Auto Maintenance And Problems: Does Your Car Need A Check-Up?

When your car starts making funny noises or smells, it may be time to go in for a checkup before something goes wrong.

As your vehicle begins to lose that new car look and feel, you may start noticing new things that deserve a second thought. Some changes are to be expected as normal wear and tear, such as a scratched seat, scuffed floor mats, or even a chip in the windshield from a stray pebble.

But other observations may be more disturbing. Here are some things to watch and listen for, and when they occur, give some thought to taking your automobile in for a checkup, much as you would someone who exhibits symptoms of possible illness:

1. Sniff out the burning smell. If your vehicle starts to smoke under the hood, or if you notice an electrical burning smell that increases rather than disappears, have your car checked out by a professional technician. It may be a simple case of low radiator fluid. On the other hand, there may be an electrical short in the system, which means you could run into big trouble soon if the problem is not short-circuited. A dull burning odor may mean your engine is low on oil, or is not processing oil correctly; there may be a leak, for example. Unless you know how to check for any of these possibilities, have someone check out your car who knows what to do.

2. Root out the rattle. If you're pretty sure the noise is coming from a marble or coin that fell into a vent or another part of the car, you're probably okay. But if the rattling sound is coming from the engine or below the car, as in the chassis or wheel areas, get it checked out. Your hub cap may have picked up a loose stone, on one hand. But on the other, you may have a loose or lost part. Missing screws need to be replaced pronto before you end up with missing parts.

3. Locate the whining sound. A low whine could point to a loose or broken belt in the engine. It also may suggest that two parts are rubbing enough to cause friction and require lubrication. Find out what the problem is to avoid serious breakage that is sure to be costly and time-consuming when repaired.

4. Check the temperature gauge. When the indicator shows the engine temperature to be hot, and it remains so, you should definitely find out what's wrong. An overheated engine can lead to serious problems if you don't treat it early on. The vehicle may require something as simple as a fan belt, a water pump, or radiator fluid, but failing to act promptly could be dangerous.

5. Double-check the windshield defroster. If your car has both front and rear defrosters for the windows, make sure they work correctly. When you notice that one or both sets of windows steam up or fail to clear readily after you push the defrost lever, something may be wrong. Driving in rain, snow, or even fog without adequate defrosting help can lead to an accident. Take the car in for an estimate of what is wrong and how much it will cost to get fixed.

These are just a sampling of the problems you may encounter with an aging car. Keep your eyes, ears, and nose alert to possible changes in your vehicle's operation, and take care of even small glitches right away to avoid the possibility of worse problems later.

© High Speed Ventures 2011