Top 5 Breakdowns and How to Prevent Them
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Image: Flickr
Image: Flickr

1. Flat tire or blowout

Some flats are unavoidable (like when you hit a nail), but there are things you can do to help prevent them. Make a routine of checking your tires every week. Look for any debris lodged in the tire (screws/shrapnel), check the the thread depth-it should be at least 1.6mm and check the tire pressure. To find your vehicles specific PSI, check your owners manual.

If you’re getting a recurring flat tire, it could be caused by a bad valve stem or a leak around the wheel seal. To test this, fully inflate the tire, mix up a solution of water and dish soap and pour on the base of the valve and on the outside of the wheel where tire and rim meet. The soapy water will make any slow leaks obvious.

Image: Flickr
Image: Flickr

2. Dead battery

A battery can be run down by frequent, short trips. Prevent it from going flat by taking your car on a longer drive once a week. Periodically check the battery terminals to make sure they’re not loose and to clean off any debris. Don’t leave accessories or headlights on without the engine running for long periods of time. Sometimes a battery just gets too old to produce enough amps and simply needs to be replaced.

Another cause of a dead battery could be a faulty alternator. Some cars will have a built in warning light that will either be “ALT”, “GEN” or shaped like a battery. Erratic headlights and dash lights that dim or suddenly get brighter are another common symptom. Persistent dead batteries often points to an alternator problem.

Image: Flickr
Image: Flickr

3. Clutch cable

Eventually, every manual car’s clutch will wear out, before it fails completely, learn to identify the symptoms.

  • Hard pedal- a worn clutch cable will often feel stiff or unresponsive. If too much pressure is applied, the cable will often break.
  • Gear slipping- the car may slip in and out of gears, especially when accelerating or driving up hills.
  • Jerkiness- If your vehicle jerks excessively when in low gears or shudders at low speeds it could be a sign of cable trouble.
Image: Flickr
Image: Flickr

4. Overheating engine

There’s several possible reasons for an engine that’s constantly overheating. A common issue is a leak somewhere in the cooling system. Check the radiator fluid level and if there’s any coolant pooling beneath your car and look for any leaking spots near the radiator welds and hoses.

If no leaks are found, check that the thermostat isn’t stuck by feeing the upper radiator hose when the engine has warmed up. The hose should be warm, if it still feels cool, the thermostat is probably stuck shut.

Other issues could be a faulty water pump, cooling fan or a clogged radiator. Overheating can cause serious engine damage so it’s important to be proactive. Flush your coolant at the interval recommended by your owners manual and monitor your coolant levels. If you’re driving in hot weather and notice your engine temperature is starting to creep up, turn off your AC, if that doesn’t help, turn the heater on to dissipate some of the heat trapped in the cooling system. It’s also a good idea to keep a gallon jug of water in your car during summer, just in case.

Image: Flickr
Image: Flickr

5. Engine lubrication failures

An engine that is starved of oil won’t run for very long, and often the damage is irreparable.

Low oil levels can be caused by a number of things, barring a leak, one of the major causes is burning oil. If your oil viscosity is below your recommended viscosity or is of poor quality, the oil will burn at a much quicker rate. Worn gaskets and seals will also up oil consumption.

Low oil pressure will also cause engine failure and can be the result of a faulty oil pump, clogged screen or worn bearings due to neglect or high mileage. Keep your engine running smoothly with regular oil and filter changes and always choose a high quality oil with the right viscosity recommended for your vehicle and climate.

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