Your hands are shaking, you’re hyperventilating, and you’re terrified. Halloween may be over, but there are still ghouls and ghosts out there, and your tremors are related to another type of monster – vehicle maintenance and repair – and that can seem way scarier! Car problems are frightening and can be dangerous, but vehicle owners don’t need to be spooked. Here are some tips to help you arm yourself with the weapons you need to defeat all the car care monsters that fall can throw at you.
By Chasidy Rae Sisk
When it comes to gearing up to protect your vehicle and yourself against the most common car care monsters, sticking to your service schedule is your first line of defense. Routine maintenance ensures that every part of your vehicle is receiving the attention it deserves, keeping your car in peak condition so it runs better and longer.
Of course, circumstances sometimes foil the best-laid plans, so it’s useful to keep a few weapons on hand as backup. Arm yourself with your owner’s manual so you have easy access to all the information you need about your car. Be prepared for an attack from any angle by keeping some basic car care items in your trunk, such as extra coolant and jumper cables.
Few things can make us jump out of our skin like a blowout or sudden flat tire. You can prevent many of these problems by keeping tires in good shape. Regularly inspect the condition of your tires, looking for blisters, wear and tear, sidewall separations, and tread depth.
Weapons: If a tire-slashing werewolf catches up with you, be prepared to quickly change a flat by keeping a spare in your trunk, along with a jack and wrench. (It doesn’t even need to be silver!)
“I vant to suck your… battery acid?!” Car care vampires are a real pain in the neck, stopping you dead in your tracks. Make sure you’re never stranded with a dead battery by regularly inspecting for swelling, leaks or signs of corrosion.
Replace your battery according to the maintenance schedule provided in your owner’s manual or recommended by your shop of choice, and make sure your voltage levels get checked during each service appointment so you can catch and resolve potential issues before they become a major issue.
Replace it when it’s due to be replaced, and check voltage levels to ensure you have enough charge (or visit your local shop to have them check for you). Carry jumper cables in your trunk to allow you to recharge a dead battery (nifty self-contained version?)
Weapons: Keeping jumper cables in your car will allow you to recharge a dead battery, but remember to connect the positive cable to the positive (red, +) and the negative to the negative (black, -).
A light illuminates on your dashboard, but is it a friendly pumpkin or a dangerous monster? Air pressure alerts are easy to resolve by filling your tires. A check engine light could simply indicate that your gas cap is loose, but if tightening it doesn’t dim the jack-o’-lantern’s grin, it’s time to call in the professional car care slayers.
Weapons: Schedule a maintenance appointment, so a qualified professional can ensure that your vehicle is safe to drive. It’s easy to ignore those dashboard lights, but their purpose is to alert you to a potential problem. Ignoring them does not make the problem go away; instead, it exacerbates it, turning a simple fix into something much more damaging and expensive.
An overheating car often indicates low fluids, particularly coolant or oil. Routinely checking and replenishing these vital fluids will prevent your car from drying up like a mummy. If you aren’t already using synthetic oil, you may want to talk to your mechanic about switching since it operates cleaner, lasts longer, and is widely believed to improve vehicle performance.
Weapons: Carrying extra coolant in your vehicle allows you to top it off if that’s why your car is overheating. Otherwise, contact your preferred shop so they can figure out what’s causing the car to overheat. Never drive an overheated car – unless you’re ready for your vehicle to have a tomb of its own.
Unless your car is part of your haunted house décor, those banging, whining and rattling noises coming from under the hood are the sign of a likely problem. Your car is audibly telling you that something is wrong, so you need to listen. Pay attention to the sound and where it’s coming from. A thumping noise may be a tire going flat, grinding sounds are likely brake problems, and hearing growling or humming could be worn tires or a sign that your tires need to be balanced. Something under the hood may need to be replaced, adjusted or lubricated.
Weapons: Get your vehicle to the shop as quickly as you can. When talking to your mechanic, you can attempt to duplicate the sound, describe it, or provide an audio recording.
If none of the weapons in your armory are getting the job done and helping your vehicle run correctly, it’s time to get some help. Taking your car to the shop can be scary with concerns of cost and the amount of time your vehicle will not be available to use, but breaking down is a lot more nerve-racking. Plus, the longer you ignore those car care monsters, the larger they get and the more they’ll cost in the long run.