10 Signs You Need Help with Car Repairs

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Many car owners are capable of handling minor maintenance and repairs. For example, fluid top-offs, air filter replacements, and tire pressure checks are all within the skill of most drivers.

However, for more complicated problems such as auto heating repair, drivers will need help with car repairs because of the complexity of the vehicle or the repair. Here are some signs that you will need help with car repairs:

Burning Smells

If you smell burning when you drive, you need help with car repairs immediately because:

  • Toxic fumes: Many of the fluids used in your car are toxic. Gasoline, brake fluid, and antifreeze can produce vapors that can cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, and even blackouts.
  • Fire hazard: Burning smells mean that something is getting heated. Burning fluids, smoking belts, melting wire insulation, and grinding parts can catch fire.
  • Loss of fluids: If fluids are leaking and burning when they hit hot engine parts, you could suffer a catastrophic fluid loss and lose your steering, brakes, or transmission.
  • Broken belts: If the burning smell is coming from a burning belt, the belt could break. Depending on which belt breaks, your vehicle could be disabled.
  • Melting wires: When the plastic insulation on wires is heated, it can produce a burning smell. Heated wires suggest that a short circuit has occurred and too much electric current is passing through the wires. Immediate repair might be needed to avoid damaging the electric system or starting an electrical fire.

While car maintenance services like topping off fluids and checking belts can reduce the chances of burning smells, once they start, you need help with car repairs to avoid a catastrophe.

Soft Brakes

If your brakes feel soft when you press on them, or the brake pedal returns very slowly, you need help with car repairs immediately.

Soft or spongy brakes usually means a loss of brake fluid or brake pressure. A loss of fluid or pressure means that when you press on your brake pedal, your brakes might not react, react slowly, or react with insufficient force to stop your vehicle. In essence, you would be driving without brakes if you drive with your vehicle in this condition.

Aside from creating problems for yourself, driving a car that effectively lacks brakes turns you into a danger to other drivers and pedestrians. Critically, driving when you know that your vehicle does not work can expose you to both criminal and civil liability if you cause a crash. Specifically, driving a car with no brakes would be considered negligence that would justify any car accident lawyer to file a lawsuit against you and could even justify charges of reckless driving from a prosecutor.

Rough Shifting

If your transmission shifts roughly or you hear slipping or clunking when your transmission shifts, you might need help with a car repair soon. Transmission service can extend the life of your transmission, but the transmission will eventually wear down.

The transmission transfers power from the engine to the drivetrain. This means that your transmission will endure some of the greatest stresses in your vehicle. Moreover, your driving habits can worsen the strain on your transmission. Some habits can that shorten your transmission’s life include:

  • Not coming to a complete stop before shifting. A very common habit is to shift from reverse into drive before coming to a complete stop. Drivers who are in a rush to pull out of a parking space or driveway can damage their transmission this way.
  • Rapid starts. Accelerating rapidly can stress the transmission. When a vehicle is stopped, the vehicle requires a lot of power to get moving. All this power flows through the transmission. Smooth acceleration will make sure this power does not damage the transmission.
  • Running out of transmission fluid. The transmission fluid keeps gears shifting smoothly and keeps the transmission cool. When the transmission fluid runs low, the transmission can suffer serious damage. Moreover, when a mechanic checks the transmission fluid, the fluid and the drain bolt can be checked for metal shavings that might signify transmission wear.

Rough Ride

Some vehicles ride rougher than others by their nature. For example, SUVs and trucks, particularly used and pre owned SUVs and trucks, have a rougher ride than sedans. However, if you notice your vehicle’s ride has become rougher, you probably need help with car repairs.

Some signs that your suspension needs repairs include:

  • Your vehicle pulls to one side.
  • Your suspension bottoms out or bounces when going over bumps or gutters.
  • The front of your car dives when you brake.
  • Your tires show uneven tread wear.

These symptoms can indicate worn or broken shock absorbers, springs, and struts. Not only will broken suspension parts make your ride rougher, but it can also be dangerous. A vehicle with a broken suspension is more difficult to control and stop.

Unusual Sounds

Many sounds produced by your car signify that you need help with car repairs. Some of the sounds you might hear include:

  • Groaning, grinding, and straining pumps: In some vehicles, you will be able to hear the water pump, fuel pump, and power steering pump when it begins to break down.
  • Squealing, rattling, or grinding brakes: Brake pads are designed to make noise when they are wearing down. If your brakes make noise when you step on the brake pedal, your brake pads might need replacement.
  • Ticking or clicking axles: Ticking or clicking that speeds up and slows down as your wheels turn faster and slower is a classic symptom of a torn constant velocity (CV) boot. The clicking happens when dirt has gotten into the CV joint. Without getting too technical about what the CV joint does, a failed CV joint will stop the wheel from turning, likely leading to an accident.
  • Knocking engine: While a knocking engine can have an innocent explanation, such as poor quality or low octane fuel, it can also signify low engine oil. When an engine runs low on oil, the engine may knock because parts are not properly lubricated. A loss of engine oil will make the car more prone to overheating, which can permanently damage the engine.
  • Hissing: The sound of air escaping can result from loose fittings or broken hoses. However, the most serious hissing sound would come from a vacuum leak. Since the vacuum pump operates the brake booster, a vacuum leak can lead to brake failure
  • Rattling: Rattling can have many causes. A loose heat shield, corrosion, or even something dangling from your car hitting the asphalt paving. However, when you hear rattling, you need help with car repairs because the rattling could be caused by a loose or damaged catalytic converter. If left unrepaired, the loose or damaged catalytic converter can be expensive to fix and will allow your car to emit toxic smog.
  • Backfiring: When a car backfires, it usually has a problem with the ignition or fuel system. If you do not repair the problem causing the backfiring, the heat and shock from the exploding gases can damage your exhaust system.

