The quickest way to diagnose the ailments of an automobile is to become its personal physician. Get behind the wheel, strap yourself in, and take it out for a spin.
Begin by checking the ignition mechanism after setting your seat distance and height for driving-comfort and compatibility. Turn the key in the ignition and observe its function. Take a look at all the lights on the instrument cluster. Take a few seconds to process all the vital sounds and hums that come from the Engine control module (ECM), the display gauges and the other come-to-life features that announce their onboard presence inside a car.
Turn the key and power up the engine, noticing the number of coughs the self-starter takes before it does. If you’re powering up the car after a week or two, it might take a couple of seconds longer than usual. Regularly driven cars power up within a single round of the motor, and if the car takes longer than usual on a regular basis, it could be due to a variety of reasons.
Check for fuel
Check the fuel level on the cluster. Repetitively driving on low fuel causes the fuel-pump to wear out early. This can cause issues like a hindrance in achieving the fuel pressure required to power the engine. Repeated failure to maintain fuel in the car may also cause the pump to burn out, or make the injectors weak.
The battery may be at the end of its life
It would be prudent to have the battery checked for distilled-water level and current. If it is old, try trading it for a discount on a new one. Having a battery die on you in the middle of long-distance or interstate travel can be very troublesome.
The starter-motor may need attention
Have the starter-motor checked by an experienced technician or car service professional. Almost all starter motors wear out after four-five years of the vehicle’s service. At this point, they may need anything from basic service to complete overhaul and at worst, replacement.
Check the clutch function. Press the pedal in and release a couple of times and then, with the pedal pushed all the way down, shift into first gear. Without accelerating, release the clutch pedal very slowly and observe the vehicle displacement. If the vehicle moves effortlessly without having to use the accelerator pedal, the clutch is fine. If however, it shudders, causing the engine to vibrate as it struggles to move, the clutch plate might need replacement. Listen carefully for any whirring or pulley noises during the clutch function. If a prominent spinning sound is heard in synchronization with the clutch engagement and disengagement, the clutch-release bearing might need replacement as well.
In diesel cars, clutch-release causes the vehicle to lurch forward since their engines have more load-bearing capacity than petrol engines. It is also why they tend to be sluggish and require mechanical aids such as turbochargers, to be able to churn out more power.
Next, shift gears one by one, while listening for any unusual noise other than their functional sounds. Make sure that for each shift, the clutch pedal is pressed all the way down since that is the only correct way to shift gears. Half-pressing the pedal while shifting gears will cause both clutch assembly and the gearbox assembly to wear faster. If the gear shift sticks or hiccoughs in between shifts with the pedal completely floored, have the transmission oil checked. If required, drain and completely replace the used oil with a fresh can. Make sure you have the right grade of transmission oil by checking the owner’s manual.
If the problem persists after the transmission oil replacement, have your clutch-assembly and gearbox checked.
Test the brakes before taking the car out on the road. Pump the brake pedal once or twice, and repeat when rolling the car out of the drive, to get an idea of how hard their bite is. If they squeak and the response is sluggish, they must need replacement.
Sometimes, water also gets lodged between the brake shoes and pads, causing a repeated squeaking sound. Run the car for a few kilometres while toggling between abrupt braking and acceleration, to see if the sound dies out. If the problem persists, have the brakes checked by a technician.
While running the car on the road, make sure to listen for all the road noises that the cabin allows. Listen carefully for any thuds, or knocking sounds on rough patches and uneven surfaces on the road. If the road noises are exclusive, the suspension is probably okay. In case there is any unusual sound while on rough roads and broken patches that occur with the terrain changes, have your suspension checked by an experienced mechanic. The rubber-packing between heavy suspension joints and linkages are called “bushings” and are often among the first suspension parts to wear out. Running the vehicle on torn or worn-out bushing eventually leads to suspension wear and deteriorated drive quality and comfort.
Steering and Alignment
While on a flat empty road, see if you can let go of the steering for a brief moment. If the car continues straight without changing direction and the steering remains stable, the wheel alignment’s fine. In case the car veers off to either side, have the alignment and tyres checked. If the problem persists, have the steering assembly checked by an experienced technician.
By taking care of these very basic know-how parameters, and making sure that the car gets adequate attention and routine checkups, one can increase the life-span of their automobile.
Finding a trusted technician
It is important to understand the basics of maintaining one’s automobile, in order to inspire appropriate guidance and service from a qualified technical professional in India. Simply put, know about your car, to avoid getting duped. Finding the right place for having one’s car serviced is among the biggest woes of car owners. One can do some research, both online and offline, by reaching out to car owners with well-maintained cars, reading up on nearby garages and their reviews and ratings, and find a decent place for their car maintenance to be taken care of. It is mostly hit-and-trial, but eventually one gets there.