Sometimes, it’s pretty obvious you need to get your car checked out. When smoke starts billowing out from under the hood or your car refuses to turn over despite a brand new battery, you can probably guess that your car needs professional attention to ensure that it’s roadworthy—or to get it started again. But not every car repair need is this blatantly obvious. Sometimes it can be a smaller issue like a slow leak or a weird feeling when you hit the gas. Unfortunately, even those small, nearly imperceptible issues can add up to expensive and time-consuming repair work, so it’s important to pay attention to what your car is trying to tell you. If you think something might be wrong with your car, we definitely suggest bringing it to your local mechanic for a car diagnostic. If you’re on the fence and unsure you really need car repairs, here are a few signs it’s time to at least head to your local mechanic for a diagnostic.

Your Engine Light Comes On

Some vehicles, especially a few of the older VWs, have a glitch in the car’s computer system that means the “check engine” light stays on constantly. That strange quirk aside, when the “check engine” light comes on, your car is being exceptionally helpful and telling you as clearly as possible that something is wrong. Unfortunately, that little warning light can’t just emit a voice and tell you any more than the fact that something is wrong; the sensors in your vehicle send a signal that something doesn’t “compute,” which is how it knows to turn on the light, but it can’t generally do more than store where that signal originated. Car diagnostic tools are there to scan and read the internal computer system in your car and find which sensor picked up the issue, which will at least give your mechanic an idea of where to start. And, for those VW owners with glitchy lights (and everyone else), if your check engine light starts to flash, you really have something to worry about, so head to your mechanic as soon as you can.

The Gauges Change

There are oil and temperature gauges on your dashboard for a reason. Sure, it’s easy to forget they’re even there, but those innocuous little gauges are a good place to check for when your car starts acting squirrely. Those gauges are an easy way to check and ensure that your engine isn’t overheating, or that you don’t have a leak causing oil pressure to drop. Either of these issues can cause some serious damage to your engine if you keep driving your vehicle, so don’t wait for smoke to start billowing from under the hood of your car before heading to your local mechanic.

You Hear Strange Noises

Turn down the radio and listen for a minute. If your car makes grinding, squeaking, or some other variety of strange noise, this is often a sign that some part of your vehicle isn’t working the way it should. It might be your brakes, your transmission, or something else entirely. Generally speaking, if you hear odd noises that you don’t normally hear when driving, it’s because something has broken—or is breaking—and needs the attention of a mechanic. The caveat here is, of course, that awful squealing sound that a lot of cars make on especially cold days. Whatever the noise you hear, a car diagnostic is a good way to check and see whether anything is wrong.

There Is Excessive Exhaust

When you start up your car on a freezing day, a bit of extra white exhaust is normal, and nothing to worry about. However, if your car starts belching out dark smoke from the tailpipe and/or you notice a burning smell, this might be a sign that you have an oil leak. A puff of exhaust now and then isn’t generally something to worry about, but if it gets darker, thicker, or smellier, it means something is happening in your vehicle and you should get it checked out as soon as possible—and try to avoid driving it in the meantime, as oil issues can wreak havoc on your car’s inner workings.

Stuff Is Leaking

Sure, your car might drip a bit after it rains, but generally speaking, your car’s innards are designed to seal and hold all the various fluids it needs to run. So, if you see a small puddle of something growing beneath your car, it’s always a good idea to get that leak checked out before it turns into a big enough issue that you need to replace your transmission entirely. While that leak could be something as simple as a hole in the washer fluid reservoir, it could just as easily be a leak in the gas tank or oil reservoir, which can have a much bigger impact on how well your car runs.  

Your Car Jolts or Shakes

If you can feel strange shudders or shaking when you drive, even if it’s only intermittently, this could be a signal that your car’s got some performance issues. That odd little jittering might just be an indicator that your car needs a tune-up, or it could be a signal that your engine or transmission are struggling. Either way, a car diagnostic can give a clearer idea of exactly what’s going on.

Pay attention to the signals your car is giving you, even those quiet ones, and you’ll be more likely to catch issues before they become massive problems. If you’ve noticed any of the above issues, or some other strange occurrence that we didn’t mention, start by calling your local experts at Your Import Car Doctor in Colorado Springs and schedule your car diagnostic today!