Today’s vehicles are incredibly safe,
comfortable and sophisticated. They are also generally very reliable. With regular maintenance, most cars and
trucks are likely to see 100k miles, or more, without major repairs to any
That said, vehicle problems do
sometimes occur, especially as mileage increases. Over time parts wear down,
become damaged, and cause problems. Repairing them can be costly and will
become increasingly expensive if ignored.
Paying attention to early warning
signs can help prevent you from added frustrations and costs in repairs, not to
mention extend the life of your vehicle.
you safe on the road and help prevent expensive repairs, here are car problems that should never be ignored.
Smoke: Many things can
cause your car to smoke, but common culprits are leaking fluids, electrical
issues, or a seized brake caliper. Thick blue or black smoke indicates
the vehicle is burning oil, meaning oil is somehow leaking into your engine’s
combustion chamber. Burning oil like this can cause a wide range of issues from
reduced fuel economy to less-than-stellar acceleration. Whitesmoke can combined
with coolant loss can mean a cracked or warped cylinder head, a cracked
engine block, or head gasket failure caused by overheating. A cracked head may
allow coolant to leak into one or more cylinders or into the combustion chamber
of the engine. It’s dangerous to keep driving if you see or smell smoke in your
car. Don’t drive until you’ve had one of our trained technicians locate and fix
the problem that’s causing the smoke – otherwise you risk a vehicular bonfire.
Gauge: Indicates your engine is running too hot or
overheating. This should not happen, even during stop & go traffic or
when it’s hot if the coolant system is working properly. If your
temperature gauge light is glowing, turn off your vehicle to let it cool before
continuing to drive or checking to see if your coolant fluid is low.
Tire bulges: If you hit a piece of debris or overinflate
your tires, a tire bulge can form. Tire bulges are bubbles of air in the sidewall
where air has forced its way through the inner lining. They’re a visible weak
point that can burst unexpectedly. To avoid a dangerous situation, get bulging
tires replaced immediately.
Jerky shifting: Rough shifting is a sign there’s 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
dollars, so it’s always cheaper to get the problem inspected.
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.
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 odors. Catalytic
converters are designed to filter the exhaust, so a strong exhaust smell could
mean this part is failing. The air/fuel mixture could also be off, which wastes
fuel and makes the exhaust smelly. If you smell something abnormal, bring your
car in immediately.
Wobbly steering wheel: 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 tire, which
also results in premature tire 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.
Squealing brakes: 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.
Check Engine Light: The Check Engine Light on your dashboard can
be a real mystery. It tells you something is wrong, but never tells you what
that something is. Is it electrical or mechanical? Major or minor? You’ll never
know unless you scan for error codes, so it’s best to get a diagnosis right
away to prevent further problems.
Light: The engine light indicates a problem with
vehicle’s systems and should never be ignored. Reasons for it engaging
vary from a loose gas cap to a malfunctioning sensor to a faulty catalytic
convertor. The cost for these repairs range from a few bucks to thousands of
dollars. The most important thing to remember… whatever the issue, it
won’t solve itself and ignoring it longer will only increase the cost of
repairing the issue.
Oil Pressure Light: Indicates
there is a problem with your oil pressure and can be caused from low oil,
defective oil pressure sending unit, faulty oil pump, warning light switch or
oil pressure gauge. How dangerous to your vehicle’s health to continue
driving once it makes its appearance? Extremely!! Oil is your
vehicle’s lifeblood and driving when there’s an issue with it can lead to
expensive repairs or possibly having to replace the engine.
Low Battery Light: Indicates
a battery charging problem. This could indicate a problem with the battery
itself, a problem with the alternator which recharges it or more commonly, an
alternator belt. Differing from other mechanical issues, keep the engine
running to recharge the battery if at all possible or at the very least will
help you avoid having to restart it which is one of the biggest tasks that
drains your battery.
Brake Warning Light: Indicates
there is something wrong with the brake hydraulic system. This could be
as easy as forgetting to release the parking brake to hydraulic pressure being
lost in one of the brake systems to brake fluid in the master cylinder being
dangerously low. Issues with your braking system are serious because they
can lead to brake failure, resulting in a dangerous situation where you can’t
Fluids: While it’s never a good thing to have a leak, some
fluids matter more than others. Probably one of the easiest to identify
is oil which is black. Green fluid is coolant and one of the most common
fluids to leak. Gas can be easily identified by its odor and location, which
will be towards the rear of the vehicle. Brake fluid is yellow and is
somewhat thicker. If you suspect you are low on this fluid, it’s best not
to risk driving to the shop and instead calling a tow truck. Red fluid is
transmission fluid and without it, you risk destroying your engine.
Noises: After a while you get to know your vehicle… how it
handles and how it sounds when it’s running smoothly. If you suddenly
start to hear strange noises from it, it means it’s trying to tell you
something. Take care to notice any thumping while braking, any sounds
while turning, grinding while shifting into a different gear, knocking from the
engine compartment or loud bangs, you should get it checked out.
Your car is worth maintaining. A well-maintained vehicle will not only help keep you safe but will hold its value much better than a neglected car. For more information on vehicle maintenance read our blog “Preventive Maintenance That Will Save You Money”.