Every driver knows that cars can have good and bad days. Many factors can influence your car's performance, including the gas in your tank or the temperature outside. As your car ages, internal wear on the engine can also slightly impact its performance and fuel economy. These tiny changes are usually just a normal part of owning a car, not a cause for concern.
However, you may occasionally notice your car driving differently and wonder if the problem requires professional attention. An illuminated check engine light or noticeably rough idle are sure signs of trouble, but you may not always experience these unsubtle symptoms. If your car feels a bit "off," these three additional clues can help you decide if something more serious is afoot.
1. Reduced Fuel Economy
If you own a relatively modern car, you may already have a surprisingly useful diagnostic tool. Most newer vehicles include an infotainment or driver information system that can track fuel economy. Surprisingly, many automotive repair issues can reduce your car's miles per gallon. A persistent drop in fuel economy is often one of the earliest warning signs of trouble.
Common issues that can reduce fuel economy include aging spark plugs, a failing oxygen sensor, dirty or clogged fuel injectors, a weak fuel pump, and many more. These issues may eventually trigger a check engine light, but the earliest warning signs may be a slight drop in performance and reduced fuel economy.
2. Strange Noises
Even the most refined cars still make a decent amount of noise, so it's not always easy to monitor your car for changes in sound. However, a few obvious noises can alert you to oncoming trouble. One of the most common sounds is a noticeable and rapid ticking, which can indicate the early stages of an exhaust leak near the exhaust manifold.
Whistling noises under the hood (especially when accelerating) are another potential issue. Whistling sounds are commonly associated with vacuum leaks, and small leaks may not significantly impact your car's performance. Over time, the leak will probably worsen, eventually impacting fuel economy, performance, and idle. A severe vacuum leak will eventually trigger a check engine light.
3. Unusual Smells
If your car smells funky inside, you probably need to clean it more often. On the other hand, unusual smells outside your car are often signs of mechanical trouble. A noticeable sulfur odor is a common issue that typically points to a failing catalytic converter. A clogged catalytic converter can also reduce performance and, like many other problems, will eventually cause your check engine light to turn on.
Of course, smelling gas anywhere near your car can be worrying. If you can smell unburnt fuel near the back of your car, your engine is running rich (too much fuel). A rich condition will produce unusual performance and can cause damage to components in your exhaust system, so this is a symptom you'll want a shop to investigate as soon as you can.
For more info about auto repair services, contact a local company.