Engine Performance

The performance of a vehicle is a primary reason of why one vehicle is chosen versus another at the time of purchase.  Whether in the market for a safe, reliable family vehicle or looking for that dream sports car, knowledge of the basics will set you up to be performance conscientious.

We all want our vehicles to last as long as possible and that requires repair.  Familiarity with the basics of engine performance will make you aware of potential issues that arise in instances such as the “Check Engine Light” coming on, or if you notice fluid leakage or detect strange noises or smells from your vehicle.  Being conscientious of engine performance basics will serve you well in taking care of your vehicle.

Engine problems can be very involved.  While the check engine light is the first indicator that something is wrong, the diagnosis of it is much more involved. Diagnostic equipment helps us detect where the problem is coming from, whether with the powertrain, body or chassis.  Additionally, we perform visual inspections as necessary.  Sometimes the underlying issues can range from corrosion, weather, rust and even pesky critters such as mice chewing through wiring and clogging up vehicle airways.

Identifying Engine Fluids

An occasional drop of fluid may not be indicative of an issue, but larger wet spots and puddles should be addressed immediately.  The various engine fluids can usually be identified by color and consistency, but being familiar with the location of use in the vehicle can prove very helpful.

For example, both power steering fluid and transmission fluid are reddish or light brown in color, but power steering fluid would be leaking near the front of the car, whereas transmission fluid would be dripping from the middle section underneath the car.

Spots near the rear or exhaust of your car are generally condensation of the air conditioning and not something to be alarmed about.

Brake fluid is clear or usually slightly yellow and would appear near the wheels.  If you see this type of leak, it is advised not to even drive the vehicle, as the slightest amount could impact the safety and mechanics of your braking system.

Anti-freeze is a greasy fluid with a yellow, green or pink tint and drips would be located in the front of the vehicle near the radiator. This protects cars from overheating, so if you notice a leak, have it checked immediately.

Engine oil is light brown to black and would be seen under the front portion of the vehicle.  If your vehicle frequently leaks oil, having it checked is ideal. It is advised to check the oil range regularly to ensure it is in the safe range.  This is done while the car engine is cool and on level ground.

Recognizing Engine Odors

Strange odors can also be indicators of engine troubles.  Be aware and don’t ignore them.

  • Smell of burning rubber usually means belts slippage or loose hoses rubbing against drive pulleys, etc.
  • A sweet syrup smell may be a sign that the engine coolant is leaking.
  • A burning carpet odor could indicate brake trouble.
  • Gasoline smell when not at the pump station is typically a sign of a gas leak in the tank or fuel injector line and is potentially very dangerous.


These are some of the primary highlights of a vehicle’s engine performance.  We are happy to answer any questions you may have.