Kimiko Kidd
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Hidden Signs That Your Vehicle Needs Service

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Mechanic inspecting a car under the hood

Not all vehicle problems are accompanied by the infamous “check engine” light. Here’s a look at four common car issues that often go overlooked.

Strange sounds

When you’re cruising down the road, you should typically be able to hear the engine, the radio, the climate control system, and a bit of ambient road noise. But if you aren’t listening, you may tune out any rattling, clunking, clicking, or grinding noises that your vehicle is making. If it sounds like there’s a coin tumbling around in a clothes dryer, there may be a loose lug nut in one of the hub caps. Grinding or squealing brakes indicate that it’s time for new brake pads or shoes. If you hear clicks or snaps when you steer, there’s probably an issue with the joints on your car’s front axle. And if you hear tapping or banging from under the hood, there may be a problem with the engine’s rods, pistons, or valves. Have your car checked out as soon as possible.

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Stinky smells

Unusual scents can point to a variety of mechanical issues in your vehicle. Instead of reaching for an air freshener, investigate the source of the scent. Musty, mildew scents tend to come from the air conditioning system. It may be leaking water into your cabin, or there could be a clog in the drain tube that’s contributing to mold growth. A sulfurous, rotten-egg smell points to a problem with the catalytic converter. But if you smell exhaust in the cabin, seek help as quickly as possible. The chemicals in exhaust are highly toxic, so ventilate the interior and have your car serviced immediately.

Slow shifting

Gear changes are one of those things that are easy to take for granted. Slight drops in your automatic transmission’s performance and responsiveness are to be expected under chilly conditions. However, if your car has been stalling out or having trouble getting up to speed, have the transmission inspected before the problem worsens and leads to a catastrophic failure.

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Sluggish starts

Whether you drive a commuter sedan, a sports car, or a truck, your vehicle should start up quickly after you turn the key or push the button. If this isn’t happening, it could point to a variety of issues. It could be the battery, spark plugs, fuel pump, fuel filter, starter, or alternator, among other components. A service technician can help you pin down the exact cause.

Want more help diagnosing your car? Check out these signs that your vehicle needs immediate service.