Have you noticed that your car is driving a little differently than usual lately? Cars have many mechanical, electrical, and electronic components that can fail, but not every failure warrants immediate attention. Some problems are more urgent than others, however. If your car is suffering from any of these three worrying warning signs, then it's time to schedule an appointment with a local auto center immediately.

1. Changes in Braking Behavior

Most modern cars include sacrificial brake sensors that alert you to worn-out brake pads. If you see your brake maintenance light illuminate, then it's time to schedule a brake service as soon as possible. Changes in braking behavior before the light comes on can be even more concerning. In this case, an essential component may be failing.

Pay special attention to changes in pedal feel, grinding noises, any reduction in stopping power, or vibrations when using the brakes. If your brake pedal ever begins to feel spongy or falls to the floor, stop driving the car and schedule an appointment immediately. Any change in pedal feel can indicate a hydraulic fluid leak, which may lead to total brake failure.

2. Burning or Leaking Oil

Your car's oil serves as a critical lubricant to keep the internal engine parts operating smoothly. Motor oil also helps the coolant to maintain a steady temperature inside the engine. If the oil level falls too low, it can rapidly cause damage to expensive motor components. Operating with low oil for too long also increases wear and can reduce the motor's lifespan.

While it may seem like you can top up your oil whenever it gets too low, you should consider any oil loss a critical problem. Forgetting to add oil even once can turn a relatively low-cost leak repair into a multi-thousand-dollar engine rebuild. If you find that you're losing more than a quart of oil between changes, it's time to get in touch with your local service center immediately.

3. Steering Problems

You rely on your car's steering and suspension components to keep you firmly planted and in control. When these components wear out or fail, it can reduce your ability to control your car in an emergency. Common issues include drifting to one side, tramlining (following cracks or contours), or loose and imprecise steering.

Many of these problems can develop after hitting a particularly nasty pothole or running over a speed bump too hard. You may also notice your steering getting looser over time, which is a common symptom of components aging and wearing out. Even minor problems can impact your ability to react quickly in an emergency, making any of these steering issues worthy of immediate attention.

It can often be tempting to save a few dollars by putting off repairs, but ignoring the wrong problem can lead to more expensive and dangerous failures in the future. Dealing with these critical problems right away will help to keep your car safe while saving you money in the future.