There are two types of people in this world–those who will drive immediately to the mechanic at the first sight of a problem and those who’ll happily put some black tape over the check engine light.
In general, it is never a good idea to ignore internal issues with your vehicle. Car problems have a way of getting worse over time. They almost never correct themselves.
Here is a list of ten problems that should have you headed to the mechanic right away. Remember that a small expense now will be a major expense later if left untreated.
1. Warning lights
All modern vehicles are equipped with warning lights that tell you when something is wrong internally. Some cars indicate the need for an oil change with a specific oil change light, others use the more general “check engine” light. Either way, if you see one of these lights, get your vehicle to a shop ASAP.
2. Oil smell
If you’ve smelled it once, you’ll never forget it. The smell of oil burning is a noxious, overpowering odor that tends to stick with you all day. If oil is burning, that means it’s leaking. If it’s leaking, you’ve got a problem. Take it in.
3. Vibrating on Flat Surfaces
Your car is designed to ride smooth over most road surfaces. If it vibrates while riding over smooth roadways, that indicates a problem with the wheels or the suspension. The best case scenario is that you’re in need of a tire balancing. Worst case scenario would be some bad bushings. Have it looked at.
4. Stalling out
If your vehicle starts stalling while you’re driving, it could be any number of problems. Cross your fingers it’s something as small as a loose spark plug or clogged fuel filter. These are small, easy-to-fix problems. However, stalling could indicate a much more significant problem.
5. Black oil on the dipstick
Even when it’s been driven on for a few thousand miles, your engine oil should be relatively transparent and gold-to-brown on the dipstick. Dark brown, black or opaque oil means that the oil is burning or it is being contaminated with dirt or grime. This can lead to major problems. Don’t ignore it.
Modern cars rarely overheat. With all the advancements in coolants and diagnostic technology, if a car’s engine is getting too hot it’s a sign of a significant problem.
Most often, this arises from having too little oil or too little oil pressure in the engine. This means the parts aren’t properly lubricated and therefore generate lots of heat and friction.
7. Slow to start
If your engine is having a hard time “turning over” when you try to start it, this usually signals the need for a new battery. Usually you’ll see the dash lights flickering on and off as you try to start. This is because the battery is connected and has some “juice” left in it, but not enough to start the car.
Ask your mechanic to find the perfect battery for your vehicle.
8. Smoke from the exhaust
Contemporary cars will not blow smoke out of the exhaust. On a cold day you might see water vapor coming out of the tailpipe.
However, if you see actual smoke coming out of the exhaust, it’s a sign something is burning in the engine. This is usually oil and it means you have an oil leak somewhere. Don’t wait for it to get worse.
9. “Shift flares” or slow shifting
You should never have trouble shifting if you drive an automatic. Automatic transmissions are designed to shift at the optimal point in the torque curve.
Sometimes cars experience “shift flares” where they don’t shift as they are supposed to. This is when the car revs up to a very high RPM before actually shifting.
This could mean that you need a transmission fluid change or have a much more serious problem. Have it looked at by your mechanic right away.
10. Noisy engine
You should be well aware of what your engine sounds like normally. If it sounds noisier than its supposed to, you have a problem. Often this is the result of low oil and parts not being properly lubed as a result.
This can be tremendously damaging to your vehicle. Make sure you get it seen by a mechanic.
It really does pay to stay on top of your maintenance. It might be a good idea to keep a separate fund for car maintenance, so that you can keep up with it as regularly and immediately as possible.
If you’re buying a new car, consider an extended maintenance plan. Paying for all your services up front will mean you’ll be less hesitant to take it in when it needs it.
Whatever you do, take care of your car and it will take care of you. For more tips and advice, keep up with the Strutmasters blog, filled with wonderful information and updated weekly.