If you come across a rural railroad crossing, you’ll probably see the old “stop, look and listen” warning sign. That’s also great advice for sorting out what’s wrong with your rig before you tell your mechanic, “My truck’s doing something weird.”
Sure, a lot of maintenance and repair work is clear-cut. But when you experience “something weird” out on the road, you need to pay special attention. Stop a moment, and use your senses. Consider everything you hear, feel, see and touch – without dismissing anything as insignificant.
- Is acceleration sluggish? If so, under all conditions or only sometimes? Be as specific as you can.
- If you hear an odd noise, what kind of noise is it? Is it a low rumble, a growling sound or a high-pitched squeal? Try to mimic the noise as best you can.
- When does the noise occur: Climbing a grade, descending a grade, going around a curve, accelerating or braking? Does the noise stop when you put it in Neutral?
- If you feel a vibration, try to figure out where it’s coming from – the floorboards, in your seat or in the steering wheel?
- Do you notice any excess exhaust smoke when the problem occurs? What color is the smoke?
- Is there a smell associated with the problem?
The better you can explain what’s wrong to a mechanic, the easier it will be for them to diagnose and fix it.
If your truck’s problem is hard to diagnose, try to be patient, but also make sure the shop knows when you have to get back on the road. Don’t forget to get a written estimate, and be willing to pay for diagnostic time – a good shop won’t give it away for free.
Finally, don’t forget that the best way to avoid “something weird” happening to your rig is to stick to a preventative maintenance schedule. You know that old saying: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”