Use your senses to understand your car’s maintenance signals

Our senses are the windows to the outside world and there’s no denying the fact that our senses can be extremely helpful in recognising the signs that certain car maintenance is required. 

Good car maintenance helps you avoid disasters and permanent damage to your car. It can also help you to be safer as the last thing you want is for some part of your car to explode or for you to end up inhaling toxic fumes. The good news is, you don’t have to be a mechanic to recognise when your car is out of shape and all you need to do is use your senses – sight, hearing, smell and touch. The only sense we don’t touch on is taste… unless of course you want to lick your car! (A good lick could indicate it’s time for a wash!)


On a more serious note, if you really want to enjoy your car to the fullest for a long time then one of the best things you can do is to stick to your vehicle manufacturer’s car maintenance and service guidelines. Get a Service Plan or a Maintenance Plan through MotorHappy to better plan and budget for these expenses. 


Humans do not have the most powerful nose among mammals but it is adequate enough to diagnose a lot of issues that you could face while driving the car. Under optimal working conditions, your car should not emit any odours apart from a very occasional gentle smell of gasoline. Here are some smells you could encounter and the possible reasons behind them.


  • Strong smell of fuel: For all intents and purposes, there should not be any smell of diesel or petrol coming from the car. Just the occasional whiff is okay but if it’s a strong and persistent smell then your car most likely has a leak in the fuel system. This is not only wasteful but incredibly dangerous as well. Take your car to a certified professional to have it checked and fixed.
  • Burning smell: This can cover a wide range of problems because it indicates that something is burning or getting too hot when it is not supposed to. An electric fire has a very distinguishing smell and it means something is wrong with the electrical system. One common culprit is the leads of the battery getting shorted. If you know your way around a battery then fixing this is easy but if you are not proficient then it is best to leave it to the professionals. Other smells could include the incomplete combustion of fuel which will smell somewhat oily. This usually means that there is an issue with the fuel supply system. Again, getting it examined by a professional is the safest bet. 
  • Damp odour: Another common odor encountered is one that signals dampness and humidity and usually is a sign of something wrong with the air-conditioning or air-intakes.
This is perhaps the biggest tool in your arsenal. Most car troubles manifest in the form of noise before revealing signs for your other senses. Here are some common noises you could encounter.
  • Hissing and clicking: This is usually a sign of the engine overheating. Check to see if the radiator is topped off and that the cooling fans are working. Overheating can lead to a blown engine and it is very important to get this sorted before it spirals out of control.
  • Rattling: This is a bit more serious and usually means that something is loose or has come off. This could be something as simple as the latch holding the hood down or something more serious like an engine component. Do a visual inspection to see if something has come off and see if you can fix it. If not, it is very important to get the car fixed by a professional immediately unless you want to permanently wreck your car.
  • Banging: This is perhaps the most serious sort of sound you can hear. This usually indicates that something is seriously wrong with the car and it is advisable not to drive the car before having it checked and repaired properly. In some cases, hearing loud banging noises can indicate the point of no return and usually happens when you have been ignoring the more subtle sound cues your car has been offering. If you spend enough time listening to your car then you will come to recognise its sound and know when something is wrong before it gets to this point.
This is the most obvious sensory path of communication your car can take but can also be the one we tend to ignore the most. For starters, always keep your eye out for warning lights or notifications and have them rectified immediately. Another thing to watch out would be the colour of smoke emitted by your car. Under normal conditions, it should be completely invisible. Grey smoke denotes that the components inside your car are experiencing too much friction and you will probably need to change the engine oil among other things. Black smoke means that there is trouble with the fuel system and usually indicates incomplete combustion. This will drop both the fuel economy as well as the power output of the car. The reasons behind this could be many and a trained mechanic is your best bet for a fix. 

Lastly, a visual inspection of the place your car was parked can give you clues about leaks.

This too is very important especially if you like to listen to loud music or have a cold and can't really smell anything. The way your car feels is an important indicator of its health. Generally, the car should vibrate with a steady rumble. If, however, you are feeling thuds then the tires could be underinflated or punctured. Steering is also something that can go haywire at times. If you feel that your car is lurching towards one side or that the steering is uneven then there could be something wrong with the steering rack. Brake issues are another avenue of troubles that can be felt. If your car cannot brake in a straight line or if you feel a certain wheel is locking up then it is time to get them checked out.


So, there you have it. Use all your senses, especially COMMON SENSE, to spot these troubles at the earliest so that they can be fixed easily.


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