Time for a Check-Up; What your Used Car is Saying

September 13th, 2016 by

 

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In Baltimore, used cars are everywhere. So if you ever find yourself in need of a quick buy to get to and from work while you look for something (potentially) more permanent, you can just grab one of those. But, when is it time to get another car? You might think that strange noise is the end of your vehicle. When in reality, it might just need a check-up to get a few things serviced. Therefore, it’s important to not only listen to what your car is trying to tell you — but also understand what it’s trying to tell you through these strange sounds. In this case, it could also be anything irregular that any of your other senses pick-up on, like rattling or a strange odor.

It’s important to realize that if you let your car go long enough to experience any of these issues, chances are other parts of the vehicle should be checked during the scheduled maintenance session as well.

Check out the signs that indicate it’s time to bring your car in for a maintenance visit — some of them might surprise you.

 

Warning Lights

 

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This one is obvious, thankfully. But, not all of them are. The lights that are on your dashboard and instrument panel are all there to give you a visual warning when something is wrong. For example, your oil light will illuminate when you’re low on oil. Or maybe your check engine light will pop on for one of many reasons, that can range from infuriatingly insignificant to a serious problem. The lights are supposed to turn on when you first turn the key. But if they pop on randomly or persist after the vehicle has been started, they are indicating a potential issue. Alternatively, there could just be something wrong with the actual lights. But with everything that can go wrong with a car at any point in its life, that’s a slim possibility.

Anything from a burned out lightbulb to transmission failure could be indicated on the dashboard/instrument panel. So, make sure to pay attention to them and get your vehicle checked out as soon as possible.

 

Frequent Stalling

If your vehicle starts frequently stalling, there is no doubt about it: get your car in and get it checked immediately. While the fix might be simple, it doesn’t make your situation any less dangerous. Engines are supposed to be there to provide you with reliable performance, especially when you need it most, such as performing an emergency evasive maneuver or merging onto the highway.

Regardless of when it stalls — whether during accelerating, idling, or at any other point in time — there is a serious problem with your engine. You need to get it checked out right away because you’ve likely let a part of your vehicle that should have been checked during routine maintenance escape your attention for far too long.

 

Noisy or Squishy Brakes

 

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Having noisy or squishy brakes can mean a couple of different things. First, let’s identify what having noisy brakes might mean.

If you can identify that grinding or grating sound coming from the wheel, then chances are your brake pads are worn down enough where it’s way past the time they should have been changed. While it might not be a life-threatening situation (yet) it’s still important to get your vehicle into the shop as soon as possible. If not, you could damage your rotors by scoring them. That means the metal backing of the brake pad will create grooves in the rotors where the pad has completely worn down. This leads to not only rough braking, and damage to new brake pads if they are installed, but also an even more expensive rotor installation. Compared to what it would have cost you had you changed the pads in a timely fashion.

This grinding noise can sometimes be accompanied by vibrations when stepping on the brake pedal. If there is a constant grinding noise, vibration, and you notice your wheel heating up — that means you have a stuck caliper, which is the mechanism that applies pressure to the brake pads.

A squishy brake pedal could mean a few things. It could indicate that you have worn down brake pads, but typically that’s accompanied by a grinding noise. More commonly, it simply means you are low on brake fluid. Since the fluid transferred to the piston inside the caliper then applies pressure to the brake pads (on disc brake systems), this means you don’t have enough fluid to apply braking pressure. Or, it could also indicate that you have a leak in your brake lines somewhere, also causing a severe reduction in fluid. If you stomp on the brakes hard and suddenly lose pressure in the pedal, that means you just blew one of your brake lines at that very moment.

That’s slightly more dangerous than just having noisy brakes. Regardless, it’s important to get both of them looked at and repaired.

 

Poor Fuel Mileage

When I say poor fuel mileage, I’m not talking about seeing the needle on your fuel gauge go down. That could indicate that the fuel filter inside your gas tank has worn out, and isn’t providing an accurate reading anymore. I’m talking about noticing that you’re stopping to fill up at the pump more than usual. This indicates your fuel mileage has decreased, which could be for many reasons. However, if your vehicle is in good condition, the spark plugs are probably just worn out.

Spark plugs are so rightfully named because they provide the spark that ignites the fuel. In order to achieve this, they are fitted to the engine’s cylinder head and connected to the ignition coil. IF these get worn out, they are unable to produce the proper amount of spark to ignite the fuel. How does this affect fuel mileage? Simple, because if the fuel isn’t ignited, it’s going to throw the ignition process off. Since the ignition process is out of whack, this causes your engine to work harder. In turn, the fuel mileage suffers.

A simple fix, and like everything else on this list, it can be prevented with routine maintenance. Changing out the spark plugs is just another part of your vehicle’s routine maintenance schedule.

 

Smoking Kills — Your Car

 

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Smoking of any kind is bad, but I’m not talking about tobacco. I’m talking about the smoke that your car will produce if there is an issue. Unlike most other issues, it’s actually easy to identify the root of the issue thanks to the colored smoke signals you get. When the engine is running, the exhaust that’s emitted should be relatively clear. If it’s not, that’s a bad sign. So either way, smoke coming out from under the hood or the back is a problem.

Blue smoke emitted from the tailpipe indicates that oil is escaping from the intended passageways and is being burned along with the fuel. This is a serious problem, since oil isn’t supposed to be burning with the fuel in the first place. What’s even more alarming is that your vehicle will rapidly lose oil – eventually, seriously harming the engine.

White smoke emitted from the tailpipe means that water condensation or antifreeze has mixed with the fuel supply. Again, you run the risk of mixing fluids that shouldn’t be mixed, and running out of a vital one. If the starts coming out from under your hood, that means you ignored the white smoke coming out of the tailpipe for too long. Now, your engine is in some serious trouble and is overheating.

All of these issues are easily prevented if you regularly maintain and service your vehicle. Pay attention to what your car is trying to tell you when it comes to these signs and you’ll be fine.