Being able to tell if a problem with your vehicle is serious and in need of immediate service can save you time and hassle.
Below is a list of seven warning signs that may mean imminent failure or lead to costly repairs if you continue driving.
1. Flashing check engine light
This is a major sign that something is wrong within any of the hundreds of systems that your car’s computer monitors. A normal illuminated check engine light is not a cause for panic, but instead an indicator that you should have your engine checked sooner than later.
But when the little light on your dash that resembles an engine-looking symbol (it’s often yellow or red) is flashing, it means you need to have the engine checked immediately. It could be an emissions system problem, which may damage the catalytic convertor if the vehicle is driven without being repaired.
If you notice your vehicle running differently than it normally does, you should take it in right away or get assistance immediately.
2. Smoke coming from under the hood
Your vehicle should never have any type of smoke coming from under the hood. This could indicate an over-heating problem, which could severely damage your engine if you continue to drive.
Keep an eye on the temperature gauge on the dash and be sure that it is not going up. If you are driving, pull over and wait for the engine to cool and consider getting assistance immediately.
3. Excessive smoke from the exhaust
This could be an indication that you have an oil leak and you may also notice a burning smell. During the transition to cold winter months, you may notice a little more white smoke at first start. This is a normal reaction of water vapor coming from the exhaust system and should subside once the engine temperature increases.
But if you are driving and notice excessive smoke coming from the exhaust, or if you check the bumper area of your car near the exhaust pipe and see a black residue, take it into your mechanic at the next available appointment.
4. Recurring or sudden transmission issue
Pay attention to how your car operates in normal conditions; if you notice difficulty getting up to speed, dramatic surges or “funny” operating sounds or feelings, take it into your trusted mechanic or shop that specializes in transmission repair as soon as you can.
If you notice any major leaks underneath your car on the ground where you normally park, especially if any of the above symptoms are occurring, take it to your mechanic as soon as possible.
Usually toward the front of the car, you’ll want to look for bright green (coolant) or dark red/brown (transmission oil, engine oil or brake fluid). As a side note, in the summer months with the air conditioner running, there will be fresh water dripping from the front near the passenger side, this is normal.
6. Noises while driving
A dragging or droning noise may be coming from your wheels, either in the front or the back, and could be a wheel bearing or differential bearing going bad.
A grinding or squealing noise when slowing down is probably your brakes and will need to be checked. Take it into your local shop for a test drive with a qualified technician. They may be able to give you an estimate or provide further diagnosis.
7. Engine chugging, racing or shaking
This could be a performance problem, which may mean your car needs a tune-up. Either way, take it into your shop for a test drive or make the next available appointment.
Hopefully these tips help you decide if what you’re experiencing is a major problem that should get checked out immediately or if you can wait for the next available appointment with your trusted technician.