All cars need regular maintenance checks to ensure the car runs smoothly and most importantly reliably. No-one wants to break down in the middle of the desert or peak hour traffic, or even veer off the road or into another car because of faulty brakes or bad tire pressure. So what are the top ten most common car issues and how to avoid a breakdown? Read on to find out.
1. Worn Out Brake Pads
Brakes are one of the major parts to wear out over time. This can be reduced by how you drive a car. If you are regularly stopping and starting at traffic lights and/or braking suddenly a lot, then the brakes will wear a lot quicker. While it’s not easy to spot, some symptoms include vibration or excessive grinding or squeaking noise from the brake system, poor braking performance where it takes a longer distance to stop, or the easiest sign being the ‘Brake Warning Light’. Regular services done (six to twelve monthly) will alert the mechanic to how your brakes are performing and if they will need replacing.
2. Uneven Tire Wear
While tire flats and blowouts can be the cause of external forced such as sharp debris on the road or severe potholes (which can also affect other crucial parts of the drive shafts and suspension), uneven tire wear can arise from undue pressure being put on one side of the car or one corner if certain trips are repeated regularly like those taken to work or university. Check your tires weekly not only for uneven tire tread and air pressure, but also for any nails or tacks that may have become embedded. This has happened to me more than once, and although the tire in question at the time didn’t go flat, it had affected the air pressure and steering, so it pays to get your tires checked. Don’t go on any road trips until this problem has been sorted. Always keep an eye on the spare tire as well, not so much for wear but for air pressure in case you need it.
3. Oil Leakage/Consumption
Regular servicing will usually pick up on the start of any leaks that happen, but if you notice any fresh leaks on the ground where you park, or can see evidence in the engine bay get it seen to as soon as possible. Don’t wait for the oil warning light to show on the dashboard or smoke to start billowing out from the bonnet – it could be too late to save the engine.
4. Cracked Or Chipped Windscreens
While there are plenty of chipped windscreen repair companies who will fill the chip (or even a small crack) with an epoxy glue, the overall structure of the roof and frame is compromised as chips will eventually turn into cracks, and cracks will only get longer. Always inspect the windscreen carefully when buying, and if you have fallen victim to a stray stone or rock from hitting your windscreen from a truck or car in front, get it seen to as soon as you can. If you have the chip filled, then keep an eye on it regularly. Better yet, take a photo when the chip or crack happens, and monitor it to make sure it doesn’t grow.
5. Radiator Leaks/Consumption
Radiator leaks usually spell the end of the radiator as it’s caused by corrosion and is too risky to try and patch it up. Leaky radiators lead to overheating, seizure of the engine, or worse even an engine fire. Prevention is the key, and this can be done by checking the level of water/coolant, having it flushed out and replaced at your car’s recommended intervals.
6. Dead Battery
Although the average life of a battery is anywhere between three to six years, it depends if the car is garaged or left outside in the elements among other things. Accidentally leaving headlights on for extended periods of time when the car is not running, using the car stereo and leaving doors open for extended periods of time without the car running, and not driving for periods of time from a few days to longer periods can all contribute to a cars battery running out of power. This will also apply to electric cars which decrease the amount of power with age. It’s always a good idea to carry a set of jumper leads in the trunk should a situation arise where the car could be started by a fellow motorist. Make sure when you purchase a used car that you know how long the current battery has been in the car – there should be a receipt with an exact date if the car has service and parts history.
7. Faulty Electrics
This has happened to a 2007 Ford Fusion I once had. The front passenger window wouldn’t work and the rear passenger door wouldn’t open which would have cost me $1,500 to fix from the local repair center. I decided to sell the car with the faults for a lesser price and have money ready to purchase something else instead of spending more on the car, but I did this as the car wasn’t under any warranty and wasn’t worth spending the money on. Another reason is that I didn’t live in a city where I could get lots of quotes for the same problem – I only had one local electrical mechanic I could go to.
While it’s easy enough to spot when a headlight isn’t working anymore, it’s not so easy to see the rear lights, brake lights, indicators or reverse lights unless someone actually tells you or the police pull you over for driving with faulty lights. While bulbs are easy enough to get and replace (and sometimes car accessory stores replace them for you), sometimes the problem could be faulty wiring where it isn’t connecting properly.
Transmission breakdown can happen anytime anywhere. This once happened to me without any warning and I was faced with a sizable repair bill running into the thousands. Automatic transmissions usually cost more than a manual transmission to repair, and while how often it needs replacing varies, you can lengthen the life by regularly changing the transmission fluids through a transmission service every 15,000 to 30,000 miles depending on how rough you treat a manual transmission or how sloppy or jerking the gears become in an automatic.
10. Malfunctioning Sensors
These days with front and rear sensors becoming more common, it’s easy to not pay much attention to your surroundings when reversing or parking unless you hear a sensor go off. This can cause an accident you definitely don’t want if it fails to alert. Always pay attention to what you’re doing and don’t rely on the cars sensors – they can help guide you as to how close you are getting to the car or object in front or behind, but it comes down to common sense on your part to get it right.
It’s not all doom and gloom if you look after your car. My advice is to not only ensure regular maintenance is carried out on your vehicle, but also to learn what all the warning lights mean in your manual for the dashboard. More often than not any potential problems will show when you have a proper, regularly scheduled service done and can be fixed while in the garage. Breakdown insurance is a good idea should any eventuality arise. There are different types of cover depending if you need car hire while your car is off the road, accommodation cover if you travel out of town a lot, or whether you need local cover for a certain radius or nationwide coverage. Another thing to remember is to weigh up how much your car is worth as opposed to getting parts replaced and problems fixed. If you get a good mechanic, this is something you can discuss with them. Just remember to go over all service history and parts records of any car you are thinking of buying. When you get a thorough pre-purchase inspection done, talk to the person doing the inspection afterwards to find out if there are any potential problems, and also to find out if the car is a good deal or not.