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Here's What We Commonly Find Wrong on Vehicles

When we're not lifting trucks or modifying ORVs, MPA Motorsports & Off-Road also does road vehicle maintenance, and we've seen enough to know what the common failing parts on most vehicles are. Here are the top five concerns we find with vehicles and how to prevent some of them.


5. Brake Failure



Brakes are one of the most important parts of anything that rolls. If you don't have working brakes to gradually slow you down, you're going to end up stopping in a much more damaging and potentially lethal way. We frequently see vehicles with brake pads that are so worn down they can't effectively stop the vehicle anymore.


We also frequently hear of people saying their vehicle pulses when braking, or even wobbles the steering wheel a bit. Both of these can be caused by warped brake rotors. What causes warped brake rotors? Frequent hard braking is the most common, but a failing brake caliper can also be the reason. If your rotors are warped and being replaced or resurfaced, it's strongly recommended to also replace your brake pads because they were worn unevenly by the warped rotors.


How to prevent brake failure:

Slow down sooner and brake gentler when possible. Slamming on your brakes will cause your pads to wear out faster and frequent hard braking can also warp your brake rotors. Hard braking can also glaze over the pads and cause your brakes to squeak. Don't let a vehicle sit undriven outdoors for too long, either. Brake rotors are exposed steel and will rust over time when exposed to moisture. If left to sit for too long, the rust will cause parts to seize. This is also true for other mechanical parts on vehicles.


When your vehicle is due for a brake job or if you are experiencing braking challenges, give us a call! 248-471-3600


4. Past Due Fluid Changes



Most vehicle owners know to change the engine oil every 3,000 to 7,000 miles (or whatever interval the manufacturer recommends in the owner's manual), but many aren't aware of other fluids that need to be changed throughout the life of the vehicle:

  • Transmission Fluid

  • Brake Fluid

  • Power Steering Fluid

  • Differential Fluid (if equipped with rear and/or front differentials separate from the transmission)

  • Engine Coolant/Antifreeze

  • A/C Refrigerant


We frequently see parts related to these fluids fail because the fluids became too contaminated or changed viscosity. Over time, all fluids will wear down and need to be replaced at regular service intervals.


How to prevent fluid related issues:

Refer to the owner's manual of your vehicle and keep track of how long ago each fluid was changed by both date and mileage. Change fluids at the manufacturer recommended intervals.


When you're ready to have your fluids changed, call us and we'll take care of you! 248-471-3600

3. Tires


During a safety inspection, we always check the tread depth of the tire on the inside, center, and outside. If any are worn close to the wear bars (little nubs that sit higher in the treads, we always recommend that the customer replace that tire and the other on the same axle.


You may ask "Why not just one tire?" Vehicles drive most efficiently when each axle has about the same wear on both tires. We'll dive into this in another blog post.


Tires can be deceptive in their tread depth due to a bad alignment or faulty steering/suspension part. If your vehicle's tire looks like the one in this photo, you likely have something else wrong with your vehicle too. More on that in our top two items!


How to prevent tire related issues:

Inspect your tires regularly, at least every time you have an oil change done. Rotating your tires every oil change can also help prevent uneven wear. If anything looks unevenly worn, acting quickly to find out why it's wearing that way can save you from spending money on new tires sooner than expected.

Accelerating, turning, and braking gradually instead of screeching the tires also helps extend the life of your tires.

Finally, even well cared for and barely driven tires will need to be replaced every 5-7 years because the rubber will begin to rot and lose its flexibility. You'll be able to see cracks in the rubber when that time comes.


Do your tires wear unevenly? Give us a call to schedule a vehicle inspection before you have to buy new tires! 248-471-3600


2. Loose Ball Joints and Control Arm Bushings


Image from TestingAutos.com


Ball joints allow steering knuckles to move when you turn the steering wheel while still holding the wheel in place so it rolls in the direction you want the vehicle to go. Most vehicles have an upper and lower control arm, each with their own ball joint attached to the steering knuckle. These ball joints are wear items, and will wear faster when a vehicle is driven harder or in harsh conditions such as bumpy or dusty roads.


When the ball joints wear out, they will cause your alignment to go bad and your tires will begin to wear unevenly. Eventually, if a ball joint completely fails, it will break loose from the control arm and you can end up stranded with a vehicle that looks like this:


As you can see, ball joints are critical to keeping your vehicle rolling straight down the road. They should always be replaced if a mechanic recommends it and can demonstrate that it's loose on the vehicle. If it is too loose and failure is imminent, the State of Michigan requires that we do not allow the vehicle to be driven away in an immediately unsafe state.


Additionally, the rubber bushings on the control arms, which allow for up-and-down movement on uneven roads for a more comfortable ride, can also tear and cause uneven tire wear. Eventually these will make noise and cause ride discomfort when worn down to the point of complete failure.


How to prevent control arm and ball joint related issues:

Avoid driving on bumpy or rugged roads. Avoid potholes. Wash your car regularly during winter months if you live in the rust belt, and pay special attention to the area around & behind your wheels.


In the Detroit area it can feel like prevention isn't possible because many roads are in rough shape. If you want to know when your ball joints are due for replacement, have us inspect them! 248-471-3600


Finally, the #1 most common part we see fail is... Tie Rods!


Tie rods are what connect your steering system (usually a rack & pinion in modern vehicles) to your steering knuckles. These parts are just as critical to keeping your vehicle driving straight down the road as ball joints, but tend to fail and need replacing more frequently.


When tie rods start to fail and need replacing, you may notice a loss of fuel economy and uneven tire wear. It's especially noticeable if it looks like chunks are being taken out of your tires at the treads. Complete failure can cause you to lose control of your vehicle and end up with both wheels pointing in or out like this:

Most tie rods on modern vehicles are separated into inner and outer ends. While it is acceptable to replace only one and not the other, it's pretty common to replace both at the same time since one will usually fail shortly after the other. If a mechanic tells you that a tie rod end is bad (inner or outer), they may recommend you have the other for that side replaced at the same time. In the long run, this will save you money because there is very little additional labor needed to replace the other if the technician already has to remove one. If you wait until the next time you come in for service to have it replaced, you'll end up paying the technician to take apart the steering components a second time and pay for a second alignment.


How to prevent tie rod failure:

Taking turns gently can help prevent premature tie rod failure, but all of the prevention techniques for ball joints also apply here: avoid bumpy roads & potholes and wash your car regularly after driving on dusty roads. If you notice that your steering wheel feels "loose" or you can turn the wheel a significant amount before it feels like your vehicle steers in the direction you turn it, take your vehicle to a shop as soon as possible to have the tie rods inspected.


We've serviced tie rods on many makes and models of vehicles. You can trust MPA Motorsports & Off-Road with your tie rod concerns. 248-471-3600

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