Worried that your car may need some professional attention? It can be difficult to tell what needs immediate attention from an auto repair service and what represents typical age and wear but no danger.
The signs below indicate that it’s probably time to take a trip to a mechanic and get problems fixed before the serious issues hit.
1. A bumpy ride
If your car has developed a noticeably rougher ride than it had just a couple months before, it may be time to take it into the shop. You’re not necessarily facing expensive repairs; a shuddering or vibrating ride, especially at higher speeds, is often the result of wheel or alignment problems.
Even after the wheels are properly aligned, they can slowly (and sometimes quickly) shift. Normal wear and tear can cause this unfortunate effect, but it can also happen immediately if you get in a wreck or even hit an unexpected bump. Realignment is very easy, and auto repair specialists can take care of it for you quickly, but it’s a procedure best tackled by professionals.
2. Serious leaks
If your vehicle is leaving pools of liquid behind it, you’d better have it investigated. Study the liquid carefully. Water is typically no problem, since it often leaks from air conditioning systems as condensation.
However, oil, transmission fluid (red or brown), coolant (blue, yellow, green), power steering fluid, or brake fluid (thick but clear) all call for a closer inspection. You probably have a leak in one of these important systems.
Take your car in to get the leak fixed and fluids replaced before the leak grows worse and starts to affect performance.
3. Steering struggles
Is your steering wheel suddenly fighting back? Are your turns growing less dependable or smooth? This often indicates a serious problem with steering components, like low power steering fluid or another malfunction. Anything that affects your ability to control the car needs to be fixed, so you should take the car into an auto repair shop.
4. Unpleasant exhaust
Exhaust is actually a good way to diagnose certain serious auto problems. If your exhaust becomes unexpectedly dirty, black, or stinky, then some part of filtering system has probably gotten clogged or damaged. A mechanic should investigate to see if the problem is your catalytic converter or something a bit more difficult to find.
5. Diagnostic lights
Alright, this one’s a bit tricky. Yes, modern vehicles have engine diagnostic or check engine lights. But these lights don’t always indicate a real problem. Some are programmed to come on after a certain number of miles to suggest a general checkup. Sometimes the computer module in your car malfunctions and turns on the lights when nothing’s wrong.
However, these lights also serve as a valuable warning sign that something inside your engine may have gone haywire. Generally speaking, when a diagnostic light is accompanied by some other sign (poor response, strange noise, etc.), then you should definitely visit a mechanic. If you simply get tired of looking at it, you can stop in to see if something’s really wrong.
6. Unresponsive brakes
Brakes wear down over time. If your brakes are losing their effectiveness and making strange noises, they may need some work. Screeching or squealing indicates that brake pads are wearing out and need to be replaced.
Shuddering or shaking brakes can suggest anything from poor brake pads to brake fluid problems or alignment issues — all problems that need to be treated by auto repair experts.
7. Unexpected engine noises
Engines should run smoothly. While they may grow more noisy over time, any sudden noise or difficulty in turning should be addressed by a quick trip to the shop. You don’t want your engine making any unexpected grinding, popping, or growling noises. Let it idle and give it a careful listen if you suspect a problem.