“The cars we drive say a lot about us.” – Alexandra Paul
Well if that’s the case, then just imagine the impression we send out when our vehicles start displaying some pretty outlandish behavior. It all begins with an innocent trip. You’re heading out on the open road, and suddenly what should happen? Your car starts losing it. Sluggish to the point of giving snails a complex, screeching and squealing so well that you begin to think it’s in sheer physical pain, and vibrating so much that you wish it stopped acting like a damn massage chair (a really poor one at that!)
If any of the above descriptors fit your car’s recent turn down the odd street, then it might just be conveying you a signal. Something along the lines of – “It’s time for a tune-up!”
Unfortunately, most of us lack the gift of picking up our car’s distress signals until it’s too late. And when that happens, there’s one excuse just waiting to be bandied about – “I had no idea”. Sigh. It’s really not that hard to pick up, especially when your car starts screeching every time you started it or wailed in protest every time you wheeled it outta the garage for a drive. I mean if human beings began exhibiting such behavior, we’d be checking into the nearest clinic ASAP! No questions asked!
Sure, there’s the argument that cars these days are much, much different from what they were even 10 or so years ago. After all, technology has vowed to never take a rest, and voilà! You’ve got vehicles that don’t need to see the inside of a servicing center until they’ve clocked 100,000 miles.
That, however, doesn’t excuse the disregard for any potential warning signs. With all that blunt dropped on getting a car of your choice, to be forced to replace it can be bloody inconvenient! Which is why the more reasonable alternative would be to take care of the one you’re already driving. Prevention is, after all, better than the cure.
Don’t be one of those people that wait for things to go completely haywire before rushing their cars in for servicing. Trust us when we say this, allowing a simple tune-up issue to fester too long can cause unimaginable damage to your car. There’s only so many times one can blame everything on the need for “fresh gas/oil”.
Start by paying attention to what your car’s trying to tell you. And you can do this by identifying these signs that act as tip-offs for a car tune-up or maintenance. And do not on any account dawdle in scheduling the next appointment with your mechanic as soon as one or more of these signs start to materialize!
Signs That Your Car Needs a Tune Up
A tune-up typically involves the replacement of spark plugs, spark plug wires and distributor caps (among other things, depending on your car). As everything gets futuristic, tune-ups now signify different things for different vehicles. To understand what’s behind most of your car’s issues today, all you gotta do is start paying attention to the following signs:
Your car stalls more than it steers – Imagine your car suddenly stalling at intersections, at traffic junctions, every time you try accelerating, or all the other 101 times you take it out. Be warned, my friend. For this is not only a sure sign of trouble slinking in the corner, but is also extremely capable of putting you in a spot; a dangerous one at that! All engines are engineered with reliability being the critical factor that goes into their making. So, for things to go wrong means it could be a case of fouled or worn spark plugs, a required adjustment of the gap between the spark plug electrodes, a clogged fuel filter, a tweaking of an electronic sensing device etc.
The appearance of bizarre noises on the scene – If your car starts emitting certain strange sounds, then you’re probably in a world of trouble. The most common offense is some pretty freakish squealing. This could be when the steering wheel is turned at low speeds; perhaps indicating low power steering fluid level, a loose or worn belt (under the hood) when the car’s started, or even maybe an unbalanced tire or a failing CV joint. Whatever the cause, hearing noises ain’t good, especially the ones that make a sudden appearance!
Cushiony or rackety brakes – The brakes of a car have only one mission – to bring it to a stop as noiselessly as possible, without the need for flooring the brake pedal. However, if your brakes develop a tendency to screech mercilessly, or seem to adopt a healthy dose of the judders, chances are something’s very wrong. The same thing applies for a brake pedal that feels “soft” or “squidgy” when you press down on it, requires a lot of leg muscle, and refuses to stop until you’ve made contact with the floor. All wear items like the brake pads, rotors and brake fluid need timely maintenance and replacement.
