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3 Car Problems You Should Never Fix Yourself

A car with bonnet open

In a recent blog we talked about 3 car problems you can fix yourself, saving the time and up-front expense of a trip to the mechanic. It's great to be able to perform these simple repairs, but there are still a few situations where the safest and best option is to call a professional, or your roadside assistance.

So put away the toolbox and read up on these 3 car problems that you should never fix yourself.

1. Replacing the timing belt

The timing belt's job is to keep the engine in sync - making sure the cylinder heads, valves, pistons and crankshaft are working together. This is a big task, and the belt becomes worn down over time. In fact, it will need to be replaced several times during a car's life and by no means should you every try to fix it yourself.

Here are some warning signs that it may need replacing:

  • Every 5 years or 100,000 kms (whichever comes first).
  • If it starts to look worn. The belt is made of rubber, so your mechanic will be able to see if it begins to glaze, crack or wear down.
  • When the engine starts to 'jump'. This is when the engine starts to run roughly, experiencing power loss as the belt fails to keep the parts moving in tandem.
  • If the belt breaks, in which case you won't be able to drive at all.

2. Fixing the transmission

Your car's transmission has the very important job of distributing power from the engine to the driveshaft. Huge amounts of heat and friction are generated by these different moving components, which can lead to a few different problems. The best way to tell that your transmission needs fixing is when its light appears on your dash, but you should also take extra caution if:

  • You hear a loud noise when the car is in neutral.
  • You experience difficulty getting into gear. This is more common with manual transmissions, but can sometimes affect automatics.
  • There’s grinding and shuddering while you're driving.
  • You smell burning from the engine. This can be caused by other problems, but is often overheating transmission fluid. There’s leaking of fluid from the transmission. You'll be able to identify this by its distinctive bright red colour and sweet smell.

With the thousands of parts that make up the transmission, this is clearly one job you shouldn't try to fix yourself. For regular repairs like transmission fluid top up, most car makers recommend roughly every 100,000 kms, so get it checked out when you have the cam belt replaced and save yourself an extra trip.

3. Replacing the radio

A broken stereo system can be incredibly frustrating, especially if you've got a long commute or trip planned. Unless you're familiar with electronics, it's best to leave the repair to an experienced auto electrician. Stereo faults can range from the simple to the complex, covering:

  • A jammed CD.
  • Lack of signal when scanning for radio stations.
  • A quiet sound, or at the other end of the spectrum, loud and distorted audio.
  • Interference with other parts of the car, such as the headlight dimming when the stereo volume is up.
  • No power to the stereo.

Unlike a stereo that you might have at home, the system in your car is wired into the electronics of the vehicle. Poking around without expert knowledge can lead to short-circuiting your car's entire electric system, or worse, an electrical fire. Leave this one to the pros and spend your time crafting the perfect playlist for your next road trip.