How To Diagnose Car Problems When You Know Little About Cars

Cars are continuously becoming more advanced, which means that identifying even basic problems can become a hustle. It is especially tricky if you have little knowledge about cars and things like p0171 p0174 trouble codes mean nothing to you. Luckily for you, there is an easier way of understanding what is going on with your vehicle. And that is through your senses.

So if you want to find out how can you understand what is going on with your car just by using your senses, keep reading. 

Use Your Ears

To do that, you need to know what sounds does your car make when everything is working correctly. That way, it will be easier for you to notice when something happens. The problem is, however, that one sound can indicate different problems. For example, if you hear any popping or clicking sounds, it might mean that the level of your engine oil is low, loose drive belts, imbalanced tires and more. 

Take note of the sounds you hear, so that it will be easier for you to explain to the mechanic what the problem is. 

Use Your Nose

Probably the easiest way to recognize that something is wrong with your car is by using your sense of smell, as an unusual odour is very noticeable. Sometimes, it just means that the inside of your vehicle needs a thorough cleaning. Unfortunately, in most cases, you won’t be able to fix the problem by just using an air freshener. 

If you can smell the odour of mould or mildew, you should check if your floor mats and carpets are dry. If they’re wet, it might mean that there is a leak somewhere in your car, that allows the water to get inside. A dirty cabin air filter can also cause this smell, but luckily for you, it’s easy and inexpensive to replace. Last but not least, it can also indicate that there is some problem with the air conditioning system. 

If you can smell something very sweet in your car, and you know that it’s not your perfume, you probably have a problem with the coolant. If your coolant is leaking, it means that the engine is not cooled down properly. It can lead to the engine getting damaged as it won’t be able to maintain the correct temperature, and it can overheat. 

If you can smell exhaust fuels in your car while driving, you should pull over as soon as possible and call for a mechanic, so that he can examine it before you start driving again. This smell indicates that exhaust gas is getting into your vehicle from under it. It is particularly dangerous, as it contains carbon monoxide which can be you unconscious, or even kill you if you inhale it.  

Other smells that can mean that something is wrong with your car include, for example, sulphur (similar to rotten eggs) which usually means that there are problems with the car battery or catalytic converter. The smell of gas or oil indicates that one of the two is leaking. When parts of your car that experience friction heat up too much, you might smell the odour of burnt wood or rubber. 

Use Your Touch 

However, don’t take it literally – you don’t have to touch every single part of your vehicle. It’s more about feeling unusual vibrations, etc. – your body is an excellent tool in diagnosing problems with your car. 

If you’re feeling any unusual vibrations or shaking, then it could mean a few things. Firstly, your wheels might be out of balance, which will tire them quicker. Another reason could be that your lug nut could be loose, which leads to vibrations as it is not able to hold the engine or transmission tight against the frame. Failing suspension and problems with engine timing can also the cause of the excessive shaking. If all of the above things are working correctly, then you should check the bolts that keep your seat glued to the floor. 

To avoid any problems, you should check your car regularly – it can be done by you, without the need of going to the mechanic. Firstly, you should check the dashboard and centre console components, such as AC controls, turn signals, audio controls and windshield wipers, to make sure that everything is working as it should. The next step is checking the AC vents. Turn on the AC, and put your hand in front of the air vent to make sure that it’s blowing cold air. Last but not least, you have to check your steering wheel and your brakes. If any of these things are not working, you have to contact a professional.


Since when you are driving a car, your attention is (or at least it should be) mainly on the road, you need to rely on other senses to notice a problem with the vehicle. It’s more important if you have no clue on what the trouble codes displayed on your dashboard mean. 

If you have no clue about cars, then you shouldn’t try to fix the problem by yourself – contact the closest service station and sleep calmly knowing that your vehicle is in good hands.