mechanics.SE is not a forum

It's Q&A. Not Q&Q. Nor Q&Commentary. Nor Q&Chit-Chat.

The seasoned SE veterans understand the rules, but the new users don't and we ought to help them make a smooth transition.

I'd like to use this Meta post to highlight to the new users what they should understand about the workings of this site.

The idea is to have something more specific to mechanics.SE than the generic tour. Contrasting mech.SE with a regular forum will help, in my opinion.

I'm especially looking to our recently-joined users to help us in this regard as well, since their transition experience will be fresh in their minds.

Topics to be addressed

General Stack Exchange


Thanks in advance

  • 2
    I'm not entirely sure what you are looking for here. Were you hoping people will add answers to this question which would fill out what is wanted/not-wanted of new users here on this SE? How did you exactly want us to proceed? Commented Jan 5, 2016 at 22:42
  • @Paulster2 I've jotted down a few examples of topics that each answer to this Meta post can address. As and when answers get posted I can link to them from the question itself
    – Zaid
    Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 12:52
  • 7
    I think this is the perfect way to create a straightforward FAQ: put the list of questions in the "question". Answer the questions in a single community wiki answer.
    – Bob Cross Mod
    Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 13:35
  • 1
    Thanks for the clarification and concur with @BobCross ... :D Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 19:42
  • 2
    Great work Zaid. I appreciate the effort you are putting into this. I hope others follow suit with more. Commented Jan 8, 2016 at 20:53
  • I don't wish to demean the effort here, but I think it's necessary to point out that the "General Stack Exchange" topics are pretty well covered in the help center. "Why and how are some answers deleted?" | "How to not be a spammer" Unless you believe there is guidance that's needed for these that's very specific to Mechanics, I think it would be best to leave that stuff in its place, rather than trying to re-write it and maintain a second copy.
    – jscs
    Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 19:04
  • 1
    I think we should try to add some of these points to the tour page and make it mandatory to actually read the tour page before you can post or anything
    – George
    Commented Jan 18, 2016 at 21:14
  • 1
    @bob Hey, any objections to adding a FAQ tag, too? We could possibly break some of these out into their own FAQ posts as well.
    – Jason C
    Commented Aug 26, 2016 at 2:45
  • 1
    So you're proposing turning the answers to this question into a type of FAQ/Documentation?
    – rogerdpack
    Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 19:34
  • Hi Zaid! I realize I'm coming to this a year after it was posted, but I want to say how great this is! I wish my other sites did similar things. @George, sadly I've learned that very little customization is allowed in the tour, or Help Center, so even if people read them, they don't learn what they need to know. This type of post is much more helpful. You folks are doing a great job of caring for newbies! Lastly, I love all the activity in this meta! It's hard work for no rep but you're doing it, and setting a great example! Commented Jan 7, 2017 at 23:02
  • In my experience, FAQs like this (and below) are VERY useful - but not in the way many think. FAQs act more as a reference for the existing in-the-know community to use in supplying consistent answers to a - generally newer - user's question, than as an actual reference that a new user will read. Not all, but many new users don't look for them.
    – mike65535
    Commented Nov 6, 2018 at 16:53

14 Answers 14


I'm hearing noises. Can you help me figure out what it is?

We can try.

The more information you can provide about the noise, the better the chances of getting an accurate diagnosis.

Consider providing the following information:

  • How would you describe the noise?

    Common: squeaking, grinding, rattling, whirring, chirping, groaning, thumping, metallic, tapping

  • Where does it sound like the noise is coming from?

    Common: engine bay, cabin interior, wheels, brakes, suspension

  • Is the noise always present when the engine is running or is it intermittent?

    • If it is intermittent, under what conditions does the noise appear?

      Common: acceleration, braking, turning, vehicle moving, heavy loads, steering, in gear

  • When did you first notice the noise? Did you notice it all of a sudden or was the onset gradual?

  • Does the vehicle behave any differently after you started noticing the noise?

[I'm hearing noises. Can you help me figure out what it is?](https://mechanics.meta.stackexchange.com/a/1471/675)
  • 3
    Additionally - does the noise go faster/slower when <X>? Commented Feb 25, 2016 at 20:22
  • As a non-native speaker, I have yet to figure out the difference between thumping and tapping. Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 12:33
  • 1
    @Dmitry I guess I never though about that :D There's no definitive difference, but tapping will generally be a lighter sound, whereas thumping would be a heavier, often lower pitched sound. If you're tapping something with your finger, you'll usually be using the tip of your finger, while thumping could be multiple fingers (harder), or could be a flick.
    – Cullub
    Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 17:37
  • @DmitryGrigoryev thumping is like slapping the water gallon or drum in general or stomp the foot on the ground. tapping is a gentle tap like you tapping the phone. Commented Dec 31, 2020 at 20:37
  • but I'm new to this one, isn't it the question on diagnostic is making the question back to the OP? and making it categorize to comment section not answer? I did it before but somebody pointing out it is not the answer and should be in the comment section. making me dilemma to answer this kind of question. Commented Dec 31, 2020 at 20:40

Why am I being asked to connect a scan tool to my vehicle? Why am I being asked for Diagnostic Trouble Codes?

