Car Trouble Warning Signs | Auto Care Checklist | ND Teen Drivers

Driving IQ // Car Care

How to Care For Your Sweet Ride

Car Trouble Warning Signs

You May be Having Car Trouble When...

Listening for signs of trouble now can save you from breakdowns later. In partnership with The Car Care Council, AAA offers some predictors of engine problems.

Common signs of trouble

  • Jiggling at certain speeds, indicating a tire out of balance
  • Squealing or scraping sounds when you apply the brakes
  • Knocks or pings from the engine when you accelerate or climb a hill
  • Failure to start, but the engine turns over
  • Adding oil between oil changes
  • A "check engine" or similar warning light is activated
  • A rumbling or hissing sound from the muffler
  • The thumping of a tire that's flawed and may soon fail
  • The clicking of a worn CV joint as you make a tight turn
  • An engine that keeps chugging after you've turned off the ignition
  • Moisture or antifreeze odor detected inside the car
  • At the first sign of trouble, consult with a reputable mechanic.

Source: AAA North Dakota

What Do I Tell the Mechanic?

Be as clear as possible about a problem with your car when speaking to an auto tech. It can make the difference between driving out with a properly repaired vehicle or driving out only to discover the problem is still there.

Improve your communication with your technician by following these tips:

  • Jot it down. Before you take your vehicle in, write notes on its symptoms so you don't overlook anything.
  • Be precise. Tell your tech or service representative exactly what happens, such as what rattles or whether you hear a noise accompanying the problem. If it's from one side of the vehicle, refer to the driver or passenger side, not left or right.
  • Be clear. Don't use technical language unless you're sure what it means.
  • Document. If your vehicle recently has been serviced, bring copies of the latest repair orders. It may help techs eliminate areas to look for and speed up repairs.
  • Check the paperwork. Before you authorize any work, look over your new repair order. If the order is vague, ask that it be clarified so the tech can understand the problem. If possible, take the tech or service coordinator for a test drive so they can observe the problem you've just described.
  • Test-drive the repair. When you pick up your car, test-drive it so you can bring it back immediately if the problem persists.
  • Review your bill. When you review your bill, don't hesitate to ask about anything you don't understand. Learn to communicate with your tech and you'll spend less time in the customer lounge and more on the road.

Source: AAA North Dakota

Your Car Checklist

A car doesn't take care of itself. Here's your checklist of items to help you take the best care of your vehicle.

  • Your battery: The posts and connections should be free of corrosion. If your vehicle battery is older than 3 years, replace it.
  • Oil: Dirty oil makes it harder for your engine to turn over and results in premature engine wear. Your owner's manual will tell you how often to change your oil.
  • Wipers: Most wiper blades will last a year, but if you find that the blades aren't cleaning your window well, replace them immediately. Make sure there is fluid in the wiper reservoir.
  • Tires: AAA recommends that you inspect your tires weekly. There are 3 areas that need special attention:
    • Tire tread
      Look at the depth of your tread and look for uneven wear patterns. Use a depth gauge, available from most automotive parts stores, to check tire wear. When any of the tread readings decrease to 3/16 of an inch, it's time for new tires. At 2/16 of an inch, you may also notice some small, regularly spaced "bald strips" or wear indicators, running straight across the tread at six or more locations around the tire.
    • Sidewalls
      Look for deep cuts, bubbles, or bulges on the sides of your tire. You need to check tire pressure using a pressure gauge, also found at most auto parts stores. Compare your gauge reading the recommended inflation pressure listed on your vehicle's tire placard. The placard is a small label that is found on the edge of the driver's door or on the inside of the glove compartment door.
    • Monitor tire inflation pressure
      Tires that wear faster on both the edges could be under-inflated. If you notice more wear on either the inside or outside edge of the tire, or if your car seems to pull slightly to one side, have your car's alignment checked.
    Your owner's manual will tell you how often you should rotate your tires. It's good to check your brakes at the same time!
  • Belts and hoses: Both deteriorate slowly over time. Combine an inspection of belts and hoses with another maintenance item, such as the oil change.
  • Antifreeze: While many new cars come with antifreeze designed to last 4-5 years, the product found in most auto parts stores is good for only 2 years.

