11 Signs That Your Worn-Out Vehicle Needs Repair

A worn-out fiat parked on the side of the road

Take a good look at the vehicles you see on the road. Some are in impeccable condition, others are what we used to call junkers and most are in between. Some faults are easy to notice, others not so much. Some shortcomings might affect the car’s good looks, others involve the safety of drivers, passengers and the public. If you have a worn-out vehicle get it checked out.

Here’s a quick review of 11 things that reduce the good looks, safety or long-term drivability of your car, truck or motorcycle.

Good Looks Gone Bad

While you might get nostalgic about your first car (perhaps a classic junker?), local authorities in many states do not. They are ready to slap you with a hefty fine for anything that affects vehicle safety. Nationwide, roadworthy is the current buzzword, so it pays to watch for and fix anything that makes your vehicle less safe and drivable.

In many locations, citations are given for a long list of safety-related items. Say goodbye to the days when many cars sported duct-taped trunks and makeshift cardboard windows. These days, vehicle aesthetics and more stringent laws that emphasize appearance and safety are the norm.

Many of these aesthetic no-nos are safety issues in disguise. Here’s a list of these good looks with safety issues:

  • Cracked windshields. States have different laws when it comes to cracked windshields. But the basic principle is: do the cracks obscure the driver’s clear view of the roadway? If yes, it could be grounds for a traffic stop by law enforcement officers.

In Arizona, the rules are more forgiving. Except for golf carts, all motor vehicles must have windshields, and they must be made of safety glass. Safety glass includes any type of glass that is treated or manufactured to prevent it from shattering or resulting in flying glass if it is struck or broken.

  • Broken turn signals. In theory, broken tail and brake lights are a safety issue. In some places, they are also a civil liberties issue. For example, as of May 2016, Arizona law requires each tail and brake light on your vehicle to be working. One of them out? In Arizona, that’s probable cause for a cop to stop you and issue a ticket.
  • Cracked side or rearview mirrors. Many states require you to have at least two mirrors that provide a view behind you. This means you can legally drive your car if two of the three mirrors are still functional and unbroken. However, while it might be legal, it’s not particularly safe. That’s why in some states, law enforcement officers can pull you over.

Going Beyond Good Looks

But there are many types of vehicle problems that can lead to safety issues and heart-stopping bills at the repair center. Here’s a rogue’s gallery of these problems:

  • Smoke coming from the tailpipe. It’s easy to ignore smoke, which might appear quite minor at first. But sooner or later, it means trouble.

Black smoke only when you start your car in the morning points to a problem with your fuel enrichment system. Continuous black smoke could mean a blocked air filter or carburetor problem. Blue smoke upon starting your vehicle is probably an issue with your oil system’s valve-guide seals. Blue smoke when you drive indicates more serious piston ring or cylinder damage. Finally, white smoke is usually traced to leaking or broken head gaskets.

  • Steam from under the hood. It’s easy to ignore this symptom. Just add a bit of coolant and drive on. But it too can predict engine overheating problem and deserves attention.
  • Dripping fluids. Look for puddles under the car while it’s in park or drops of fluid coming from the car right after you drive. Black or dark brown fluids are probably motor oil—you may have a problem with your engine. If the fluid is pink or red, your transmission is leaking. Either is a sign that you need repairs right away.
  • Loud noises. When your vehicle makes loud or strange noises while you drive, take it to a repair shop. The transmission could be dropping, the brakes could be giving out, the list goes on and on. Grinding, clicking, knocking or squealing are all signs that should be taken seriously.

But what about the less obvious signs? You’re less likely to get busted by the state patrol with these problems, but your safety and budget are still at risk.

  • Difficult handling.  Do you need to make a sudden turn or maneuver sharply when you drive? It could be a structural problem with the car’s frame. However, less serious causes include misaligned wheels and power steering fluid leaks.
  • Slipping transmission. There are quite a few symptoms that your transmission needs attention. Driving in a certain gear in automatic and the gear changes for no reason. The noise from the engine changes in pitch or starts to sound like whining. Or, your car is struggling, underpowered, or doesn’t accelerate like it should.
  • Rough gear shifts. Your vehicle’s gears don’t shift smoothly. Sometimes you can feel or hear a noticeable clunk or thud when you shift gears. Or, you might notice the car has difficulty getting up to speed.
  • Delayed engagement. If this symptom occurs, you’ll notice a delay before the car engages into drive and starts moving forward. When you shift out of park and into drive, there may be a long pause. The car revs the engine as you give it gas, but it’s not moving forward.

When It’s Time to Drop Off Your Worn-Out Car

When it comes to repairs, it’s simple. The longer you wait to fix a problem, the more damage you do to your vehicle, and the higher your repair bill will be. Ric’s has been in the collision repair business for 40 years. We’ll inspect it quickly and thoroughly in our certified repair facility. Our experienced technicians can use a 3-D measurement system to check your vehicle against manufacturer specifications. It won’t be long before your vehicle is back in shape. Call (480) 998-5969 today for an appointment.

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