A wise man once said that no one should ever get behind the wheel of a car if they didn’t have at least some vague idea of how to handle car emergencies as well as some very general car care tasks. For instance, this wise man thought that you should always be able to change your own tire when the need arose. He also thought you should be able to check the tire pressure, check and change the oil and of course, fill your own gas tank. Learn these things or stick to the bicycle was the guy’s mantra. Thanks a lot, Dad.
Most of us can agree that troubleshooting car problems can be easily stuck in one of two categories: the oh my God, why today and the meh, I think I can fix this. Here is the truth for those categories for most people: if you are totally unprepared, the former might very well be the latter and if you are overly confident the reverse might be true. Simply put, learn the basics of troubleshooting car problems and some basic car maintenance and you won’t find yourself dealing with issues that will leave you stranded on the side of the road.
Okay, first things first: all cars sound and feel different from one another, especially after they get a little bit of miles on them. The older the car, the more likely they are to be hiding some potential issue under their hood and the more likely they are to have little squeaks, creaks and squeals of protest when you goose the gas. Just like your knees pop and crack when you heft your backside off the couch, the car might have some interesting sounds when going from standing still to moving. Learn what sounds are normal for the car when it is in motion.
While you are at it, learn what smells are normal for this car. A bad seal can give you just the subtle whiff of gas before it gets bad enough to need repair work. One of the best ways to learn hot to start troubleshooting car problems is by knowing what is and is not normal for your car. Another is to keep up with all of the maintenance of the car. A well maintained car is less likely to cause you problems in the first place.
Call it Murphy’s Law of the car, the farther you are away from any kind of help, the more likely you are to break down. The minute that you are out of range of your cell phone or walking distance to a garage or even a working phone, your car will chug to a stop. What happens before that clunking, clattering stop can help you determine what might be wrong with your car. Your instrument panel should give you some indication of what is wrong, but that is not always the most reliable key to follow. Your car care manual should give you some solid hints for troubleshooting car problems. It may also give you some good tips for how to safely but temporarily remedy some of the most common issues that can happen with your particular model of car.