Source: AAA North Dakota

Saving Dollars and Cents on the Road: Cut Your Gas Expenses

Ease sticker shock at the gas pump by following these tips:

1. Slow down. Even a 5-mile-per-hour decrease in speed can affect gas mileage. Watch your tachometer to gauge engine performance. Large trucks benefit from lowered speeds. For every 1-mile-per-hour increase above 55 mph, fuel efficiency generally decreases 2.2 %.

2. Keep tires properly inflated. Under-inflated tires can cut fuel economy by a half percent per pound of pressure below recommended levels.

3. Give your car a full tune-up. Include a regular oil and oil filter change. A poorly tuned engine can increase fuel use by up to 50 % or more.

4. Use the proper grade of gasoline. Do not purchase more expensive mid-grade or premium gasoline unless recommended by the vehicle manufacturer.

5. Don't let a vehicle idle for more than a minute. Idling can consume as much as a gallon of gas per hour. Idling also wastes more fuel than restarting the engine.

6. Maintain a consistent speed. Accelerate gently, brake gradually and avoid hard stops.

7. Plan errands. Combine outings into one trip or location as often as possible to spend less time on the road.

8. Pare extra weight. The excess weight of car top carriers, trailers and other vehicles cause engines to work harder and burn more gas.

check oil9. Car pool when possible.

10. Travel during off-peak times to avoid rush hour.

11. Check the engine oil level when buying gas. Your car will run more efficiently if the engine is lubricated properly.

Source: AAA North Dakota

car care

Hot weather can be rough on cars. Higher temperatures speed up a car's wear and tear as fluids and lubricants break down more quickly. By following the manufacturer's recommended maintenance schedule in your car's owner manual and taking the following precautions, your car will be ready for a long hot summer.

  • Consider a pre-trip inspection by a qualified technician before you leave. Repairs made on the road may be more costly and disrupt your vacation plans. To locate a quality service facility in your area, visit to find a nearby AAA Approved Auto Repair facility.
  • Check the air pressure in all tires, including the spare, to make sure they are properly inflated. Uneven or excessive tread wear are signs it may be time for rotation or replacement.
  • Check the air conditioning and inspect the belts and hoses. You may want to have a service professional inspect the entire system.
  • Inspect batteries and battery cables for corrosion, cracks and dirt. Hot weather can shorten a battery's life, so have it tested if it's near the end of its warranty. It's a lot easier to replace a dying battery before a trip than replace a dead one on the side of the road.
  • Get a brake pad inspection by a certified mechanic; inspect brake pads and linings for wear.
  • Change the engine oil and filter according to the manufacturer's service intervals and specifications. The service technician should also check the coolant, brake, automatic transmission, windshield wiper and power steering fluids.
  • Replace worn wiper blades.
  • speed
  • Test your car's interior and exterior lights, including turn signals and high beams to make sure they work. This is also a good time to clean the lenses to get maximum visibility.
  • Change your car's filters according to the manufacturer's service intervals and specifications. A dirty air filter alone lowers gas mileage and reduces engine performance.
  • Watch for your "check engine" light. Never leave on a long trip with your car's "check engine light" or "malfunction indicator light" lit up (or if it doesn't light as a bulb check when starting your vehicle). This light alerts you to a malfunction if it's on while driving your car. If this light is on, have the problem diagnosed by a qualified technician before you leave.
  • Service your A/C system. Leave air conditioning upgrades to service technicians. Do not have a leaking air conditioning system recharged or "topped off" or try to add refrigerant yourself. Neither should you attempt to open or disconnect air conditioning hoses or lines - serious frostbite or eye injury can result. Discharging chemical refrigerants into the atmosphere is illegal.

Source: AAA North Dakota.

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