Engine diagnosis

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Updated: 3/28/2003 1:53 pm
Troubleshooting engine problems is not as easy as it used to be. However, if you know some of the signs, you can spot some symptoms before they get worse. Some of the most obvious warning signs are engine smoke, odd noises, leaking fluids, and overheating. For instance, a puddle of greenish fluid under your car may mean you have a radiator leak, or a broken or worn heater hose. Your temperature gauge will rise proportionately to the amount of engine coolant you lose. A clattering under the hood when you accelerate could mean you simply need to use a higher-octane gasoline. Pinging sounds, however, like rocks being thrown around inside your engine, could mean a much more serious problem. This is frequently caused, or made worse, by a lack of engine oil. An engine can only stand about a minute of this kind of rough treatment before it suffers permanent damage. Watch your car's temperature gauge and make sure your engine doesn't over-heat. Check your oil frequently. Less than the proper amount of oil can ultimately be quite damaging to an engine. Although these examples are all good indicators of a specific problem, cars often need more specialized care. It's a good idea to get a complete diagnosis of the car's engine when you go in for a tune-up or a state inspection. Doing so can point out problems you may have missed on your own. It can save your car, and save you money.

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