Car Trouble? 9 Common Questions That Shouldn't Make You Feel Dumb

It's pretty easy to be unprepared for the unexpected.

Picture this: You're cruising along the open road and the next thing you know, you hear a weird noise, see smoke, or hit a huge bump. Time to start panicking (or still wonder if you should call your dad), right? When it comes to car trouble, anything can happen—especially on a long road trip. You don't have to feel dumb asking these common car questions if they ever happen to you. But you can get prepared instead.

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"How do I change a flat tire?"

man kicking flat tire
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If you've never experienced a sudden flat tire, consider yourself lucky. Doesn't it always seem to happen when you least expect it? Don't get stranded on the side of the road or wait for the tow truck to show up. Grab the tools and learn how to jack it up and change it yourself so you can get moving again.

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"Why won't my car start?"

car start ignition
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Yup, you put the key in the ignition, turn it, and... nothing. Or just some pathetic attempt from the engine. Unfortunately there are lots of reasons under the hood for why your car won't start. So pop it open and let's take a look at some of the possibilities.

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"Is my battery dead?"

car battery jumper cables
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Well, this one's never good either. And often, a dead car battery can be your own fault if you leave your headlights on or the trunk open for an extended period of time. Learn what keeps your battery life healthy (and invest in some jumper cables in case you need to power up).

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"Why is there smoke everywhere?"

car smoking and overheating
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If your car is overheating, prepare for an annoying and expensive issue. But the good news is there are only a few things that most often cause an overheated engine. And you can learn to prevent them all.

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"What does the 'check engine' light mean?"

check engine light
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"There's nothing fun about those two words. There's also not a lot of logic in them. Check engine? Could they be a little more specific? Nope, they can't. That's because the check engine light comes to life if anything, and we do mean anything, isn't 100% under the hood. This means that you could be staring at a major repair, or your gas cap could be too loose (no kidding)." — Matthew Wright, Auto Repair Expert

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"Why is my car shaking?"

car trouble
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Even if your car isn't brand spankin' new, it should still give you a smooth ride. So if your car is shaking all over the road (or even when you're sitting completely still), it's time to do some investigating.

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"Why are my brakes making that crazy noise?"

car brakelights
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We're talking about more than just the occasional "screeech" as you slam on the brakes. Although, you should probably look into that, too. Your car might also make some weird grinding noises that can spell trouble and be really unsafe if you don't address them quickly.

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"Should I drive when the roads are flooding?"

car in flooded street
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In inclement weather, street flooding can happen rapidly and cause major damage to your car. Driving in flood waters is incredibly dangerous and not recommended. Learn how to stay safe inside your car and what to do when the storm is over.

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"Why won't my car radio turn off?"

car radio
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We know you've been listening to Taylor Swift on an endless loop. But what happens when it's out of your control? Yes, sometimes your car radio can have a mind of its own, but you can figure out how to uncross those wires.