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Cars are complicated machines with hundreds of moving parts. Keeping the various systems running properly is key to vehicle safety. Having your vehicle inspected on a regular basis is the best way to ensure all the major operating systems are sound. Regular inspections can also help avoid costly repairs and unexpected breakdowns.
In some cases, the car may not be running correctly or just doesn’t feel right when you drive it. In this case a general inspection can help track down and pinpoint the exact problem with the vehicle.
Following are some of the systems that will be checked out during a general vehicle inspection:
Brakes are available as disc or drums. Both systems use friction and resistance to slow and stop the vehicle.
Disc brakes use a rotor, which is connected to the wheel. Brake pads mounted on calipers grind against the rotor which creates friction, slowing the car and bringing it to a stop. Brake pads and rotors wear out and have to be replaced eventually.
On drum brakes, a drum is attached to the wheel. When the brake pedal is depressed, it presses brake shoes against the drum which slows or stops the vehicle. Brake shoes will wear out and need to be replaced over time.
Steering and Suspension
The suspension system maintains and monitors the relationship between the vehicle frame and wheels. It absorbs bumps and road irregularities such as potholes. The major parts of a suspension system are struts, shock absorbers, springs and tires.
The steering system transfers the input from the steering wheel to the wheels to help control the direction of the vehicle. The main components of the steering system are steering column, steering gearbox, power steering pump and fluid, steering arm and idler arm.
Belts and Hoses
There are a number of belts and hoses in a typical car. They are an integral part of the air conditioning, engine and charging systems. Just a few of the more important belts and hoses include: timing belt, fan belt, coolant hoses, and air conditioning hoses.
The emission system of a vehicle helps keep the engine running efficiently and clean. It controls the vehicle emissions using sensors, the exhaust system and engine controls. The Check Engine light is part of the emission system and if it is illuminated the most likely culprit is the emission system. The major components of the emission system include: oxygen sensor, catalytic converter, mass airflow sensor, EGR valves, PCV valves, and throttle position sensors.
Engine Cooling System
The engine cooling system removes heat from both the engine and the transmission. A water pump circulates coolant throughout the engine, which absorbs the heat. A thermostat monitors and regulates the temperature of the coolant. This system is essential for smooth engine operation and it helps extend the lifespan of an engine. It also powers the heating, air conditioning and defrosting systems. Major components of the engine cooling system include: radiator, radiator hoses, cooling fan, water pump, thermostat and heating hoses.
The exhaust system moves exhaust gases, which can be dangerous, away from the vehicle cabin and its occupants. It also reduces noise from the engine as well as harmful pollutants generated by the engine. The major components of the exhaust system include: Exhaust manifold, oxygen sensor, catalytic converter, muffler, and tail pipe.
The fuel system moves fuel from the fuel tank to the fuel filter to the injectors where it is compressed and ignited. The fuel system is monitored to ensure engine performance under various conditions and speeds. The main components of the fuel system are: fuel tank, fuel line, fuel filter, fuel injectors or carburetor, and the fuel pump.
Lights and Wipers
The wipers help keep the windshield clean, removing dirt and snow. The lighting system light ups the road at night, signals other drivers via the turn signals and lights the interior of the vehicle when necessary. The major components of these systems include: Light housing, light bulbs, brake light switch, fuses, relays, dimmer switch, wiper blades and arms, wiper motor, washer pump, washer fluid reservoir, tubes and hoses.
The battery is the sole source of electrical energy for the car. The starter converts that energy into mechanical force, which starts the engine. The alternator generates electrical current, which is sent back to the battery while the vehicle is running. These systems power all other systems that require electrical power to function. The major components of the electrical system include: battery, battery cables, alternator, voltage regulator, serpentine belt, fuses and fusible links,
The transmission works in conjunction with the engine to power the vehicles wheels. Transmissions can be manual or automatic. The major components of a transmission are: planetary gear sets, clutch, hydraulic system, seals and gaskets, torque converter, governor and modulator, and the vehicle computer.
The following are just a few of the more common reasons these systems will fail. These lists are not exhaustive.
