Be a Host on Car Talk Radio and Solve These Car Problems

By: Kale Havervold
Estimated Completion Time
6 min
Be a Host on Car Talk Radio and Solve These Car Problems
Image: EXTREME-PHOTOGRAPHER/E+/Getty Images

About This Quiz

While the internet is full of solutions and answers to all of your car problems and questions, it wasn't always like that. Back in the day, Car Talk radio was incredibly popular. Car experts would field calls from people with questions or problems about their vehicles and look to answer them on-air. The Car Talk radio show ran on NPR from 1977 to 2012 and was incredibly popular, winning many awards.

As you could imagine, it takes a lot of car knowledge to be a host on one of these shows. You need to know a lot about vehicles and how to solve the common problems that plague them. Many people reading this might fancy themselves experts on all things automotive, but do you think you've got enough knowledge to hang with the experts?

If you are curious to find out, you're in luck. This quiz is going to pose you with many different car problems and issues for you to solve. They could be anything from smelling something weird, hearing something strange and a wide range of other common issues drivers face. Also, we'll look at a few tidbits of general car knowledge you should know as well. 

This will give you a chance to play the role of the host of a car talk radio show and answer various questions that would likely be asked by callers. Without any further ado, read on and get ready to test your knowledge of car problems and their solutions. 

What is the most common cause of a car air conditioner not blowing out cold air?
A battery failure
It hasn't been given enough time to cool off.
The car is low on refrigerant.
While there are different reasons why your car might not be blowing cold air through the A/C unit, the most common is a lack of refrigerant. Refrigerant is in charge of cooling your car. A leak can often cause the lack of a suitable amount of refrigerant.
It isn't warm enough outside to need A/C.

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My car brakes are noisy; which is not a potential reason for this?
The brakes are just cold.
While cold can do a lot of negative things to your car, it should not make your breaks noisy. Common reasons for noisy brakes include pads that are worn out, have dust in them or are loose.
Brake pads are loose.
Brake pads have dust in them.
Brake pads are worn out.

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A car battery won't charge while driving; what is most likely the cause of this?
The battery is dead.
Something is wrong with your alternator.
When you are driving your car, the alternator is responsible for generating enough power to keep the battery juiced up. If the battery isn't charging or is dying while driving, the alternator is the first place you should look.
You haven't driven long enough to start the charge.
A car battery isn't supposed to charge while driving.

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What is the cause of white exhaust smoke?
Using the wrong type of gas for the car
It indicates you are low on gas.
Coolant entering the combustion chamber
If you notice that your car is emitting a white exhaust smoke, it is often due to coolant (or oil) leaking into the combustion chamber. This is often due to a gasket issue.
Some cars just have white exhaust smoke.

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How often should oil be changed?
25,000 miles
500 miles
Every two years
5,000 miles
While this will vary depending on the car, it is generally recommended that you get your oil changed every 5,000 miles. Your owner's manual should have more information if you want more specific advice for your make and model.

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My steering wheel is shaking, why?
Misalignment
Suspension issues
Wheels are unbalanced.
Any of the above could lead to a shaky or vibrating steering wheel.
Driving with a shaking steering wheel, or dealing with one when you're idle, can be a scary feeling. Many different reasons could be causing the steering wheel to vibrate, including the ones we mentioned here.

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How do I know when my tires need to be replaced?
It's been more than six years.
Shallow or worn tread
When they are deeply punctured by a nail
All of the above are reasons to get tires replaced.
Having suitable tires on your car is one of the best ways to stay safe while driving. Thankfully, there are many different signs that will alert you if it is time to replace any or all of your tires.

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Which of these is not a reason for a "check engine" light to appear?
Oxygen sensor failure
Your windshield wiper fluid is low.
Having a check engine light come on is generally a sense of worry for most people. There are many different reasons why it can occur, but having a low windshield wiper fluid won't trigger the indicator.
A loose gas cap
Spark plug issues

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What does brake fluid actually do for my car?
Moving the different components of the braking system
When you press the brakes, brake fluid is sent through the brake lines to each caliper. This then signals your brake pads, which allows your car to stop. So without brake fluid, you would not be able to stop your vehicle effectively.
Prevents ice from forming on breaks.
Keeps brakes cool to the touch.
Only lubricates the brakes and nothing else.

