How to listen to your car?

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Have you ever seen a movie where a young person is driving a car with their parent beside them and the car makes a noise? While the young person classically chooses to ignore it the older person is able to say straight away “Ah your (insert issue here) is shot”. I always marveled at how these everyday people knew so much about cars to be able to pinpoint a problem based on a slight sound difference. Of course, that is just TV and in most cases, people need to do more than listen to their car to understand its woes. However, there are certain sounds that your car will make and signs it will give to show you what it needs. 

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If your car starts producing new smells, it is never a good sign. If you get the smell of burning you are in trouble and need to go to a mechanic. However what if it smells good? On occasion, a car can get a sweet smell like a pancake batter. Sad to say, this is not good news either. If you notice your car is starting to smell sweeter (and you didn’t buy a new air freshener) you could be smelling the car’s antifreeze. This may mean there is a leak in the radiator hose or that your water pump is dying.

One of the most difficult things for car owners to interpret is when they see a small puddle under the car. What is leaking out of your car that you don’t know about? The reason a puddle has formed under your car varies from totally normal to your car is dying. Luckily it is usually the former but depending on the puddle you can work out a lot. 

If the puddle appears to just be water then it could be a humid day and the water is likely coming from your air conditioner condenser, no worries in that case. If the liquid is clear but a little oily it may be your power steering fluid and it could be a leak. If it is darker it could be an oil leak. 

Squeaking is never a good sign in a car. If you hear your car screech every time you touch on the brakes then your brake pads are likely worn down and you need to get them replaced. While we all picture old cars screeching and no one cares in the movies, if you leave it too long you will wear down the brake pads completely and have a much larger repair job on your hands. If the screeching is coming from the engine then it is likely the belt. You need to repair this straight away because if it brakes you will need to be towed.

A grinding noise is worse than a screeching noise. If you leave your brakes for too long and the screeching stops, grinding will soon start. This means the pad is now in direct contact with the disc and you are doing more damage. Hurry to a mechanic or you will face an expensive repair bill. The other grinding noise is heard when trying to do a tight turn. If you hear this it needs a new CV joint. Whenever buying a new car always do some tight turns to test the CV joint. 

The sad truth is that a car rarely makes strange noises when it is perfectly fine. If you don’t speak the language of the car then you must listen even more closely. If you hear anything a little different, take it to the shop and get it checked out. It will save you in the long run.