Your beloved vehicle, perhaps the veteran of road trips, commutes, and long distance journies to see things is beginning to malfunction.
It comes down to this: you’ll need to either repair or replace your car before it fails entirely.
Don’t stress. We’ve compiled a list of symptoms that often indicate a possible replacement for your car in the near future.
1. Thick Smoke
If your car is smoking, it could be any number of problems.
And almost all of them are quite serious. Blue smoke indicates burning oil while thick white smoke can indicate other fluids burning.
Black smoke is pretty much a sign of the engine dying. You should also be shutting down the vehicle immediately and getting clear of the area, as something may be on fire.
Get yourself to a mechanic as quickly as possible, the issue may be relatively minor or it may be the death rattle of your engine as it begins to go to the great scrapyard in the sky.
2. Rapidly Depleting Oil Levels
When an engine begins to die one of the first things that starts to go is your oil levels.
If you’re lucky, it’s just a small leak and it can be fixed properly in a mechanic’s shop. If you’re unlucky it means the internal components of your engine are beginning to degrade, allowing oil to leak through the piston chambers or other parts of the block.
In either case, if you’re suddenly needing to top off with a quart once every few days it’s time to have a professional check it out.
3. Knocking Engine
If your engine is producing a knocking sound when the car is turned off one of two things is happening. The most common is that you’re not running fuel with high enough octane, consult the manual for your car and make sure you’re meeting the rating.
Most cars are designed to run on normal gas, however, and a knocking noise can indicate the motor is finally giving in to the thousands of small explosions it goes through every time you fire it up.
If you’re knocking while the motor is running you may be in trouble.
It can also indicate a dirty engine or faulty spark plugs, however, so check with a mechanic before you run to the dealership for a replacement. This might also mean problems with your exhaust system, so have it checked and replaced with an efficient one to avoid future problems. If you have a truck with a Ram 1500, pick out a reliable exhaust system for 1500 hemi for the best performance.
4. Rusted Body
Rust is commonly called “cancer” by car enthusiasts, particularly in older vehicles.
While someone who’s investing money in a vintage muscle car might be willing to pay for the bodywork to be done to remove it for the average consumer it’s a good time to examine the damage and decide if you need to replace the vehicle.
In general, rust on the body panels or fenders isn’t a complete loss as long as it hasn’t eaten its way through the exterior. Modern vehicles are designed to resist rusting and engineers have done a pretty good job at it.
The problem lies with rust that has gotten under the surface. If that’s the case, no amount of wishful thinking will save the component and sooner or later it’s just going to get worse.
5. Slipping Transmission
If your car is beginning to have trouble shifting, then you’re in for a costly repair.
Transmission repairs are extremely expensive and time-consuming. In all but the best of cases it will usually result in you spending more than the car is actually worth in order to get it running again.
You can help to avoid that by taking the vehicle in as soon as the problem starts. If you ignore it for much longer then you’re probably going to be retiring the vehicle when you take a look at the mechanic’s invoice.
6. Check Engine Light is Frequently On
Your check engine light is just there to let you know there’s a problem. When the computer picks up a problem the light comes on and a diagnostic code is produced which has to be read with a special tool.
Sometimes it’s relatively minor like an O2 sensor. In other cases, it’s letting you know that you’re moments away from sending the pistons ringing through the side of the block.
Unless you have an OBD-II lying around your garage, you’ll need to go to a mechanic to see what’s wrong. A diagnostic computer can quickly determine the extent of the issue and how much it will cost.
If the light is flashing then it’s time to pull over and call a tow truck. It indicates a serious problem.
7. It’s Just a Lemon
Sometimes there are just… problems, with a vehicle. This is the only case where you shouldn’t be examining blue book value compared to the repair costs.
Cascading systems are a headache. You fix one thing, another one breaks, and so on until you start to wonder if the hodgepodge Frankenstein under your hood is even the original motor anymore.
Electrical problems also have a tendency to start running away.
Unlike the other problems on our list this one is a headache vs. personal tolerance problem, rather than one you can quantify financially.
Stay Objective: Bluebook vs. Repair Cost
If you’re unsure about how to proceed, the sanest thing to do is to check the estimated repair cost versus the value of the car.
As a general rule, when the lifetime repairs on a vehicle have exceeded the blue book value it’s time to start hunting for a replacement. You may be sentimental about your dying car but don’t fall prey to the sunk cost fallacy. Just because you’ve been putting more money into it doesn’t mean it will continue to pay off.
Besides, maybe it’s time to learn more about that nice used truck you’ve been eyeing down on the lot.
Is It Time to Repair or Replace Your Car?
Vehicles have a limited lifespan, and when it comes time to repair or replace your car tough decisions will be made.
Remember to think objectively. We know you love that old beater, but when you’re spending more on repairs than the entire car is worth every year you’re just shooting yourself where it hurts… the wallet.
We trust you’re savvy enough to make your own decisions, but a little bit of help never hurts. If you’re looking to keep saving money then check out our money saving blog today.