Should I drive it?
Next to your house (if you own one (i.e. have a mortgage on one)) your vehicle is probably the most expensive thing you own (or have a loan on). For sure it is the most complex machine you own that generally works as it was designed (doesn’t require a shutdown and restart everyday).
When your vehicle is exhibiting problems that you notice definitely think twice before you decide to keep driving it.
Your safety and the safety of others is the number one reason you should stop driving your vehicle when things don’t feel quite right. Expense of repair is the second reason. I am always surprised at the number of people that just do not want to pay the tow truck operator to get their vehicle to the shop. When in doubt that is the least expensive and safest method of transporting your misbehaving vehicle.
Many of you like to simply phone your mechanic and ask if you should keep driving or not. Before you start jumping on the phone to either the tow truck operator or your mechanic do a little detective work yourself.
If your vehicle feels like it is not handling properly; does not roll down the road straight or smoothly, makes more noise than normal rolling down the road, exhibits strange clunks and bumps, these could quite likely be safety issues.
Stop the vehicle in a safe place, get out and take a look around. Do all the tires have air in them? Are all the wheels and tires pointing in the right direction? Is the vehicle sitting level on the road? Look underneath. Is anything hanging low underneath the vehicle?
If the problem is not obvious, not driving it is the safest way to proceed.
When it comes to bad feeling brakes the obvious solution is to stop driving immediately. They are not likely to get better on their own.
Better safe than sorry.
When it comes to warning messages on the instrument displays, again stop your vehicle in a safe place to do so. Take out your owner’s manual and to the best of your ability try to figure out what that warning means. A rule of thumb. Red means stop.
Yellow lights and messages are usually less critical and you may have time to remedy them. Driving will likely not be harmful to your vehicle. Being low on windshield washer fluid is not the end of the world but if you are heading out on a long trip in the winter you probably would like to do something about it.
There is one orange warning light that is more important than you might think. That is the one I have written much about. The “check engine”, “service engine soon”, or that picture of an engine light.
When that light is on your vehicle is polluting the atmosphere more than it was designed to. It is not running optimally. Find out why. The sooner the better.
If that light is flashing while you drive the problem is more serious and continuing to drive could lead to expensive repairs.
There may also be no warning lights on and your vehicle is just is not performing as it should. Continuing to drive is likely harmful and expensive. You can’t rely on computers to tell you when something is wrong. Common sense must prevail.
The price of a tow is a lot less than an engine, a transmission or a life.