Because they can provide invaluable data to help narrow down the cause of an issue/behavior. Without them, it could be very difficult to make a call on what could be wrong with the vehicle right in front of you, never mind over the Internet! DTC's tell you what the car's computers are sensing. They are like a window into the condition of its various subsystems.

It usually isn't that difficult or expensive to obtain the DTC's on vehicles with OBD-II (most vehicles manufactured after 1995). Good mechanics' shops will usually carry a dedicated scan tool, as do auto supply stores. For those who like to DIY their way out of issues, OBD-II ELM327 readers that can pair with a smartphone are cheap and widely available, as are the smartphone apps that allow one to "read the codes".

[Why am I being asked for Diagnostic Trouble Codes?](https://mechanics.meta.stackexchange.com/a/1470/675)

My vehicle refuses to start. What information should I provide?

The following information is useful for diagnosis.

  • Mention whether the engine cranks over or not. "Cranking" is when the starter engages the flywheel to turn the engine.
  • Do any of the lights work (say with key turned to on) - especially headlights - and are they bright white as opposed to a dim white/yellow?
  • Is the issue intermittent, so does fail to start occasionally or all the time? Does it fail to start when the engine is cold or hot (or both)?
  • Did the vehicle have a history of starting problems?
  • Does it crank over and does it sound like it always has or is it different now?
  • Can you hear the fuel pump?
  • Did you check the fuses?
  • Are there any strange noises?
  • Are the battery terminals tight?
  • Does the engine have spark?
  • Does the rest of the car seem to function normally?
  • Is it getting fuel? Pull a sparkplug and sniff
  • What voltage does the battery read?
  • What is the condition of the starter?
  • Do you hear any other (either abnormal, or normal) sounds? If so, what are they?
  • Consider posting a short video of the (failed) starting attempt(s). A picture (or a short video, in this case) is worth a thousand words.

[My vehicle refuses to start. What information should I provide?](https://mechanics.meta.stackexchange.com/a/1518/675)
  • 5
    A short video of the instruments during a crank/start attempt is worth a thousand words. This has been super helpful with our occasional no start cars, ones that will start a hundred times in the shop but not the morning after we send it home. Commented Feb 13, 2016 at 5:46

Something's wrong with my vehicle and there's a Check Engine Light. What information do I need to provide?

This is when we get to say

Do you haz teh codez?

And by "codez" we mean DTC's. A Freeze Frame would be especially welcome.

All of this in addition to the make, model, year and engine of your vehicle, and any changes in behavior that you are noticing with the vehicle.

[Check Engine Light. What information do I need to provide?](https://mechanics.meta.stackexchange.com/a/1473/675)
  • 1
    I think this might be too technical when sharing with an OP that they need to get their car scanned. Getting a Freeze Frame can be difficult too, especially if they get their car scanned at auto parts store and it can't be hooked to their laptop. I think list of codes is what we need to deal with along with how they can their car scanned for free so 'next step' can be taken. Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 1:46

Have I provided enough information regarding my problem?

The bare essentials for any diagnosis-based problem will include:

  • vehicle make, model and year
  • a clear description of the issue(s) at hand

Some problems may require clarification of the engine as well.

In addition to this further information may be required. Site users will guide you as to what additional information they feel is required to adequately address the problem.

[Have I provided enough information regarding my problem?](https://mechanics.meta.stackexchange.com/a/1474/675)
  • There have been many questions that I have passed on because the answer required looking up info, wiring diagrams or such. So yeah, YMM is essential. Some other venues of this type require or strongly encourage providing this data. Commented Feb 13, 2016 at 5:39

Where can I go to update my profile or see what privileges I have?