When you’re in for a rough ride – When your car starts acting possessed by lurching or jolting, then it’s probably time for a tune-up. Sometimes your engine can start misbehaving when it’s idling, or blow hot and cold when that accelerator is smashed; all the while overcompensating with a power rush. Clogged fuel filters, fouled-out spark plugs, spark plug wires or coil plugs that have gone kaput, and plugged-up air filters can all be blamed for this automobile lawlessness.
When shifting gears becomes a right pain – If your vehicle seems to be in two minds when shifting from reverse to drive or vice versa, if the gear changes become uneven and hasty, if the car seems to be upshifting or downshifting irregularly (especially when you’ve got zero clues), or if it finds shifting into a higher gear troublesome – then your transmission probably needs a lotta attention. The gears that let your vehicle run depend on transmission fluid, filters, and screens that need regular maintenance to guarantee a longer life.
When starting the car gets hellish hard – Feeling a little blah in the morning? Who doesn’t! But it’s an entirely different matter to have your car start acting sluggish. If it doesn’t start and takes quite a few key turns before spluttering to life, you’re in a major fix. It could be the fault of a weak battery, an even weaker fuel pump, a problem in the ignition system, a busted electronic component, a malfunctioning starter etc.
Vibrations you definitely didn’t ask for – The emergence of a vibration; minus any warning, and one that isn’t triggered by rough road conditions raises an extra bright red flag! You may only feel it in the steering wheel at particular speeds, or you may feel it right through the entire vehicle. All this is indicative of several problems that include worn-out, unbalanced or flat tires, a failing universal joint, and several other problems.
When the accelerator doth protest too much – It’s all well and good to be able to drive a car at breakneck speeds and experience the rush of participating in your very own F1 race. But what happens when you put the pedal to the metal only to have your car channel a sloth in protest at such treatment? Choked-up fuel injectors, air filters way past their time, sludge-filled oil pans, or hazardous distributor points (on older vehicles) can all impact your car’s conduct.
When your fuel economy can’t seem to hack it – If you’ve ever witnessed your car acting greedy by guzzling up gas like it was no one’s business (especially when you’re pretty sure that no extra driving has been undertaken), then suffice to say your car has experienced what is termed as a reduction in fuel mileage. A sudden decline in fuel mileage is an indicator of inefficient vehicular functioning. The problem could be an off-base tire pressure, a sticking brake pad, dirty air filters that need a replacement ASAP, an issue with your spark plugs etc. Always keep a track of your baseline fuel mileage so you aren’t caught unawares whenever a problem occurs.
When the lights light up (Warning lights that include maintenance warning light, check engine lights and service indicator lights) – Those tiny signals on the dashboard that glow whenever you start the car are there to indicate a problem with the system or any component. That check engine light (CEL)? It serves a purpose. And a flash of yellow glow on the dash could signify one of two things: (1) A particularly disastrous engine failure, or (2) a time to get yourself a fresh set of spark plugs. This obviously means you gotta pay close attention, and when the dashboard begins to light up, get them diagnosed immediately. It could be anything from a simple case of a burned-out taillight to something even more serious, like a transmission failure.
Other signs include:
After-run where the engine coughs and croaks for several seconds after shutting off of the ignition.
And there you have it! A few symptoms that necessitate your car’s immediate diagnosis. Plus the same symptoms can hint at different problems, with several different causes and cures. Which is why it’s always better to consult a professional mechanic than playing at one yourself.
It’s better to let your mechanic know what exactly ails your car, and have them explain the exact reason behind it. Describe all that you’ve been faced with, prepare a list of everything that seems to have worried you (strange sounds, vibrations, and other changes), and inform the mechanic how exactly an issue seems to have been replicated. E.g. The steering wheel vibrating whenever the brakes are applied. And to take the edge off of any nasty long-term problems, and to have yourselves a pliable vehicle, always take it in for routine maintenance checks.