A good, well made car should last you a good long time. If it doesn’t suffer any major accidents, and you keep up with regular maintenance, your car should last you well beyond 20 years, saving you money on buying a brand new car when your children start learning to drive.
However, failing to properly maintain your car and ignoring warning signs is a recipe for disaster. We’re talking potential-flaming-wreck levels of disaster.
Here are some of the problems you’ll need to watch out for, and how to stop them from happening to you:
You don’t see it too often here, but once in awhile you do see an abandoned wheel (most of the time, from a lorry) lying by the side of the road.
This is the result of either a really bad accident, or a broken ball joint.
Ball joints are responsible for keeping your wheels attached to your cars. Given that they receive a lot of wear whenever your wheels change direction, they need to be regularly checked to make sure they’re in good condition.
On newer cars the ball joints are sealed and don’t need to be lubricated, but on older cars they may need to be lubricated periodically.
There isn’t a specific lifespan for ball joints — it depends on a lot of factors, like environment and usage. They should be inspected during every service, especially if your car is old or has a lot of kilometers on it, and replaced if necessary.
Warning signs of a failing ball joint:
Engine seizure is what it is called when your engine locks up. If this happens, you’ll typically lose power and may lose control of your vehicle.
Most of the time, this happens because of a lack of proper lubrication in the engine. This can happen if your oil is too dirty, or if your engine oil plug wasn’t properly tightened or your oil pan was damaged, resulting in a massive leak.
As you probably know, an engine is made up of a lot of metal parts moving at a very high speed. Engine oil is essential because metal expands when it is hot, and the oil’s job is to lubricate these moving parts by providing a film between the parts that prevents them from grinding together. Oil also helps in cooling the engine.
In the absence of engine oil, parts like the pistons and bearings will expand enough to make contact, and will start producing massive amounts of heat. Eventually, the grinding may weld parts of the engine together, stopping its function.
Once an engine has seized, it’s pretty much a write off — your engine will need to be replaced. However, if the problem is caught early, you can prevent engine seizure and save yourself from needing a new engine.
How to prevent engine seizure:
You’ve probably seen this in a few movies; it’s pretty much the scariest thing that could happen to a driver. You definitely don’t want it happening to you when you’re driving down from Genting Highlands, for example.
It’s also fairly easy to happen. Even a small pinhole in your brake lines can result in you losing some or all of your braking ability. To simplify, your car’s brakes work using hydraulic fluid to turn the pedal action into actual stopping power. Without both hydraulic fluid and pressure, your brakes would simply not work.
Thankfully, cars are also equipped with the hand brake, which does not rely on hydraulics, that you can use as a backup in case of emergencies.
How to prevent loss of brakes:
Here in Malaysia, most of the time when we hear about a car turning into a fireball, it’s some kind of flashy, hilariously expensive supercar.
However, it’s not 100% out of the realm of possibility that your average Toyota or Proton can catch fire, especially if you tend to load it up with aftermarket electronics. Yes, that cheap car charger that heats up when plugged in is actually a fire hazard.
A lot of the time, car fires are electrical in nature, as any stray spark in the wrong place can ignite any of the flammable liquids your car runs on, or even catch plastic and fibreglass on fire. Another concern is the various flammable fluids coursing through your engine and their fumes, which can catch fire if they come into contact with any hot surfaces or sparks.
How to avoid car fires:
It’s hard to decide which is really worse — this or losing brakes. If a vehicle loses brakes, you still have the ability to steer and with your foot off the gas, you will eventually slow down (if you’re not on a slope). If you lose steering, all you can do is slowly apply the brakes and hope that you don’t become part of a 10 car pileup.
Built-in safety features ensure that losing steering isn’t something likely to happen unless your car is especially old and poorly maintained, but as with all machines, it’s still a possibility.
Tie rods connect the wheels of the vehicle to the steering and suspension components, and their failure is the most common cause steering problems. They are subject to extreme wear, as they receive a lot of stress whenever the vehicle is in motion.
The part that wears out most frequently is the rubber bushings at the tie rod ends that seal in oil and keep the part lubricated. When these crack, they let in oil and dirt that will hasten the death of your tie rods. As you can figure, if your tie rods completely fail, so does your steering.
How to prevent tie rod failure:
Every Maxx ‘N Go oil change comes with a free, professional 15-point car inspection to spot any problems with your vehicle. With every service, you only pay for the oil — delivery, labour and oil filter are all free.
The Maxx ‘N Go Service Center is also open to take care of all your major service needs, as well as parts repair, replacement, problem diagnostics and more.