If you’re like the majority of people in the U.S., you use a car to get from Point A to Point B and rely on all the parts working properly. None of us expects to break down on the side of the road, and when it happens it’s extremely inconvenient and stressful. Worse still, we rarely see it coming.

We assume our car is going to work - until it doesn’t. Either there weren’t any warning signs or you didn’t see them. Or maybe there were signs and you didn’t even know. OK, maybe you even neglected some things you now recognize as “signs!”

Most of the time, you don’t need to know anything about what goes on underneath the hood, but when something goes wrong you start to wish you knew a little bit more about the mechanics of it all. There’s an odd clunking noise coming when you drive over a bump but, other than that, you can’t really say what’s going on with your usually trusty car.

Here at YourMechanic, we know that very few car owners are expert diagnosticians and oftentimes you don’t even know which service you need to book.

This is a very common situation and it’s why we have hundreds of diagnostic jobs - our mechanics are great at figuring out what’s going on with your car. You don’t even have to pick a specific job when you book an appointment if you can’t identify any symptoms at all, but the more information you are able to share before the mechanic comes on-site, the better.

When trying to decide which service to book, consider what you see, smell, hear, and feel. Once you’ve identified the sense your issue applies to, focus on the qualities of each sensation. For example, if there’s an odd feeling to your car, think about if it’s vibrating or if it’s pulling to one side.

Here are some guides you can use to help you decide which service to book if you smell something unusual in your car:

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Using Your Sense of Smell to Diagnose Issues With Your Car

Smells Like
What It Could Mean

[Burning wood or rubber](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/smell-in-the-car-inspection)
Overheating brakes or tires (rubber smell)Malfunctioning clutch (wood smell)

Carbon Monoxide (CO) may be leaking into the car (note that CO is colorless and odorless but is part of exhaust gas)

Leaking fuel system componentFailing evaporative emissions system component

[Hot or burning oil](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/smell-of-oil-in-car-inspection) (often referred to as "exhaust smell")
Engine oil leaking, possible from a failed gasket or seal

[Mildew or mold](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/smell-in-the-car-inspection)
Cabin air filter needs replacementBuildup on evaporatorWater inside the car

Failing catalytic converterOvercharged batteryIssue with fuel system

Leaking coolant

Here are some guides you can use to help you decide which service to book if you feel something unusual in your car:

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Using Your Sense of Touch to Diagnose Issues With Your Car

Feels Like
What It Could Mean

[Air is not coming out of vents](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/air-is-not-coming-out-of-vents-inspection)
Blown fuseBad relayDamaged blower motorMalfunctioning blower resistorClogged air intakeBroken hose

[Brake pedal is hard to push](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/brake-pedal-is-hard-to-push-inspection)
Bad brake boosterVacuum hose is leakingBrake booster check valve malfunctionFailing or incorrect brake componentClogged proportioning valve

[Brake pedal is lower than usual](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/brake-pedal-is-lower-than-usual-inspection)
Air in the hydraulic systemLeaking brake linesLeak in master cylinderRear brakes need adjustingWarped brake rotors

[Brakes need to be pumped](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/brakes-must-be-pumped-to-work-inspection)
Air in brake linesLow brake fluidFailing master cylinderMoisture in brake fluidDamaged/missing bleeder valveWarped brake rotors

[Brake pedal vibrates or shakes](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/brake-pedal-vibrates-or-shakes-inspection)
Warped brake rotorsFailing wheel bearingsLoose lug nutsWheels out of alignment

[Car has bouncy and unstable ride](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/car-has-bouncy-and-unstable-ride-inspection)
Damaged struts, broken strut assembly, orshock absorbersPoorly lubricated suspensionIncorrect tire inflationBulging or worn tires

[Car has excessive body roll](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/car-has-excessive-body-roll-inspection)
Loose or worn suspensionShocks need replacingWorn tiresDamaged stabilizer bar or stabilizer bar linkModifications to the vehicle

[Car is hard to shift](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/car-is-hard-to-shift-inspection)
Leaking transmission fluidFailing transmission solenoidsContaminated transmission fluidFailing transmissionBad shifter cableWorn clutch

[Car is hesitating and bucking](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/car-is-hesitating-and-bucking-inspection)
Misfiring cylinder(s)Clogged fuel filterFailing fuel pumpFailed oxygen sensorClogged EGR valveWorn spark plugs and wires

[Car jerks forward at high speeds](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/car-jerks-forward-at-high-speeds-inspection)
Failing mass airflow sensorLeaking engine vacuum lineMalfunctioning fuel pumpMisfiring cylinder(s)

[Car is leaning to one side](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/car-is-leaning-to-one-side-inspection)
Struts or shock absorbers are stuckBroken or bent suspension componentTwisted chassisDifferently sized tires

