Not everyone is a car expert, but it is important to know at least the basics of proper car maintenance. This will not only make your vehicle run smoother with fewer repairs in between, but you’ll also make it easier on the mechanic when taking your car to the shop. A part of that is knowing how to diagnose car issues and the things you can do to resolve them, and here are 4 ways to recognise and handle the most common ones.
1. Reading The Dashboard Lights
Start by becoming familiar with the symbols on your car’s dashboard. These lights are there to tell you when something is wrong with your vehicle, and if you know what they mean, it can be a big help in diagnosing the issue. For example, if the “check engine” light comes on, it could indicate anything from a loose gas cap to a serious engine problem. Similarly, another universal symbol, a red exclamation point inside of a triangle, is used to indicate when the tire pressure is low. Of course, knowing a thing or two about the make and model of your car can come in handy as well when trying to resolve the issue. An IMA light turning on in a Honda civic hybrid could indicate that your battery needs to be replaced. On the other hand, in a 2005 Ford Escape, an IMA light may come on if there’s something wrong with the charging system.
2. Check The Battery
A lot of car issues can be traced back to a dead or dying battery, so if your car is acting up, one of the first things you should do is check the battery. Start by making sure the battery terminals are clean and free of corrosion. If they’re not, you can clean them with a wire brush or some sandpaper. Once they’re clean, tighten the terminal clamps to ensure a good connection. If the battery is more than three years old, it may be time to replace it. However, if you do think your battery needs replacing, it’s better to get a second opinion first. Besides preventing potentially unneeded expenses, it’s important to note that trying to do a major repair on your own could render your insurance void, so it’s always best to consult with a professional if you’re unsure about something.
3. Check The Fluid Levels
Another easy way to diagnose car issues is by checking the fluid levels. This includes the engine oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, power steering fluid, and coolant. Start by popping the hood and locating each of these reservoirs. Check the dipsticks to see if the fluids are at the correct level – if they’re not, top them off. Be careful not to overfill them, as that can also cause problems. If the levels are low and you’re regularly topping them off, there may be a leak somewhere that needs to be fixed. On the other hand, if you’ve been driving on fumes for a while and your car is experiencing issues even after topping it off, it could be a sign that your engine was burning oil. In that case, you might need to have a professional take a look at your engine. Most often in cases like these, the pistons and rings will need to be replaced.
4. Check The Tires
Tire pressure is something that should be checked regularly, as driving on under-inflated tires can not only lead to a blowout, but it can also damage the tire and cause premature wear. You can find the recommended tire pressure for your car in the owner’s manual or on a sticker inside the driver’s side door. Use a tire pressure gauge to check the pressure of each tire, and add air as needed. You should also take a look at the condition of the tires themselves – if they’re severely worn, it’s time for new ones. There are few things as dangerous as driving a car with bald tires, so don’t risk it. Changing a tire is a rather simple process. All you need is a lug wrench and a jack, both of which you can easily purchase at any auto parts store.
These are just a few of the ways you can diagnose and resolve common car issues. Of course, this is by no means an exhaustive list, and if you’re ever unsure about something, it’s always best to consult with a professional. However, knowing a few basics can go a long way in helping you keep your car running smoothly.