Ignoring a warning sign that your car is giving you is never a good idea. Neither is failure to take care of your car’s routine maintenance. If you follow up with routine preventative maintenance, your car will operate better and last longer.
Here are four tell-tale signs that it’s time for a service.
1. The Warning Light Is On
When you are driving along and you suddenly notice that your engine warning light is on, do not dismiss it! Engineers have spent decades and billions creating these systems to give you an early warning of an impending problem, so why would you assume that it is faulty?
The engine light can signify any number of problems: it could be something as small as a loose fuel cap, but it could also be as serious as an engine that is misfiring.
The check engine light is part of your vehicle’s onboard diagnostics system. As far back as the 1980s, computers have controlled and monitored vehicle performance, even regulating variables such as engine speed and ignition. In today’s cars, a computer also governs the automatic transmission. When it detects a problem in the electronic control system that it is unable to correct, the “check engine,” “service engine soon,” or “check powertrain” light may come on.
The warning light does not mean that you must immediately pull the car over to the side of the road and get it towed. It simply means that you need to get the car to your trusted car service repair centre and have it checked out as soon as possible.
Ignoring a warning could end up costing you a lot of money that a timeous fix might not have because engine faults can have knock-on effects. It could be something as simple as topping up your fluids, but even that can lead to engine troubles.
Another problem with ignoring warning lights is that your car is not performing optimally and is therefore not ruining as economically as it can, or it may be emitting higher levels of pollutants.
If your warning light comes on, check your dashboard gauges and lights for signs of low oil pressure or overheating. These problems mean that you should pull over and shut off the engine immediately or as soon as you can find a safe place to do so. Different car manufacturers have different warning lights, so it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with your car’s specifics when you first get the car. Some cars show a yellow check engine light meaning that you should investigate the problem and a red one meaning that you should stop right away.
2. A Burning Smell or Visible Smoke
Strange or foul odors coming from any component in your vehicle mean that a part is worn or malfunctioning. There may be various reasons for the smell and the problem should be addressed post haste. Not only is the burning smell a sign of something wrong with your vehicle, but it could also be bad for your health. You could be inhaling harmful, noxious chemicals every time you drive.
If your car emits a smell like burning rubber after driving, this is a sign that the engine has been running for a long time or it could be a sign of something that is potentially disastrous like a clutch problem.
If your car smells like burning plastic, it usually occurs after starting the heater or fan in the car. This phenomenon is often related to certain parts such as fans, resistors, or some other high-temperature electronic components.
If you smell burning plastic, it is probably a clogged heater. This happens when dust accumulates in the heating system after a period of not using the heater. If the burning smell still presents even when you use it regularly, there may be large particles or debris clogging the vent. Again, although not a serious mechanical problem, inhaling these chemicals is a serious health risk.
If you smell burning oil, do not delay: stop the car and troubleshoot. The cause of a burning oil smell might be hard to diagnose, and it is best left to a pro.
If your exhaust is emitting a thick, white smoke, it could be as serious as a blown head gasket, damaged cylinder, or even a cracked engine block, which is causing your coolant to burn. This exhaust smoke often indicates a coolant leak, which will cause overheating which can lead to very serious damage – even total engine replacement.
3. Bad Fuel Economy
Bad fuel economy can point to a multitude of reasons. Many people believe that the older a car gets, the worse its gas mileage becomes. In reality, poorly maintained cars are more likely to have worsening gas mileage over time. Drivers who stick to their car’s maintenance schedules are less likely to observe reductions in their gas mileage.
Lower fuel economy could also point to many serious engine problems like clogged or damaged fuel injectors, air filters that need replacing, a dirty oxygen sensor, worn piston rings and more.
4. Mushy or Noisy Brakes
Brakes are probably your most important safety device on your vehicle, so you cannot take chances with them. Brake pads have a metal brake wear indicator that rubs against the brake disc when brake pads are worn out causing friction and noise known as brake squeal.
Dirty brakes could also be the cause. In a disc brake system, brake dust can become trapped between the brake pads and the brake rotors causing uneven braking and squealing. Poor lubrication and general wear are just two more reasons your brakes could be working sub-optimally.
Don’t take chances with your safety or that of other road users. Have your car checked regularly and keep it in showroom condition.
Special Interest Automobiles is an auto service workshop in Cambridge, ON, and we provide a complete range of car services, from tires and suspension to detailing and A/C repair. We have been proudly, reliably serving Cambridge automobile owners since 1985. If you think you need car service repair, contact us now to take a look at your vehicle.