The engine is the literal heart of your car. It converts heat energy from burning fuel into mechanical work. This process causes the wheels of the car to move and ultimately take you from point A to point B. If your engine fails, your vehicle is as good as scrap metal. Fortunately, this component is built to last, even in cheaper cars.

As time goes on, however, the parts in your engine can wear down, causing your engine’s performance to dip. If you let it go without repairs, the heart of your car may just give out entirely.As with any issue, preventing it is always better than repairing it. You don’t want your high profile vehicle to suddenly stop on the road because of an engine problem. It almost always results in expensive towing and repair bills. The engine often provides clear signs when it’s about to fail.

Here are the worrying sights and sounds you should definitely look out for.

Too Much Smoke

It’s completely normal for today’s vehicles to release clear smoke. If it’s any other color, however, it’s a clear signal that there’s something wrong with your engine.

  • Black smoke – This could mean that your engine is burning excess fuel. The problem could come from your fuel injector and exhaust gas regulation valve. It could also mean that your air filter is clogged.
  • White smoke – White, wispy smoke isn’t a problem during winter. This often happens when you start your car cold. This is because the cold weather creates condensation inside your vehicle’s tailpipe. When your car heats up, it turns these droplets of water into steam that eventually goes away as you use your car. If it does this on a warm day, however, it might have issues like a broken fuel pump or coolant leakage.
  • Blue smoke – This is a sign that your engine is burning a lot of oil. This is often caused by a faulty Positive Crankcase Ventilation (PCV) valve. Burnt oil may also lead to internal damage. As such, you might end up with broken valve seals and piston rings. Your mechanic may need to bring out a complete engine rebuild set to fix these issues.

Things That Go Bump

If you’ve been driving your car for years, or even months, you’ve probably become accustomed to the way it sounds and feels. You can tell there’s something wrong with it when you hear an unfamiliar noise while driving it.

  • Grinding – Grinding sounds don’t always come from the engine. A lot of times, they come from brake pads that are so worn out that the metal backing plate comes into the brake disc, creating a high-pitched grinding noise. Another reason could be that your clutch is worn out and that there are deeper problems in your car’s transmission system.
  • Knocking – If you hear any knocking or thumping sound originating from the engine, it’s likely that the rod bearings are wearing out, or worse, failing. Rod bearings are responsible for creating the rotating motion for the pistons in your engine. If they break down, your whole engine goes down along with them.
  • Squealing – Another sound that engines make when they’re malfunctioning is squealing. When you hear your car belting high-notes while you’re on the road, its drive belt may be loose or worn out. This is a flexible and durable rubber belt that’s placed on different parts of the engine to transfer power from one component to another. Although they’re often built to last, their rubber construction can degrade because of heat and constant wear. If you see any tears or cracks on your drive belt, get it replaced immediately.

Suspicious Leaks

Some car leaks are harmless, like the one from your car’s air conditioner on a hot and humid day. It removes moisture from the air inside the cabin and drains it away from your car. However, if your car is leaking colored or dark fluid, your engine may be losing crucial oil or coolant. If you suspect that this is the case, stop at your local auto repair shop to get it looked at. Too much leakage can create problems that require expensive repairs to fix.

While every part of your vehicle plays an important role, no component is more vital than the engine. When it breaks down, your car is sure to come to a full-stop. This part lets you know if there’s something wrong with it through visual and auditory cues like weird smoke from your tailpipe and loud, annoying noises.

There’s no one who knows your car better than you do, so pay attention to it. And if you hear, see, or feel anything out of the ordinary, get it to a professional mechanic immediately. You’ll thank yourself when you prevent a potentially catastrophic engine problem.