We would all like to avoid visits to the repair shop as much as possible, but that little corner of despair on our dashboards, the check engine light, is sure to eventually light itself up. When that happens, we know it’s time to take the car in for a check-up… though many of us delay much more than we should. But other than the check engine light, or possibly in tandem with it, there are many signs that something with the automobile may have gone awry. Here are some, organized by parts.
- Transmission – If your car hesitates to go into gear between switching from park to drive or vice versa, it is likely you have a problem with the transmission. You can tell by the engine running much faster than the car is moving, which could be not at all, then suddenly slamming into motion with a small kick. Also listen for strange noises coming from your car, though these can be difficult to interpret.
- Alternator – If your car’s headlights seems to be flickering for no apparent reason, or buttons on the dash are very dim or failing altogether for a moment at a time, these could be signs of an alternator going bad. Also, if your battery has died and isn’t near its expected life-span, this could be a sign of a bad alternator. If you have reason to think there is a problem, it’s definitely worth a trip to the repair shop rather than being stranded with a car that won’t start.
- Catalytic Converter – Though this problem shouldn’t really exist at all, because it is a result of ignoring maintenance, it is one of the most seen problems in repair shops. Tell-tale signs include a sudden and dramatic drop in horsepower, fuel-economy, and a bad smell like rotten eggs.
- Fuel Pump – Signs that a fuel pump is going, or has gone, bad include a screeching sound upon starting and warming up of the vehicle or sudden but temporary engine misfiring at higher speeds after the engine has warmed up. Also, slow starting or failure to start could be caused by a bad fuel pump. Avoid going to the repair shop for a fuel pump by keeping your tank more than at least a quarter full at all times.