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Signs You Secretly Dread When Your Car Needs Repair [Ultimate Guide]

Signs Your Car Needs Repair Blog Post BannerYour driving your vehicle.

Minding your own business.

But then you hear a weird sound, your lights flicker, or another indicator that something might not be right with your car.

Does this sound familiar?

Thought so.

If we ignore those signs that your car is in trouble too long, the result can be additional repairs and unwanted added expense to get your car on the road again.

To avoid this headache, (and hopefully a larger than necessary auto repair bill) I’m going to tell you some of your cars warning signs to look out for so you can get them fixed today.

Let’s get started.

3 Warning Lights On Your Car’s Dashboard That Need Immediate Attention


1. Check Engine Light (CEL):

This is an urgent sign that your car needs to be looked at within a day or two by a professional. If the check engine light is not a solid red and is blinking instead, then you need to take your vehicle in to be seen immediately before causing it possible irreparable damage.

Think I’m exaggerating?

Take it from the guys at CarMD where they talk about this specific problem.
carmd check engine light blog post image


2. ABS (Anti-Lock Braking System):

This is the light that is for your anti-lock braking system. It will usually come on as a flickering light when the ABS is being used, which is normally when the driving conditions are slippery or if there is some kind of emergency braking that occurs. When engaged, the ABS lets the driver of the vehicle maintain control of the steering and prevents the wheels from locking up.


3. Tire Pressure:

Tire pressure is usually not an emergency indicator, but it may mean at least one of your tires has low air pressure. Test the car by driving it a short distance first, and then add some air in all the tires as soon as you see the next gas station. If you are finding that this light continues to be on for a number of days or even weeks, then the problem is more serious and you need to consult a professional about what is wrong.


4 Starter Warning Signs


Grinding noise:

If you hear a noise that resembles what it sounds like when you accidentally start your car twice, this is caused by a worn out starter drive gear that is probably not engaging the way it should. This problem needs to be analyzed by a professional as soon as possible or permanent damage will occur to the flywheel in the engine.


When the starter gear is not engaging properly with the engine flywheel, you will hear a whining noise from the starter and the engage will not start at all. This could lead to having to replace the starter and needs to be looked at immediately.


Seeing smoke of any kind emitting from your vehicle could be any number of issues. Too much power being drawn through the electrical supply to the starter may cause it. Or there may be another connection problem that has to be found. It is always an obvious issue because the smoke is usually visible and emits a burning smell. It is never something that can be ignored and should always be considered an emergency situation that needs immediate professional attention. It is best to have your vehicle towed if you see any smoke.

Oil Soak:

Because the starter in a vehicle is usually housed somewhere towards the bottom of the engine, it can be vulnerable to drippage from other areas that are exhibiting problems. Mostly, this occurs with engine oil or some other drivetrain liquids. If the starter gets soaked enough and over an extended period of time, it will need to be replaced.


4 Signs Your Water Pump Is About To Fail


Front Coolant Leak:

Coolant is in the water pump and helps a vehicle to keep the engine cool. There are many gaskets and seals that make up the water pump that helps to transport the coolant from there, to the radiator and to the engine. The smaller parts, gaskets and seals, will begin to become weathered and crack, dry up or break in pieces. This causes coolant to begin to leak into other components under the hood of the vehicle and through to the ground. It will appear as a green or red liquid on your driveway or wherever you park your vehicle. If it is detected early enough, a professional can repair the water pump before there is any other damage.

Loose, Whining Water Pump Pulley:

If there is an issue with a loose belt you may hear a high-pitched sound coming from your engine. This means that as the belt moves in a circular motion, a pulley mechanism has become loose or possibly the bearings that help to run the water pump are wearing away. This can be a serious issue because if it is the bearings, the water pump will not work and have to be entirely replaced with a new one. Contact a professional immediately to look at it.

Overheated Engine:

If a water pump malfunctions and stops working completely, then your engine cannot cool down. This lack of coolant will cause engine damage like pushed head gaskets, burned pistons, or cracked cylinder heads. This becomes an immediate problem if you notice that your engine temperature gauge is consistently showing a high temperature and take the vehicle in as soon as possible.

Radiator Steam:

Steam coming from the front of your engine either when you are at a standstill or in the process of driving always means that your engine is overheated. This again could be a water pump issue. You should immediately pull over if you are driving and contact a tow and have them take it to a professional mechanic to service.


