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    Thread: Dangerous things to ignore on your car!

    1. #1

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      Exclamation Dangerous things to ignore on your car!

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      I wish I had someone to educate me about basic car ownership. No one from my family and friend circle likes cars. My driving instructor couldn't care less, even when I asked questions. I had to fend myself from the mechanics and A.S.S. people who loved to take advantage of my situation. Even after spending money, I faced problems. To add to my woes, my family loves to change cars every 5 years on the dot. Hence, I never could really get to solve many a problem properly. Today, I am jotting down the few things that I feel should never be ignored, whether you are an enthusiast or not. Most of the things I have jotted down have been from my personal experience. I am lucky to have survived many scary situations.

      After all, with freedom (which a car provides), comes responsibility.


      I had an old tata indica v2. It was a lemon. What started out as a simple A/C 'not functioning' problem ended with engine failure, gearbox issues and electrical issues more than I care to remember. Tata engineers had given up on the vehicle. Tata vehicles were selling well (back in those days), and hence Tata couldn't care less about me.
      Fortunately-unfortunately, the Indian 'jugaad' solutions helped me run this car for 90k kms before I got fed up (thankfully, resale was good and I did recover some money I had put into this car). I still marvel at my stupidity of keeping this car for so long. But, I did learn a lot from this vehicle. I am listing down some of the most important things that you shouldn't ignore in your vehicle. It doesn't matter whether you are an enthusiast or not. You simply shouldn't ignore these crucial things.


      I like to think of cars not as machines, but rather a collection of various individual machines that all work together. But those components break down and we have to fix them, and some are more serious than others.


      It's not the end of the world if you go a little longer than you should on oil changes from time to time. But there are some parts on your car you should never ignore, lest they put your safety at risk.


      Ignore these, and you'll risk not only your hard earned money but also your life:




      1) Tyres


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      I cannot even begin to emphasize on this point. The most important of all the listed points. Today, tyres are designed to take a lot of abuse but ignore them, and you are inviting Lord Yamraj.
      These are your only contact on the roads. Keep a regular check. Inspect the tread, the alignment and rubber on the tyre.




      2) Brakes


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      While you can save some money by using handbrakes for low speed braking, and engine braking; using these techniques you will not face a problem at city speeds. But what will happen when you see a pram rolling out in front of you? Never ignore your brake cylinders and brake lines. And for god's sake, please keep a thorough check on your brake pads and rotors!




      3) Ball joints


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      Ball joints are your pivot between your steering and suspension. A bad strut / linkage will not endanger your life, but a bad ball joint..well inform your wife to prepare a sumptuous feast for Lord Yamraj.
      The ball joint design in most cars resembles the ball and socket type joint found in the hip joint of humans. I'll leave it to your imagination what will happen when your hip joint will fail..






      4) Timing belt


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      I speak this from personal experience. The indica in question one fine day decided to break down in the middle of nowhere. I thought it must have been the electrical theatrics the car loves to show me. My oh my..I ended up spending big $ on complete engine overhaul. Destroyed valves / pistons = death of engine.
      Timing belt / chain / camshaft belt is a part of an internal combustion engine that synchronizes the rotation of the crankshaft and the camshaft(s) so that the engine's valves open and close at the proper times during each cylinder's intake and exhaust strokes.
      This is one component which is usually recommended to be replaced at long intervals, and is blissfully ignored by most owners (either due to lack of awareness or due to pure laziness). The regular A.S.S. are also very unenthusiastic in performing this critical preventive maintenance because:
      1. In many cars, its a very cumbersome and sometimes labour intensive job.
      2. By not replacing this part, the likelihood of engine failure shoots up, and they can earn more money from engine overhauls.






      5) Fluid levels


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      It's one of the simplest things you can do. Just keep a regular check on the brake fluid, coolant, engine oil fluid levels. For your own convenience all manufacturers label the min. and max. levels on the containers. I mean, it takes less than a minute to just pop up the hood and check up the levels.
      If the engine oil is less, you kill the engine.
      If the brake fluid level is less, you kill the others in your car
      If the levels are falling, then your engine / system has a leak somewhere.


      Replace and top up as advised by the manual.






      6) Fuel lines


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      Although not much of an issue in today's modern gen cars, I will still advise you to inspect these by a local mechanic at regular intervals. The phobia is mainly due to some earlier generation cars whose design flaws made them more susceptible to these lines becoming leaky and well..car catching fire!
      Another reason for a regular inspection: most fuel lines are made of rubber, and rubber being rubber will have problems over time.






      7) Lights


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      Just keep a check whether all your lights are functioning or not. I have once had a near miss when I misjudged a single headlight for a motor-cycle; it turned out to be a car! That one bulb on the brake lamp not working? Replace it! It will cost you less than 50 bucks and save not only your life but also the life of people following you.






