Car Problems

Using Your Senses To Detect Problems With Your Car

Daniel McDonald
Daniel McDonald8 min read
Using Your Senses To Detect Problems With Your Car

Most of the time, you drive your car carelessly until something obvious catches your attention. It might be a smell, a sight, or something you feel when you touch the car parts. Whatever it is, it concerns you to the level that you cannot drive the car anymore.

Cars are complex engines that might not always openly expose their problems. Sometimes, you might need to pay closer attention to detect a problem. That is what mechanics do when we take our cars for inspection, right? Mechanics use their five senses as part of their problem tracking system. They try to see, smell or feel the part that needs fixing, and this is what you can do as well.

Of course, you might not be able to solve the problem completely, but if you notice the trouble early enough, you might prevent some further engine complications and car problems.

What Sense Can One Use To Detect Problems?

So, the obvious question is: What can you do to trace a problem in rising? What can you do to prevent further issues? How can you help your car and save yourself time and money?

The answer is: that you can use your senses. For example, you use your feelings to feel that something is wrong with the food you eat, that something is wrong with your body or face, and you use them to smell spoiled food. So, why not use them to detect problems with your vehicle?

Your eyes can help you notice if there is some leaking under your car, if there is some light on the dashboard, etc. Your nose can smell all the unwelcoming smells, and your hands and feet can help you notice if there are some troubles with the touchable parts of the car. Finally, your ears can help you listen to all the weird and unexpected noises.

Although not always, you can rely on your senses to detect the problems instead of immediately consulting a mechanic and avoiding major repairs.

Below you will see how you can become more aware of any odd sights, smells, or movements using your senses.

1. Use Your Nose And The Sense of Smell

Do you use your nose only to smell the tasty smell of cooked pasta or the cheese overflowing the pizza? Do not do this anymore. You can start using your sense of smell for many other reasons, including issues with your car. Many problems with your vehicle can be just under your nose, and you can always use it to detect the odor.

Unusual smells should concern you, and you should not overlook them. If you sniff something strange, you should check the vehicle immediately. Some odors can be harmful not only to your car but also to your health.

Most warning smells inside and outside the cars are noticeable, and you can detect them more quickly than sounds or movements.

Smells You Should Watch Out For

Let's look at some of the smells you should watch out for.

Rotten eggs/ burning sulfur smell

You might have exhaust problems if this smell comes out of your car—for example, trouble with the catalytic converter.

A burned toast smell

This sharp smell means that your car faced electrical shortages and burning insulation. Do not drive your car until you solve the issue.

Fuel vapors/ Petrol smell

When you start the car, this smell might mean the engine is flooding. If you have an older car, and after a failed start, you smell fuel vapors, it means you have flooded the engine or there is a leak in the fuel line. Of course, newer cars do not have this problem.

Acrid Smell

This bitter smell means burning oil. Since this can cause the engine to catch fire, stop the car immediately.

Burning resin

Chemical odors or burning resin usually signal overheated brakes or overheated clutch. In this case, stop the car and let the brakes cool. With repeated hard braking, it would help to let the brakes cool once you finish driving on mountain roads. Light smoke could arise from a stuck brake. Also, check to ensure you are not operating with the parking brake engaged.

Sweet Smell

A sweet smell from your car might signal a coolant leak. Yet the warning light or the temperature gauge might not show signs of overheating, so you should drive slowly and take your car to the nearest service station.

Should you notice steam and a metallic scent coming from under the hood, you need to know that you have an overheated engine. Stop immediately to prevent severe engine damage and call your car insurance company.

Musky/Dump Smell

This smell might indicate a clogged cabin filter. It means that you need to replace the air-conditioner filter.

2. Use Your Ears And The Sense Of Sound

Your car constantly makes some sounds, so you cannot be sure entirely if there is some problem or not.

However, most unusual sounds provide valuable clues regarding car problems. Your sense of hearing and other senses aid you in determining basic vehicle issues.

Try turning down the music or news, if you listen to any, and notice if there are any strange noises repeated or not.

Sounds You Should Watch Out For

Clicking Sound

If you notice a slight sharp noise, there might be a vehicle speed or engine speed problem.

For example, you might have a loose/ bent fan blade, loose wheel cover, low engine oil, or stuck valve lifter.

Squealing Sound

This sharp noise might indicate engine speed problems if you hear a squeal. The high-pitched squealing sound might come from a damaged or warn-out driving belt.

It might also signal worn power steering, fan, or air conditioning belt.

Screeching Sound

You can hear a high-pitched metal screeching sound when your car is in motion. It comes from the brake wear indicators. It shows you that you need to replace the brake pads.

Heavy Knocking

A heavy pounding sound signifies a worn crankshaft or connecting rod bearings. Sometimes it can signal a loose transmission torque converter.

Low Rumbling Sound

This low-pitched sound might indicate a defective exhaust pipe, muffler, or converter. Sometimes, it might tell worn universal joint.

Clunking Sound

This sound signals a loose shock absorber, loose exhaust pipe, muffler, or another suspension component. Unfortunately, you cannot find a hard and fast rule regarding when to replace shock absorbers, so you could bounce the vehicle up and down to see how many times it will bounce. Weak shocks let the car bounce at least twice.

