Buzz Up! By John DeCostanza
An alert driver is the best gauge. In response to the demise of the neighborhood service station, the car companies have installed some systems to ensure that drivers stay off the side of the road. Tire pressure monitoring is one system meant as an early warning indicator of an impending emergency. The rest of the instrumentation on your dashboard (coolant temp, oil pressure, for example) adds to the feedback available to the motorist.
However, some potential problem areas are not monitored by your car and are best detected by alert drivers who employ all of their senses to stay out of trouble. These are the sensual warning signs:
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The smell of gas. An unwritten rule at gas stations that did repairs was to never send a car on its way if it was leaking gas. The garage either resolved it or suggested that the vehicle be towed to someone who could fix it within the expectations of the customer. The threat of fire is imminent due the myriad of ignition sources under the hood of a car, which includes various electrical connections and also superheated components. An aware driver should always respond to the smell of “raw” gasoline and seek out its source with the help of a professional if needed.
The noise of an axle. It is not unusual for drivers to complain about noises emanating from the axles of their cars. A clicking or clunking noise when making turns is usually the marker for a failed CV or axle shaft. A roar from the area of the wheels can be a bad wheel bearing or hub unit. The roar is sometimes accompanied a slapping or whoop sound that is uniform to the speed of the wheel.
The feel of a front-end shake. The front end that shakes badly and commands the attention of the driver to the degree that he is hesitant to drive the vehicle may be traced to a failed tire. When the belt shifts in a tire it becomes egg shaped and at any speed will create fierce shaking. There are many other suspension and steering issues that can cause the front end of a car to shake, but usually not as bad as a tire that is out of round.
The sight of leaking fluid. Before a car runs hot, loses its brakes, or has a transmission that slips, due to fluid loss there is a window of time that the fluids involved are visible around the car. This would be prior to your car’s instrumentation detecting a problem. This is why we suggest a “walk around” your car. Antifreeze will show up in the extreme front of the car, while transmission fluid is usually further back and brake fluid will be found around the perimeter.
Not all problems can be detected by your car’s early warning system, but with an awareness of your vehicle and the use of your senses to detect problems you can avert an emergency.
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