The next time you are driving your car around Colorado Springs, turn down the radio for a minute and listen. You could save hundreds of dollars by avoiding auto repairs.
By listening for early warning signs when driving your vehicle, you can get repairs done before they become bigger problems or require towing charges which can be expensive.
Proactive maintenance and taking the time to look under your hood can also help, of course. After a period of time some of the parts will start leaking. In newer cars, belts, which often drive more than one pump or accessory, can loosen and become frayed. If you sniff around for problems (literally), it may reveal gas or oil odors, which are also warning signs of trouble that could be down the road.
You should have a competent mechanic diagnose any problem, but the following checklist can help you to be aware that something is wrong before you get stranded.
Here is what to look and listen for:
•Water pump: Be sure to look for leaks around the front of the engine. If you see greenish water it means anti-freeze. Also listen for any knocking sounds, kind of like marbles are in the engine. When the engine is off and cold, grab the opposite fan blades and jiggle them to see if they are loose. Both are warning signs that you have a bad water pump bearing. Also be sure to inspect the condition of the belts. If you leave a bad water pump unchecked, it could cause your car to overheat and can even cause permanent damage to the engine block.
•Battery: When inspecting the battery, look for corrosion on the terminals. Side-terminal batteries have particularly small connections, so double-check those. Make sure that the connections are tight. If you have a maintenance-free battery, it should have an indicator that appears green if it is fully charged. Also listen for sluggish starting.
•Alternator: Similar to the battery, the alternator is part of the ignition system, which is complex. A faulty alternator may keep a car running for a while but it is a false sense of security because it will likely go out when you need it most. You can look for early signs by checking the dashboard for a warning light or a needle gauge that reads on the “discharge“ side.
Also check to see if the headlights get brighter when you rev the engine or if the lights dim when you honk the horn. Check the belts. Listen for a metallic, scratchy noise, which could mean you have a bad alternator bearing.
Alternators today have voltage regulators, and ignition coils are built into the distributors of many new cars. This can make it hard to pinpoint the problem. Also, sometimes just a loose wire or a loose belt can cause a problem.
•Starter: If electrical accessories and the headlights work fine but the engine still has a hard time cranking over, the problem could be the starter. This is another part of the ignition system. Listen for a loud `whirr` or clicking sound when you turn the key. This likely means that the starter is going bad.
•Steering: If you notice difficulty staying in your lane, you should check the tire pressure. If your tires are fine, the steering linkages may be the culprit.