[Car pulls to left or right while braking](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/car-pulls-to-left-or-right-when-i-brake-inspection)
Uneven tire pressureBrake system problemsWorn suspension components

[Car pulls in one direction while driving](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/car-pulls-in-one-direction-inspection)
Uneven tire pressureWheels out of alignmentBrake system problemsBad wheel bearingWorn suspension componentsWorn steering linkageTorque steer (this can be normal on somefront-wheel drive cars)

[Car is shaking or vibrating](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/car-is-shaking-or-vibrating-inspection)
Problems with tiresEngine misfiringWarped brake rotorsWorn engine mountsSuspension problems

[Car or steering wheel shakeswhen braking](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/car-or-steering-wheel-shakes-when-braking-inspection)
Warped or uneven rotorsRotor run-out

[Car shudders when turning](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/car-shudders-when-turning-inspection)
Low power steering fluidFailing power steering pumpKinked or blocked power steering lineFailing wheel bearingFailing differential

[Car vibrates going uphill](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/car-vibrates-going-uphill-inspection)
Damaged CV axles or jointsFailing U-jointLow/contaminated differential fluidEngine misfiring

[Clutch pedal inoperative](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/clutch-pedal-goes-all-the-way-to-the-floor-inspection)
Broken clutch cableMissing connector rodLow clutch fluidFailed clutch master cylinderFailed slave cylinder

[Engine is shaking, pulsating,or vibrating](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/engine-is-shaking-pulsating-or-vibrating-inspection)
Worn spark plugs and wiresLoose or disconnected engine hosesLoose battery terminal connectionsDirty or clogged air filtersLoose timing belts

[Excessive car bounce and sway](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/excessive-car-bounce-and-sway-inspection)
Wheels need alignmentExcessive/uneven wear on tiresLoose steering linkageDamaged or weak struts or shocksDamaged suspension component

[Seat shakes or vibrates](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/seat-vibrates-or-shakes-inspection)
Seat is not fully secured to vehicleWorn out suspension partsWarped brake discsFailing brake drumsImbalanced wheels

[Steering wheel feels loose](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/steering-wheel-feels-loose-inspection)
Worn tie rodsWorn pitman or idler armWorn ball jointLoose suspension component

[Steering wheel is hard to turn](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/steering-wheel-is-hard-to-turn-inspection)
Low power steering fluidWeak or damaged power steering pumpDamaged power steering beltDamaged steering rackLow tire pressure

[Steering wheel vibrates or shakes](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/steering-wheel-vibrates-or-shakes-inspection)
Imbalanced wheelsLoose lug nutsFailing wheel bearingsWorn tiresWarped brake rotors

Here are some guides you can use to help you decide which service to book if you hear something unusual in your car:

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Using Your Sense of Hearing to Diagnose Issues With Your Car

Sounds Like
What It Could Mean

Moisture in the fuel systemUnbalanced air-to-fuel ratioLeaking vacuum hosesMalfunctioning air intake valveIncorrect ignition or valve timing

Bad sway bar linkWorn control arm bushingsWorn ball joint or other suspension componentLoose brake caliper

[Clunking when going over bumps](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/clunking-noise-when-i-drive-over-bumps-inspection)
Failing control arm bushingsFailing stabilizer end linkFailing ball joint or suspension componentWorn or loose steering system componentExhaust system issue

[Clicking or popping](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/car-is-making-a-noise-inspection)
Damaged CV jointBad strutsLoose hubcapsLoose drive belt or tensionerWorn tiresLow engine oilDead battery

[Clicking when turning car](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/loud-clicking-noise-when-i-turn-the-car-inspection)
Torn CV bootWorn or dry CV jointDamaged driveshaft or differentialWorn tiresWorn wheel bearings

[Creaking or squealingwhen turning car](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/creaking-noise-when-turning-the-steering-wheel-inspection)
Low power steering fluidLoose or worn power steering beltWorn shocks or strutsDry or damaged suspension bushingsWorn ball jointsDamaged tie rod endsDamaged power steering components

[Grinding when braking](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/grinding-noise-when-braking-inspection)
Excessive brake pad wearForeign debris lodged in brakesLow quality brake padsWear indicator contacting rotorRusted brake rotors

[Grinding while shifting(manual transmission)](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/grinding-noise-while-shifting-inspection)
Forgetting to engage clutchWorn clutchWorn gear synchronizersCracked or chipped gear teethLow or contaminated transmission fluid

[Grinding in transmission(automatic)](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/grinding-sound-from-transmission-inspection)
Low or contaminated transmission fluidLow differential fluidCracked or chipped gear teethFailed valve bodyFailed friction component

