Car trouble indicators and systems can help you pinpoint minor or major problems with your vehicle. This glossary of terms should help you diagnose car problems, identify what’s going wrong with your vehicle and assist you in letting your technician know exactly what’s been happening.
Stopping distance seems to increase, causing longer braking distance, similar to braking at high speeds.
Brake Pedal Pulsation
Brake pedal fluctuates while brakes are applied.
Vehicle has a tendency to move right or left when brakes are applied; brakes engage suddenly when applying steady pressure to brake pedal.
Low Brake Pedal
Brake pedal must be pushed unusually far to engage brakes.
Temporary complete loss of power. Engine quits at sharp, irregular intervals. May occur repeatedly or intermittently. Usually worse under heavy acceleration.
Mild to severe pings, usually worse under acceleration and load. Engine makes sharp, metallic knocks that change with throttle opening. Sounds like marbles rattling around.
Engine runs after ignition switch is turned off. Runs unevenly and may make knocking noises.
Momentary lack of response as accelerator is pressed. Can occur at all speeds. Usually most severe when starting from a stop. May cause engine to stall.
Pulsation or jerking that changes with engine speed. Exhaust has a steady spitting sound at idle or low speed. Not normally felt above 30 mph.
Engine runs unevenly at idle. Car may also shake.
Engine delivers limited power under load or at high speed. Won’t accelerate as fast as normal. Loses too much speed going up hills. Has less speed than normal.
Less-than-anticipated response to increased throttle opening. Little or no increase in speed when accelerator is pushed down to increase cruising speed. Continuing to push pedal down will finally give an increase in speed.
Engine stops running or dies out. May occur at idle or while driving.
Vehicle speeds up and slows down with no change on accelerator pedal. Can occur at any speed.
HANDLING & STEERING PROBLEMS
Suspension moves to extreme end of travel and hits compression bumpers. Feels like a heavy thud.
Steering wheel must be turned unusually far before vehicle responds.
Vehicle difficult to steer, especially during parking situations or when first started.
Vehicle moves to one side when steering wheel is released.
Rapid side-to-side motion of both front wheels felt in steering wheel.
Mushy or spongy ride; vehicle takes a long time to recover from bumps in the road.
Vehicle meanders, requiring frequent steering adjustments to maintain direction.
ODORS & STAINS
Antifreeze or Coolant Leak
Sweet odor, usually accompanied by steam from under the hood.
Black stains with heavy, thick consistency.
Thick, heavy odor, sometimes accompanied by smoke from under the hood or from the exhaust.
Yellow, green, pink or orange stains that are lighter and thinner than oil.
Crankcase, Oil or Power-Steering Fluid Leaks
Acrid odor, like burned toast.
Heavy sulfur odor, like rotten eggs.
Overheated Brakes or Clutch
Burning rubber odor.
Hot, metallic odor usually accompanied by antifreeze/coolant odor.
Transmission Oil Leaks
PROPOSITION 65 WARNING: Battery posts, terminals and related accessories contain Lead and Lead components, chemicals known to the state of California to cause birth defects and other reproductive harm. Batteries also contain other chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer. WASH HANDS AFTER HANDLING.