Listen to your car when it complains

Car problems tend to be progressive so ignoring any warning signs that something is wrong can lead to bigger problems and even damage other parts, warns Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA) vice chairperson Deon Goch.

“Red flags about the health of your car are very much like those of the human body when something is not right. Your car may complain loudly or subtly. Either way, get the problem checked out by an accredited workshop before a minor issue becomes a big – and costly – issue,” Goch says.

His philosophy on vehicle problems is ‘prevention is better than cure’.

“Preventive maintenance may help avoid a breakdown. This involves using common sense and, importantly, not skipping services to ensure these are carried out frequently enough to meet the manufacturer’s guidelines.”

Goch says certain types of problems will happen at some point to a car, no matter how well maintained it is or which make of car it is.

“However, in our experience, normal ‘signs of aging’ cropping up too early make up a large portion of common vehicle problems,” he says.

MIWA, a proud association of the Retail Motor Industry (RMI), advises taking your car to a trained automotive professional at an accredited workshop. They have the tools and knowledge to diagnose and correct problems to ensure you have continued safe and fuel-efficient driving.

“There are simple fixes that can be done at home if you are familiar with the mechanics of your car, like an oil change, but more technical maintenance should be left to the experts,” says Goch.

Some common car ailments not to ignore:

•             Worn brake pads – when brakes tend to squeak or develop a grinding sound, get this checked out by a professional mechanic as a matter of urgency. In addition to brakes being an essential safety feature for any vehicle, worn brake pads can cause expensive damage to the brake discs.

•             Excessive oil consumption – Get a reputable mechanic to check out the basics by replacing the oil and oil filters. It also pays in the long run to use high quality oil brands.

•             Guzzling fuel – this is a sure sign your engine lacks maintenance. Regular oil changes, replacing the air filter and changing spark plugs ensure better fuel efficiency.

•             Steering mechanism – a shaking steering wheel while travelling at reasonable speed needs to be checked out. It might only take a simple adjustment of wheel balancing to fix the problem. Should there be noticeable movement on the steering wheel at very low speed or even when the car is idling, it could be suspension or wheel bearing issues.

•             Leaking radiator caused by corrosion – avoid driving your car before this is fixed as a leaking radiator can cause overheating and serious damage.

•             Cracked windscreen – don’t ignore the small cracks as any crack can compromise the structural integrity of your car.

•             Gearbox failure – typically categorised by scrapping gears/the transmission not being able to shift gears smoothly.

•             Faulty starter – this is the case if you hear a clicking sound before the car starts. If the starter fails your car won’t start.

•             Trust your senses –  For example if you smell burning rubber while at a stop,  act on this.  If you smell something peculiar from your exhaust the chances are your catalytic converter is blocked etc.

Goch concludes that taking note of the “niggling” problems as they arise will provide peace of mind on the road and help retain the value of your vehicle.

“Keeping a vehicle in good shape makes good economic sense and ensures safety for the owner and passengers. This is particularly relevant at the moment with the ever-increasing price of fuel.”