Most drivers don’t know much about automotive repair, but that doesn’t mean they can’t spot trouble when it starts instead of waiting until they’re broken down by the side of the road. Identifying problems with cars requires careful attention and the use of multiple senses. Read on to find out about four of the most important things to look for, listen for, smell for, and feel for before getting in the car and while driving down the road.

Visible Stains Beneath the Car

Look for fluids beneath the car while it is parked. Any fluid other than water condensate from the air conditioning system is cause for concern, but different colours indicate leaks from different fluid systems. Oil leaks produce dark brown or black fluid depending on when drivers last had their oil changed, while a yellowish-green, blue, or bright orange fluid is usually coming from the engine’s cooling system.

One of the most important fluid leaks to look for is a transmission leak. Transmission fluid is usually red to brown depending on what kind of shape the transmission is in. Drivers who notice even small puddles of transmission fluid beneath their parked vehicles should go see find a mechanic who can help.

Unusual Smells

The car should never produce unusual smells while it’s rolling down the road, but different odours can give drivers who are paying enough attention to their cars a good idea of what’s going on. Burning plastic smells often indicate problems in the electrical system, while rotten egg smells usually spell trouble with the catalytic converter or the emission system.

If a car smells like gas, it could be either a leak in the fuel system or the gas tank. If the vehicle is producing an unusual, sweet odour, that’s most likely happening due to a coolant leak, as the coolant smells sweet when it heats up after hitting the engine. No matter what kind of unusual smell is coming from the car, it’s always best to pull over immediately and seek professional help because all of them can indicate serious problems.

Strange Sounds

While it’s not unusual for drivers to notice that their cars sound a little different when they drive onto a new type of pavement, it’s never normal to notice scraping, squealing, clunking, or knocking sounds. Take note of when the unusual noises happen as well as what they sound like.

If the car makes squealing or scraping sounds when the brakes are applied, it’s most likely an issue with the braking system. Knocking sounds from the engine are serious, as they could indicate loose parts or even imminent engine failure.

How the Car Feels

Most drivers will notice if their car suddenly starts handling differently. Maybe the vehicle is slow to accelerate or idles roughly, or maybe the steering feels loose or the brakes don’t apply sufficient pressure. It’s always best to pay attention if something feels off and take the symptom as a sign it’s time to head to a mechanic.

The Bottom Line

Drivers who notice anything strange going on with their cars are always better off heading to a mechanic immediately. Even if they think they know what’s wrong based on the vehicle’s symptoms, the car may not be safe to drive or the problem may get worse with additional use. Listen to what the car is trying to say and get it the help it needs as soon as possible.

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