Those of us who have a difficult time diagnosing car problems will be vulnerable when we bring our vehicles into a shop for repairs. Surely there are honest and reputable mechanics out there; but just as many may be unscrupulous and more than willing to scam some extra money out of unsuspecting customers. Without knowledge, we are at their mercy. It’s not so uncommon for people to pay exorbitant bills to a car shop for incomplete, faulty or unnecessary repairs.
Oftentimes, problems are minor and don’t require the attention of a mechanic. Clues to a car’s various ailments can be gleaned by listening to the sounds it makes when starting, idling and accelerating. A metallic rattling made on acceleration – like the clash of ball bearings – can indicate that the gasoline is burning unevenly, causing the engine to vibrate. High-octane gas is made to burn smoothly and evenly throughout the combustion chamber and resist this knocking, which causes wear on an engine. Before consulting a service provider, see if changing gasoline brands resolves this performance problem. Each brand contains different additives, and your car might naturally respond better to one kind than to the others.
A variety of symptoms – from not starting or stalling to poor mileage, black smoke emissions and lack of power – can be attributed either to your car’s air filter or its carburetor/ fuel injector. Cars use about 9,000 gallons of air for every gallon of gasoline, and it’s the filters job to insure that this air doesn’t bring dust and dirt into the engine along with it. If they do this job properly, air filters inevitably get full. They typically will need to be changed once a year, or every 15,000 miles. Fuel filters, which are smaller but serve a similar function, will need to be changed just as often – unless your owner’s manual suggests otherwise.
If installing new filters and experimenting with different, higher-octane brands of gasoline fail to solve your performance problems, the carburetor/fuel injector may need cleaning and/or readjustment. This is a job best left to a trained specialist, but at least you will know where the trouble lies and what you’ll be paying this person to do. In some instances, problems can stem from a car’s computer system. Faulty wiring or connections can affect its sensors so that it’s not receiving proper data about the way the vehicle is running. This is a last resort, however, and the air, fuel and electrical systems should be inspected first before you hire a technician to diagnose your car’s computer.
Car engines can seem mystifying to laymen, but they are actually built upon relatively simple systems that announce their problems in obvious ways. As we learn to troubleshoot these systems, we’ll be less likely to be misled by shop professionals when cleaning or replacing inexpensive parts can remedy performance problems.