Car Tips 3 - Car Maintenance

Acquiring a vehicle is a fairly easy task. . . the tough bit comes later. You are already late, but never mind. You'll be there, not exactly on time, but yeah, almost. Then, calamity strikes . . . the vehicle refuses to move . . . grunts, groans, fumes, and stops. Why, oh why . . . Maybe because you forgot that it too needs to be looked after, maintained, "regular servicing . . . ." Were those the words?

The best and most efficient method of knowing about your car and keeping track of it is through the owner's manual which provides complete information on how to go about it. You can inspect your car every time you enter it, or on a daily or weekly basis or at intervals specified in the manual. And sometimes it helps to turn off the music and listen to the sounds your car makes as you drive.

In this section, we deal with those facts that are not mentioned in the manual and give a few while-driving tips.
At times, strange smells may emanate from inside your car. The possible causes may be:

  • Musty odors indicate the existence of some trapped water, usually under the carpet. This will ruin the carpet and also speed up corrosion. The proper solution would be to remove the carpets and dry up both the carpet and the floor. It could also indicate a mouse living in your car. If you live in a rural area, set traps inside the car at night in the fall when these rodents are seeking a home for the winter.
  • Smoky smells are of various kinds. Electrical smoky smells are the most dangerous and it is advisable to shut down, open the hood, disconnect the batteries and seek professional help. Other smoky smells may occur when the sound or heat proof lining inside the engine space burns. Trace the cause.
  • Fuel smells occurs either when the fuel tank venting gets choked or if there has been an overflow.
  • Sometimes oil or exhaust smells from the engine occur. This maybe caused either due to too much engine oil, or if the engine oil has grown old and is burning, or if it has been overheated.
  • A typical sweaty smell emanates when varnish is being burnt which occurs when your dynamo or alternator is about to die and would usually be accompanied by flickering lights.
  • Burning rubber smells tend to come when you drive with your brakes on. Overheated tires may also be the cause.
Strange smells are an early warning signal that need to be heeded if much more time and money are to be saved later on.


General maintenance Detect an engine problem
Car parts that need regular care Save on fuel
Detect a brake problem Car maintenance
Change a tire Detect an alignment problem
Preventive maintenance Detect a radiator problem
More on engines Car Paints

Strange sounds tend to be sidelined in the bustle and din of our roads, and by the car stereo playing in the background. However, if the problem persists, the car will make its condition known every time you take a corner or ride over a bump. Some easily recognizable sounds are these:

  • Strange clicking while taking a turn from the front wheels means that the front shaft is about to fall apart. Get it fixed before it actually does.
  • A fan-belt squeal means that another one is needed.
  • Rhythmic clicks from the wheel indicate faulty bearings at worst or just large pebbles stuck in the tread pattern at the best.
  • A change in engine tone usually indicates engine overheating, especially if you have been driving at constant speeds for a long time. Stopping or varying the engine speed should be enough if there is no severe problem. Otherwise, let the car cool down and then check radiator and water levels.
  • Backfiring while normal driving means serious problems and should be properly investigated. Promptly.
  • Engine knocks means that it is time to get into a lower gear. If it persists, however, it is time to get your engine and engine oil checked.

At times, your car give personal signals which can be deciphered by only the user. Strange 'hiccups' while driving indicate faulty fuel which would in turn cause faulty carb or fuel injection. If there is unequal or wrong air pressure in tires, it is evident on braking. Unexplained shudders in braking indicate problems in suspension or linkages.

Finally, you can avoid strange repair bills if you have been going in for regular check ups!

Check out these other sections: Car Parts That Need Regular Care and More on Engines.

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