While enjoying a nice drive, your check engine light flashes on. Since you assume that this is just a common occurrence in vehicles, you decide to ignore it and continue your joy ride. Regrettably, a couple of weeks later, your automobile begins showing signs of malfunction: white smoking bellowing from the exhaust, loss of power, possibly even a blown head gasket.

Could this issue have been prevented?

Some car troubles, even an inconspicuous blinking light, need to be looked at right away before any more damage takes place. Let’s explore some repairs you can do yourself without breaking the bank and causing more trouble for yourself or your vehicle.

Engine Oil

Letting your car run out of oil is one of the worst things that could happen to your automobile. Oil makes your vehicle function properly by preventing heat buildup and engine parts from grinding together. Without proper oil changes or filter replacements, your engine could seize up, fail or even complete vehicle malfunction.

Most likely, you aren’t looking forward to buying a new engine or vehicle, so remind yourself that a task  like replenishing your oil and changing your filters is easy to do. When it comes to buying necessary items for this project, you might have to pay around $20. That of course depends on your type of vehicle and how much you want to spend on oil care.

With your automobile handbook and various needed tools, your engine will be feeling better in no time.

Engine Coolant Temperature Sensor (ECT)

If your engine begins having difficulty starting, your vehicle has a low fuel economy, driveability declines or the cooling fan fails, you might have a ECT malfunction. Luckily, replacing this yourself is completely doable and easy.

The powertrain control module (PCM) is the computer at the heart of your engine’s operation. It adjusts the composition of air and gas that enters the combustion chamber depending on the temperature at which the engine is running. The engine’s temperature is gauged by the ECT which in turn informs the PCM. The powertrain control module then determines the ratio of the fuel mixture, advances or delays the spark, increases the cooling fan speed, and takes other steps to promote adequate vehicle operation.

Obviously, without a proper ECT, your PCM could assume that the engine is running cool and therefore enrich the fuel mixture unnecessarily. This wastes gas and puts pressure on the catalytic converter causing dollars to fly out of your wallet.

Replacing the engine coolant temperature sensor probably won’t cost you more than $20 for parts, so fixing it now will save tons of time and money in the future.

Windshield Troubles

You pass by a gravel truck and a rock flies out of nowhere. Suddenly you hear a loud bang on your windshield and boom – there’s a small, star-shaped chip on the window. Maybe it’s not interfering with your eyesight, so no big deal right? The problem is that once a small crack becomes evident in the windshield, it threatens to grow and create a large broken line, or multiple lines, that will obscure your field of vision.

But don’t worry, a ding in a windshield can be fixed without replacing your whole window. Get out your magnifying glass and take a really close look at your new chip. A technique to fix this little problem is to inject an epoxy, acrylic adhesive or filler into the chip.

For around $10, you can purchase a repair kit that could save your windshield, at least for a while. Big department stores such as Walmart are an option to find said kits, as are autoparts stores like Autozone. Inevitably, you might have to get that window replaced, but at least you have time to save a bit before, in case you do have to pay out of pocket. Fortunately, in many cases, a comprehensive insurance policy will cover glass window replacement.

Fuel Line Leaks

If you’re smelling gas in your vehicle or have witnessed a murky multi-colored puddle underneath your car, then you might have a fuel line leak. The fuel line is a metal wire that runs the length of your vehicle with small rubber (fuel) tubes joining at the other end. It starts at the fuel tank and ends at the engine.

Ignoring a leak like this can actually put yourself and your car at immediate risk. A small spark from even a match could ignite the fuel and burst into flames. Depending on the make and model of your vehicle, you might pay about $40 to fix the leak. Luckily, these repairs aren’t difficult to complete if you have a little car knowledge and the needed tools.

Spark Plugs

The purpose of spark plugs is to ignite the fuel mixture in the combustion chamber of your vehicle. When these become damaged or worn out (burnt up is more appropriate), they might no longer fire at the proper time or at all. A spark plug malfunction can cause your engine to hesitate or surge, and even result in lost power and acceleration.

Faulty spark plugs are a nasty business, so it’s best to replace them as soon as you can. Changing your own plugs will take about an hour for a four-cylinder engine and will save you about $100 bucks in labor. You’ll need a ratchet, torque wrench, spark plug socket and a gap gauge. New plugs and wires might cost a couple hundred dollars, but it’s worth it to avoid having to get a new converter or wasting more fuel.

We’d all love to have a car that never needed any attention or maintenance beyond filling it with liquid gold. But the fact is that like any machine, your car will show signs of wear, and occasionally need some TLC to keep it running up to snuff.

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