The Advanced Guide to Auto Repair and Maintenance

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Knowing what makes your vehicle perform and how to correct the ways it isn’t, is vital to keeping it on the road. In this guide, we’ll explore the central systems of your vehicle and what the standard repairs are for each. Each of these methods has maintenance that can be performed to prevent many of the common problems. It means keeping up with regular maintenance will minimize your chances of having costly repairs.

 

DRIVETRAIN: ENGINE/TRANSMISSION

As the heart of your vehicle, the engine and transmission are perhaps the most important. Both of these receive the most abuse because when you operate your vehicle, they are always working. The central maintenance you need to have done is oil changes.  Periodically check that your engine is not low on oil or transmission fluid. Many problems can be avoided. Issues that can occur with the drivetrain are:

  • Leaking valve cover or oil pan gaskets
  • Replace with new gaskets
  • Oil change
  • Blown head gaskets
  • Take head/heads to machine shop to check for warping
  • Replace with new head gasket
  • Rod knocks
  • Complete engine overhaul
  • Machine shop will need to inspect and test if honing is needed for cylinder walls
  • Transmission slipping
  • Check for leaks or low fluid
  • Possible sensor failure
  • Worn out clutch
  • Replace with new parts
  • Timing chain or belt break
  • Timing belts need to be changed at regular intervals according to manufacturer specifications, not doing so could end in a catastrophic breakdown of interference motors
  • Timing chains are more resistant but should be checked

 

COOLING SYSTEM

The cooling system of your vehicle includes the water pump, radiator, transmission cooler, thermostat, and hoses. The cooling system keeps your motor and automatic transmission running at the proper operating temperature. If the cooling system has any problems, it can mean catastrophic failure to the engine and transmission. Common repairs that can occur as well as maintenance to prevent can include:

  • Leaking upper or lower radiator hose
  • Inspect clamps and hose
  • Replace hoses that are older or that have holes
  • Hole in the radiator
  • Replace with a new radiator
  • Coolant flush
  • Replace with antifreeze
    • Inoperable thermostat
      • Thermostats should be replaced if older, and engine temp starts to run hot, or when found to be not working
  • Water pump failure
    • Replace with new water pump and gasket

BRAKE SYSTEM

Without your braking system, your vehicle wouldn’t be able to stop. It is your primary safety system. There are two different types your vehicle might have, disc or drum. Drum brakes are typically found on older cars and trucks and were primarily used in the rear, with disc brakes in the front. Disc brakes are most commonly used. Your disc brake system is made up of pads, rotors, calipers, master cylinder, brake booster, brake lines, and parking brake. Typical repairs and their maintenance can include:

  • Worn out brake pads
    • Brake pads will start to make a high pitched noise when worn down, because of a built-in wear indicator
    • Replace pads when you first hear the squeak
  • Warped rotors
    • If you drive too long on low brake pads, the metal on metal will damage or potentially warp your rotors
    • Inspect for uneven wear, replace if necessary or have a machine shop “turn” them for you
  • Stuck brake calipers
    • A universal sign for stuck calipers will be smoking from where your brakes are located and a not pleasant smell
    • Replace with new or re-manufactured calipers or have them rebuilt
  • Leaking Brake Line or hoses
    • Find source of the leak and have it repair or replaced

 

SUSPENSION SYSTEM

The ride quality of your car is dependant on your suspension components. Depending on your vehicle there are a few different features you might have. Coil overs, struts, shocks, springs, control arms, wheels and tires, and bushings. Over time many of these parts can wear out, requiring replacement. Typical repairs and maintenance are:

  • Loss of return in hydraulic shocks and struts
    • Replace with new parts
  • Bearings/Bushings/Boots
    • Check for damage to other parts like control arms and cv joints, if none is suspected replace
  • Wheels and tires
    • Regularly check tire pressure and even wear on tires
    • Tire rotations should be done every six months

 

STEERING SYSTEM

All the parts that go into your steering system allow your car to handle the road and the direction your car will go. It all starts with the steering wheel. Most cars are equipped with power steering. Power steering allows for more comfortable handling. The components of your power steering system are the power steering pump, tie rods, spindles, steering shaft. Typical repairs and maintenance include:

  • Power steering pump failure
  • Possible belt lose or broken
    • If your power steering pump is dry, this can cause it to break
    • Replace the pump if it isn’t low fluid or belt related
  • Leaking power steering hoses
    • Check if Power steering pump reservoir is dry, add fluid, check for leaks in the hose or fittings
    • Replace when necessary the hoses
  • Tie rod joint wear
    • A grinding sound when turning can be a sign that your tie rods need replacing

 

FUEL SYSTEM

Your engine needs fuel. Without a properly running system, you could experience loss in performance, poor gas mileage, or no starts. Common repairs vehicle owners can experience are:

  • Fuel pump not working
    • If your engine just doesn’t start, it might not be getting any fuel from the fuel pump or sending unit
    • Replace necessary parts to restore function
  • Fuel injectors clogged or broken
    • Engine sputtering and rough can happen if your injectors are clogged
    • Try a fuel injector cleaner first to see if it helps
    • If this doesn’t solve the problem, replacement of injectors or o-rings might be necessary
  • Broken gas cap
    • Replace with a new gas gap