If your ran to the doctor for every little ache or pain you experienced, you'd gain a reputation as a hypochondriac. But where your car is concerned, a bit of hypochondria could make all the difference in ensuring your safety on the road. Drivers often ignore or neglect minor irregularities in their vehicles, but those little issues can indicate or lead to bigger problems. Check out these four "unimportant" auto problems that merit your attention.
1. Windshield Damage
It may seem impossible to drive a car for very long without ending up with chips, cracks, or other blemishes in the windshield. Gravel and other debris can do a surprising amount of damage, especially when your car sails into it at highway speed. Even if your car sits in your parking lot, a passing hailstorm can deface the glass. You might think that as long as you can still see ahead of you, you have nothing to worry about—but think again. A small chip can grow larger and larger as it goes unfilled, making visibility worse. A crack that affects both the glass and the underlying layer of vinyl that reinforces the windshield poses even more danger. Once this vinyl layer becomes weakened, the next big impact could cause the windshield to shatter.
Fortunately, you should have access to professional auto glass repair shops in or near your town. These shops can fill chips and cracks or even replace entire windshields and side panels. If possible, find a mobile windshield repair shop. If the service technician can come to you, you won't have to squint through that damaged glass in an effort to drive your car to the shop.
2. Electrical Problems
Now matter how helpful you find modern conveniences such as "power everything" in your car, those conveniences seem a lot less convenient once their electrical parts start to fail. For instance, you may long for old-fashioned roll-down window controls the first time you realize that your power windows no longer have power. If your first concern lies with such essentials as engine, transmission, and brake performance, you might be tempted to put off those electrical repairs for a while—or indefinitely.
But little electrical issues can spell big trouble. That stuck window could limit your ability to escape from your car in an emergency, while a dim headlight could indicate anything from a low battery to a failing alternator. A blown fuse may not cause you any immediate inconvenience, but it could mean that you have an underlying voltage imbalance that needs attention. Get your faulty electrical gadgets looked at by your local auto shop even if they don't really bug you all that much. Today's minor annoyance could turn into tomorrow's major system failure.
3. Rusty Rocker Panels
A little rust on a car doesn't necessarily signal the end of the world. Plenty of older vehicles have rusted areas on their undercarriages or body panels that represent nothing more than superficial corrosion–a cosmetic blemish rather than a structural concern. But you need to watch out for rust in certain areas of the car, especially the rocker panels. These metal panels run from the front end of the car to the rear end directly under the doors. Believe it or not, these panels, along with your car's roof supports, literally hold the front end and back ends of the car together. When a rocker panel rusts out completely, you can imagine what happens next (if you can imagine your car lying on the road in two big chunks).
If you see substantial rust on or around your car's rocker panels, don't dismiss it as "patina" or harmless cosmetic damage. Have an auto body technician check all the rocker panels to see whether you need to have these important components replaced for safety's sake.
4. Mysterious Leaks
You've probably overreacted to harmless puddles or stains underneath your car before. For instance, a collection of water underneath a parked car on a hot day is usually just condensation from the air conditioner. A tiny oil stain here or there may fall well within an aging car's "normal" oil loss parameters. Unfortunately, you can't always tell which stains mean nothing of consequence and which should act as red alerts. That stuff that looks like oil may in fact be coolant (which can be yellow or gold in color instead of the familiar green). An inky black puddle may contain precious brake fluid instead of dirty, old oil. That tiny stain on the asphalt may be just a fraction of the actual fluid your car has lost over time.
Don't dismiss any mysterious leaks as "Old Car Syndrome." Whatever that fluid is, it most likely belongs in your car, not on the ground. Get your vehicle's hoses, tanks, and fluid levels thoroughly checked. If you have nothing to worry about, at least you'll know that for sure. If a problem pops up, you'll be glad you got it addressed.
What you don't know can hurt you—and so can your car, if you allow a little problem to create a big catastrophe on the road. Make the necessary fixes you can can ride through life with peace of mind!