Diagnosing the Problem

How to Speak Mechanic
Car trouble systems can indicate minor or major problems with your vehicle. This glossary of terms should help you identify what's going wrong with your vehicle and assist you in letting your technician know exactly what's been happening.
Brake Fade
- Stopping distance seems to increase, causing longer braking distance, similar to braking at high speeds.
Low brake pedal
- Brake pedal must be pushed unusually far to engage brakes.
Brake pedal pulsation
- Brake pedal fluctuates while brakes are applied.
Grabs - Vehicle has a tendency to move right or left when brakes are applied; brakes engage suddenly when applying steady pressure to the brake pedal.

Engine Description
Cuts out

- Temporary complete loss of power. Engine quits at irregular intervals. May occur repeatedly or intermittently, usually under heavy acceleration.
- Mild to severe pings, usually worse under acceleration. Sounds like popcorn popping.
Dieseling - Engine runs after ignition switch is turned off. Runs unevenly and may make knocking noises.
Hesitation - Momentary lack of response as accelerator is pressed. Can occur at any speed. Usually most severe when starting from complete stop. May cause engine to stall.
Miss - Pulsation or jerking that changes with engine speed. Exhaust has a steady spitting sound at idle or low speed. Not normally felt above 50 km/hr.
Rough idle - Engine runs unevenly at idle. Car may also shake.
Sluggish - Engine delivers limited power under load or at high speed. Won't accelerate as fast as normal. Loses speed going up hills. Vehicle has less speed than normal.
Spongy - Little or no increase in speed when accelerator is pushed down. Continuing to push pedal down will eventually give an increase in speed.
Stall - Engine stops running or dies out. May occur at idle or while driving.
Surge - Vehicle speeds up and slows down with no change on accelerator pedal. Can occur at any speed.

Steering & Handling Description
Bottoming - Suspension moves to extreme end of travel and hits compression bumpers. Feels like a heavy thud.
Excessive Play - Steering wheel must be turned unusually far before vehicle responds.

Hard Steering - Vehicle difficult to steer, especially during parking situations or when first started.
Pulls - Vehicle moves to one side when steering wheel is released.
Shimmy - Rapid side-to-side motion of both front wheels felt in steering wheel.
Sway/Pitching - Mushy or spongy ride; vehicle takes a long time to recover from bumps in the road.
Vibration - Vehicle shakes.
Wanders - Vehicle meanders, requiring frequent steering adjustments to maintain direction.

Odours & Stains Description
Antifreeze or coolant leak - Sweet odour, usually accompanied by steam from under the hood.
Axle leaks - Black stains with heavy, thick consistency.
Burning oil - Thick, heavy odour, sometimes accompanied by smoke from under the hood or from the exhaust.
Coolant streaks - Yellow, green, pink, or orange stains that are lighter and thinner than oil.
Crankcase, oil, power-steering fluid leaks - Brownish stains.

Electrical short - Acrid odour, like burned toast.
Emission - Contigious, heavy sulfur odour like rotten eggs.
Overheated brakes or clutch - Burning rubber odour.

Overheating - Hot, metallic odour usually accompanied by antifreeze/coolant odour.
Transmission oil leaks - Reddish stains.