Collision

Although getting help after an accident might seem obvious, some minor accidents might lead a car owner to believe that they do not need help with car repairs. However, you should have a mechanic look at a car after every accident, including minor accidents.

A few reasons to seek out help after every collision include:

  • Hidden damage: Some forms of damage might not be immediately apparent. One example is frame damage. However, a bent or broken frame might cause a myriad of problems, including uneven tire wear and steering problems.
  • Insurance claim: Damage caused by an accident is included in the accident claim that you file with your insurance company or that your car accident injury lawyer files with the other driver’s insurance company. If you delay in finding out whether your car has been damaged, the insurance company might deny your claim by taking the position that causation cannot be proven due to the delay.
  • Danger: Some damage to a vehicle can create a serious risk of injury. For example, damage to the brakes, steering, or fuel system can leave a driver and passengers open to another accident when the vehicle fails.

Parts Falling or Hanging from Vehicle

If you notice anything hanging from your vehicle, or hear parts fall off your car, you probably need help with car repairs. Often, a mechanic might need to be consulted to determine what fell off or is hanging from your vehicle. Even more importantly, a mechanic at an auto repair shop will be needed to determine how to reattach or replace the damaged part.

Occasionally, the broken part will be non-essential and can be removed safely. For example, a heat shield is a piece of metal that protects the car from the heat from the catalytic converter. Although the heat shield is important, the car can function without it. If you want to ensure that the heat from the catalytic converter is contained, you can have a metal fabrication shop make a replacement heat shield.

Other hanging, loose, or falling parts should be repaired as soon as possible. Wires, hoses, and nuts and bolts can work loose with the vibration from the vehicle. If these parts fall from the vehicle, a serious problem could develop, leading to an accident.

For example, a loose or dangling headlight, tail light, or turn light can leave a vehicle invisible to others or leave others unable to anticipate what the vehicle might do. Remounting or replacing the broken light might help the car’s owner avoid a citation and avoid an accident.

Smoke

A vehicle that produces abnormal amounts of smoke can be a danger to other drivers. More importantly, smoke may indicate a serious problem with your vehicle that signifies that you need help with car repairs.

Specifically, smoke can arise from a few places that might suggest a serious problem:

  • Tailpipe: Smoke from the tailpipe suggests that something is leaking into the engine cylinders. For example, white smoke indicates coolant is leaking into the cylinders, gray smoke suggests and oil leak, and black smoke might be caused by unburned gasoline.
  • Under the hood: Smoke from under the hood means that fluids are spraying onto the hot engine and evaporating or burning. A leak in a radiator or radiator hose might be detected when white smoke appears from under the hood.
  • Passenger cabin: Smoke inside the passenger cabin might be caused by burning carpet or melting wires. In either case, having a mechanic identify the source of the smoke might save your life. Occasionally, the burning carpet might be caused by contaminants on the carpet burning and can be cleared up with cleaning and dirt removal.

Broken Windshield

Whether you drive on roads that are undeveloped or roads covered with asphalt paving, your windshield is always at risk of cracks and chips. If you have a damaged windshield, you probably need help with car repairs.

A broken windshield poses a few risks to drivers and passengers:

  • A cracked windshield can fail in a collision. Under normal circumstances, the safety glass used to make windshields resists shattering. However, a windshield that is compromised with cracks might fracture, sending glass into the passenger cabin after a collision.
  • A damaged windshield can be a distraction or even create blind spots where the driver cannot see pedestrians or traffic lead to about 845,000 accidents every year. Recognition errors include errors due to distractions, blind spots, and improper lookout, all of which can be compounded by a damaged windshield.
  • Cracks and chips in the windshield can create glare under some lighting conditions. Driving at night, for example, nearly doubles the risk of a collision. Glare from a damaged windshield can compound these risks.

Warning Lights

Your dashboard and instrument panel has many warning lights. The seatbelt light, engine light, oil pressure light, temperature light, and other warning lights are intended to notify you of potential problems so you can stop and determine whether you need help with car repairs before a breakdown.

According to surveys, nearly 80% of cars need maintenance or repairs. Occasionally, a warning light merely informs you that the prescribed time or mileage since your last service has passed. However, in many other circumstances, ignoring a warning light might lead to a serious problem that requires car roadside assistance services to fix. For example, a warning light might indicate that a sensor has detected a problem or has failed.

The process used by a mechanic when your warning lights illuminate includes:

  • Code: A computer is connected to your vehicle’s computer to read the code causing the warning light. The computer needed to read the code can be found at most independent repair shops, auto parts stores, and authorized service centers.
  • Inspection: The mechanic inspects the system identified as problematic by the code read from the computer.
  • Repair: The technician repairs the faulty system or part. This could range from replacing a faulty part to adjusting the car’s computer.
  • Reset: The car’s computer is reset, clearing the code.

Knowing when your car needs repairs can be critical to avoiding damage to your vehicle, reducing the risk of an accident, saving money, and preventing harm to the driver and passengers.

For example, many fire hazards are preceded by signs, such as burning smells and smoke, that tell you that your car needs immediate service. However, if you remain vigilant for the signs of a problem before it happens, you can prevent a minor issue that can be easily repaired from turning into a tragedy.

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