In the aftermath of a seemingly minor accident, you may be tempted to give your vehicle a once-over and decide that all is well.
But it's a good idea to second-guess that assumption. Highly rated auto mechanics tell our research team that drivers should be especially watchful in the weeks after an accident. It's important to pay attention to dashboard warning lights and gauges and notice any unusual smells.
Some problems won't be evident until you resume regular driving. Even if original damage is repaired and covered by insurance, problems discovered relatively soon after the accident may be covered as supplemental repairs without the need to pay an additional deductible, as long as they can be directly connected to the original incident.
So don't wait, as mechanics say that the more time that lapses after an accident, the harder it is to connect a repair to it.
Here are some post-accident signs that your car should be checked out by a reliable mechanic:
Battery failure: An accident can jar the battery, shaking up battery sediment and causing lead plates in the cell to short out or break.
The "check engine" light: It's not unusual for the light to come on because of problems with emissions components. Have a trusted mechanic check out the car.
Leaks: An accident may cause a nicked hose or tiny crack, letting radiator fluid, oil, power steering fluid or other liquids escape.
Misalignment: Some accidents can throw cars out of alignment, leading to excessive wear on tires.
Finding a mechanic
If you don't already have a trusted mechanic, consider these tips for finding one:
• Get recommendations from friends, family and neighbors, as well as consumer reviews on a trusted online source.
• Don't decide on price alone. Consider experience and other factors. Be aware that work done by an unlicensed technician could void parts warranties or even the vehicle warranty.
• Look for mechanics who are certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence.
• Avoid shops that don't offer a warranty.
• Choose a mechanic who's appropriately licensed and insured.
• Visit prospective shops, ask questions and trust your intuition.