Check your EngineClick Here To See How An Engine Works
Most engine repair jobs are better off performed by a qualified mechanic but with a few tips you can carry out minor repairs and serivicing yourself or just make sure that you're not being ripped off by a dodgy garage.
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It is always a good idea to listen to your engine regularly. Even when you're driving you can spot a new knock or rattle that wasn't there yesterday. Your engine shouldn't make any knocking noises or rattle usually. Different noises will mean different things and allthough could be something and nothing it could be the engines death rattle.
Some knocks and rattles can be from things other than the engine eg exhaust system, etc but an engine knock should increase in tempo along with the engine revs.(As you rev the engine the knocking gets faster too). If the knock only occurs when the car is moving and not stationary then the problem is probably with the transmission.
Knocking from the bottom of your engine is usually Big end Bearings. A big job, costly and time consuming because the engine usually has to come out. This could mean replacing the crank bearings and maybe regrinding the crank. This will end up with a slightly weaker crankshaft as it is thinner because of re-grinding. This process has limited applications on the same crank.
Knocking from the top of the engine usually means either little ends (Piston bearings) or Camshaft wear. Camshaft knocks are usually loud and hollow sounding where as little ends are deeper and more of a solid sound.
The best way to make sure that the problem isn't one from above is to watch your engine when running and watch for something moving with the same frequency as the noise. Check pipes, leads, exhaust pipes (Careful- HOT). make sure everything is secure and that the battery is firmly located. Although tightening a screw or bolt could cure your rattle most of these jobs are best given to a qualified mechanic.
Servicing is something that even the average man can do for himself. Part of the service should be fluid checks. Something you can easily do yourself and something you should be able to do more regularly than just once a year at a cars service interval. Most fluid levels should be checked at least once a month. Refilling fluid is a lot easier than repairing the car after you've just hit a lorry because you're brake fluid was too low!!
Most fluid levels can be easily checked...
Automatic Transmission Fluid LevelThe fluid level dipstick is usually found under the bonnet on the gearbox side of the engine in the main the dipstick is coloured . (The photo shows it to be orange) The fluid level should be checked with the engine at idling speed at normal working temperature with the gear lever in the P (for parking position) and the vehicle parked on level ground.
(Checking at normal temperature)
Remove dipstick, wipe clean with a lint free cloth, replace dipstick by pushing it back as far as it will go, take out dipstick and check that the level is between the indicator markings MIN and MAX at normal temperature the reading should be at full mark (topping up is made through dipstick tube)
(Checking when hot)
Note that after long journeys, when the gear box is still very hot the levels should be between the indicator marks MIN and MAX (refer to your owners handbook for specification and oil type). Automatic transmission fluid ATF
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Battery Top up with Distilled WaterThe majority of batteries today are maintenance free and don't require top up.
If your battery has easily detachable tops then a top up may be required from time to time. In this case simply remove the tops and top up the cells with distilled water just above the visible plates.
IMPORTANT Lead acid batteries contain electrolyte-(sulphuric acid) and is highly poisonous and very corrosive
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Brake Fluid Levels
As brake pads and shoes normally wear down, the brake fluid level in the reservoir will drop, therefore from time to time this will need to be topped up. Simply remove the cap and top up to the level indicated on the reservoir, the fluid level must not exceed the MAX mark.
Some cars use the brake fluid level as an indicator for brake pad wear. These should not be topped up unless leaking. When the fluid gets to the bottom marker of the resevoir you should check your brake pads for wear and.or leakage.
Never use brake fluid that you are unsure about.
Consult best before date. If in doubt always use a new bottle.
(Refer to owners manual for fluid specification.)
More information about brake fluid specifications
Engine Coolant Top Up
The coolant level must be checked when the engine is cold, and must not be below the MIN mark on the reservoir nor should it be above the MAX mark.
When checking coolant level do not remove the cap from the reservoir whilst the engine is still hot, as you have the risk of scalding yourself.
IMPORTANT the cooling system is under pressure, always remove cap slowly to release the pressure before fully removing it.
Engine Oil Level
The engine oil level must be checked with car on level ground and whilst the engine is still hot, approximately 10 minutes after switching off engine.
The oil level must be between the MIN and MAX indicators on the dip stick.
The space between the MIN and MAX corresponds to approximately one litre of oil, the oil level must not exceed the MAX mark.
If the engine is hot, be careful of your hands under the bonnet area, as you have a risk of burning yourself. Also the electric fan may start up and cause injury.
More information about oil
What type of oil you should use for your car
Navigating the engine bay
Why won't my engine start?
Before you buy
Check Engine Oil
How a 4 stroke engine works