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Three top car problems that are easily overlooked

Simple Answers from Protech Auto Service

Your car is composed of multiple moving parts with many dependent on fluids to keep them lubricated. Likely, you know the importance of changing your oil, replacing the battery and checking tires on a regular basis. But there are three top car problems you may overlook, especially if you don’t familiarize yourself with your owner’s manual. These car problems often suffer from a case of “out of sight, out of mind” but once they rear their ugly heads, your wallet can feel the consequences.

Easily overlooked car problems

1. Coolant flush – Also known as antifreeze, coolant is a 50-50 mixture of antifreeze and water. It’s used to keep your engine from overheating and freezing, and it also protects costly engine parts. Your car won’t run without it (unless it is air-cooled). But even if you have it, coolant is no good if it isn’t regularly checked and occasionally flushed.

Aged coolant will wear away your engine’s metallic parts if it isn’t replaced. Coolant becomes more acidic over time and must be checked with a test strip to verify acidity levels. A pH level of 10 is acceptable. If it comes in lower, then you need to add coolant.

But coolant eventually breaks down and the entire system must be flushed. In doing so you’ll remove rust, dirt, sludge and old coolant from your radiator as well as from the water hoses, the water pump and the engine’s cooling passages. Neglect this and you’re looking at repairs involving anything from replacing a radiator or a water pump to facing a major engine repair in the worst case scenario.

2. Brake care – Your tires are the only components separating your car from the road and should be routinely checked, inflated and rotated. Bringing your heavy rolling machinery to a stop is the job of your brake system, which is composed of brakes on all four wheels operated by a hydraulic system. You may have disc brakes up front and drum brakes at the rear, or disc brakes both front and rear (luckily front drum brakes went away decades ago).

The majority of extreme brake problems follow small problems that were neglected. A regular check of your brake pads, discs and lines will help you avoid more expensive repairs such as replacing warped or worn out brake rotors. If your car requires a complete brake job involving pads, rotors, drums, calipers, and wheel cylinders, you’re looking at a far more expensive repair. Even if the parts prices are reasonable, the time involved can add up with many hours billed by the hour at the shop. Labor times can vary wildly from vehicle to vehicle depending on the brake design.

Perhaps the worse thing about neglecting this top car problem is the danger you put yourself and other drivers in when your vehicle can no longer stop on a dime. Keep in mind that not all brake problems happen suddenly. You may not notice that your vehicle takes longer and longer to stop until it is too late. That’s why preemptive brake maintenance is so important.

3. Transmission flush – Your transmission along with your engine comprise your car’s main powertrain parts. You likely have your oil and oil filter changed regularly. But what about the transmission? A flush should be conducted at the intervals outlined in your owner’s manual. If your vehicle’s manual says the transmission fluid is “lifetime fill”, you still may want to change it depending on how you drive.

“Lifetime” refers to one of two things: what the manufacturer expects to be the average usable life of the vehicle or the life of your vehicle’s warranty. The exact definition of “lifetime” varies by manufacturer, but one thing they all have in common is that the fluids have a lower viscosity (i.e., they’re thinner). And they are designed to resist breaking down chemically as early as standard fluids do. If your vehicle’s manufacturer says they’re lifetime fill, it means that you shouldn’t need to flush them under normal operating conditions. However, if you operate your car under what the manufacturer considers “severe” conditions, and most of us in Tehachapi are operating our vehicles under “severe” conditions, that lifetime fluid might require changes at very specific intervals.

If you begin to hear strange noises from your transmission, have trouble shifting, encounter transmission slippage or notice some other problem, then flushing the transmission is a must. Replacing or rebuilding a transmission can cost you several thousand dollars. If the transmission begins to act erratically, the damage may have already been done. Have your vehicle inspected by a mechanic to determine what course of action to take next.

Have maintenance and inspections handled by one of the knowledgeable technicians at Protech Auto Service. They can be reached at (661) 822-1100 and are located at 401 West J St., Ste. G, Tehachapi.