Whether you’re evaluating an unusual noise on your own car or inspecting a vehicle you may want to buy, being able to spot a costly repair is a valuable skill. Some car issues can be solved cheaply and easily, while others can require thousands of dollars worth of repairs. Here are four easy ways to spot an expensive car repair.
Listen for Any Unusual Engine Sounds
If you hear a knocking, grinding, or other unusual sounds from the car’s engine, it’s usually an indication of a major issue. Low oil can cause some of these problems, but if the oil seems right you’re likely looking at trouble. A knocking engine can cost at least several hundred dollars to fix, and it may have to be replaced altogether. It’s also best not to try to drive a car that’s making unusual engine noises since some engine issues could bring your car to a standstill at any moment.
Look out for Improper Shifting
If your car isn’t shifting between gears properly, it’s a certain sign of transmission trouble. In a manual transmission, bad gear is likely the culprit. An automatic transmission is more likely to have a fluid leak, which can still be quite costly to fix. Look out for signs of slow or improper shifting, since they indicate your transmission may not have many miles left in it.
Check out Any Noise from the Undercarriage
Undercarriage noise can be simple for an auto repair shop to fix, but it can also indicate major issues with your car’s suspension. A broken U-joint or a bad strut can be a pain to deal with and will usually need to be handled by a professional mechanic. Be careful, though, as it’s easy to mistake brake noise for undercarriage noise. Brakes, while they can be annoying to repair, are usually far less expensive.
Be Alert for Exhaust Odors
If you’re smelling exhaust whenever you drive, you could be in for an expensive repair. Some exhaust leaks can be fixed simply by joining two parts of the pipe back together. Others, however, require large parts of the exhaust system to be replaced. The latter variety can run into money, so it’s a good idea to address any exhaust leaks early.
While some car repairs will catch you totally off guard, keeping an eye out for these telltale signs will help you determine whether you may be looking at expensive maintenance shortly. If you watch your car for signs of trouble, you can usually head off the worst repairs.