Many times a car will warn you before a breakdown, but if you continue to drive it and ignore those indications of a problem, you will find yourself in need of a tow. Here are some helpful hints to watch for with your car.
Dash Warning Lights
The first sign of trouble is often one of the dash warning lights coming on. The oil pressure light can mean you are low on oil. The battery light indicates a problem with the charging system. Or the worst one - the check engine light, which can indicate just about anything.
Keep in mind, these lights are indicators of a problem, but diagnosing the issue means taking the car into a mechanic so they can go over the car and check the computer for warning codes.
The check engine light can indicate a lot of different things. A loose gas cap can cause the computer to report a problem in the evaporative emission (EVAP) system and turn the check engine light on. In contrast, the problem can be much deeper in the engine or transmission. Even if you have a code reader, the code descriptions can be vague.
If you have warning lights on in the dash, take the car to a mechanic for a proper diagnosis.
Smoke From the Tailpipe
Anytime you see smoke coming from the tailpipe of your car you need to take note of it. Smoke indicates many things, but the color and the quantity of the smoke can help you decipher what is happening inside your engine.
White smoke coming from the tailpipe of your car is often an indication of coolant leaking into the cylinders inside the engine. The coolant should not be able to get into the cylinders, so the smoke can be an indication of a head gasket that is leaking or worse - a crack in the head or the engine block. This situation is serious, however, if you catch it early, repairing the problem may be easier and less costly.
When you see blue smoke coming out of the tailpipe of your vehicle, it typically indicates an engine that is burning oil. Worn seals in the cylinder heads, worn oil rings on the pistons, and cracks in the block can all let oil through.
In any case, if the car has blue smoke coming out of the tailpipe all the time, take your car to a mechanic before the engine is damaged permanently.
Steam From Under the Hood
Steam coming from under the hood of the car needs to be investigated further to determine where the steam is coming from. A hose with a crack in it can produce steam when the engine is shut off; a pinhole in the radiator may also be the source. If you can't find the leak, take the car to the shop so the mechanic can pressure test the system.
A cooling system that has a small leak will eventually stress the leak until it becomes a large leak.
The hose or radiator will fail under stress and may cause damage to the engine if it overheats as a result of the failure. If you have a major leak occur or you see a lot of steam coming from under the hood, pull over the shut the engine off right away to avoid damage to the engine.
At White's Automotive Center, our ASE certified mechanics will diagnose the problem with your car and get you back on the road. We can handle minor repairs and maintenance as well as complete overhauls and rebuilds in our shop.