires and permanent damage.
Transmission Fluid Leaks- This fluid is essential to keep the transmission components lubricated. In a car with an automatic transmission, the fluid operates as the coolant and hydraulic fluid. Over time, small holes might form. This can happen anywhere in the system. You might find a hole in a line, seal or gasket. It’s also possible that your leak stems from a cracked pan. If this is the case, you will see a large red puddle under your car. When the leak becomes bad enough, your fluid level decreases and the transmission loses efficiency. Left unrepaired, the transmission will eventually fail, due to the pressure loss or overheating.
- It’s dangerous to keep driving if you see or smell smoke in your car. Many things could cause your car to smoke, but common culprits are leaking fluids, electrical issues, or a seized brake caliper. Don’t drive until you’ve located and fixed the problem that’s causing the smoke – otherwise you risk a vehicular bonfire. A car should never produce smoke under any circumstances, so don’t ignore it.
Stinky exhaust - Car exhaust always has some smell, but if it smells stronger or worse than usual, it means something is wrong. Leaking fluids can burn up on hot surfaces, producing unusual odours. The air/fuel mixture could also be off, which wastes fuel and makes the exhaust smelly. Follow your nose and inspect your car to find the source of the smell.
Rough shifting- indicates a problem with your car’s transmission. Worn clutches, stripped gears, and low transmission fluid can all result in jerky or clunky shifting. Whatever the cause, the problem will get worse each time your car changes gears, potentially leading to total transmission failure. A new transmission can cost thousands of rands, so it’s always cheaper to get the problem inspected.
No one expects you to be a professional mechanic, in tune with every movement and sound coming from the vehicle. Still, you must value your car and your safety enough to listen to what it is trying to tell you. It benefits you when you have small problems fixed promptly before they become bigger and more expensive issues.
At Start My Car, we stock thousands of repair parts, competitively priced and can have them delivered to you anywhere in South Africa with 2 or 3 working days! It never has been easier to have your car fixed promptly and restore it to safe running order.