Modern cars are incredibly safe, comfortable and sophisticated. They are also generally very reliable. In fact, modern cars are so reliable that many of us never experience a major mechanical problem during the time we own our vehicles. With regular maintenance, most cars and trucks are likely to see 100k miles, or more, without repairs to any expensive components.
That said, vehicle problems do sometimes occur, especially as mileage increases. To keep you safe on the road and help prevent expensive repairs, here are 5 car warning signs you should not ignore:
- Engine noises. There are lots of noises under the hood and most of them are the normal sounds of your engine running. But be aware of changes in the sounds you hear from under the hood. For instance, a slight squealing noise at startup could be a problem with your drive belt, pulleys, or alternator. A distinctive knocking sound could indicate a problem with the engine valvetrain. If the noise is new and doesn’t sound “right” take your car to a mechanic for a quick inspection.
- Warning lights. Modern cars constantly monitor themselves and illuminate warning lights when something isn’t quite right. Do not make the mistake of ignoring a warning light just because the vehicle seems to be running ok. For example, the battery voltage warning light usually indicates a problem with your alternator or other electrical components. The vehicle may run fine – for a time – but eventually will leave you stranded. The oil warning indicator light means your vehicle’s oil pressure is out of spec. This is likely a result of a low motor oil level, which can quickly destroy your engine. The check engine warning light can be triggered by a number of problems, many of which are easily fixed. However, it can also warn of problems with the emissions system. Left unrepaired, those problems can result in poor fuel economy and failure to pass emissions testing. If a warning light comes on, have your mechanic diagnose the problem immediately.
- Squealing, grinding or pulsing from the brakes. Brakes are something we often overlook because they don’t require much routine maintenance. However, brake pads are a wear item, meaning a small amount is used up every time you push down the brake pedal. Pay attention to any changes in the sounds you hear when applying the brakes. Some noise is normal from disc brakes, but loud squealing or grinding is not. A pulsing feeling in the pedal or shaking in the steering wheel can indicate a warped brake rotor. Brake pads often have a metal tab that will create a high-pitch squeal when the pads need to be changed. Do not ignore noises from your brakes.
- Drips and leaks. Cars should not leak any type of lubricating or hydraulic fluid. If you notice spots of oil or other fluids on your driveway, get the car checked out. Small leaks can quickly turn to large leaks. The fluids that may leak from your vehicle include engine oil, brake fluid, power steering fluid, transmission fluid, and coolant. All of those fluids are critical to the safe operation of your vehicle.
- Clunks or squeaks from the suspension. Your vehicle’s suspension consists of many interconnected components including struts, shocks, control arms, sway bars, trailing arms, bushings, and various linkages. These components wear out over time. Worn suspension parts will produce squeaks or clunks when going over bumps or driving on a rough surface. Do not neglect to have those noises inspected. Worn components in one part of the suspension puts additional stress on other parts. What might start as a simple repair can quickly become very expensive if ignored.
Your car is worth maintaining. A well-maintained vehicle will not only help keep you safe but will hold it’s value much better than a neglected car. For more information on vehicle maintenance read our blog posting about car maintenance tips. Lastly, don’t neglect your Nevada auto insurance. If you haven’t shopped around in a while, let the experts at Safeguard Insurance provide you with a no-obligation quote. The call is free and you might be surprised at just how much we can save you.