If you’re a new driver or auto owner, there’s no shame in admitting you don’t know much about cars yet. Every experienced driver or mechanic was a beginner once, so don’t hesitate to ask for help if something seems to be wrong with your auto.
But how do you detect a problem in the first place? Not all maintenance issues exhibit themselves through a flat tire or oil leak, after all. In fact, some serious damages may not show their effects until it’s too late. If your car becomes an unfortunate victim of such an occurrence because of your carelessness, you’d encounter issues with your car insurance, and cover the costs yourself.
That said, before facing the worst of car failures, here are the damages that can be hard to diagnose and repair as a rookie car owner or enthusiast:
1. Timing Belt Damage
The timing belt is found inside the engine, rotating the engine’s cam and crankshaft in sync, so that the cylinders would fire at the right time. It is located in the front of the engine, underneath a timing cover.
Not all cars have a timing belt, though. You’ll find it mostly in cars and SUVs with smaller displacement engines, like a Subaru. If you own a Subaru, it’s possible that part of your major maintenance to-do list is to buy a new timing belt kit every 60,000 to 100,000 miles. It can rack up your expenses but don’t attempt to perform the timing belt replacement by yourself if you’re not a mechanic.
A sign of a timing belt going bad is a ticking noise coming from the engine. But even if you hear such, it’s difficult to assume that it’s caused by a timing belt issue, especially if the ticking sounds like a high squeal. A squealing noise can also indicate worn-out brake pads, after all.
The key to identifying the correct problem is to test when the noises resound. If the squealing noise only rings when you step on the brakes, then it’s most likely a brake pad issue. Otherwise, if the ticking clearly comes from the engine, then the timing belt is ready for a replacement.
2. Transmission Issues
If you own an automatic transmission vehicle, even fluid flushes and changes should be performed by a mechanic. Attempt to work around your car’s connectors and gaskets while flushing the fluids, and you might find your transmission wiped out afterward.
Automatic transmission repairs require a mechanic because that issue involves thousands of small parts, precise tolerances, and narrow channels for hydraulic fluid. A sign that your automatic transmission is probably in trouble is a grinding noise. That could mean that the gears are meshing together because of low fluids. However, a grinding noise may also indicate bad brake rotors, so check those first before ruling in a transmission problem.
3. What the “Check Engine” Light Means
Out of all a car’s warning lights, the Check Engine light is the trickiest to figure out. It covers different problems ranging in severity, so you need to be extra attentive to your car when that warning light glows.
If your car doesn’t start, stalls, hesitates, or surges, call a mechanic, and they’ll do the necessary tests to arrive at a diagnosis. Avoid copying what some DIY mechanics do, which is to replace components that are probably doing fine. That action may create costlier consequences.
4. Suspension Issues
If your car pulls in a direction you don’t want it to go, vibrates, clunks, or creaks, the problem is likely in the suspension components. They look easy to replace, but DIY suspension repairs can go wrong in many ways. You may not understand the immense force that’s in a compressed coil spring yet, or do things in the wrong order because you overlooked a detail.
When you feel the symptoms of a suspension issue, consider that the strut or shock is worn out, the grease has dried out, or the brake rotors are warped. But don’t attempt to fix the problem yourself. Call your trusted mechanic and let them handle the tricky job.
Leaving your car exposed to knee-deep snows can make rusts develop on the surface. Though this problem is more common in older cars, it doesn’t mean new ones are immune to it. If left untreated, rusts can spread damage to your car’s quarter panels and wheel walls, eventually affecting the exhaust system and fuel tanks. So if your car has a rear quarter panel or a large section covered in rusts, start mitigating the damage before it kills your car.
Owning a car takes serious responsibility and an adequate budget for maintenance. It’s almost like raising a child in the sense that you need to continuously spend on it to ensure its good health. It can also be like dealing with a romantic partner because you have to constantly listen and observe for possible signs of a problem. A lot of work, no doubt, but that’s just how we take care of the things we love.