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What is "throwing a rod"?
A piston moves out of place.
The metal connecting the piston to the crankshaft breaks.
Throwing a rod can be incredibly harmful to your vehicle's engine. It is caused when the metal rod that attaches the piston to the crankshaft breaks, and can instantly ruin an engine.
Engine cylinders become locked up.
When you push the gas pedal too quick

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Why does my car have a pool of red fluid under it? I didn't know cars bled?
It is an oil leak that has been left too long.
A coolant leak
Rust mixing with other fluids
It is a transmission fluid leak.
Despite how much it might look like it, don't worry, that red fluid under your car isn't blood. Transmission fluid is red, and it was designed this way so it could be easily identified. If you see this fluid, there is likely a leak somewhere in your transmission.

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My car only clicks when I try to start; what is most likely causing this?
A dead battery
We have all had the harrowing experience of trying to start our car only to be met with a click or ring every time we try to turn the key over. While loose connections and starter issues can cause this, the most common reason is a dead battery.
It's too cold outside.
Not enough gas in the car
Your coolant levels are off.

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What is not essential to look for in a mechanic to work on my car?
Trustworthiness and honesty
Experience in the field
A mechanic who has a nice car themselves
The type of car a mechanic has is no indication of how high quality they are. Instead, you should look for a trustworthy and honest mechanic, with a good reputation and a lot of experience.
A good reputation

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What exactly are spark plugs responsible for doing in a vehicle?
Regulating the temperature of the vehicle
Provides the spark that is responsible for starting a vehicle.
Spark plugs are perhaps one of the most important part of the car's motor. It provides the spark that helps ignite the mixture of air and fuel that ignites the car and keeps it going.
Making sure the car has enough gas
Helping with gear shifting

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I am struggling to change gears while driving; what is this most likely due to?
Issues with the transmission
Struggling to change gears in a car can make it very difficult to drive safely and effectively. Your transmission is likely to blame for this struggle and it could be from an actual failure or just a hose that came loose.
Faulty air filter
Burned oil in the engine
A lack of brake fluid in the car

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I am hearing a loud and annoying squeak every few seconds, what is the most common cause of this?
The steering wheel is too tight.
Your tires aren't aligned.
Your car's belt is likely compromised in some way.
When you pop the hood and check the belt, it will be easy to see it's damaged, but usually, you can hear it squeak while driving. It will be impossible to ignore as it will be quite annoying and happen frequently.
Your windows aren't rolled up all the way.

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What does it mean if my check engine light is flashing?
Something serious is wrong and requires immediate attention.
While a normal check engine light usually isn't a super serious concern immediately, a flashing CEL definitely is. It means your engine is misfiring in some way, and serious damage could be done to the car if you don't get it checked soon.
You need more oil.
It is just a sensor malfunction, don't worry.
Treat it like a regular check engine light.

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What should I do when a headlight bulb burns out?
Replace it or have it replaced with a new bulb.
Just like any light in your home, a headlight bulb can be replaced with another one if it burns out. They cost only a few dollars and changing them out yourself is generally quite simple.
Turn off the car and back on again.
Get a new battery.
Let the car run for five minutes and it should turn back on.

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There is brown fluid that has leaked from a car, what is it?
An oil leak
In a car, there can be many different fluids that can leak. If you notice a brown leak, it is most likely an oil leak. Oil leaks can occur for various reasons including loose seals and connections, wear-and-tear or physical damage to the oil pan.
Coolant leak
Brake fluid leak
Gas leak

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How inflated should my tires be?
10-15 PSI
5-10 PSI
30-35 PSI
Usually, it is recommended that your tire pressure remains between 30-35 PSI. However, each vehicle will have a max PSI listed on the sidewall, if you are curious about what the correct number is for your car.
75-90 PSI

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I accidentally put diesel in my car with a gas-powered engine, what should I do?
Drive it home and then siphon the gas out.
It will be fine, just don't do it again.
Get a tow back to your home and then siphon the gas out.
If you accidentally put diesel in your gas-powered car, you need to act quickly. The longer you leave the diesel in your vehicle, the more damage it can do. However, don't drive the car as that can do more damage, so be sure to get towed home before siphoning all of the diesel out.
Too late, the car is already ruined.

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Why do my car battery terminals look like they have foam, snow or mold growing on them?
It happens when some windshield washer fluid gets near the battery.
It is caused by high temperatures.
Your terminals have corroded.
Corrosion can come in many shapes and sizes from relatively minor cases to some cases where the entire battery is corroded. If you notice a bit of corrosion, you should clean it as if you let it continue to occur, it can potentially damage the battery.
That is used to protect the battery.

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Is there a ghost driving my car? When I turn off the ignition, the car keeps running, what is happening?
Your car is "running-on."
If your car continues running after you have turned the ignition off, it is called running-on. Something is causing the cylinders to continue igniting, which keeps the engine running. Commonly, this is when you use cheap gas in a car that requires higher octane fuel.
This is normal if you have been driving for many hours straight.
Yes, there is a ghost driving your car.
You might have a problem with the ignition switch.