      8) Visibility


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      In this section, everything you need to look out of the vehicle is included. Wipers, windshield, ORVM's, rear view mirrors. Replace your wipers at regular intervals, keep your windshield free from scratches and make sure you keep those ORVM's clean. Clean your windows if you cannot see through them.






      9) Rust


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      This is a silent killer. You won't even know when it will become a big issue. Today's cars come with rust protection from factory for an average of 7 years. Some of the cars (especially earlier mahindra's and tata's) faced this issue. The thing is, even if your drivetrain components are rock solid reliable, they'll be useless if they just fall through. Another problem with rust is, if and when you meet with an accident, your body panels are much weaker and there is possibility that you may have to absorb more of the impact directly.
      If you see even a hint of rust on your car, have it attended to in priority.




      10) Steering

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      My knowledge is limited to rack and pinion design only. Quoting from wiki directly:steering wheel turns the pinion gear; the pinion moves the rack, which is a linear gear that meshes with the pinion, converting circular motion into linear motion along the transverse axis of the car (side to side motion). This motion applies steering torque to the swivel pin ball joints that replaced previously used kingpins of the stub axle of the steered wheels via tie rods and a short lever arm called the steering arm.
      Of course, every part should be visually inspected, but give a special preference to tie rod ends.



      These are the things that I can think of which are downright dangerous to ignore. Please add any other points which you think that can be downright dangerous if ignored.
      Please don't add things like battery check, struts check etc. These things, although not good, will not cause a dangerous situation.


      References:
      1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ball_joint
      2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timing_belt_(camshaft)
      3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steering

      Thanks,
      Simple_car
      Last edited by Simple_car; 17th Aug 2013 at 23:08.

    2. #2

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      Thank you very much!

    3. #3

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      Very informative. Thanks for sharing.
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      That's a very good list of items to be verified. Thanks a ton for posting them Simple_car !

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    5. #5

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      Simple and very informative.... Like wise many gurus can pitch in this effort... which would be a boon for noob like me...


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    6. #6

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      Kinda surprised today when I had 15 notifications! Am glad this list helped you all. I am still considering adding 2 more things to this list but, am on the fence since I have limited experience in those two matters. Let's see.
      Please do add anything you think which is downright dangerous to ignore. My learnings have been from the indica.. Don't know whether to thank TATA for letting me get interested in the world of cars or curse them for giving me one heck of a dangerous car, and no money to entertain girls. Funniest thing is, when I was in college, I was always occupied during my free time mending that car. This is what my dad used to say to me as soon as he saw my number on his mobile: I just fail to understand as to why does your car fail everytime you take her out? How much money do you need now to fix it?...What! No no way. You have to live within your means. No..No.. I already sent you 50% more than the agreed upon monthly allowance. No. Well then don't drive it so badly.

      Thanks,
      Simple_car

    7. #7

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      Adding a link from another website which essentially lists the same things, but explained in plain english.
      Source: Avoid This Car Maintenance At Your Peril

      Quoting from the article:


      Changing timing belts on an interference-type engine

      If you don't replace your timing belt, your car's life may be cut short. First, determine whether you have a timing belt or a timing chain. If you have a timing belt, determine whether your engine is an interference-type or a non-interference-type design. If it's an interference-type engine with a timing belt, you need to change the belt before it fails. When the timing belt breaks on an interference-type engine the pistons will crash into the valves and absolutely destroy the engine. For most cars, this is a life-ender. The term "planned obsolescence" springs to mind.

      Changing a timing belt is something you can do yourself, but it's a little complicated since it involves engine timing - which eludes me. If you choose to have the belt replaced at a shop, the repair can run around $300. It's a small price to pay to avoid a total loss on your vehicle.

      If you have a non-interference-type engine, and the timing belt brakes, you will just be stranded where you are; the pistons will not crash into the valves. Timing chains, on the other hand, are very sturdy, are designed to never be replaced, and are intended to last the entire life of the vehicle.

      Changing automatic transmission fluid (ATF) and/or gear lube

      An automatic transmission is a complicated piece of machinery. Automatic transmission fluid (ATF) keeps that piece of machinery well-lubricated and clean. The ATF and the filter should be changed on a regular basis - every 30,000 miles seems to be a safe interval for most cars. The filter will accumulate all sorts of nasty bits, and there is usually also a magnet that collects metal filings which should be removed from the system. Automatic transmission rebuilds are hideously expensive, and are a life-ender for most vehicles that reach the age where such a repair might be necessary. I had to junk my first car after six months of ownership because of the necessity of an automatic transmission rebuild.

