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What is Your Car Telling You?

When your car starts making unusual noises, your natural response may be to turn up the radio to drown out the sound, but when strange noises occur it’s your car’s way of telling you that something isn’t quite right. If you hear a clunk, squeal, click, or even notice the engine light is on, it could be any number of issues under the hood or in your wheels and if left undiagnosed, could lead to bigger and more expensive problems as well as increase your risk of being in a car accident. According to Powers & Santola, LLP, when a driver fails to keep his or her vehicle maintained, he or she is a negligent driver and could be at fault if an accident were to occur due to his or her driving or the working condition of the vehicle.

Although car issues may not always be easy to spot and can cost more money than you want to spend, you should always take your car to a trusted mechanic as soon as you notice something unusual. Here are some common sounds, sights, and smells you may notice and what they may mean:


Aside from you car breaking down, not starting, or flames shooting out from underneath the hood, strange noises may be the most obvious sign that something’s not right. Keep these signs in mind (although they could indicate other issues) and head to your mechanic:

  • Hiss or Sizzle: If this sound is coming from underneath the hood of your car, a fluid such as coolant or oil could be leaking onto a heated engine part or the engine, itself, could be overheating. Look for leaks and watch the temperature gauge on your car. It’s important to stay on top of your fluids to prevent further damage.
  • Squeak When You Brake: Brakes, that are in good working condition, may often make noises from time to time, but if you notice squeaking or grinding frequently, it’s time to have your brakes checked out (or when you notice your car isn’t braking the same). While you can replace your brake pads yourself, it’s a good idea to have a professional check out the problem first.
  • Roaring or Rattles: Excessive rattling from beneath your vehicle or a roar as you accelerate, often indicates issues with your exhaust system. Exhaust issues can affect your gas usage and can be a roadway hazard, particularly if your muffler is ready to hit the road.

Sights and Smells

If your engine light has ever come on, you may have panicked a bit. Unfortunately, your car can’t really specify why the engine light came on, but there are a few possibilities as to what the problem could be. Occasionally, on older cars especially, the engine light is always on and after getting a thorough check up, drivers are told just to keep their eyes and ears on the car. Even if this is the case, don’t ignore the light, whether your car is old or new.

Finally, your nose may help you determine whether or not a problem exists. For instance, if you smell something sweet (ie. maple syrup), you probably have a coolant leak somewhere. If you turn on the heating/cooling system in your car and it smells like a high school locker room, you may have mildew growing in your car’s HVAC system.

Whatever your senses tell you about your car, when in doubt, have it checked out.

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