Watching for signs can do more than save you money…it can save your life.
Everyone who has a driver’s license or permit knows about signs – it is part of the SCDMV test and heeding them is the law. Our culture has developed a big dependency on signs and having them placed where we can’t possibly miss them (like some large yellow ones I have seen recently placed at Aiken intersections). But what about the other signs that aren’t displayed out in the open, or the signs that have no written words?
Human nature tells us – if it ain’t broke…don’t fix it. I have been in the automotive repair business for XX years and I can tell you from experience that the potential cost of ignoring signs can be significant.
During a recent conversation with a customer, (we will call him “Ken”) Ken described to me how his car was losing power and his steering didn’t feel just right. Also, some warning lights were coming on. But, if he pulled over to the side of the road and wait a while, then restart his car, it would drive fine for a bit until it started losing power again. I asked Ken what warning lights were coming on and he said the screen on his dash displayed “STOP ENGINE- OVERHEATING”! I said, “Wow! There’s your sign, or at least one of them”!
Ignoring all the signs led him to the crisis he is now facing. Three months ago Ken came to my shop because his check engine light was on. He didn’t want me to fix anything because he already had a local parts store read the codes for him. The store clerk wasn’t sure what exactly what the codes meant and neither did Ken. When he brought his car to me, we saw that the fault code stored in his car’s computer was the engine temperature and coolant level sensors. He told me at that time he would try and figure it out on his own and save me the trouble of such a small problem.
Ken admits he never looked into the check engine light problem because the car was driving well. However he did mention that he had to keep adding water to the radiator. Hmmm, maybe a sign of a leak (I thought to myself). “Did you do anything about that” I asked? He said that he never saw any drips so wasn’t a big deal to add water every week. Not only this, but he also admitted that he kept driving the car even though the computer display read “STOP ENGINE- OVERHEATING!” Ken said, “You know computers, they are wrong half the time and you can’t believe them the other half!”
After towing ken’s car to my shop and giving it a full evaluation we diagnosed two key items. First an obvious coolant leak in the radiator’s reservoir tank. This repair would require the replacement of the radiator at a cost of about $600.00. But because of not having this diagnosed and corrected, the radiator eventually got so low on coolant that the engine overheated. To top it off he kept driving the car in this overheating stage and caused a catastrophic failure of the engine’s cylinder headgaskets. This repair bill has now jumped to the tune of about $3,500 dollar signs!
How many signs do we need? One, two, three? Do we have to read all our signs to “get it”? Do we have to see the signs for ourselves before we do something about it? There are some signs we can actually feel if we pay attention. For instance, if we feel a vibration when we step on the brakes, many times this is caused by warped brake rotors. If your car has a bounce to it at low speeds and gets worse the faster you go, you may have a tire with a belt separation.
My last blog was about tire safety and within two weeks of writing it an 88 year old woman was killed and four others injured when a rear tire blew out and caused a violent roll over crash while driving their 2002 Mercury Mountaineer. The driver said he had stopped once to check a strange noise coming from the tire and planned on having it checked out once they got home. My heart goes out to this family for their loss.
This strikes very close to home for me because each morning I watch my 17 year old daughter, along with her brother and sisters leave in our 2002 Mercury Mountaineer, wondering if she is seeing, reading or feeling any signs that need immediate attention.
Next time you get into your vehicle, pay close attention to the signs…and be proactive. It’s not just cost effective, it’s life effective.
Owner- Automotive Workbench