How to determine car problems?
When something seems wrong with your car, the first thing to determine is whether the vehicle is safe to drive. Remember that tires, brakes, and engine are the most critical systems.
Auto repair problems can be scary, especially for the ‘mechanically challenged’. That noise you hear at high speeds? Is it the tires, brakes, or engine? Is the noise a harbinger of worse things to come? Is it simply just that – a noise? The following can help determine the seriousness of the problem and help explain the issue to a mechanic.
Most issues relating to safety are very recognizable:
This is where the rubber meets the road. Poorly inflated tires can negatively affect gas mileage, cause the car to pull to one side and cause premature wear. At worst, a tire can suddenly blow out or go flat with disastrous consequences. Checking pressure regularly will prevent future issues and possibly avoid an accident. Rotate tires every other oil change. This practice will help the tires wear evenly. Inspect tires for damage during the rotation. Also, be aware of objects such as nails or metal embedded in the tread or sidewall. Repair as soon as possible.
The brake system is an extremely important safety feature. Pay attention to how the car slows under braking. Does the car pull to one side when pressing the pedal? If the car only pulls under braking, tires are not the problem. Do the brakes produce a squealing sound? Some brake pads are designed to make noise when worn. When braking, do you hear a sound like driving over gravel? This is a sign of extreme wear.
If the engine will not run continuously or seems to stall for no apparent reason, do not take the car on the road. The car may cease to run in a dangerous location, exposing you and other drivers to danger. Most engines that stall are experiencing fuel starvation. Ensure your tank has sufficient fuel before starting your trip. Electrical and fuel pump issues can cause engines to stall. Engines that stall can catch fire if the cause is a fuel leak.
Any issue with tires, brakes, or engine should be corrected as soon as possible. Make notes of what is wrong, detailing the conditions of the malfunction such as warning lights, noises, visual cues such as smoke or steam, high/low speed, vibrations, etc.
Check Engine Light on? You can find the source of the problem easily without a trip to the shop. Code Readers are available at most auto parts stores. The device plugs into a port under the steering wheel. A malfunction code that begins with the letter ‘P’ will read out on the display. Simply type the code into a search engine to determine what the code means. The device will also allow you to reset the light.
Remember, safety first. Do not drive a car that is having critical issues. When something goes wrong, write down the malfunction conditions along with any previous actions to correct the problem. Plenty of resources exist on the Internet that help troubleshoot common issues. Enter the year, make, and model of the vehicle plus a simple description of the issue. The results will provide discussion board entries, videos, and articles that may identify a solution or, at a minimum, a starting point for the mechanic even if the mechanic is you.