When talking about “auto repair” the term often means one of two things:
For our purposes, we’re going to be focusing exclusively on the first kind. These services involve your tires, transmission, engine, brakes, and more.
We’re going to explain why you need to schedule regular auto repairs, give you some ways to protect your investment as much as possible, and then show you some things to look for so that you can diagnose potential problems yourself, without having to visit a repair shop. Don’t worry, these don’t require another other than your eyes, ears, and nose.
To put it simply, you need to invest in regular car repair because there are pretty strong consequences if you don’t. Cars, trucks, SUVs … these are incredibly complex machines with a lot of interconnected parts. If something goes wrong in one spot, it can cause malfunctions all throughout the system. So a seemingly small problem (not getting oil changes) can become a large problem (total engine failure) in a snap.
Even before massive problems arise, a failure to perform regular auto repairs will lead to poor fuel economy, unreliable performance, and general discomfort. Negligence can often void your warranty, too.
So at the very least, it’s good to follow your car manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule. Your owner’s manual will contain the schedule, so stick to it as strictly as you can.
When it comes to protections you can put in place for auto repairing, there’s warranties and then there’s service contracts.
There is no standard warranty that applies across all auto manufacturers, both in terms of length and what it covers. It’s important that you check your owner’s manual (or ask your dealership) about what your warranty covers and how long you have until it runs out.
A time and mileage, but they can also include you hitting certain repair thresholds in order to maintain your warranty. If you’re not sure about the conditions of your warranty, ask your dealer.
Many dealerships sell optional service contracts. These contracts differ from location to location, but typically they lock you into a specific set of services over a certain length of time. The overall cost of the services is reduced because you’re committing to several over the course of a year or more, but this also involves committing that money.
It’s really up you whether you go with a service contract. It’s great for peace of mind, but there is an up-front cost that you should consider.
Not sure how much to save up for regular vehicle maintenance? A good rule of thumb is to put away about $75 per month for future vehicle services. Note that this doesn’t include sudden repairs, tire replacements, etc.
Many auto repairing issues are easily identifiable by the sound they’re making. Unusual squeaks, rattles, and rumbles are all signs that something’s not right and that a car repair is likely needed. Here are some things to listen for:
Squeaks and Screeches – A shrill, sharp noise usually means the engine speed is off. There might be an issue with your power steering, fan, or air conditioning belt. If you hear a piercing high-pitched sound while you’re stopping, you’re hearing the result of brake wear.
Clicks and Pings – If you hear a consistent click, it could be that you have a loose wheel cover, a bent fan blade, or low engine oil. If that click is more of a high-pitched tapping, there could be an issue with your muffler or a drive-line component.
Knocks and Clunks – If its more than a click, almost like a pounding, there could be an issue with your crankshaft or torque converter. If the thumping is less rhythmic and more random, it could be a loose shock absorber.
If you’re having difficulty with handling, or you’re noticing a rougher ride than normal (including unusual vibrations) this almost always indicates a problem.
Steering – Your front wheels might not be aligned properly. You might have worn steering components. If your vehicle is veering to one side, then it could be as simple as under-inflated tires on one side.
Handling – Poor cornering can be the result of worn shock absorbers. A quick test you can do is to push down on each of the four corners of the vehicle. If the car bounces for a few seconds before returning to rest, there’s probably an issue there. You should also make sure your tires are balanced properly. Improperly balanced tires can lead to annoying vibration.
Brakes – If the vehicle pulls to one side while braking, you’re in need of auto repairing. The same goes for scraping/grinding noises while braking.
Engine – The following issues indicate engine trouble: difficulty starting, rough idling, poor acceleration, decreased fuel economy, and excessive oil use.
Transmission – Transmission failure can be the result of a simple component issue or a disconnected hose. Make sure technicians check these simple fixes first, because transmission repairs can be very expensive. Some signs there might be an issue include hard shifts between gears, failure to shift during acceleration, and “slipping” during acceleration (where the engine speeds up, but the vehicle doesn’t).
Some needed auto repairs are very noticeable by their scent. These include:
Burnt Toast Smell – Often means an electrical short. If you smell this, stop the car immediately. It is not safe to drive.
Rotten Eggs Smell – A sulphur smell could mean an issue with an emission control device. Fix as soon as possible.
Acrid Odour – Burning oil. Look for leaks under your car.
A Burning Smell – May signal overheated brakes. Light smoke coming from a wheel well means a stuck brake. Vehicle should be towed and not driven.
Sweet, Steamy Smell – Coolant leak. If you smell this without the overheating warning light appearing on your dashboard, drive carefully to a nearby dealership to have this serviced.