Nobody likes car repairs, and because of that, many drivers put them off as long as possible.
You can get away with that on a few things, but there are some you shouldn’t ignore. Left untreated, they can quickly turn into even bigger repair bills, with the possibility of serious damage or an unsafe vehicle.
Note that all of the warning lights in the instrument cluster will come on when you start the engine, but should all go out after a few seconds. You’re watching for warning lights that flash or stay on while you’re driving or idling.
Every so often, open the window and listen to your brakes. If you hear a continuous squeaking while driving that goes away when you press the brake pedal, it’s a wear indicator that’s telling you the brake pads need replacement. Replacing them at the first signs of wear will avoid far more expensive repair bills. If they grind when you press the pedal, get them checked right away — that’s the sound of seriously worn brakes, which can affect your stopping distance.
Anti-lock brakes make a loud rumbling sound if they activate during a panic stop, so don’t fret if you hear this when stopping hard on a slippery surface. If they’re noisy during regular braking, get them checked.
If the warning comes on, stop as soon as you can and shut the engine off. Wait about five minutes, and then check the level on the oil dipstick. If it’s low, add the amount indicated (overfilling is harmful too). If the level is fine, don’t restart the engine until it’s checked. If your oil pump isn’t working, and so isn’t circulating oil, running the engine without that lubrication can cause serious damage.
Engines can overheat even on the coldest days. If the warning comes on, pull over and shut off the engine to prevent serious damage. Other symptoms include an antifreeze odour or rattling in the engine. Possible causes can be a split heater hose, leaking radiator or malfunctioning water pump. Hoses and belts usually get soft or worn well in advance of failure, so have them checked periodically to prevent problems.
Gas gauge The fuel pumps on newer cars are in the tank, where the fuel cools and lubricates them. It’s hard on the pump to consistently run close to empty. As well, traffic jams or foul weather can add considerably to your commute time, especially if you’re stuck on the highway. That’s when you discover that “enough gas to get me home” is not.