It can be frustrating to figure out where to go to update your profile picture or to see what privileges you have available to you (or even see your next privilege level and what the actual privileges are). Follow these instructions:

  • Click on your user name at the top of the page which shows how many points you've earned.

enter image description here

  • Once there click on sub-tab entitled Edit Profile & Settings

enter image description here

There you'll find the following preference settings and areas to view:

  • Edit Profile - Allows you to edit your publicly viewed information and avatar image.
  • Preferences - Allows you to set email address for notifications, newsletter, and such.
  • Flair - Gives you the code so you can place flair on any website to show off your user profile.
  • Applications - Gives you a list of applications you have authorized with your Stack Exchange account, such as the Stack Exchange app for iOS or Android.
  • My Logins - Shows the main login you use to log into SE. You can also change your password here, or remove it entirely.
  • Hide Communities - Choose which communities will appear in the Communities and Top Network Posts sections of your profile
  • Privileges - A link to the privileges page. Privileges control what you can do on Motor Vehicles Stack Exchange. Gain more privileges by increasing your reputation (points you receive from your fellow users for posting helpful questions and answers).

[Where can I go to update my profile or see what privileges I have?](https://mechanics.meta.stackexchange.com/a/1486/675)
  • This is generic website usage guidance, not "Why Mechanics.SE is not a forum". It could make sense as its own Q&A combo post (there is precedent), but I don't see that it fits under this question.
    – jscs
    Commented Jan 11, 2016 at 19:03
  • The reason why it fits here (IMHO) is because if people would just fill this area out, it would answer a lot of questions for us who want to answer questions. One of the primary concerns being where in the heck do you live ... that little bit of information could help out tremendously. While it is aimed at new people making the transition, it really helps those who've been here a while know the OP and their possible issues. Commented Jan 11, 2016 at 21:23
  • 1
    Okay, that definitely makes sense. Can I suggest editing this to make the Mechanics connection explicit, then? (Or I'll try to do it when I get a chance.)
    – jscs
    Commented Jan 11, 2016 at 22:06
  • I don't have an issue as this is a community wiki ... but does that really matter? Please update as you feel necessary, though. Commented Jan 11, 2016 at 22:14

What kind of questions are not a good fit for this site?

Motor Vehicles Maintenance & Repair Stack Exchange is for mechanics and DIY-enthusiast owners of cars, trucks, or motorcycles. This also pertains to anything which has an internal combustion engine, such as lawn equipment or farming tractors.

Questions related to the maintenance and repair of motor vehicles and their accessories, internal combustion engines, even in applications other than automotive so long as the question is related to engine or engine accessories.

For more information you can check these meta questions or post your own.

Please look around to see if your question has been asked before. It’s also OK to ask and answer your own question.

Specifically, asking questions about the costs of repairs or parts, where to find parts, and the like are not good questions. The main reason these questions should be avoided is because pricing is subjective to where you live. Pricing is also volatile. It might be one cost today, but next week or next year the price is likely to change, making the answer obsolete very quickly. Asking direct questions which are specific to a problem or a lack of knowledge about how vehicles work are a much better fit.

[What kind of questions are not a good fit for this site?](https://mechanics.meta.stackexchange.com/a/1520/675)

How do I express my agreement or disagreement with a certain statement/comment/answer?

A couple of ways:

  • Through voting

    Voting drives the reputational economy of Stack Exchange. Depending on their reputation, users can indicate the usefulness (or lack of it) by voting on answers.

    In the event of a downvote, please be courteous and provide an explanation for the downvote.

  • Commenting on posts

    Comments are a useful means to request clarification, provide additional information or raise a concern.

Things to avoid:

  • Since this is a Q&A site, new answers should not be posted if the main intent is to comment on someone else's answer or discuss a side issue that does not address the question.

  • Serial upvoting

  • Extended discussions in comments. Chatrooms are a much better avenue for that kind of banter.

[How do I express my agreement or disagreement with a certain statement/comment/answer?](https://mechanics.meta.stackexchange.com/a/1502/675)

Why can't I just post my question in the same "thread"?

This isn't a discussion forum. Each page is a standalone question that is designed to be answered.

  • If you have an answer to the question which isn't reflected in existing answers, we'd love you to post it up!

  • If you need to request clarification from the person asking the question, you can seek it using the comments section under the question provided you have at least 50 reputation points.

  • If you have the same question but are not satisfied with the existing answers (or lack of it), you can start a bounty to draw more attention if you have enough reputation.

  • If your question is slightly different, use the Ask Question link in the top-right of the screen to post your query as its own separate question.

  • If you want to second someone's answer or say thank you, that's what the voting system is for.

[Why can't I just post my question in the same "thread"?](https://mechanics.meta.stackexchange.com/a/1472/675)

I posted something; why was it deleted?

