more you know about your vehicle, the more likely you'll be able to head
off repair problems. You can detect many common vehicle problems by using
your senses: eyeballing the area around your vehicle, listening for
strange noises, sensing a difference in the way your vehicle handles, or
even noticing unusual odors.
Small stains or an occasional drop of fluid under your vehicle may not
mean much. But wet spots deserve attention; check puddles immediately.
can identify fluids by their color and consistency:
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Some problems are under your nose. You can detect them by their odor:
Squeaks, squeals, rattles, rumbles, and other sounds provide valuable
clues about problems and maintenance needs. Here are some common noises
and what they mean:
- A shrill, sharp noise, usually related to engine speed:
- A slight sharp noise, related to either engine speed or vehicle speed:
- A high-pitched, piercing metallic sound; usually occurs while the
vehicle is in motion:
- a low-pitched rhythmic sound.
- A high-pitched metallic tapping sound, related to engine speed:
Knock - A rhythmic pounding sound:
- A random thumping sound:
Difficult handling, a rough ride, vibration and poor performance are
symptoms you can feel. They almost always indicate a problem.
front wheels and/or worn steering components, such as the idler or
ball joint, can cause wandering or difficulty steering in a straight
- the vehicle's tendency to steer to the left or right - can be caused
by something as routine as under-inflated tires, or as serious as a
damaged or misaligned front end.
shock absorbers or other suspension components - or improper tire
inflation - can contribute to poor cornering.
there is no hard and fast rule about when to replace shock absorbers
or struts, try this test: bounce the vehicle up and down hard at each
wheel and then let go. See how many times the vehicle bounces. Weak
shocks will allow the vehicle to bounce twice or more.
do not normally wear out and do not need replacement unless one corner
of the vehicle is lower than the others. Overloading your vehicle can
damage the springs.
tires properly. An unbalanced or improperly balanced tire causes a
vehicle to vibrate and may wear steering and suspension components
Brake problems have several symptoms. Schedule diagnosis and repair if:
vehicle pulls to one side when the brakes are applied.
brake pedal sinks to the floor when pressure is maintained.
hear or feel scraping or grinding during braking.
"brake" light on the instrument panel is lit.
The following symptoms indicate engine trouble. Get a diagnosis and
schedule the repair.
starting the engine.
"check engine" light on the instrument panel is lit.
idling or stalling.
oil use (more than one quart between changes).
continues running after the key is removed.
Poor transmission performance may come from actual component failure or a
simple disconnected hose or plugged filter. Make sure the technician
checks the simple items first; transmission repairs normally are
expensive. Some of the most common symptoms of transmission problems are:
or hard shifts between gears.
or no response when shifting from neutral to drive or reverse.
to shift during normal acceleration.
during acceleration. The engine speeds up, but the vehicle does not
trouble doesn't always mean major repairs. Here are some common causes of
trouble and techniques to help you and your technician find and fix
- Loose wiring can make your alternator appear defective. Your
technician should check for loose connections and perform an output
test before replacing the alternator.
- Corroded or loose battery terminals can make the battery appear dead
or defective. Your technician should clean the terminals and test
battery function before replacing the battery.
- What appears to be a defective starter actually may be a dead
battery or poor connection. Ask your technician to check all
connections and test the battery before repairing the starter.
- a loud rumbling noise under your vehicle indicates a need for a new
muffler or exhaust pipe.
- The old-fashioned "tune-up" may not be relevant to your
vehicle. Fewer parts, other than belts, spark plugs, hoses and
filters, need to be replaced on newer vehicles. Follow the
recommendations in your owner's manual.
("HEADING OFF PROBLEMS" from www.ftc.gov)