I’ve done some crazy things to my current car. I’ve melted the engine. Blown up the radiator. Ripped open some parts of the engine and caused a massive oil leak. But more on those things later. I’ve learned some very important lessons that no one ever told me about taking care of a car, that are, apparently, common sense. But for those of us who haven’t been working on cars all our lives, or had a driver’s license for twenty years or more, or had the pleasure to learn all these things from someone who took care of their car themselves, it’s not common sense. It’s a learned thing, and in order to help out those who were like me, I’m going to pass on some of the things I’ve learned from melting my engine.
Watch Your Gauges
Your gauges tell you important things about what’s going on inside your car. Everyone who is driving should know that the one with the E and the F and the gas station symbol tells you how much gas you’ve got left in your gas tank. If you’re on the road, you should also know that the little needle with the numbers from 0 up to something in the hundreds by tens, that says MPH is how fast you’re going in miles per hour (KPH and kilometers per hour for those outside of the US). However, there’s another vitally important gauge on most cars, that nobody thinks to tell a new driver about: the temperature gauge. Sure, if you’ve got the manual to your car, you know that it tells you the internal temperature of your engine. Now, when I made a serious car care mistake, I didn’t pay any attention to that needle. And it went into the red and stayed there for some time while I was driving. By the time I noticed it and stopped, I had melted my engine. Pay attention to your gauges!
Check Your Fluids
This is definitely what caused the temperature gauge to hit the red line and stay there. I wasn’t paying enough attention to my fluids. I hadn’t realized that my radiator had exploded and that it was not allowing the coolant to cycle through the system and cool my engine. Checking your fluids also alerts you to any potential leaks you may have in your engine. Just make sure to check your oil regularly (every two weeks should do, unless you noticed it low last time and had to add some oil to the engine, then keep constant watch for the next couple weeks to ensure it’s not leaking). Make sure you at least spot check your coolant reservoir occasionally just to make sure that you’ve got enough in there, or that it’s not too much.
This isn’t so much a maintenance tip. It’s really more of a “how to decide whether to get a leak fixed” tip. So you’ve got a leak, right? If you’ve got such a large leak that you’re blowing through the oil on a weekly or daily basis, you should probably get it fixed. If it’s small and you can keep a sharp eye on it, it may be cheaper just to keep replacing the oil. Depending on the location of the leak, it can be anywhere between $50 and $1000 to fix. Have it checked and see if it’s cheaper to fix the leak or to replace the oil. A one-time charge of $200 is nothing when your leak is so large that you’re spending that every two weeks in oil. And you have to make sure that you keep your engine lubricated. Just letting it all run out isn’t an option. It will lock up your engine.
Hopefully, these tips will help someone prevent a several thousand dollar mistake like melting their engine. I know there are much more savvy car people out there to learn from, but learning these lessons will at least keep you from making costly mistakes like I did.