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What to do about a tiny chip in my windshield?
Leave it until it gets worse.
Put some tape over it to prevent it from growing.
Fix it yourself.
Get it repaired as soon as possible.
While a tiny chip will be barely noticeable, it is easy for them to get a lot worse very quickly. As a result, you should move quickly to get even the smallest chip replaced. If not, it could blossom into something much more expensive to fix.

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Help! My car battery has corroded terminals; which is not a correct way to clean the terminals?
Using baking soda in water
Using vinegar
Using Coca-Cola or another similar soda
They are all correct ways to clean a battery terminal.
While corrosion on your batteries can look bad, they are thankfully quite easy to clean. Using baking soda, vinegar or even Coca-Cola can help clean those terminals right up. Of course, if the corrosion is advanced, these methods might not be enough.

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Usually, I smell burnt toast in the kitchen, but why am I smelling it in my car?
A problem with the electrical system
Smelling burnt toast in your car is a common experience when there is an issue with something in the electrical system. Often, this is an electrical short or burning insulation. These are issues which should be dealt with immediately.
Your car has been running too long.
Your air conditioner is broken.
Power-steering fluid is leaking.

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Which is not a sign of alternator problems?
A warning light
Lights in the car are dim.
Slow accessories
All are signs of a potentially faulty alternator.
Having a faulty alternator makes driving incredibly annoying, but at least it is easy to recognize. Slow accessories, a warning light or dim/flickering lights are all signs that you might have a faulty alternator.

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How can you tell if you have a flat tire while driving?
You can't.
You will feel the car tilt and should hear thumps.
While seeing a flat tire is a common way to realize you have one, many will be able to "feel" it while driving. Your car might tilt a bit and you should hear some louder thuds and thumps.
The exposed rim will cause sparks.
You will see the flat in the mirror.

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My turn signal indicator is flashing faster than normal, what's wrong?
It alerts you of someone in your blind spot.
It lets you know a bulb is burnt out.
While seeing a burnt out bulb is easy if you're out of the car, it is impossible to know if all lights are functional while you are driving. As a result, many vehicles come with a feature to speed up the signal light indicator to let you know one of the lights isn't functioning correctly.
Just leave it alone and it should stop.
You need more headlight fluid.

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I smell a funky burning chemical odor in my car after a stressful drive on some hilly roads. What is the most likely reason for this smell?
Low coolant
Overheated brakes
When driving up or down a mountain, you will be using your brakes a lot. Repeated hard breaking is common and can, unfortunately, lead to brakes overheating, which can emit a strong and foul smell.
Too much revving of the engine
Bad spark plugs

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My car brakes are "soft" and don't feel as strong as they are supposed to be. Which is not a reason this could be happening?
There is air in the brake lines.
You're not pushing hard enough.
Nothing quite induces panic in drivers like feeling like your brakes aren't working. Having "soft" breaks can happen for a number of different reasons, but not pushing hard enough isn't one of them. Brakes should be fairly simple to press and should feel very strong and tight.
The disc brake caliper is damaged.
Low brake fluid

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Why does my trunk smell like mold when I open and look into it?
The exhaust is leaking.
Your brake fluid is low.
The weather stripping (which protects the trunk from water and rain) is damaged.
Every car has some weather stripping around the opening of the trunk to water from entering the trunk. If this lining is damaged, water could seep in and could lead to the development of mold.
You overfilled your gas tank.

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I am having trouble steering in a straight line when driving my car in ideal conditions. What could be the issue?
A faulty starter
The fan belt is loose.
Your fuel filter is clogged up.
Misaligned front wheels
There are many different reasons for steering issues (such as worn steering components or even under-inflated tires). But of the options provided, only misaligned wheels could be responsible for handling or steering issues.

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Which is not a warning sign that it is time to get your spark plugs replaced or looked at?
Your car and engine have a rough idle.
Your engine is surging.
Your brakes are softer than usual.
A spark plug is responsible for helping start a car and ensuring it stays that way. If your engine misfires, it has a rough idle or your vehicle surges. No issue with your brakes should have much at all to do with your spark plugs.
Your engine misfires.

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My car has low oil pressure, which of the following is not a potential cause?
Engine bearings that are worn out.
An oil level that is too low
Your car recently got an oil change.
Dealing with low oil pressure in your car can be a frightening thing. There are several different reasons why you could be getting low oil pressure, including a damaged oil pump, a low oil level or worn out engine bearings.
A damaged oil pump

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