[Grinding when turning keyin ignition](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/grinding-noise-when-key-turns-in-ignition-inspection)
Bad starter drive gearBad starter solenoidFailing clutch, flywheel, or pressure plate

[Gurgling or bubbling](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/engine-is-making-a-gurgling-sound-inspection)
Improper coolant serviceBlown head gasketAir in the heater core or cooling systemLow coolantOverheating engineNormal operation of some coolant systems

[High-pitched squealingwhen applying brakes](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/squealing-noise-from-brakes-inspection)
Worn brake padsGlazed or oxidized brake discsProblem with the brake master cylinderor caliperDamaged brake backing plate

Worn hosesLeaking coolantOverheating engine

[Hissing when applyingbrakes](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/hissing-noise-when-brake-pedal-is-depressed-inspection)
Leaking vacuum lineLeaking brake booster diaphragmDamaged or missing foam silencerFailing master cylinder

Worn or unevenly wearing tiresFailing wheel bearings

[Irregular clunking orknocking](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/clunking-or-knocking-noise-from-wheels-inspection)
Failing ball jointsBad stabilizer ball linkWorn or loose tie rodsWorn or failing suspension components

[Knocking when goingover bumps](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/clunking-noise-when-i-drive-over-bumps-inspection)
Bad struts or strut mountsBad ball jointWorn or failing suspension components

[Loud noise from rearbrakes](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/loud-noise-is-coming-from-rear-brakes-inspection)
Worn brake padsBroken or missing caliper boltContact with pad wear indicatorParking brake shoes stuckWheel bearing failurePads settling into place or normal padvibration

[Loud noise when puttingcar in gear](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/loud-noises-when-car-is-put-in-gear-inspection)
Low transmission fluidFailed motor mountFailing U-joint or CV jointWorn clutchFailing bearingsFailing internal transmission component

[Loud noise when usingthe clutch](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/loud-noise-when-using-the-clutch-inspection)
Worn bearings (throw out, pilot, release, input)Worn clutchFailed flywheel

[Low rumble or whir](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/car-is-making-a-noise-inspection)
Loose or broken heat shield or dust shieldUnevenly worn tiresFailing wheel bearing

[Metallic tapping,knocking, or slapping](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/noise-from-engine-or-exhaust-inspection)
Low motor oilImproper timingIncorrect air-to-fuel ratioImproper fuel octane levelOverheating engineEngine calibration issueLoose or broken heat shield

[Noisy power windows](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/power-window-is-noisy-inspection)
Failing power window motorFailing regulatorDry or dirty window tracks

[Repetitive screeching](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/car-is-making-a-noise-inspection)
Worn serpentine beltWeak belt tension or failing belt tensionerSeized engine pulley

[Rotational noise thatincreases with vehiclespeed](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/car-is-making-a-noise-inspection)
Failing wheel bearingUnevenly worn or misaligned tires

[Screeching when car isstarted](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/loud-screeching-noise-when-i-start-the-car-inspection)
Worn drive or auxiliary beltsWorn pulleys or tensionersWrong tension, alignment, or belt sizeFailing starterFailing engine accessoryFailing engine component

Engine misfiringBlocked or malfunctioning fuel injectorClogged catalytic converter or exhaustsystem component

[Squealing or rattling inengine](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/loud-squealing-or-rattling-is-coming-from-engine-inspection)
Stretched beltFailing pulley bearingsLoose exhaust componentLoose or broken heat shield

[Squealing or squeakingfrom timing belt](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/loud-squealing-or-squeaking-is-coming-from-timing-belt-inspection)
Failing water pump pulleySerpentine or V-belt slippingPulley misalignmentDry or cracked beltBelt is too tight

[Sudden, loud exhaust note](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/noise-from-engine-or-exhaust-inspection)
Broken muffler or exhaust pipeCracked exhaust manifoldBroken catalytic converter

[Whining sound while ingear](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/whining-sound-when-car-is-in-gear-inspection)
Low transmission fluidWorn clutch or flywheelBad bearingsFailing differentialNormal operation in some vehicles

[Whirring or buzzing inengine](https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/noise-from-engine-or-exhaust-inspection)
Worn engine bearingsFailing water pumpFailing engine accessoryFailing belt tensionerAccessory belt issues

If something is leaking, a light is on, there’s a funny smell, or a part is simply not working and you have no idea why, we have a job for that. Check out the Diagnostics section of our service page to find out more about that mysterious popping sound coming from your wheels, and book a mechanic to come inspect your car today. After the mechanic finds out what’s causing the problem, repairs will be recommended - if needed - to get your car back in top shape, and with your approval, fix them conveniently at your location.

This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as I Have No Idea What's Wrong With My Car - Where Do I Begin?.

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