Knowing the warning signs of impending trouble can go a long way toward keeping your car from a highway breakdown. You need to develop an awareness of how your car should sound. For instance, when you turn the key to start, the gear like sound of the starter motor engaging should be smooth and sound like an electric motor working hard to crank the engine. If you notice a different sound more like a grinding chances are you have a starter motor problem about to happen.
Lets say youre driving along and you feel the steering wheel vibrating at certain speeds. The onset of this subtle vibration could tip you off to a tire that needs to be balanced, worn steering linkage or a bulge in a tire that may be about to blow out. In any case, the vibration needs attention.
Normally you shouldnt notice the sound of the exhaust system. A sudden change in your cars sound, therefore, isnt something to ignore. Suppose youre used to a pleasant hum, then, perhaps after a bump or when starting up the car one morning, theres a loud roaring that sound like a hot rod without a muffler. The harder you press the gas pedal. The louder the noise becomes. A noisy exhaust means the exhaust gases are blowing out under the car rather than at the rear of the car a dangerous condition.
Brakes play their own warning tune. On many cars, a scratching noise coming from the wheels that stops when you stop pressing on the brake pedal is caused by a low-brake warning device. Its purpose is to warn you that you need front brake pads. A loud grinding noise when you step on the brake pedal is an alarm that your brakes need immediate attention. The grinding noise occurs when the brake pads are totally worn away and the metal of the brake pad backing plate rubs directly on the brake rotor. Ignoring grinding brakes can be a costly or even deadly error.
Shock absorbers help keep the car steady and balanced while the wheels roll over bumps and ruts. Their modern counterpart, the MacPherson strut, does essentially the same thing. You might not notice worn shocks or struts when youre simply riding around town. The safety effect of these devices comes into play at higher speeds. When you hit a bump, the tire wants to bounce like a basketball. Worn shocks or struts allow the ties to bounce out of control making steering difficult and braking less effective. What you may notice is the car rocking more every time you stop, assuming an almost boat like quality. Old, broken or worn out shocks and struts should be replaced to ensure safe steering and braking at higher speeds.
Engine noises are easiest to hear when the car is not moving. Transmission sounds or brake noises usually occur when the car is moving. Pay attention to any new sound and keep notes - how it sounds, when it makes the sound and what difference, if any, occurs in driving when the noise is present to help you describe it to your service dealer.