Don’t get psyched out by today’s complexities

“I don’t even lift the hood anymore” is a common statement mechanics frequently hear from customers.

“I don’t even lift the hood anymore” is a common statement mechanics frequently hear from customers. Many people that used to tinker are down right psyched out by modern technology. I am not sure that feeling is warranted. Many automotive problems are still solved simply. Many automotive problems can be avoided by simple maintenance.

Even mechanics get caught up in the complexities of the modern automobile. That sometimes causes us to miss the basics.

Every vehicle requires gas in the tank if you want it to run. I can tell you that many a mechanic has missed this basic little nugget of information. Sure the gauge may read like there is gas in the tank but that by all means is not proof positive.  Putting  some more gas in the tank is a simple process be your car a Ferrari or a Kia. Fuel gauges do fail.

Your vehicle requires a slightly heavy left hand on the wheel to keep it on the road. Time for a wheel alignment you say. Your mechanic may have the latest camera technology alignment machine but your problem may simply be a low tire. Putting air in tires is the same process as it always has been. When your tire pressure is even and your vehicle is rolling straight down the road again, hands off the wheel, drive on down to the nearest tire repair centre and get that leak repaired.

You say your car is just not warming up inside like it used to. Well, youtr heater needs hot coolant to make heat. When your coolant level is low; voilà ,no heat.  Top up the  coolant and get your warm car down to your mechanic. You probably have a leak.

What is that rattle under the hood?  By all means, shut the vehicle off and lift the hood. I know there are infomercials that suggest that snake oil you put in your engine will allow it to survive without enough engine oil. But the simpler solution is keeping your engine oil level where it is supposed to be with of course the correct engine oil product.

One of the most important items in your vehicle is the battery. It is even more important now than it ever was. All those electronics require a good strong even flow of electrons and electrons don’t like to flow through dirty or loose battery connections. If you can twist the cable on the battery terminal  by hand, it is too loose. The myriad of problems solved by replacing a battery or cleaning and/or tightening battery terminals is mind boggling.

Admittedly your owner’s manual is sending you to your mechanic for what used to be simple tasks. Changing light bulbs come to mind.  I know it feels ridiculous to have to search a database to find the procedure to change a headlight bulb but such is life.

Don’t you love your satellite navigation and your heated/air conditioned seats though?

Trail’s Ron Nutini is a licensed automotive technician and graduate of mechanical engineering from UBC. He will write every other Thursday. E-mail:

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