What do you see?
One of the easiest ways for a driver to identify a car problem is if they see it for themselves. A puddle beneath the car or smoke rising from the hood are classic signs that vehicle maintenance is required.
• White smoke from the car’s exhaust can indicate water or antifreeze has leaked into the vehicle’s engine cylinder resulting in a failed head gasket.
• If black smoke is coming out of the vehicle’s exhaust, there may be problem with the fuel injection system, the fuel pump, the engine computer, or the carburetor.
• Blue smoke coming out the vehicle’s exhaust may mean a failing gasket, O-ring, or seal.
• White smoke from under the car’s hood may mean the vehicle has a leaky water pump or radiator.
• Black smoke from under the car’s hood can indicate burning oil, which may mean the vehicle has a leaking gasket.
• A puddle of bright green, slippery fluid under the car may mean the vehicle’s radiator is leaking.
• A brown oily puddle under the car may indicate the vehicle has an engine oil leak or a lubrication leak.
• A pool of red fluid under your car can mean the vehicle has a transmission or steering fluid leak.
• A clear puddle may be water from the car’s air conditioner or a power steering fluid leak.
• Blue fluid beneath the car usually means a leak in the vehicle’s windshield washer system.
What do you smell?
• You smell rubber burning under the hood: One of your hoses may have come loose and landed on a hot part of the engine. Rescue it before it melts through.
• You smell something burning with the hood closed: Feel your wheels. If one is hot, a brake shoe or pad may be dragging, or you may have left the parking brake on. If neither of these checks out, an overheated clutch of a manual transmission car may be the cause.
• You smell oil burning (a thick, acrid odor): First, check the oil dipstick. You may be running out of oil or your engine may be overheating, and your temperature gauge may be broken. If neither is the case, look around the engine for oil leaking onto the engine block or exhaust manifold. If the oil situation seems to be okay, check the transmission fluid dipstick. Sometimes a faulty vacuum modulator can siphon the fluid out of the transmission and feed it to the engine, where it’s burned. Also, if the transmission fluid is very low, it can be burned in the transmission because the gears aren’t lubricated enough and are getting very hot.
• You smell oil or exhaust fumes in the passenger compartment: The cause could be burned oil from the engine area, but it also could be a faulty exhaust pipe under the car that lets exhaust gases into the vehicle through the floorboards.
Exhaust fumes contain carbon monoxide, so if you smell oil or exhaust inside the car, be sure to keep your windows open at all times and have the problem checked out as quickly as you can.
• You smell something sweet and steamy: leaking coolant? Check the temperature gauge or light to see whether your engine is overheating.
• You smell rotten eggs: The smell is probably coming from the catalytic converter, which is part of the exhaust system. The converter may be malfunctioning, or you may have a problem with your engine or possibly over charging of the battery.
• You smell burned toast (a light, sharp odor): It may be an electrical short circuit, or the insulation on a wire may be burning. Check around under the hood. Driving is a bit risky, so get to the nearest service station or have roadside service come to you.
• You smell gasoline: If you just had trouble starting the car, the engine may be flooded. Wait a few minutes and try again. If the smell comes from under the hood, check your fuel injection system or carburetor to make sure that it isn’t leaking fuel. Also check your fuel pump (if it isn’t hidden inside your fuel tank). Leaking gasoline will wash a clean streak across it, which can be seen with the naked eye. Then check all visible fuel lines and hoses that lead to the fuel tank. If they’ve rotted or are disconnected, you’ll smell fuel vapors without seeing any leaks. Taking a look under the vehicle after it has been parked overnight may help, but remember that fuel evaporates quickly, so the clues may be stains rather than wet spots.
What do you hear?
Whether driving a gas, diesel, electric or hybrid car, motorists should instinctively know how their vehicle normally sounds. Should a strange vehicle sound be detected, drivers should look to have the problem diagnosed and rectified without delay. A well maintained car will last for hundreds of thousands of kilometers if properly maintained.
• A car backfiring. This is one car sound that is difficult to ignore. When loud enough it can even sound like a gun shot. A car backfiring is indicative of a too-lean engine air-fuel mixture or severely worn valves.
• Drivers who hear a squealing sound while driving should take their car to a garage immediately. This is a sign that your alternator belt or power steering belt may be loose or stretched to near breaking point.
• Drivers who hear a clicking or popping reverberating from the front end of their car when turning should get their vehicle’s drive shafts (which is more likely in front wheel drive vehicles) or constant velocity joints fixed immediately. Constant clicking or droning noise from the car’s wheels while driving may mean the vehicle’s bearings are defective.
• A metal on metal knocking sound from the vehicle’s engine that varies with driving speeds may be a sign of internal engine problems. Motorists who hear this should check the car’s oil level. In the event of overheating, motorists should switch off the engine and seek professional breakdown assistance.
• A grinding or squealing sound could be your brakes
What do you feel?
• Motorists who experience shudders when braking their car may have a problem with their vehicle’s suspension. This is a common complaint from motorists’ who have hit a pothole when driving at speed.
• A shudder when braking can also be the brake rotors
• Motorists who feel a pulling sensation while driving their car may have a tire inflation problem.
• A vibration driving at high speeds may have a tire balance or wheel issue. At lower speeds it could a tire separation.