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auto maintenance January 10, 2018

A Stitch in Time

We always test-drive cars to help diagnose whatever problems have brought the vehicle to the shop. Very often when driving a car to, say, identify a mystery warning light that intermittently flashes, we wonder why they are not complaining about the deafening growling noise coming from the front wheels and growing louder with each mile-per-hour increase in speed. How could they not hear that?

Eventually everyone gets to the same answer. Some noises, particularly “rolling noises,” start out very gradually, adding a decibel a day over many months and simply become part of the background noise of the vehicle operation and the rumble of traffic that the ears tend to cancel out. This phenomenon is most common with rolling noises (wheel bearing, bad tires, etc.), but any steady noise that builds gradually can be cancelled out by the senses.

So what can you do to keep from being blindsided by the unheard or unfelt problem?

Of course you knew I was going to tell you to bring your car to Wiygul Automotive Clinic, where we always test-drive your car during maintenance checks. But maintenance checks are often only two or three times a year, and that’s not often enough. If you have a spouse or partner, make it a policy to switch cars at least once a month so that your senses will be more alert to sounds and sensations.

And sorry, no, taking your spouse’s car to 7-Eleven for a Saturday morning milk and eggs run doesn’t count. You have to have the car for a full day, including some steady high-speed driving. I know it’s a bigger pain than it sounds. We tend to live in our cars, with our chargers for all our devices, our E-ZPasses, and our security parking permits. But you are the responsible one in your household, so you have to be the one to enforce this.

If you have a family with teenage drivers it is imperative that you drive their cars on a very regular basis. When I was young (in the Jurassic period, as my son likes to remind me), young men learned as much as they could about cars as a rite of passage, because they needed wheels to impress the female of the species. That era is long gone and cars are simply another appliance to them. We have seen cars come in with engines knocking, no brakes, and in one or two cases, ON FIRE, and the teenage driver seemed to find very little abnormal about this.

If you provide cars for your kids, then for the sake of the motoring public, test-drive them often. And in this case you can do the Saturday morning hardware store run. The problems are usually obvious enough to find in a short drive, and the kids are usually not awake before noon anyway.

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