Your vehicle will “tell” you when it has certain problems, but you have to speak its language. Don't talk automobile? We can translate.Turn off the A/C and stereo, open your windows and listen to your car for a few kilometres.
Tire wear bars
Pulling to one side
Hard starting or stalling
A smell of something burning or overheated could be one of several things: brakes, transmission, wheel bearings, or engine belts, among others. (Each will have a distinctive odour, but anything that smells “too hot” should be checked immediately.)
A sickly-sweet smell could indicate leaking coolant. If you smell gasoline, get the vehicle
checked right away.
If you hear a constant squeaking noise that goes away when you press the brake pedal, have the brake pads checked. There is a built-in wear indicator telling you that your pads are getting low. Replacing them before they get too worn can help prevent more extensive (and expensive) brake repairs.
Any time your brakes make a loud squealing or grinding noise when you press the pedal, or the pedal feels spongy or goes too far to the floor, get them checked as soon as possible. Those are the warning signs of a potentially unsafe vehicle. A rumbling sound or vibration could also indicate a bad wheel bearing.
Tires are the most important safety item on your vehicle. Everything depends on them having enough tread to properly contact the asphalt.
They contain “wear bars,” which are small rubber bars running perpendicular to the tread. They’re difficult to see on new tires, but if you can easily spot them on older ones, it’s time for replacement.
Your exhaust system shouldn’t make a rumbling noise. Exhaust leaks can affect your vehicle’s emissions system and, potentially, your fuel economy. Leaks are also dangerous, since they can spew poisonous gases close to the passenger cabin. And a loose muffler can be a serious danger to other drivers. If it falls off, it could damage other vehicles or cause a crash as drivers try to avoid it.
Your car’s instrument cluster contains a number of warning lights, and any time any of them come on when you’re driving, you should pay attention. (They all light up when you first start your car but go out a few seconds later. That’s a self-check and nothing to worry about.) Your owner’s manual describes them all, and how serious each one is. If your oil pressure light comes on, for example, you need to pull over and turn the engine off right away to avoid potential damage.
If the “check engine” light comes on, your vehicle may run fine. However, you shouldn’t ignore the light, which indicates something amiss with the emissions system. First check to see if your fuel cap is loose, which can trigger the warning. If it isn’t, have the car checked. The problem could be something that’s eating away at your fuel economy.
The car shouldn’t head off in a new direction if you take your hands off the steering wheel, or when you apply the brakes. This could indicate that the car needs an alignment, that it has worn steering components, or that there’s something wrong with the brakes on one wheel. Don’t put off an alignment. If the wheels aren’t straight, you’ll get premature wear on your tires.
Engine “knock” can be a rapping, clattering or pinging sound. It indicates that the air/fuel mixture isn’t combusting properly. It can be caused by a variety of problems, including worn or dirty spark plugs, carbon build-up inside the engine, or using the wrong grade of fuel.
Newer vehicles will use their computers to “dial back” the combustion cycle to reduce engine knock, but this will affect performance and fuel consumption, and there is still potential for engine damage.
Your engine should start promptly when you turn the key or push the button, and it shouldn’t quit running when it’s idling. There can be numerous causes for no-start or stalling, including a low battery, timing problems, a faulty starter, clogged air or fuel filters, broken engine belts, or malfunctioning sensors that are restricting the gasoline flow.
Let the technician know if it happens primarily when the engine is cold (as in sitting overnight) or if it won’t start up again after you’ve driven for a while, shut it off and then started it up again while the engine is still hot, such as when you stop for gas.
Fluids should stay inside the vehicle. Any time you notice a puddle under the car, have it checked, especially if it’s oil (potential engine damage) or gasoline (potential boom). Coolant can be dangerous; since it tastes sweet, pets or young children may be attracted to it, but it’s poisonous.
The different colours of fluids help technicians to identify exactly what’s leaking, so mention what shade you’re seeing on your driveway. If the liquid soaks into the surface and is hard to identify, try parking over a piece of cardboard, and then take that in to the shop with you. The one exception is water dripping near the front wheel when you have the air conditioning on. That’s normal condensation from the A/C system.
On cold winter days, you may see white smoke coming out of the tailpipe when you first start the car. That’s just condensation, but it’s the only “normal” smoke you’ll see coming out the back.
Black smoke means the engine is getting too much gasoline; white smoke (when the engine is hot) is coolant getting into parts of the engine where it doesn’t belong; and blue smoke means the engine is burning oil. All should be checked promptly to avoid more serious and