Just as ignoring minor health symptoms can lead to a serious illness, ignoring the strange sounds and smells your car has been making can lead to a complete mechanical breakdown or a serious accident. Here are some signs that you should bring your vehicle to a mechanic.
What's that noise?
Every so often, turn off your car radio and listen to your car -- it could be trying to tell you that something is wrong. According to Nationwide Insurance, these noises could indicate your car needs a checkup:
- Clunking. This could indicate a bad shock absorber, which could affect steering, braking and handling.
- Loud clicking when making a turn. The CV joint, which lubes the front axles, could be the problem. If you neglect to replace the CV joint, you could be facing a more expensive repair bill for the axles later on.
- Ticking. If you hear ticking noises when your car is stopped, chances are you need an oil change. If you wait, you might have to replace your engine.
- Squealing. Squealing noises often indicate brake pads or shoes are worn down. Brake pads often have wear indicators, which are designed to make a squealing noise when it's time for them to be replaced.
- Squeaking. Not all brake noises indicate problems. Occasional squeaking can be caused by dust, sand, water or other environmental factors. However, if squeaking persists, the car should be looked at by a qualified mechanic.
- Grinding. Minor grinding or ratcheting noises may be normal sounds of brake function, especially on front-wheel-drive vehicles. Louder grinding or clunking sounds that occur at every stop could be signs of more serious issues. And, according to State Farm, a metal-on-metal grinding sound is grounds for immediate concern -- your brake pads could be completely worn down.
State Farm recommends that drivers trust their noses. Smell something burning? Stop your car -- and get out if you see flames. The smell of gasoline, meanwhile, could mean that fuel is leaking, which could lead to an engine fire.
"Check engine" lights or other warning lights on your vehicle's dash can be hard to read. They could have been tripped for no reason, or they could be an early sign of trouble. State Farm recommends pulling over immediately and calling for help if the "oil pressure" or "temperature" light are flashing. If it's the "check engine" or "tire pressure" light, get to a mechanic within the next two days.
Something "just doesn't feel right"
If you find yourself pushing your brake pedal further into the floor to stop the vehicle, it could simply mean that there's air in the brake system. Or it could be a sign of impending brake failure, according to Just Brakes. The only way to know for sure is to ask an expert.
Finally, jiggling at certain speeds or a wobbly steering wheel could mean anything from tire problems to a loose lug nut. If you're having trouble controlling your car, pull over. If possible, State Farm recommends driving -- slowly -- to the nearest mechanic.