The best way to avoid being stranded on the side of the road, waiting for a tow truck for hours on end is to regularly maintain and check your vehicle for any leaks, noises, or alerts. However, if you do encounter a car breakdown, knowing the cause of the breakdown can help you find a fix faster. Here are the top five common car failures and how you can prevent them.
1) Evaporative leak. This is especially common in the summer due to the rise in outside temperatures increasing the pressure in your gas tank. An increase in pressure causes higher fuel volatility–changing your fuel from liquid to gas. This gas must be vented into a canister on your vehicle so that it can be stored until your engine starts. If this ventilation system (comprised of several hoses, canisters, and valves) has a leak, your “check engine” light will turn on. Once you notice this, make sure the entire ventilation system is checked for old, cracked hoses or a loose gas cap.
2) Engine hesitation or surge. In hot temperatures and high humidity, vehicles tend to experience problems with exhaust gas re-circulation. Exhaust can build up in the intake manifold–causing blockages and drivability problems. The best way to avoid this problem is to make sure your air filter is clean. Having blockages or a dirty air filter forces your engine to work much harder than it should have to.
3) Overheating. The most common reason your car overheats is due to a faulty cooling system or low fluid level. Checking your car’s fluids (engine coolant, brake fluid, automatic transmission fluid, etc.) is an easy way to prevent this type of break down. However, if you end up with on overheated engine, turn on your heater. It seems counter-intuitive but it can actually help remove heat from the engine.
4) Flat tire or blowout. A flat tire can be caused by wear and tear or overinflation. Some newer vehicles have tire-pressure monitoring systems but older ones will be unable to detect low tire-pressure. Low tire-pressure makes your tires unable to handle the weight of your vehicle and on high friction drives (interstate driving), your entire tire can blowout. Checking your tire-pressure with a simple tire gauge every month is a good way to avoid getting a flat or blown-out tire.
5) Dead battery. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to know if your battery is running low on juice. If your car is taking a long time to start, it’s a good idea to check the battery with a battery tester that plugs into your vehicle’s 12-volt receptacle. Making sure your battery has all its parts is also key to extending its life. It should have several plastic piece surrounding it that help to keep it cool and working properly. Additionally, make sure you are replacing your battery about every three years. Caring for your battery is important–a failed battery can lead to an alternator failure (and you don’t need another problem).
Remember–the best way to avoid a breakdown is to maintain your vehicle and perform periodic safety checks. A safety check should include inspection of tires, lights, belts, hoses, fluids, and windshield wipers. Make sure to read your owner’s manual to understand the meanings of alert lights and sounds and familiarize yourself with your vehicle’s safety equipment in the case of a breakdown.
Courtesy of the Chicago Tribune