Car Problems You May Be Able To Ignore

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Car MechanicI drive a 2005 Chevy Aveo that I bought new. In case you have never owned one, they were made with sub-par parts. For example, the thermostat housing was made of plastic. Thermostat housings are near the engine, so within 3 years, it had gotten so hot on and off that it cracked in two. Amazingly, the replacement part was metal. Long story short, I have looked into what problems can be ignored and what problems can’t when it comes to a car like mine. Please keep in mind that I am not an auto professional – I just own a cruddy one and am sharing my experiences.

Editor’s Note/Warning: As frugal as I am, I think you should always try to repair problems as quickly as possible, as small problems have ways of turning into big problems. Proper maintenance and repair will help your car live longer than average, which yields savings in the long run. I do, also, recognize that in these tougher economic times, you may not have the funds to make these minor repairs. If that’s the case, this post hopes to give a little direction on what issues where it might be OK to delay.

Low Tire Warning

Most modern cars have sensors that will warn you if problems pop up on your vehicle. One of the most frequent warning indicators is the low tire pressure warning.  My car doesn’t have one but my husband’s Prius does.  Some people mistakenly believe that this light means that the tire needs to be replaced. The solution is often much simpler than that. Many times the air pressure in the tire has simply dropped below the manufacturer’s recommended limit. Adding some air to the tire will often make this warning light shut off.

Broken Thermostat

If the thermostat breaks in a car, the indicator will show that engine is not getting warm enough. If you know that your engine is running fine with no major issues with heating and cooling, then you may just have a broken thermostat. Getting the thermostat display fixed is important in the long run, but if you are having a tough month financially, it is one of the repairs that can wait a bit. Just make sure to check your engine regularly for any signs of problems.

My thermostat broke a couple of years ago, but I had it replaced immediately since I had no idea what its significance was. My mechanic actually explained to me that I would have been fine without one for a while since the engine was in good shape. Even though I still prefer to have things fixed immediately, I thought I should mention it.

Check Engine Light

Another indicator light that pops on all the time is the Check Engine Light. Some cars even keep track of how tight the gas cap is on, how much fuel is in the car, and how often you need an oil change with that light. In short, your car’s display may be showing problems with the engine because of a loose gas cap or because it’s been 3000 miles since your last oil change. I would suggest checking your owner’s manual for simple causes for the check engine light and only take your car in to be looked at after making sure there isn’t a simple, and cheaper, fix.

Small Brake Fluid Leak

Believe me, I thought there was no way that a brake fluid leak should be ignored. Then I owned an Aveo. Apparently, small brake fluid leaks do sometimes occur on badly made vehicles with manual transmissions. My brake light came on and stayed on a few years ago, but when I took it to my mechanic, he spent 2 hours trying to find the leak to no avail.

He finally simply added a little brake fluid into the proper reservoir and explained I probably had a small leak somewhere around the clutch. He suggested I simply add a little bit of brake fluid myself whenever the light stayed on and to look into it further if the light ever came on more frequently than every 6 months. So far, it has been 4 years since the initial light and I’ve only had to add about an inch of brake fluid 5 times. That means I have spent $8 on brake fluid instead of thousands of dollars on finding the insignificant leak.

Have you learned to ignore certain car problems too?

(Photo: kathycat102)

{ 11 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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11 Responses to “Car Problems You May Be Able To Ignore”

  1. cvargo says:

    Most vehicles only need the oil changed every 7000 miles. I never change my oil at the 3000 mark. Read your manual… my manual for my Hyundai says every 7500 miles but everytime i take it to the dealer they say every 3000. Changing your oil that oftem is usually a waste of money.

    • Strebkr says:

      The manufacturer knows how long the engines can go between changes. They are not influenced at all by your money because you already bought the car. The dealer just wants your money. Go with the 7000 mile change.

  2. adam carolla fan says:

    i rented a chevy aveo from enterprise rent-a-car once. it was a sleek-looking car, but definitely seemed like it was just slapped together.

    the ac in my 99 honda civic recently winked out, so i’ve been driving around in a sweatbox this summer. meh.

  3. billsnider says:

    I had a Ford Escort which was the pits. The engine block cracked, the engine cooling thermostat failed, the gas tank leaked, the defroster failed, control panel went, windshield wiper motor failed, etc. It was new by the time I dumper it and I do mean dumped.

    Bill Snider

  4. Allison says:

    A good thing to do when your check engine light comes on is to take it by an auto parts store and have them run a diagnostic. Most places like that will do it for free.

    • Strebkr says:

      They will try to sell you the parts, but often times if its a simple fix you can do it yourself. If its complicated, they will tell you not to try yourself and go somewhere.

  5. saladdin says:

    These types of posts are so interesting to me. It shows so much about people, where they probable live and how much tinkering around cars their dad did. Just look at a simple thing such as an oil change. My girl friends 11 year old cad recommends 5k oil changes but I bet most people still think that it’s(generally speaking) 3k or the engine will blow. And how people can pay $40 for an oil change when it takes 15 minutes and $15 for Wal-Mart Brand 5qts oil and oil filter.

    And don’t get me started on people paying to have electric water heaters installed. That’s easier then getting a hooker pregnent.

    But time has a value and it’s your money.

  6. gharkness says:

    Concerning the low tire warning: this frequently happens at the first hint of cold autumn or winter weather. Why? Because cold air contracts (and warm air expands).

    After a long, hot summer (like this one has been), if you have been running your tires at the recommended pressure, when cold air hits, very likely you will need to add some air to your tires. But it doesn’t mean there’s a leak or a problem. It’s just a matter of physics.

  7. Jim says:

    “Preventative Maintenance” and a relationship with a “Professional Mechanic” – I will leave you those magic words that have aided me these last 45 years of driving.

    This article/post is hogwash and based on personal observations of its author and the points are not backed up by outside facts. Ignore common sense at your own risk.

    Not only have I had personal vehicles on the road but those of my Business, that included Heavy Trucks and off road vehicles. I saved thousands by knowing what I or my employees could do [and not do] and having a Professional Mechanic at hand that knew me, my vehicles and my Philosophy.

    45 years and millions of miles and we have only been broke down at the side of the road a handful of times. And that to me is priceless.

    So do not ignore things, educate yourselves on the inner workings and maintenance of the second most important investment/purchase you make behind a home.

    • Anonymous says:

      I wouldn’t call the post hogwash, but it seems like the title doesn’t match to well with what’s in the article…

  8. Kathy says:

    My mom brought her car in for a annual oil and filter change. They are trying to tell her, now, that she needs something else fixed under the care and won’t be able to drive it until its fixed. Said its going to cost her $1600.00.

    Every time she brings her car to this place their draining her for more money…I think their a bunch of frauds…what can I do to try to help her.

    I’ve told her not to bring her car there anymore…????

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