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Reading the Signs

Maintain your engine’s health

When driving a car, it is important for everything to be in good working order, not only for your pocket, but to save you anxiety and frustration as well. Good news is that there are a few warning signs you can look out for before they become a major problem.

Smoke from your exhaust

If you note smoke coming from your exhaust, pay attention to its colour. If the smoke is only emitted while the car is moving, it would be wise to ask a friend to drive behind you to note the colour so that you’re not distracted while driving.

Black smoke is generally caused by raw fuel being burnt in the exhaust. A badly adjusted carburetor or blocked air filter could be the cause of this. If there is only black smoke in the morning, it might be that your choke or fuel-enrichment section needs adjustments.

Blue smoke is caused by oil that is being burnt. Continuous bellowing of blue smoke could indicate that the piston rings or cylinder walls have been damaged. If you get short puffs of blue smoke in the morning, the problem could be bad valve guides or valve guide seals.

White smoke could be caused by coolant or antifreeze leaking into the combustion chambers and being burnt as a result. This could be due to a leaking head gasket, broken head or damaged cylinder wall.


Pay attention when approaching your car or when driving out of a parking spot to any possible leaking that has taken place. Unless you’re confident about identifying and fixing problems, it would be better to consult a professional.

Make sure to take note of the following when you notice a leak:

  • What was your car’s position (were you parked on level ground or on a slope)?
  • Where on your car is the leak?
  • What was the colour of the fluid?

Strange smells

Strange smells can be caused by the environment, but if it persists, it might be your car. Pay attention to the smell as it might be an indication of the problem. Sweet smells could be caused by burning coolant, acrid smells could be electrical faults and a burnt rubber smell could be caused by overheating brakes or clutch.

Strange sounds

Cars can make many sounds, from squeaking to rattling and more. Pay attention to the type of sound and whether it’s continuous or intermittent. Does it only occur when the engine is cold, when you accelerate, turn sharply, etc.? All this could be a clue as to what the cause is. Unless you’re confident at identifying and fixing problems, it is best to consult a professional to inspect and rectify this.