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Warning Signs You Shouldn't Ignore: What To Do When Your Car, Home Or Body Is Trying To Tell You Something

08/07/2012 05:55 EDT | Updated 08/07/2012 06:05 EDT
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A constant ticking. A low grumble. A quick little pop. A drawn out crack. All are sounds and signs your may hear or see in your home, car or even your body. They could mean there’s something you should get checked and repaired right away, or they may simply indicate something harmless that you don’t have to worry about. But how do you know which are which? We tapped the experts to weigh in with their advice.

Warning Signs You Shouldn't Ignore

Body: Pay attention to regular snaps, pops and cracks

Some of the noises your body makes may be caused by ‘non-urgent’ things, says Courtney Hypes, a physiotherapist with Totum Life Science in Toronto. It might be the release of a gas bubble in the joints (“such as during a chiropractic adjustment or when you crack your knuckles,” she says). Or perhaps your joint surfaces are rubbing together if you have arthritis, or your tendons are rolling over a prominent bone. Typically, these types of signs don’t need to be looked at right away, says Hypes. If the sounds or feelings you’re experiencing are new and are lingering, you should go get them checked out. And if there’s pain, especially if it’s affecting your ability to function normally, then there’s no question you should see a health expert.

Body: Get symptoms checked out promptly

“Often people wait too long to see a physiotherapist,” says Hypes. If you try a new activity, it’s normal to have some soreness the day after. But you’ll want to be cautious if the pain lingers more than a few days, or if you feel pain the next time you try the activity again, or if you feel pain when you’re at rest. This is your body telling you to get some help. Other definite signs that warrant medical attention? Bruising and swelling.

Car: Get your brakes checked out

If you notice any continuous noise from your brakes, do not wait for your next routine appointment, as this could potentially be a safety issue. Have your brakes looked at right away, says Angie Johnson, Canadian Tire’s automotive service category manager.

Car: Pay attention to drips and leaks

“All fluids in the engine are vital to a healthy running car,” says Johnson, although she does note that the air conditioning system draws moisture from the car interior’s air and expels it as water, which will appear similar to a leak. With this as the exception, do pay attention to other drips or leaks and bring them to your mechanic’s attention.

Car: Get your engine checked out if it rattles, whirs, groans, you name it

If you’re hearing a symphony of unfamiliar noises from your engine (or perhaps you’re sitting at a red light and you can feel the engine running differently or roughly), they could be a sign of engine problems, says Johnson, who recommends having your car checked out by a mechanic.

Home: Pay attention to squeaks and hums and repair these ones on your own

Calling in someone to repair every little squeak you notice in your home could add up very quickly. There are a number of minor repairs and maintenance tasks homeowners can take on themselves to help prevent more serious issues in the future, says Dave Torrance, director of regional sales at Lowe’s. “Bathroom exhaust fans should be cleaned annually to ensure they are free of dust. Using WD40 or silicone lubricant spray will take away squeaks and vibrations,” he says. Just as easily repaired? Squeaky door hinges. This just calls for some petroleum jelly or WD40, says Torrance, who has several years of home improvement experience. Other maddening noises you can tackle on your own: A drippy faucet might just call for new washers or cartridges, and a continually running toilet most likely means the “trap” and/or the chain to the handle needs replacing.

Home: Get drips and dampness checked out

“The key to avoiding serious leaks is to regularly inspect your home and identify any issues as soon as they begin to occur,” says Torrance. “Tracking down a dripping sound is a process of elimination. The sound may just be the result of ‘sweating’ pipes,” he says, and this can be prevented by insulating them with pipe wrap. Torrance also recommends keeping an eye on the ceilings on all levels of your home (not just the top floor). “Any discolouring or bubbling on a ceiling in a multiple-story house is an early warning of a serious problem. Leaks commonly get worse over time, so catching things such as leaky toilets when the issue first begins will allow a homeowner to resolve the problem before more severe water damage occurs,” he says.

Home: Pay attention to new-home pops and cracks

“Throughout the first year or four seasons of a new home, it’s normal to have minor nail ‘pops,’ hairline cracks and squeaks in floors as the house continues to settle,” says Torrance. “These issues will typically be addressed by your new home builder.”

Appliances: Pay attention to the manuals of your new appliances

Before you put in a call in to have someone check out something with a new appliance you’re concerned about, read your owner’s manual first. “These manuals contain detailed information on how to use the appliances and what customers should watch for, including a section called, ‘What to review before you call for service,’ or a similar title,” says Eric Brugier, Sears Canada technical services and training manager. “Reviewing this section carefully can save you time, money and inconvenience.”

Appliances: Get to know your new appliances before calling in for a repair

“New product noises and cycle selections are usually the cause of service calls during the first few weeks of a product in a customer home,” says Brugier. These are often regular functions of your appliances—ones you’re simply not accustomed to. A common noise that often alarms homeowners is the noise generated during the wash and spin cycles of a laundry machine, especially with heavy items such as towels. For this, all you need to do is redistribute the weight of the articles in the machine, Brugier says.

Appliances: Get anything that sparks, smokes or shocks checked out right away

Do not use any appliance that sparks, smokes or gives an electric shock. Disconnect it immediately and put in the call for service, Brugier says. Another sign of a major electrical issue is the continual resetting of electrical breakers when using an appliance, he says. Again, call for service as soon as possible.

Appliances: Get these common warning signs checked out before they potentially become bigger problems

Your appliances are telling you to call for service if any of the following common issues occur:

Fridges: Needing to adjust the thermostat at a setting higher than expected to get the proper coolness. “If not addressed quickly, the refrigerator has the potential to malfunction, causing possible loss of food,” Brugier says.

Dishwashers: Leaks during or after usage, which could damage your kitchen.

Ranges/stoves: Having to continually adjust the baking temperatures in the oven to get the proper temperature. “This indicates a potential issue with the oven thermostat,” says Brugier.

Laundry machine: “Noisy metal/bearing sounds during spin cycles could be an indication of wear of functional mechanical parts,” says Brugier.

Keep things in good working order

Don’t wait for that ounce of prevention to become a pound of heartache – it’s always best to keep things in good shape with regular maintenance. The list above is a good place to start, and there are no end of resources available on the internet to keep you updated on warning signs to watch for. Bottom line: pay attention to the pop.

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