Using Your Senses Makes Sense
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The reality is that you are the first person who will have a clue that something is wrong with your car. Knowing how your car drives on its best day will help you figure out quickly when something isn’t right.
Here are a few tips for how to use your senses to identify that there is a problem with your car:
Look for the problem – Small drops of fluid or stains might not indicate a problem, but you should investigate if you start to see large puddles. You can identify different fluid leaks by the color of the fluid.
- Green, blue or orange could indicate an antifreeze leak or an overheating engine.
- Black or brown oily fluids could be an oil leak caused by a bad seal or gasket.
- Red oily spots usually indicate a transmission or power steering leak.
Smell the problem – You can detect some problems simply by identifying the odor. These are some odors you might smell when there is a problem:
- If you smell burnt toast you may have an electrical short and burning insulation. Diagnose the problem right away and try not to drive your vehicle until the problem is fixed.
- If you smell rotten eggs this could mean a problem with the catalytic converter or other emissions controls devices. You need to have this fixed as it will affect your MPG and engine performance (and who likes the smell of rotten eggs?).
- An acrid odor could mean an oil leak.
- The smell of gas after a failed start could be a flooded engine. If you still smell gas you could have a leak in the fuel line. This needs to be fixed right away.
Listen for the problem – Many common problems are accompanied by distinct sounds. Listen for the following:
- Squealing could indicate a loose or worn power steering, fan or air conditioning belt.
- Clicking could mean a loose wheel cover, loose or bent fan blade, stuck valve lifter or low engine oil.
- Screeching is caused by brake wear indicators to let you know it is time for maintenance.
- Heavy knocking could indicate a worn crankshaft or connection rod bearings. It could also indicate a loose transmission torque converter.
- Clunking, or random thumping, could mean a loose shock absorber or suspension component, or a loose exhaust pipe or muffler.
Feel the problem – Often you can feel problems in the handling of the car as you drive. Here are some examples of things to look for if your car feels different:
- Steering: Check your alignment and tire inflation if your car feels like it is pulling to the side while you are steering straight. Worn steering components can also make it difficult to drive straight.
- Ride and Handling: Your vehicle may have poor cornering capabilities if you have worn shock absorbers or suspension components. To test, bounce your car up and down hard at each wheel and let go. If the car bounces twice or more that indicates weak shocks.
- Engine: Engine problems become evident with rough idling of the engine, poor acceleration, poor fuel economy, and excessive oil use. Also seek repair if the engine continues to run after the key is removed.
- Brakes: You may have problems with your brakes if the vehicle pulls to one side when you brake, the brake pedal sinks to the floor when pressure is maintained, or you hear scraping or grinding during braking.
Find out more great information about diagnosing common problems at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/autos/aut13.shtm.