Scratching Sound

The screeching and scratching sound when you use the wipers indicates that you need to replace your wipers.

Pinging Sound

If you use lower octane rating gas, you might notice a metallic tapping sound or pinging. Should the sound persist, you might have a problem with the engine ignition timing.

3. Use Your Eyes And The Sense Of Sight

You can detect many car issues with your eyes. For example, your sense of sight can help diagnose a mechanical problem before driving or when you park your car.

Do you see smoke? Do you notice fluid under the front? Trust your eyes; most probably, something is wrong with your vehicle.

Do not leave your car with undetected car troubles.

Sights You Should Watch Out For

Dashboard Signs

If you see something light up in the dashboard, you should immediately take care of it. Try not to ignore the warning lights, especially the Check Engine light.

Exhaust Smoke

Excessive exhaust smoke from the exhaust pipe may indicate an issue with the car's engine. Whether it is black, blue, or white, you should not ignore it.

Black smoke means the engine burns too much oil and indicates air filter/fuel injector issues.

White smoke could mean the engine coolant is leaking, or you must replace the gasket head.

Blue smoke could mean the engine is burning engine oil.

Balding Tires

If the car's tires are worn out with uneven treads, you need to change the tires. It could mean bad wheel alignment. But also, you need to do tire rotation and wheel alignment.

Fluid Leaks

If you notice any fluid under the car, try to distinguish its color. Each color has a different meaning. Also, check the power steering fluid leak.

A yellow-green, pastel bluish, or fluorescent orange signifies an antifreeze leak due to troubles with the water pump, lousy hose, or leaking radiator. Never ignore these leaking colors since they might cause engine overheating.

A red oily fluid might indicate the car needs transmission repairs. It also signifies power-steering fluid leaks.

A dark brown/black fluid could mean the engine is leaking oil. Leaking might happen due to a bad seal or gasket.

However, a clear water puddle under the car should not concern you since it might be condensation from the vehicle's air conditioner.

Windscreen Unwiped Areas

You should replace the wipers if there are unwiped areas on the windscreen. The cause might be a clogged cabin filter, which leads to poor airflow.

Higher Fuel Consumption

If you are constantly out of fuel, you might have a fuel system issue or an issue with a clogged air filter.

4. Use You Hands And Feet And The Sense Of Touch

Please do not underestimate the power of your touch when it comes to detecting car trouble. Your hands and feet can be handy for sensing unusual vibrations in the vehicle. If you feel you have difficulty driving the car, you should look for the problem.

Vibrations And Movements You Should Watch Out For

Steering Trouble

Difficulty steering or wandering could mean misaligned front wheels and worn steering components. For example, the tie rod or the ball joint can cause difficulty in keeping a straight line.

If you notice the car is pulling to the left or right, you might have under-inflated tires or a misaligned front end. Also, if you feel steering wheel vibrations, it could mean that the tire alignment is off.

Handling Trouble (Steering AND SUSPENSION COMPONENTS)

If you cannot handle the vehicle properly, the reason can be some worn struts, shock absorbers, or improper tire inflation.

The vehicle might vibrate or wear steering and suspension components prematurely if you do not balance the tires properly. Always balance tires properly because an improperly balanced tire makes the car shake.

Try not to overload the vehicle so as not to damage the springs. You will need to replace the springs only if one vehicle corner is lower than the other corners.

Engine Trouble

Your vehicle faces engine trouble if you have difficulty starting the engine.

Other indicators include rough idling, stalling, hard acceleration, poor fuel economy, and excessive oil use. Another sign would be the engine light going on or the engine running even after you remove the key.

Transmission Trouble

An actual component failure, disconnected hose, or plugged filter might lead to poor transmission.

Poor transmission signals no response when you shift from neutral to drive, inability to change during average acceleration, abrupt or hard shifts between gears, and slippage during acceleration. In addition, you might have transmission trouble if the car does not speed up when the engine does.

Brake Trouble (The Brake pedal Sinks)

When it comes to brakes, brake problems happen when the vehicle pulls to one side. The car pulls when you use the brakes. Also, if the brake pedal sinks to the floor when you press it, you have brake problems.

You might hear grinding or scraping when you break, which means you have brake issues. Also, if the brake light goes on, you know the problem.


How Can I Detect Loose Wheel Cover?

You can detect loose wheel covers by the sounds the car makes. For example, if you hear clicking noises, it could mean an open wheel cover, fan blade, or even a stuck valve lifter.

How Can I Detect Loose Transmission Torque Converter?

This problem is associated with heavy knocking and high-pitched sounds.

What Can My Senses Tell Me About Cars?

Your senses can warn you about car troubles, such as oil burning, engine overheating, brake trouble, etc.

Final Thoughts

Your senses can help you a lot when detecting car trouble. Use them wisely to diagnose problems early and avoid costly repairs and damage. Your sense of sight, smell, hearing, and touch can help you determine what issues your car faces.

However, avoid using the sense of taste by all means and stick to the other four.