5 Car Trouble Symptoms You Should Know

5 Car Trouble Symptoms You Should Know

Check Engine light on a 1996 Dodge Caravan.

Check Engine light on a 1996 Dodge Caravan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Next to a home, buying a car is often the largest investment you’ll ever make. Cars serve so many purposes in our lives. They are our roving offices, our concert halls, our restaurants and our memory makers. But they can’t be any of those things if they aren’t able to get us from point A to point B. For new cars this usually isn’t an issue. They’ll just do their thing, and as long as you bring them in for regular servicing they should give you several years of uninterrupted service. But at some point your service plan runs out, that lease turns into a purchase and you’re on your own. With the economy in such dire straits people often find they’ve got to stretch every dollar as far as they can go, and that often means neglecting your car. Until that funny noise starts, or that odd fluid begins to leak. You hope and pray these things won’t happen, but inevitably they do. And it will be up to you to recognize an early sign of trouble before it gets really bad. So keep an eye (and ear) out for these five car trouble symptoms every driver should know.

Any vehicle built in the last twenty years comes with a wide array of dashboard lights and signals. Some are merely there to help you with the daily tasks of driving. But others are warnings you should pay some close attention to. While any warning light should make you stop and consult your vehicle manual, the three you must always heed are ‘Check Oil”, “Oil Pressure Low”, and “Check Engine”. The “Check Engine” light is probably the most dire of them all, as it could mean a wide range of problems large or small. You won’t be able to eyeball this issue, as you’ll need the support of a professional scan of the car’s computer system. So get yourself to a trustworthy mechanic just as soon as possible.

Another symptom of significant trouble is if your car is surging, jerking or stalling. Driving should be smooth and easy. If you notice revving, slow acceleration or inconsistent driving, that could add up to clogged fuel filters or fuel lines, faulty spark plugs or a wide range of other issues. Consistent belt replacements and oil changes can help prevent these from happening, but any time the driving condition deteriorates like this you should get it looked at as soon as possible.

Another symptom will require using your nose, and any funky smell that is out of the ordinary could mean real trouble. If you smell exhaust, oil or burning rubber you may have snapped a hose, something might have melted or leaked or your entire exhaust system could be malfunctioning. These are all dangerous for your health, not just the future of your car. Don’t let this linger, as nasty smells will often preface a very expensive repair.

The alternator does a lot of heavy lifting for your vehicle, and there are several telltale signs of trouble here. If you notice dimmed or dimming headlights that is one sign the alternator is failing. You may also see dimming lights on your interior panels as well. The smell of burning rubber could also be due to a failing alternator, as well as whining or growling sounds coming from the front of the vehicle. And if your battery dies and doesn’t seem to be holding a charge, even if it is quite new, that’s another major problem sign.

Finally, pay attention to warning signs from your brake system. Trading out a worn brake pad isn’t any sort of major operation. But if you allow it to go too long that small repair could lead to an entire system replacement and a huge price tag. Not to mention a call to AAC roadside assistance if you push your luck. So pay attention if braking the vehicle seems to take longer and longer, or if you have to really slam the pedal to get the car to stop. Another warning sign is if the car moves at an angle when you brake, or if the speed of the braking fluctuates as you depress the pedal.

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