Our car is a machine, nobody denies that, but as a machine it is capable of transmitting sensations to us: the pleasure of driving, adrenaline, the feeling of freedom? And in the same way that it transmits sensations to us, it is capable of letting us know when something is not quite right.
What symptoms does the car offer us to know that something is wrong? Can one know what is wrong with the engine by seeing the exhaust smoke? By the smell? And if the car starts with difficulty, what can it be? We’ll tell you right now.
Strange colored smoke
The color of the exhaust smoke can be a very clear indicator that the combustion is not working properly. Depending on the color we observe, we will know that something is wrong, or that it is something transitory. In fact, if the smoke is white it could be water vapor from the condensation, which when heated up the whole exhaust area goes into a state of steam and comes out of the exhaust mixed with the fumes.
If it is water, it will last a short time and then the color of the smoke will return to normal. If it doesn’t go away and it is dense, we have to go through the workshop because we could be burning another liquid, like the coolant (and without coolant…).
If we talk about the smoke of other colors, things change. If it is blue, it is an unmistakable sign that the car consumes more motor oil than normal. Let’s understand each other, a diesel or petrol car does not consume oil to run: we are not talking about a two-stroke engine. It does consume oil, a very small percentage, but as a result of combustion, and under normal conditions it does not even influence the oil level. If it comes out of the exhaust “burnt”, we will notice several things: the persistent blue color, the smell, and that in the medium term the oil level decreases.
Another case is that the smoke is grey (but we are talking about a persistent, dense grey, which is perfectly noticeable), and in that case, the causes can be very varied, so it is advisable to consult it in the workshop. The most notable case (as far as we can tell) is that of black smoke. This can be seen a mile away and you have certainly seen more than three this month with excess smoke, and it is usually caused by dirt in some filter, valve … It consumes more fuel than usual, and is also highly polluting.
Squeaking on the brakes
The brakes are another system that warns us without a doubt that something is wrong. The most common case in which the brakes warn us is the wear and tear of use. If the brake pads wear out before we can check their condition, we can notice many things: from loss of braking power to a squeaking noise that starts soft but can become a martyrdom. With the breaks you do not have to walk with half measures: if you notice something, look at it. The squeaking could be caused by a tiny grain of sand, but also by abnormal wear.
To find out everything that the brake can tell you about a problem, be sure to check out the detailed article we published a few months ago.
The car starts badly, rates, seems to lack power
First of all, startup failures have several possible causes, and here we talk about “giving contact”. We turn the key and the engine does not start, dying. It may also happen that we notice how the car starts, but it seems to be half gas, tired, with an irregular idle, and then the range of possibilities opens:
- A loose or broken vacuum hose.
- The idle control valve.
- A battery failure, caused by wear, very low temperature conditions…
- The alternator did not fully charge the battery and we do not get the stored energy to start the car.
- Spark plugs at the end of their life cycle.
- Dirt and lack of lubrication in the starter motor.
If it is related to the EGR valve (in diesel cars), what we can notice when starting the car is: strange starting, pulling (and more in cold, of course), increased fuel consumption for no apparent reason, choking the engine, excessive smoke (but maybe it’s something else, as we saw above), lack of power, from the slightest to the most apparent (as if the car was left with half the cavalry). In that case there are two possibilities: clean the valve (soft solution), or change it (the expensive solution).
You take a speed bump and your car bounces like crazy
Most likely you have the shock absorbers begging for mercy because of the bad life you have given them… or because they are worn out, or defective. We strongly recommend that you review everything about your shocks, to know how they should behave and how to check if they are “healthy”, but basically what happens is that the shocks are no longer able to effectively absorb the irregularities of the terrain, and it also means that you take that speed bump at an excessive speed. Re-engage to slow down even more in front of them.
Hi, I’m Liam. I’m the initiator and writer of this blog. Cars were and will be my first love, and my favorite hobby, that’s why I decided to start this blog and write about my discoveries and techniques to improve my cars or repair them.