Many times folks come in with major problems, that might had been avoided, if caught sooner. Not noticing the symptoms are the number one reason such problems go unnoticed. A quite drive and these tips may help prevent this from happening.
Listen for unusual noises
Many serious problems start out as minor noise changes. Being familiar with the way a vehicle sounds may help identify new noises. Occasionally turning the radio and air conditioner off and driving with the windows down, tells a great deal about a vehicle. Pick a quite road and listen as you drive. This may be easiest, early on a weekend morning. Many times, noises that have never been heard will become apparent.
Any noise that is not normal to the vehicle is cause for concern. For instance, a slight whine on acceleration, that stops on deceleration, may signal differential or transmission problems. A roar that increases with vehicle speed often shows a wheel bearing or tire wear problem.
When having noises repaired, it is always best to request that a technician ride with you in the vehicle. Point out the noise and ask if they hear it. Noises that are demonstrated in this manner have a near 100% chance of being corrected the first time.
Sniff for unusual smells
Gasoline has a very distinct odor and gas leaks are normally easy to find. Other things may have a much more subtle odor and be more difficult. For instance, a burning smell is often associated with an oil leak. Engine and exhaust components are very hot. Almost anything that touches them will burn and give off an odor.
Establishing if there is a pattern to the smell, will help with locating the problem quickly and will save money. For example a smell, that is only present after driving ten or more miles, is different from a smell that only occurs first thing in the morning. Give as much information as possible and be prepared to leave the vehicle overnight, for problems that occur only in the morning.
Feel unusual vibrations and shakes
Almost anything that rotates is capable of producing vibration. With vibration, the speed and conditions under which the vibration occurs are key to locating the trouble. For example, a shake or wobble at very low speed and only when rolling is normally a bad tire. A shake that occurs when sitting still will be engine or transmission related. A shudder in the steering wheel when braking is almost always a brake related problem.
Other unusual vibrations might be a shimmy that is worse on certain road surfaces. This type of problem almost always relates to the tires as the tire is the only part of the vehicle that touches the road.
A brief shudder, at 45 to 55 MPH, that feels like running over a cattle guard may signal a transmission problem. Torque converter shudder can often be repaired easily, if caught before damage occurs.
Being familiar with the way a vehicle normally sounds and feels is a great hedge against problems. Many serious problems start with minor symptoms. Treating these problems while in the early stages, saves money as well as often preventing a breakdown.