Troubleshooting Leaks, Squeaks, Smells, and Strange Sensations

As you work on your vehicle, you’ll get to know it better. Before long, you’ll become more sensitive to its signals. If something sounds funny or smells funny or just doesn’t feel right, you’ll soon sense it. This can help you forestall expensive repairs because you’ll be able to prevent trouble or deal with it before it becomes a major problem. And if something does need repair, being able to report symptoms accurately will save your mechanic time — and your money.


You probably know how your vehicle sounds when it’s running properly, and your ears can alert you to anything that sounds strange. Well, tune in to what your ears are telling you! If you hear a strange or different sound, pay attention to it and react accordingly.

Squeaks, Rattles, and Vibrations

If you hear suspicious squeaks, rattles, or vibrations, you may be able to save yourself some money by checking and tightening the following items before seeking professional help: Loose screws and bolts: Check both inside the vehicle and under the hood.

Rearview and side mirrors Dashboard knobs and trim Sound-system speaker grills Window and door cranks and locks Ashtray and other storage compartments: Are they empty Do the lids fit snugly Glove box: Is the door shut tight Is anything in the glove box rattling around Wheel covers or hubcaps: Remove them and check inside.

If none of these is the culprit, or if the noise persists, have a repair facility find the cause. Often, something inside the vehicle vibrates sympathetically because another part of the vehicle is running roughly. If your car squeaks like an old taxi, especially when you drive it on a bumpy road, it may just need lubrication. However, the problem may be worn shock absorbers or struts, suspension ball joints, or broken stabilizer links .


The only odors you should smell inside your vehicle should come from smelly things that you’ve put in it: the takeout lunch that you bought at a drive-through, the perfume that your 6-year-old squirted all over herself, your not-so-freshly groomed dog who’s pressing his nose against your recently washed windows. You can get rid of persistent odors easily by using a spray that eliminates odors rather than masking them. But if you smell any of the items in the following list, take immediate action to correct it.

Exhaust fumes contain carbon monoxide, so if you smell oil or exhaust inside the car, be sure to keep your windows open at all times and have the problem checked out as quickly as you can. People have died from inhaling carbon monoxide or from passing out at the wheel because of it. Although the exhaust of most post-1995 vehicles is so clean that a bad headache is probably the worst you can get, have it checked anyway. It never pays to take chances.

Last word

emissions from the materials and adhesives used in the passenger compartment. If your vehicle smells strongly of these, until the odor dissipates, consider opening the windows or running the air conditioner while you drive.

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