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Check Your Engine Compartment:
Under-The-Hood Tips

by Ron Bak

Does your car run hotter than it should?
Check the fan belts and make sure they're tight, with no cracks or fraying along the edges.

Have radiator hoses gotten mushy and soft when you squeeze them?
If so, they are beginning to deteriorate and may be collapsing internally, thereby blocking water flow.

Has the front of the radiator gotten so clogged with bugs that you can start your own collection of flying insects?
Spray a steady stream of water from the engine side of the radiator to flush them off.

Are the radiator fins bent?
Straighten them out with Eastwood's Radiator Fin Pliers.

Are you hearing any unusual noises from the engine?
If you have difficulty pinpointing the source of the sound, get a "mechanics stethoscope" to locate the noise. A knocking sound can usually be traced to the crankshaft or piston rod bearings. A slapping sound may indicate worn pistons, rings or cylinder walls. A whooshing vacuum sound might indicate a leaking intake manifold, loose fuel injectors, or a bad vacuum line or vacuum connection. In general, the louder the sound, the worse the condition.

Be careful when sticking your face under the hood with the engine running. The fan is dangerous and can cut you, or loose clothing may get trapped by it! If the engine is hot, you could suffer a nasty burn. A loose wire can shock you. The battery can very easily get short-circuited if a piece of metal jewelry touches both terminals at the same time. Remember, look and think about what you're doing. An auto is a piece of "heavy machinery" and should be respected for the power it generates.

You have an idea what sounds are normal for your own car, but if you have to drive a different car, have the owner help you check out any strange sounds before you hit the road. If any of these noises are intrusive, have a trusted mechanic check them out with you. (If possible, be there with the mechanic to help him isolate a particular sound you are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with.)

Take a good long look at the engine compartment, using a flashlight and mirror to check inaccessible spots. Notice any wet or discolored spots that might indicate an oil or coolant leak? Can you smell anything unusual, like antifreeze or fuel? These need to be checked out and corrected pronto...especially gasoline leaks.