      Manual transmissions use a special sort of gear lube (per the manufacturer's specifications) to keep all the internal components "happy." This fluid should also be changed on a regular basis, and metal filings should be removed from any magnets. All cars (including those with automatic transmissions) make use of differentials to transfer rotational energy from the driveshaft to the half-shafts which ultimately turn the wheels. These differentials also use gear lube which must be changed, and metal filings should, once again, be removed from any magnets.

      Cooling system: Coolant level and hose pressure

      Coolant shouldn't just "evaporate." A car's cooling system is sealed off, which means that a drop in the coolant level indicates a leak. To prevent catastrophic overheating, keep an eye on a problematic coolant level until you can determine the cause of the problem. A common source of failure would be the hoses, and the pressure in these hoses can be checked by simply squeezing them while the engine is running; a hose that can easily be pinched shut indicates a leak. Simply replace the hoses and go from there.

      Brakes: master cylinder fluid level and pads

      Just like your cooling system, your brake system is also sealed. There should be no drops in the brake master cylinder fluid level. The brake master cylinder reservoir is that important-looking cylinder in your engine bay, just ahead of the steering wheel. A drop can indicate one (or both) of two issues: (1) a leak in the brake lines, or (2) worn-down pads. As rfneimad points-out: "brake fluid goes low primarily because the pads wear low and therefore there is more room for the fluid to expand." Replace the pads before you add any brake fluid to the system, and see if that remedies the situation. Aside from checking the master cylinder fluid level, brake pads and rotors also should be routinely inspected. When pads wear away, you will start to destroy the surface of your rotors, which will also need a replacement. If you change your pads regularly your rotors should last for a long time.

      Tires: pressure, rotations, and alignment

      Don't believe for a second that because your car's tires are filled with nitrogen, they will hold a constant pressure; the Earth's atmosphere is primarily composed of nitrogen, so regular "air" offers a relatively similar level of inflation constancy. Additionally, a TPMS (tire-pressure monitoring system) only tells you when a tire is low; it does not ensure that a tire is properly inflated. Over- or under-inflation of tires will result in uneven wear that seriously limits the life of your tires. Check your tire pressure on a bi-weekly basis, but don't compare it with the rated PSI of your tires. The "rated" pressure is not specific to your automobile or your driving needs. Check out a support forum specific to your vehicle to get recommendations for the tire pressure you ought to use, but not at the expense of a ride quality with which you are comfortable.

      Regular rotations (front-to-back is sufficient for unidirectional tires) will also serve to extend the life of your tires. Rotations are something you can do yourself with four jack stands and 15 minutes. You should also have a four-wheel alignment performed every 15,000 miles or so. This is to ensure that your suspension angles conform to the manufacturer's specifications. If you are an enthusiast, you might want a more aggressive alignment that comes at the expense of reduced tire life, but that's a decision you'll need to make. Alignments are fairly cheap and incredibly difficult to do yourself. My local shop charges $69.99 for the service, if that gives you an idea of a reasonable price.

      Oil: Level and leaks

      Oil leaks are not normal. Oil should remain in a sealed system, and any leak means that oil can exit the system, collect contaminants, and return to the oil sump. You don't want these contaminants flowing through the channels used to cool your engine. Adding oil might be a quick fix to ensure your engine continues to run, but you need to get the vehicle to a shop to diagnose the problem. Alternatively, you can diagnose the problem yourself. A gasket, which is a rubber liner that rests between components of your engine, is the common culprit. Valve cover gaskets aren't terribly expensive to replace ($200 to $300), but cylinder head gaskets can be much more labor-intensive ($1,000 to $1,600). Head gasket failure normally does not occur until later in an engine's life, and you'll need to make the decision as to whether you would like to invest in such a repair or junk the car. The complexity of the engine drives the cost to have the head gasket replaced. If you elect to replace the head gasket yourself, be prepared to take apart a good portion of the engine and set aside an entire week (if you're new to this sort of thing).

      Washing
      I don't take washing seriously on any of the cars at my home. I get it cleaned regularly by a washer, and every 3 monthly, I just do some very amateur detailing to clean off the visible scratches. I was recently advised to get my car's underbody cleaned every 2 months so as to clean out all the dirt and grime and prevent rust. Now this isn't something downright dangerous frankly, but it's a good thing to do this every 2-3 monthly. Dirt and grime are a car's biggest enemy especially when left unattended.

      Thanks,
      Simple_car

    8. #8

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      Dangerous things not to ignore on your car!

      Nice narration.

      It's very informative and all need to verify their car periodically for these checks.

      Thanks for sharing it with us.
      Last edited by narik28; 3rd Apr 2014 at 14:46.

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