There is nothing as frustrating to auto repair shops as a vehicle’s engine being destroyed due to driver complacency. This is not about missed service intervals, but rather it is about not heeding warning signs built into the vehicle to prevent this from happening. Twice this week, cars have ended up in the shredder due to poor decisions made by their operators.
Here are some tips to ensure that this doesn’t happen to you.
Warning lights – Cars cannot be driven while hot or without motor oil. Whether your vehicle has a temperature gauge or a “Hot” light, you must heed this condition when it is indicated on your dashboard. As soon as you can safely pull over, the engine should be shut off until it cools down, or better yet, have it towed. The same applies to the appearance of the low oil light represented by a dripping red oil container. Pullover or risk a knocking engine which is usually a sign of engine damage. Vehicles in this condition should be immediately shut down and should have motor oil added. If not, they should also be towed.
Fluid loss – There is only one system in your vehicle in which fluid does not operate, with zero tolerance for fluid loss. This is the air conditioning component of the HVAC system which will normally expel condensate from the evaporator onto the pavement in the form of water. All others (fuel, power steering, cooling, engine lubrication, braking, and transmission) do not normally leak. You must monitor any fluid losses, identify their type and source and resolve them.
Unusual noise – We humans respond audibly in the form of sighs or “ouches” when we experience pain. Vehicles do the same with a variety of whines, groans, squeals, and screeches. Hence the name – Click and Clack the Tappet Brothers- which Tom and Ray Magliozzi adopted for their Car Talk radio show. Consider noise from the engine compartment, wheels, or undercarriage as a sincere cry for help, and don’t ignore a vehicle in distress. It may take the trained ear of a professional to track it down.
Common sense – When I was coming out of the post office the other day, all layered up to combat the polar vortex, I heard a gentleman race his engine with a vengeance. Was this an effort to heat the engine up more rapidly? I just don’t know, but it was detrimental to the well-being of his engine. Drivers should temper the awe with which they view current-day automotive technology with an appreciation for the complexity of the machine and consider the conditions under which they demand their vehicles to perform.
Our time-constrained, over-committed, and financially stressed lives force us to make unreasonable demands for the vehicles we drive. Ultimately those same lives are intrinsically tied to our transportation devices, and the loss of them only serves to wreak havoc with our professional and personal well-being. So monitor your vehicle and respond to it in its time of need.