Understanding your car

Before venturing out in your vehicle get familiar with it. Understand how it runs, locate the parts under the hood, and know how to do simple repairs.

Auto repair for dummies
by Deanna Sclar ; John O'Dell, technical advisor.
Hoboken, NJ : Wiley Publishing, 2009.
This new edition of the highly successful "Auto Repair For Dummies" adds more focus on fuel injection systems and removes increasingly obsolete information about carburetors. This up-to-date edition also adds coverage of hybrid cars and other alternatively fueled vehicles.
Clueless about cars : an easy guide to car maintenance and repair
Lisa Christensen, with Dan Laxter.
Buffalo, N.Y. : Firefly Books, 2007.
An illustrated guide to dealing with general car maintenance and repairs, car emergencies and buying and selling a car, written to help car owners do more on their own and keep car costs down. The updated edition includes a new chapter on hybrid cars.
The car book : everything you need to know about owning, enjoying and maintaining your car
Steve Rendle.
Sparkford : Haynes Pub., 2006.
  1. Previous ed.: 1999.
  2. Includes index.
How to repair your car
Paul Brand.
St. Paul, MN : Motorbooks, 2006.
In this easy-to-read guide, auto expert Paul Brand demystifies car repair and maintenance, with clear, simple explanations of how your car works and straight-ahead advice on how to fix problems. How to Repair Your Car" includes 50 step-by-step projects that can be easily done at home with simple tools and will save you thousands . When problems arise that are beyond the skills of the average car owner, Brand explains how to talk to your mechanic and get the results you want without getting ripped off. Also included are troubleshooting charts that will help you diagnose and repair your car as well as Brand's maintenance tips that will keepy your car alive and well for more than 100,000 miles.

When starting your car, watch the dashboard for the warning lights and gauges and listen to the beeps. Know what they mean, for these warning signals can indicate trouble.

Sometimes your car can tell you if there is a problem by the noise it makes. Knowing the type of sound and where it is coming from can help you identify the problem.

  • A clicking sound could mean that the oil pressure is low.
  • A thumping sound and the car pulls to one side might mean you have a flat tire.
  • A hissing sound and smoke from under the hood or the temperature light comes on can indicate that the engine is overheating.

Another problem your car can let you know about is when the steering wheel vibrates and the car pulls to one side there might be brake trouble. If the car will not even start, use jumper cables to jump-start the engine.

Items kept in the glove compartment and trunk can help you with simple repairs.

Signal for help

Use emergency flashers
Make a send help sign
Tie colorful material to antenna
Leave a note on the dashboard if you need to abandon the car

Breakdown tips

Items in the glove compartment should include insurance card, the owner’s manual, flashlight and notepad and pen.

Be sure to keep a first aid kit, blankets, old rags, oil, empty gas can, water for drinking and car repairs, basic tools like pliers, wrench and screw driver, spare tire and jack, tire sealant and a tire pressure gauge in the trunk.

Understanding your car can help make for a smooth ride to your next destination.

More about maintenance and repairs

Article by: St. Louis Public Library staff