Many serious and expensive mechanical problems begin a long time before your car breaks. There are lots of signs indicating that something is wrong. If you learn to recognize those signs, you can save yourself a lot of money and heartache.
However, talking to your mechanic about what you sense is wrong is not always easy. You need to know how to talk about what you are experiencing.
First of all, it is important to notice when your car is running well. How does it sound? How does it handle? Turn off the radio and roll down the window. Ride in the car by yourself and listen. What do you hear?
If something sounds funny, you will need to describe it to your mechanic in terms that he understands. Here are ten basic mechanic sound names and descriptions from the booklet “Let’s Talk: A Service Signals Checklist for the Car Owner” published by General Motors Corporation:
- Boom – continuous bass drum roll; distant thunder
- Click – camera shutter; retractable ball-point pen
- Clunk – heavy door closing
- Grind – sharpening an ax on a grinding wheel; garbage disposal
- Growl – angry dog
- Hiss – air escaping from a tire; steam from a radiator
- Knock – knock on a door
- Rattle – baby’s rattle; stone bouncing around in a can
- Squeal – like a pig sound; fingernails scraping on a blackboard
- Whine – electric drill motor; mosquito
Now that you have some names to describe what you are hearing, really listen. Write down what you are hearing. Does this sound happen when the car is cold? Does it happen when the car is hot? Can you make this sound happen anytime you want? Does this sound only happen under certain conditions? If you can’t answer these questions, your mechanic is going to charge you a high hourly rate to find out.
Also pay attention to smell, handling, leaks, and response. Keep a notebook in your glove compartment and write down anything unusual. If you jot down mileage and amount of gas pumped each time you fill your tank, you will be able to calculate your miles per gallon, another indicator of how your car is performing.
Your mechanic is not a mind reader, nor is he a magician. He needs you to be able to let him know what you have noticed about your car so that he can accurately and cheaply repair your car. Oh, and by the way, if you feel that your mechanic doesn’t want to hear what you have to say – get another mechanic.
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