Worn Brake Pads or Shoes: Brake pads and shoes will wear out and have to be replaced. This is one of the most common brake system issues. A squealing sound when the brakes are used indicates that its time to replace the brake pads or shoes. If a grinding sound is heard, the pads are worn through and the calipers are grinding on the rotors. This is a much more expensive repair.
Warped Rotors: Rotors that have warped will cause the vehicle and steering wheel to shake or vibrate while braking. High stress driving, such as towing or driving in the mountains can lead to warping. Steering and Suspension
Worn Shocks or Struts: Struts and shocks will wear out over time and need to be replaced. Excessive bouncing when the vehicle goes over bumps or if the vehicle tends to nosedive when the brakes are applied all point to issues with the shocks or struts.
Failing Spring Coils: A car that is leaning heavily to one side may be suffering from a bad spring coil. While spring coils are designed to last for the lifetime of the vehicle, they do fail occasionally. If a bad spring coil is found, it will need to be replaced.
Belts and Hoses
Loose or Damaged Gas Cap: The gas cap seals the fuel system and if it is loose or damaged it can prompt the Check Engine light to come on. Obviously this is an easy fix, simply tighten or replace the cap.
** Failing Oxygen Sensor**: The oxygen sensor monitors the vehicle exhaust for unburned oxygen and changes the fuel to oxygen mixture as needed to keep the engine running efficiently. Most vehicles have two to four sensors. If the sensors are not replaced in a timely manner it could damage the catalytic converter which is a much more expensive repair.
System Flush: The cooling system should be flushed on a regular basis. Containments such as rust and debris can end up in coolant, which can damage the radiator, hoses and pumps. Signs of a coolant problem include frequent overheating, the smell of anti-freeze and having to add coolant on a regular basis.
Stuck Thermostat: If the engine seems to take a long time to warm up or tends to run cooler than normal, the issue may be a thermostat that is stuck open. This problem should be inspected and repaired immediately.
Failing Catalytic Converter: This can be a very expensive repair. If the converter is failing you may hear a noise that sounds like a box of rocks being shaken when the vehicle is idling. If it has completely failed or fallen off, the car will be quite loud and performance will be drastically affected.
Failing Exhaust Manifold: The exhaust manifold connects to the exhaust port on the cylinder head. It moves the hot exhaust into the exhaust pipe. It also prevents exhaust fumes from getting into the vehicle cabin. Manifolds can degrade over time and crack or gaskets can leak. An increase in engine noise in the cabin or engine sputtering can be caused by a failing manifold.
Defective Fuel Pump or Filter: A fuel pump delivers fuel to the engine from the fuel tank. Pumps can become clogged or just degrade over time. The vehicle will experience a loss of power and will sputter at high speeds. As the problem worsens it may stall completely. A clogged fuel filter will also cause these problems.
Clogged or Bad Fuel Injector: Fuel injectors can become clogged over time. The vehicle will feel like it is not getting enough power, will be hard to start and the idle will be rough. This problem should be addressed immediately.
Battery Issues: The battery is the sole source of power for the car so a malfunctioning or dead battery will have a major impact. If the car refuses to start, the battery is a likely culprit. In most vehicles the Battery warning light will come on if there is an issue with the electrical system. Most batteries will last three to four years.
Malfunctioning Clutch Master: The reservoir attached to the clutch master cylinder holds brake fluid. When the clutch pedal is depressed, brake fluid moves from the master cylinder to the slave, which uses the pressure generated to engage the clutch. Seals can become worn out, leading to a leak and eventually a failing clutch. If the clutch master is failing expect the clutch to go to the floor and shifting will become difficult.
** Gear Issues**: Gearbox issues with an automatic transmission will feel like it is taking a bit of time to get into gear. As the condition worsens, the shift to the next gear may cause the vehicle to shake and will feel a bit jarring. Gearbox issues should be inspected and repaired immediately to prevent more expensive repairs.
A top-rated mobile mechanic will come to your home or office to perform a detailed inspection, and will produce a report that includes the scope and cost of any necessary repairs.
Properly maintaining a vehicle will not only extend the life of the vehicle it will also head off any unexpected breakdowns and costly repairs. All vehicles should be inspected on a regular basis, especially if they are not running correctly.