How to Diagnose Car Problems Based on Early Signs
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Every now and then, accidents and auto insurance claims are unavoidable, especially if another vehicle is to blame for a crash. But when a vehicle breaks down on the side of the road or refuses to start when revving the engine, there were likely a variety of tell-tale signs in the preceding days foreshadowing what was to come.
However, because many motorists may not be as familiar with what these signs are, it's often difficult to know how to interpret the sounds, sights and smells that a car gives off. Automotive expert, Patrick Smith, has the details for how to diagnose car problems based on early signs and symptoms.
What do clicking noises mean?
For example, when on an especially windy road, a car may make an unusual clicking noise whenever the wheel is turned hard to the left or right. These clicking noises may be accompanied by grinding sounds as well. As a general rule, Smith says these noises suggest that one of the vehicle's velocity joints has been damaged. This usually happens because of wear and tear and typically occurs in the winter when there's an excess amount of road debris that lodges into the joints. Depending on when the damage is noticed, the joint may not need to be replaced but only require some grease.
It's important to take a peek under the hood every couple of weeks to ensure everything looks fine and nothing seems wrong. Some issues may require a trained eye to spot, but there are other problems that will look strange no matter what level of experience people have with car repair. One of which is when there's a bunch of white gunk or goo on the car battery. Smith says that a small amount is normal, but if the white stuff covers the top of the battery, that's a problem. Usually, this is an indication that the battery is overexerting itself because either the alternator isn't working properly or one of the cells on the battery is dead. Either way, it's a good idea to have the car battery's power tested by a mechanic. This should help diagnose what's at issue.
Car shaking on the highway?
When driving at high speeds on the highway, there may be occasions in which a motorist can feel that the car is shaking uncontrollably, illustrated by the vibrations they feel holding the steering wheel. Smith says that while the shakiness could be because of many different issues, the most common ones are related to the tires. Perhaps one or several of the tires have been damaged. Alternatively, the wheels may be out of alignment, needing to be rotated. As a general rule, the wheels should be rotated once every 6,000 miles.
Smith says it's a good idea to have a professional look at the tires who can determine what's causing the bobbing and vibration.
One of the more serious issues to be aware of concern the brakes. Smith says that if the car shudders when the brake pedal is pressed, this suggests that the rotors are worn out. The pads may also be damaged if grinding noises accompany the quivering. It's crucial to get the vehicle to a mechanic who may need to replace the parts with new ones.
Paying attention to the symptoms of a car - and acting on them once they're noticed - can help drivers avoid an accident. According to statistics from the Insurance Bureau of Canada, traffic accident fatalities aren't as frequent as they have been in the past, but they still occur regularly. In 1990, approximately 3,440 Canadians died after a car crash. By 2009, that total dropped to just over 2,000.