Posts are deleted for any of several different reasons. You may have posted a question as an answer, or the question you've posted does not meet the criteria threshold as a question. There are several reasons a question you've posted may have been deleted:

  • There is insufficient information in the question for anyone to make a sane or rational guess as to what your asking. Usually several attempts through the comments will be made to elicit further information from you so the question can be answered. Sometimes, when the asker has left no real information with which to work with and attempts to elicit information have proven fruitless, the question will be put forth for deletion to help keep the site clean and tidy.
  • If the question is a duplicate of another question, it will quickly be closed. There will be annotation as to the duplicate question and you should be able to find your answer there.
  • The question may be off topic. This means, it's not a fit for the site. Two main reasons why a question may be off-topic:
    • You are asking for shopping assistance, whether a new car or a part for your car (which part should I buy? X or Y?). The main reason these questions will be closed is because they are usually only good for a certain amount of time (prices will vary over time and also, they are fraught with opinion as to which is the best). Also, what happens if product X is no longer available? In that case, the answer becomes moot.
    • You are asking for instructions on how to best drive your vehicle. This is truly in the realm of opinion, as everyone will have a different answer. These types of answers usually bring mayhem, therefor are not a good fit for the site.
  • If it appears the question you are asking is actually just spam ... that sucker is gone.

If you believe your question was deleted in error, you can always apply to have the question reopened, or you can ask a new question. If you go this route, please follow the advice given in the comments when it was closed. Make the question better, or ask a new question. The main goal here is for you to help us to help you. We want to help, but you need to give us enough so we can make that come to fruition!

There are two main reasons an answer may have been deleted:

  • You posted an answer which was more or less a comment to another post. You may see comments below your post such as:
    • This does not provide an answer to the question. Once you have sufficient reputation you will be able to comment on any post; instead, provide answers that don't require clarification from the asker.
    • Please don't add "thank you" as an answer. Once you have sufficient reputation, you will be able to vote up questions and answers that you found helpful.
  • You posted a question as an answer. You may see comments below your post such as:
    • This does not really answer the question. If you have a different question, you can ask it by clicking Ask Question. You can also add a bounty to draw more attention to this question once you have enough reputation.
    • If you have a new question, please ask it by clicking the Ask Question button. Include a link to this question if it helps provide context.

Also, link only questions are not a good thing to post. These will get deleted because they really don't contain any information. The better way to answer a question is by copying the information from the originator and give credit where credit is due.

[I posted something; why was it deleted?](https://mechanics.meta.stackexchange.com/a/1748/675)

This is a compilation of first questions to ask people. This should be an easy way to pull necessary info from people and let them generate real concise questions without the back and forth of gathering needed info.

information to include with all questions

  • make
  • model
  • year
  • engine
  • sub model (le, se, gt, lariat, xe, xlt, sj, etc)
  • manual or automatic transmission
  • mileage
  • recent repairs, parts replaced, and modifications
  • recent things that happened (ran over a curb, found something suspicious, power washed my engine, hit an unusually large pothole, smelled a funny smell briefly but it went away, basically anything you can think of that may have caused or help cause the current issue)
  • has the problem happened before
  • is the car under a dealer warranty or any other warranty? if it is we highly suggest they take care of it if you do the work it may violate your warranty. If the dealer keeps failing to fix the problem and you are looking for what it may be please let us know and someone may be able to help.
  • can you upload pictures, video, or audio of the problem? you can use the upload feature on this website for pictures and you can link to youtube for video and audio.
  • when did the problem start
  • did the problem start immediately or gradually please explain in detail
  • are their any error codes? have someone read the codes off the car's computer or you can get an inexpensive bluetooth obd2 reader from amazon and many parts stores have a rental / loaner tool policy
  • any smoke or smells that may be associated with the problem

information that should be included with "car does not start" questions

  • what voltage does your battery read
  • does it crank over and does it sound like it always has or is it different now?
  • can you hear your fuel pump
  • did you check your fuses
  • is there any strange noises? can you record them and upload them?
  • are your battery terminals tight?
  • do you have spark?
  • does the rest of the car seem to function normally?
  • is it getting fuel? pull a sparkplug and sniff

car "makes a funny noise" questions

  • can you record the noise
  • when does this happen, be extremely detailed
  • can you pinpoint the location of the noise? you can buy and probably borrow a mechanic's stethoscope to try and locate it if it's while the car is stopped.

car is slow, sluggish, no longer as peppy questions

  • have you checked your engine, trans, and diff, oil?
  • does the engine sound any different
  • does the engine rev but the trans does not seem to grab
  • what colors are your spark plugs? can you take a picture of them and upload it? keeping them in the same order as they came out will let us tell which cylinder the problem may be in.

