We name them. We decorate them. They help us haul lumber and bring our kids to school safely. And now Car Care Month is officially upon us and it’s time for us to turn our attention towards these beloved machines and make sure they’re up to date and in good running shape. While it’s natural for cars to show some bumps and bruises after years spent out on the road, we don’t necessarily need to turn to a new set of wheels or even a hired mechanic to fight through our automotive woes. Many problems commonly encountered with cars have notable symptoms and very manageable solutions. All it takes is the knowledge of what to look for and how to go about getting your hands dirty turning those car problems into straightforward solutions.
- Shake, Rattle and Roll: Cars weren’t built to rattle and click on the road, but after tens of thousands of miles it’s not uncommon to start hearing strange noises coming from under the hood. While some clicking noises might mean it’s time to bring the car into the shop for a professional fix, other sounds can be traced back to problems you’re better off taking care of in your own personal auto shop. Get your hands on a cheap stethoscope to help you locate the source of the sounds. If you find an unsteady slapping sound coming from the front of the engine that increases with RPMs, then it’s likely time for you to adjust your timing belt. If the clicks come as a series of sharper ticks that stay consistent as the engine runs, make sure to check oil levels as such clicking is often the lifter telling you your engine is hungry for more oil.
- Take a Brake: There is nothing more important to driver safety than a car’s braking system. The ability to stop quickly and reliably is vital in keeping you safe and it also protects those on the road around you. Unfortunately, like any other car part, brakes are prone to wear and tear that can cause them to be less effective. By checking your brakes twice a year, though, you should be able to ensure they are in good condition and will function properly when it matters most. Start by examining the rotors. Running lines are normal but any sharp grooves or areas of severe wear means it’s time to put in replacements. Next, move onto brake pads and brake lines. Anything less then 1/8” left of brake pad means it’s time to replace those as well, and if brake lines show corrosion or rigidity you should err on the side of caution and throw in a fresh pair.
- Pumping at Full Pressure: Since car engines function under enormous amounts of pressure, a good way to begin examining overall engine health is by performing a compression test. A compression test will measure compression levels in the engine’s individual cylinders and allow you to diagnose such issues such as a faulty head gasket or a bad piston ring. The desired result, of course, is to find that your engine is well-balanced and running strong, but if something serious needs to be fixed, better to find out about it now than on the next family road trip. Compression testers can be purchased for around twenty dollars and the procedure itself should take no longer than a single afternoon.
Fixing up your ride might not be the most thrilling of weekend projects, but setting aside an afternoon to make sure everything is in running order will keep you safe on the road and greatly reduce your chance of breaking down.
TIP: While you have the hood popped, why not use WD-40® Multi-Use Product to remove sludge from outside engine block