OH NO! Noises To Listen For That Can Indicate Your Car Needs Repair


Braking Squeals or Screeching:

If your braking material is worn in any way, your brake pad will not work properly. Over time and without repair, it will result in an extended screeching or squealing sound as you try to stop. Your vehicle might be equipped with a brake wear indication system that actually has a squeaking sound element to warn a driver that their brakes need servicing. If this is ignored for a period of weeks or even months, it may result in a rotor resurfacing or replacement instead of simply having a professional mechanic put on new brake pads.

Brake Grinding:

A grinding sound from your brakes may also result in just needing new brake pads if it is serviced right away. Something may also be rubbing against the brake rotors like the brake calipers or pistons. The brake pads themselves were possibly installed at the factory incorrectly and they might be coming into uneven contact with the rotors. Possibly, you have waited too long and have no brake pads left at all.

If you don’t get this looked at within a short period of time, it could result in caliper damage, brake hydraulic damage, or even a failure for your brakes to work at all.

Exhaust Noises:

A vehicle sometimes emits a loud noise unexpectedly and repeatedly each time you drive it. This is more than likely caused by a hole in the exhaust system. A professional mechanic can immediately see if the cause is a loose or rusted tailpipe, or if you are in need a muffler replacement.
It becomes a more serious issue when it involves replacing a catalytic converter. This is usually detected by a rattling sound when your car is on but not in motion.

Chirping from Under the Hood:

A vehicle will make this type of noise when the drive belt, or serpentine belt as it is referred to, is worn and slipping. It serves to run many components of your vehicle including the air conditioning, which will make the car go from a chirp to a squealing sound if you turn the A/C on and the belt needs to be replaced. You will also hear it when you first start the vehicle and the single belt begins to move and cannot smoothly operate because it is worn down.

This is usually a cheap repair resulting in the replacement of the drive belt. If you ignore it, it can be more serious and even dangerous. The belt could snap, and then power steering will be lost. The engine cooling system could shut down as well. If the belt does brake, pull the vehicle over and have it towed to a professional mechanic to repair. If you continue to try to drive the vehicle, you may cause severe engine damage.

Driving Noises: Humming, Growling, or Roaring:

Tires are probably the part of the vehicle we most likely take for granted as drivers. Because we can see them, we only think of them as being in disrepair if they literally flatten or show signs of losing tire pressure.

But there are other repairs to consider where tires on a vehicle are concerned. If tires have been left on a vehicle that has not been moved or driven for an extended period of time, things like dry rot can set into the tire material and cause the tires to produce a roaring noise or a noise resembling a growl when you finally drive it. It can also be a sign of a bad wheel bearing.

A vehicle owner can distinguish the difference between the two issues by simply moving the wheel gently back and forth like a motion if you were changing lanes when you are driving. If you stay at a consistent speed and create this motion with the wheel, if there is a tire problem, you will more than likely hear a change in sound pitch while you are changing lanes. The noise will then come back again when the car begins to go straight. This is a sign of a bad bearing.

This is usually a serious issue for a professional mechanic to look at immediately. If a bearing were to seize up or come apart, you could be looking at a wheel or wheels that will not move at all.


Keep Your Car Out Of The Auto Shop And On The Road


With all these car trouble pitfalls that might occur, many if not all of them can be avoided if you use your best instincts and the information presented here.

Let your car tell you what it needs.

Consider all the warning signs discussed and take note of what your car may be doing right now. If your vehicle is showing signs of something potentially serious that may even make it dangerous to drive, then consider a car check-up at your local auto service shop.
They can find analyze your vehicle and prevent unnecessary car issues from happening when you least expect them.

Call to schedule an appointment at Mac’s Automotive Service & Radiator Repair.

They are a family-owned and operated business whose specialty is in any kind of general auto repair and services. They also have a complete line of cooling system products and services.



Mac's Radiator is the best mechanic to help you with all of your mechanic needs!  Let Macs help you - we are located in 6 convenient locations, for when you need us close to home, or when you're on the road.  



Portland, OR      (503) 777-4706
Beaverton, OR  (503) 646-2943
Bend, OR            (541) 382-6963
Boise, ID            (208) 344-1722
Eugene, OR        (541) 344-0253
Salem, OR          (503) 364-7129

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