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5 Hacks to diagnosing what’s wrong with your car

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Updated 21 Oct 2019

Rachel White

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Who needs a vehicle inspection when we can diagnose our own car problems. Wouldn’t that be great? We do it now with our health issues right? Just type some symptoms into Google
and shazam, we have the diagnosis.

The only problem is that diagnosis is usually the worst-case scenario and by the time you’ve reached the last word, you’ll be convinced you’re on death's door. Let’s be honest, you’re better off going to an expert, your GP, and getting yourself checked out. The same logic applies to your car.

Is it possible to diagnose what’s wrong with your car?

Even when mechanics take a car for a test drive, there is unlikely to be a definitive ‘I know exactly what it is’ moment. Without physically looking under the bonnet, or inside, or underneath, or plugging it into a computer, it’s almost impossible to do a 100% correct diagnosis based on sensory deciphering alone. You definitely wouldn’t bet your left kidney on it.

With that being said, it is possible to be something of a detective and be able to offer enough info to the mechanic so they know where to start looking. Here are some hacks that you can employ to aid the mechanic in diagnosing what’s wrong with your car. And they all come down to our five senses.

5 Hacks to diagnose what’s wrong

1. Look. Make it common practice to look around and under your car regularly. The better you know your car, the more obvious it becomes when something doesn’t look right. Check under the bonnet and examine your tyres to see if they are wearing evenly. Inspect the ground where your car sits overnight. Are there any revealing leaks or stains there? If you have an excessive black stain under your exhaust tip then maybe your car is burning oil. The colour of any fluid and where it is positioned in relation to the vehicle can help determine what issue you are facing. Another example is a pool of red fluid under the front of your car. This may be a power steering fluid leak.

2. Listen. Turn the music off now and again and listen to the heartbeat of your car. Get to know how it sounds when it is well and you will notice when it gets ill. Hear the purr of the engine and isolate any unusual noises. If you hear something odd, is it constant or intermittent? Determine when it happens. Is it only when you’re braking or turning. Establish from which part of the car the noise is coming from and if it speeds up the faster you drive. Is that squeaking noise coming from the wheel or the engine?

3. Touch. Get to know the feel of your car. How does it handle? Can you feel a vibration in your hands while driving? If so, then there is likely to be a steering or suspension issue. If the clutch feels different, then you may need to get the clutch cable adjusted. If the brake pedal feels spongy, you may need to have the brakes inspected. Are you struggling to keep the steering wheel straight or is the car wandering?

4. Smell. Just like us, your car may emit some odd odours when it is not well and there is a spectrum of smell types that can indicate specific problems. You’ll have to get rid of those hanging smelly things from your rearview mirror and ditch the perfume, but once you’ve done that, go hang out in your car and breathe it in. Is there a burning, exhaust, mould or chemical smell getting up your nose? Sometimes sniffing out smells can lead us to the source of a problem.

5. Taste. Go and lick your car . . . OK, seriously, do NOT lick your car. This will tell you nothing!

Joking aside, getting in sync with your vehicle will help you sense when something is wrong. If you do catch something before it takes hold you can avoid surprises, inconvenience and save yourself some money. Better to deal with a sniffle early than dealing with full-blown flu later.

Once you have diagnosed what’s wrong with your car, book an awesome AutoGuru mechanic to get it back to fighting fit. You can even pay with Afterpay to handle any unexpected repairs!

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Written By

Rachel White

Rachel spent her early adult life around cars, motorsport and hands-on with her own cars. This interest moved into various careers within the Automotive industry. Joined with her passion for writing, Rachel loves putting the two together to share her experience, so we can all become AutoGuru’s.