Your car may be trying to tell you something. No, we don’t mean your GPS or even your check engine light. Your car may be talking to you with sounds and smells. Knowing what those sounds and smells mean may save you a large repair bill.

What Some Sounds May Mean

  • Squealing Brakes. If your brakes squeal when you apply them, your pads are telling you they are getting thin. This is a helpful part of the way they are engineered. Replacing them right away will save you from more expensive repairs like turning or even replacing your rotors.
  • Engine Squealing. A squealing sound coming from your engine is likely emanating from a belt or a pulley. This can be caused by a worn belt, or a belt that doesn’t have the proper tension. A belt that is too tight can also cause the bearings to wear in a pulley.
  • Grinding Brakes. If your brakes are grinding, the pads have likely worn and you are now getting a metal upon metal grinding sound. Have them looked at immediately.
  • Engine “Ticking”. A ticking sound coming from your engine may be a sign your oil is low. Check your engine oil dipstick and add the appropriate amount of oil.
  • A Hissing Sound. A hissing sound coming from your engine could mean you have a leak somewhere in your car’s cooling system. Your cooling system is under constant heat and pressure, and often big leaks start as pinhole leaks, shooting out a small stream of steam and water.
  • A Thumping Sound When Driving. When your car is moving and you hear a thumping sound, especially when hitting a rough patch of roadway, it could be an indication of a loose exhaust system or a worn part of your suspension.
  • Engine “Pinging”. A pinging sound from your engine could be an indication that the octane level in your fuel is too low. Switch to a higher octane fuel for a tank or two and see if that solve the problem.

What Some Smells May Be Telling You

  • Gas Smell. The smell of gasoline can tell you that you have flooded your engine or it could tell you that you have a leak in your fuel system. If you notice the odor of gas prior to starting your car, have it checked out immediately.
  • A Hot, Steamy, Sweet Smell. If, after driving you notice a distinct, somewhat sweet, steamy smell, it is likely an overheating engine. Check for leaks. Water may be leaking from a hose or the radiator itself. It also may not be circulating through your engine properly. Do not drive your car if it is overheating as this can cause terminal damage to your engine.
  • An Acrid Odor. If you smell burning oil, the oil level in your car is likely dangerously low, your oil is very dirty, or both. Get oil into your engine quickly and have the oil and oil filter changed soon.
  • Sulfur, Rotten Eggs Smell. A rotten egg smell could be a sign you are developing an issue with your catalytic converter.
  • A Burning Smell. A burning smell, especially one of burning plastic, could be caused by an electrical short and should be taken care of immediately.

When driving, you want to use all your senses. You want to listen for the sounds of horns and emergency vehicles. You want to feel if your car is steering properly. You want to watch out for the other drivers. Your senses can also tell you if your vehicle is developing a maintenance issue, but it is only valuable if you take action.

The same can be said for your defensive driving skills. Staying sharp can help you avoid accidents and better protect those who travel with you. Did you know that a defensive driving course could help you keep some citations from appearing on your driving record? In some cases, the completion of an online defensive driving course may even save you money on your auto insurance.