3 Warning Signs Your SUV Needs Service

Published March 23, 2017 by Sean Jackson

Picture this: it’s a beautiful spring day. You took your SUV for a long drive. You parked it, stepped out, and noticed a burnt rubber smell emanating from under the hood. This triggers alarm bells in your mind because you cannot recall this happening before. It also brings up an important question: should I take my SUV in for service? Instances like this happen. They can be scary on the surface, but usually, it’s your SUV’s way of alerting you to a problem. By being vigilant to your vehicle’s performance, odors, feel of handling and sounds it creates, you can identify small problems. By taking your SUV in for service, you can have the small problems addressed in an inexpensive manner before they morph into larger issues. And of course, with larger issues come bigger expenses. Here is a look at a few scenarios as to when your SUV might be trying to alert you to a problem, and how you can go about fixing it.

Burnt Smell From the Hood

Let’s start with the first scenario. From out of the blue, you notice a burnt rubber smell coming from your SUV. Typically, this will occur after your SUV’s engine warms up. There might be minimal or no smoke coming from the hood, so your only indicator is the scent once you step out of the vehicle. There could be many causes for this smell. Below is a look at some of them:
  • It could be a loose hose that has rubbed up against the engine. As the engine heats up, it melts the hose, creating the burning rubber smell.
  • There could be a leak in one of the engine components such as the gasket. As the gasket leaks, oil might spill out onto the engine, burning as the engine becomes hot.
  • Your SUV might be overheating due to low coolant or a lack of water.
  • There might be an obstruction in the vehicle’s tailpipe. A common occurrence is a plastic bag sucked through the tailpipe.
Using these causes as the premise, here’s what you need to do if you notice this smell.
  1. First, open the hood of your SUV to inspect its hoses. Check for any loose connections. If you notice them, tighten them. In the event you find a melted hose, it’s important to refrain from driving your SUV until you replace it.
  2. If the hoses look fine, move on to the belts. This is another area where too much friction placed on the component can create the burnt smell. If the belts appear tight and in place, meaning they are not dangling or they move easily when you touch them, then you can move on.
  3. Check your SUV’s coolant level. If you have a newer SUV and the coolant level is low, inspect under the vehicle for any leaks. In the event the coolant level is at the appropriate range, you can move on.
  4. Find a reputable mechanic to inspect your SUV immediately. If you cannot diagnose the problem, then having a fresh pair of expert eyes is the way to go. A mechanic can run an engine diagnostic, inspect your SUV’s exhaust system and more. They can identify the problem then make the repairs needed, saving you worry and in some cases a significant sum of money relative to leaving the problem unsolved.

Bumpy Handling

When you bought your SUV, it delivered smooth handling. However, as of late, it seems like you are riding a super hyper Seabiscuit, who’s bumpy handling has made you a bit worried what is going on with your vehicle. A common issue you might encounter is vibration during your drives. Here are some of the reasons why shaky drives occur::
  • Your engine might not be receiving enough air, fuel or spark, according to HowStuffWorks.
  • Bent axles--this is prevalent if your SUV had an accident or underbody damage.
  • Your SUV might have warped brake rotors. With this, as you apply the brakes you’ll notice your SUV’s steering wheel shakes, especially when braking from a faster speed.
  • Worn parts such as the struts, tie rod ends or ball joints create this bumpy ride.
Because there are so many ways vibrating handling can happen, it’s important to answer these questions when diagnosing the issue:
  • When does the vibrating occur the most? When you apply the brakes? When you start your SUV?
  • Does your SUV’s engine shudder when started or after operating?
  • When was the last time you had a wheel alignment done on your SUV?
  • When applying the brakes, does your SUV shake all the time or only at higher speeds?
Answering these questions is important because it can direct you to where the problem lies. To demonstrate, if your SUV’s engine lacks a spark, you might notice the engine shudder when starting the vehicle or during its operation. If this happens, solving the problem could be as simple as replacing the spark plugs or even changing the air filter. Meanwhile, if the problems occur when you conduct maneuvers such as cornering or braking, then it can be a variety of problems from poor alignment to warped brake rotors. In either event, it’s important to note when and where these problems happen so when you take your SUV in for service, it makes it easier for the mechanic to identify the issue.

Warning Noises

Your SUV can tell you when it’s time to bring it in for service by the noise it produces. Here are some noises to watch out for:
  • A grinding or screeching noise when you apply the brake.
  • Starting your SUV prompts it to make a squealing noise.
  • Your vehicle rumble during drives. .
If your SUV makes these or other unfamiliar sounds, it indicates a change in its condition. Overall, if you remain vigilant you can catch telltale signs when your SUV changes. As it changes by way of rougher handling, louder noises or unusual smells, it’s important to promptly address the situation. When you do, you can minimize the amount of damage done to your SUV.

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