Car Health: Know Your Symptoms - Car Health: Know Your Symptoms


Every car runs the risk of malfunctioning at the worst possible time, which is why it's best to have Car Insurance so that you can protect yourself in the event of a car accident that may result from mechanical failure. Fortunately, you don't always need to be a mechanic to know when something is wrong with your precious set of wheels. Most of these problems can actually be detected by just listening, feeling and being alert while driving.


We’ve put together some common issues faced by car owners, and offer some explanations and solutions to help you get your pride and joy back on the road as soon as possible.


SA Car Fan offers some explanations and solutions regarding an overheating engine, loss of power and steering wheel pulling to one side:


Overheating engine Automotive Engine


Most likely causes: Insufficient coolant or a leak in the hoses. Sitting in standstill traffic reduces airflow and can cause the engine to overheat.


Prevention: Ensure the water reservoir has adequate water, check the condition of the radiator pipes, keep a look out for leaks and watch the temperature gauge. Stop the vehicle if the temperature gauge goes into the red. You should also avoid revving the car to redline.


Repairs: If caught early this can be fixed at home, provided that you don’t continue driving after noticing these symptoms. If the head gasket is blown or damage to the pistons has occurred, a mechanic could charge upwards of R3 500 to repair it.


Loss of power Speedometer


Most likely causes: An overheating engine, poor fuel quality, old spark plugs or a blocked air filter can cause a loss of power. This can be the result of an overdue routine service.


Prevention: Regular servicing and maintenance.


Repairs: Can be done at home with a basic set of tools and a bit of automotive knowledge. You could save costs this way and pay only the price of the parts which can come to around R2 000. However, be sure to consider the warranty conditions applicable to your vehicle to avoid the warranty over the vehicle being suspended.


Steering wheel pulls to one side Steering Wheel


Most likely causes: Incorrect alignment, unbalanced tyre pressures and worn joints or bearings. Driving into potholes will put a vehicle at risk of these symptoms.


Prevention: Check tyre pressures regularly and pay close attention to the road surface.


Repair: You will need to take the vehicle to a tyre fitment specialist who will assess the car’s alignment. Although spares are not always needed, a mechanic could charge for labour. The labour and expertise could cost around R1 000.


SAmen offers some explanations and solutions regarding smoke, headlight problems and bad odours:


Smoke from tail pipe Exhaust Pipe


Most likely causes: Blue smoke is usually an indication that your engine is burning oil, which means the oil is seeping past the lubricated parts into the combustion chamber. There are also 3 possible causes for grey smoke pouring out of your exhaust. These could be transmission fluid being burnt up by the engine; you may have a faulty turbocharger or a stuck PCV valve. Minimal white smoke could be nothing more than vapour which collects in the exhaust itself. However, if it is thick white smoke, you could be burning coolant, which is usually the result of a blown head gasket or damaged cylinder head. Black smoke means your vehicle is burning excess fuel. Check your air filter, fuel injectors or fuel pressure regulator.


Prevention: Make sure your vehicle is regularly serviced. This will help you avoid these problems, or at least delay them, as they are most often caused by wear and tear. Check your air filter, fuel injectors or fuel pressure regulator.


Repair: Depending on the type of smoke you have coming out of your exhaust, you may be able to diagnose the problem yourself and make changes, as in the case of seeing black smoke. However, it would be best to get it checked out by a proper mechanic. You could be spending anywhere between a few hundred Rand for a new air filter to thousands of Rands for a new fuel pressure regulator.


Headlight problems Headlight


Most likely causes: If only one headlight is working, it often tells you that the other has burned out and will require a replacement. It will also be a good idea to check the connections and make sure there is no corrosion. If both headlights aren’t working, you could have a faulty connection somewhere, or there may not be any voltage reaching the lights. This could also be caused by a bad relay, a blown fuse, a faulty headlight switch or a wiring fault. 


Prevention: Headlights can sometimes provide a number of problems; however, with a little know-how and a quick glance at your vehicle’s manual, you should be able to identify and prevent most issues. It is also recommended that you invest in a good quality bulb that lasts longer and offers better illumination.


Repair: Check the connections, relays and switches yourself, if you still can’t find a solution, take it in to get checked out by an expert. If you suddenly think to yourself, “My lights aren’t actually all that bright!’’, it could be due to dirty or fogged light covers, or even discolouration which is a simple problem to fix.


Bad odours Car Tyre


Most likely causes: If you smell a putrid odour that resembles rotten eggs, it could be because your engine may not be burning the fuel properly and it could be letting through the sulphur in your fuel, which is then released as hydrogen sulphide.


A burning smell can indicate you are braking too hard, you could be ‘riding’ your clutch, or you may need to replace it. The smell could also be from an electrical short or oil burning in the engine. It can mean that one of your timing belts is slipping or has worn out.


Prevention: Make sure you are using the correct fuel grade and if that doesn’t help, try a complete engine tune-up and full service of the engine. If you still experience the same issue, you may need to replace your catalytic converter which could be expensive. By simply keeping a safe travelling distance to avoid hard braking, or using your hand brake on the hill instead of performing clutch control, you will eliminate wear and tear on the parts as well as those worrisome burning odours.


Repair: If none of these tricks help you solve the problem, get your car to a mechanic. You could pay a few hundred Rand for a new timing belt or a few thousand for a replacement part that is overheating.


In conclusion

As this article highlighted, there are several issues that can have an impact on the performance of your car. Addressing these problems as soon as they’re detected or arise can greatly help prevent a dangerous accident, or breakdown, and subsequently a claim on your Car Insurance policy.



Amounts and prices quoted above were based on information obtained from the relevant contributor and serves as an estimate only. These prices were correct at the publication date of this article and are subject to change without notice at the discretion of the product/service provider. cannot be held responsible for losses or damages that may arise from the use of information obtained from this article.

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