car didn't pass a smog / inspection test due to nox or co2 questions

  • what is the temp readings on the exhaust pipe just before and just after each catalytic converter? you want to make sure you are not getting the temp of the heat shield. You can get an infrared thermometer they are pretty inexpensive.
  • what voltages are all your oxygen sensors putting out?
  • can you upload your last test results
  • can you upload a picture of what all your spark plugs look like? keep them in line with the way they came out this will let us tell which cylinder may have the issue.
  • how often do you need to add oil to your engine
  • do you have any exhaust leaks before the catalytic converters

car won't shift into, out of, or has problems with x gear(s)

  • be very specific with the answers at the very top of this post
  • which gear is it
  • does it shift in but gets stuck, shifts out then gets stuck, skips a gear, car doesn't move when in x gear

my brakes don't work

  • what happens when hitting the brake pedal? immediately goes to floor, feels firm, slowly goes to floor, doesn't go to floor but gets close, is the brake pedal still attached to the car, or is there something else happening with the pedal when it is pushed?
  • how low is your brake fluid?
  • when were your pads and shoes changed? which wheels were they changed on? how many miles ago was it?
  • which wheels are having issues?
  • is your abs light on? if it is please upload any error codes after scanning the computer with an obd2 reader.
  • when hitting the brakes does the car pull left or right?
  • do you see shiny flakes of metal around the wheel(s) where the problem is?
  • do you see lots of black brake dust around the wheel(s) where the problem is?
  • when was the last time you had your rotors resurfaced or replaced? how many miles ago was it? and which wheels?
  • did you use the brake grease last time the pads were changed? If so which side of the pad was it applied to?
  • if it makes noise or a vibration when does this occur? no braking, heavy braking, normal braking, feathering the brakes?

I will add more later feel free to add answers with more relevant questions for the questioners.

  • Maybe this should be split into a couple different answers (?)
    – Cullub
    Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 17:49

Can I promote product X or service Y?

It depends. Posting a question or an answer that exists only to promote a product or service is called spamming, and will be subject to deletion as such.

enter image description here

For more information, check out How to not be a spammer.

On the other hand, if your post is attempting to answer a question legitimately, and you have found a that a certain product does a superior job, it is certainly not illegitimate to post that in your answer as a part of the solution. Good illustrations of this kind of posts would include:

[Can I promote product X or service Y?](https://mechanics.meta.stackexchange.com/a/1829/675)
  • Thanks for posting this, I've linked it to the question
    – Zaid
    Commented Dec 7, 2016 at 13:29
  • @Zaid, thanks! Forgot about that... :)
    – anonymous2
    Commented Dec 7, 2016 at 14:14

My car is overheating. What information should I provide?

Almost always mandatory information

  • Vehicle make/model/year
  • Were any parts replaced recently?

Operability - Is the vehicle losing coolant? - Does the overheating occur gradually or suddenly (within a few minutes of engine running)? - Is the vehicle overheating at idle? - Is the vehicle overheating at highway speeds? - Is the vehicle overheating with the A/C on? - Is the vehicle overheating with the A/C off?

Not strictly mandatory, but useful to narrow down possible root causes

If you're trying to figure out what's wrong, please try to provide as much information as you can: Radiator fans

  • How many radiator fans does the vehicle have?
  • Are the radiator fans electric or driven off the crankshaft (viscous-clutch-type)?
  • Are the radiator fan(s) running? Do additional fans turn on when the vehicle is up to temperature and the A/C is turned on?


  • Are the fins mostly straight or bent? A picture of the overall radiator would be useful.
  • Is there any debris or physical obstruction in front of the radiator?

Water pump

  • How old is the water pump?

Coolant Hoses - What general condition are the hoses in? Age? Cracks? Are they mushy? - Does the lower coolant hose feel hot or cold?


Head gasket/Cylinder deck

[My car is overheating. What information should I provide?](https://mechanics.meta.stackexchange.com/a/1874/675)

Are posts expected to be formal?

In short, write to the best of your ability.

We don't expect every answer to be perfect, but answers with correct spelling, punctuation, and grammar are easier to read. They also tend to get upvoted more frequently. Remember, you can always go back at any time and edit your answer to improve it.

[Are posts expected to be formal?](https://mechanics.meta.stackexchange.com/a/1983/675)
  • 2
    It is not pedantic to expect posts to be relatively clear and well organized, including the use of proper spelling and grammar. Some of us will clean up posts to make them better, but we can only do (guess) so much if the text is too haphazard.
    – mike65535
    Commented Nov 6, 2018 at 16:34

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