Diagnosing Car Problems & How To Solve Them
Owning a car is a big responsibility, and one of the most important parts of that responsibility is keeping it in good working order. However, no matter how well you maintain your vehicle, it’s bound to develop problems at some point. When that happens, it’s important to know how to diagnose car problems and how to solve them.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll take you through the most common car problems and provide step-by-step instructions for diagnosing and fixing them. From strange noises to warning lights on your dashboard, we’ve got you covered.
So, let’s dive in and learn how to diagnose car problems and how to solve them!
Related Reading: Why Did My Car Fail Its MOT?
Diagnosing Car Problems – 3 Most Common Complaints
1. Listen for Strange Noises
One of the most obvious signs of a car problem is strange noises coming from the engine, wheels, or other parts of the vehicle. Here are some common noises and what they might mean:
- Grinding noise: This could be a sign of worn brake pads or a problem with the transmission.
- Squealing noise: This often indicates worn or loose belts, such as the serpentine belt or the timing belt.
- Hissing noise: A hissing noise could mean that there’s a leak in the engine’s cooling system or a problem with the power steering.
2. Check Warning Lights
Modern cars are equipped with a variety of warning lights on the dashboard, and they’re not to be ignored! Here are some common warning lights and what they might mean:
- Check Engine Light: This could mean a variety of things, from a loose petrol cap to a serious problem with the engine.
- Battery Light: This means that there’s a problem with the charging system, which could be caused by a faulty alternator, battery, or wiring.
- ABS Light: This means that there’s a problem with the Anti-Lock Braking System, which could be caused by a faulty sensor or pump.
3: Check Fluid Levels
Regularly checking your car’s fluid levels is an easy way to prevent car problems and catch them early if they do occur. Here are the fluids you should be checking and what their levels should be:
- Engine oil: Check the level with the dipstick and top up if necessary. The level should be between the “min” and “max” marks.
- Coolant: Check the level in the coolant reservoir and top up if necessary. The level should be between the “min” and “max” marks.
- Brake fluid: Check the level in the brake fluid reservoir and top up if necessary. The level should be between the “min” and “max” marks.
Related Reading: 10 Most Common Car Problems You Can Fix Yourself
Solving These Most Common Car Problems
1: Changing the Oil
Regularly changing your car’s oil is one of the most important things you can do to keep it running smoothly. Here’s how to change your oil:
- Warm up the engine by driving for a few minutes.
- Jack up the car and place it on jack stands.
- Locate the oil drain plug and remove it with a wrench.
- Let the oil drain into a pan.
- Replace the drain plug and remove the oil filter.
- Install a new oil filter and add new oil to the engine.
2: Replacing Brake Pads
Worn brake pads can be dangerous and cause damage to your car’s brake system. Here’s how to replace your brake pads:
- Jack up the car and remove the wheel.
- Remove the brake caliper by removing the bolts
- Remove the old brake pads from the caliper.
- Install the new brake pads.
- Reinstall the caliper and tighten the bolts.
- Put the wheel back on and lower the car.
3: Changing a Flat Tyre
Getting a flat tyre is never fun, but it’s important to know how to change it yourself. Here’s how:
- Find a safe location to change the tyre.
- Loosen the lug nuts with a wrench.
- Jack up the car and remove the lug nuts and tyre.
- Put on the spare tyre and tighten the lug nuts.
- Lower the car and tighten the lug nuts again.
Diagnosing and fixing car problems doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. With the right knowledge and tools, you can save time and money by doing it yourself. By listening for strange noises, checking warning lights, and monitoring fluid levels, you can catch problems early and prevent more serious damage. And if you do need to make repairs, changing the oil, replacing brake pads, and changing a flat tyre are all doable with a little practice. So don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves and get to work!
Related Reading: Problems With Your Clutch? – Learn To Recognise & Check Them
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: Can I diagnose car problems without taking my car to a mechanic?
Yes, there are many common car problems that you can diagnose yourself with a little knowledge and some basic tools.
Q: How often should I check my car’s fluid levels?
You should check your car’s fluid levels at least once a month, or more often if you notice any problems.
Q: What should I do if I hear a strange noise coming from my car?
You should try to identify where the noise is coming from and what it sounds like, then research what the problem might be or take it to a mechanic for diagnosis.
Q. Why does my check engine light come on, and what can I do about it?
The check engine light (CEL) is a warning indicator that informs you that there is an issue with your vehicle’s engine, emission, or other related systems. When the CEL comes on, it’s essential to diagnose the issue as soon as possible to prevent further damage. Here are some common reasons for the CEL to turn on and what you can do about them:
- Loose or damaged petrol cap: Check the petrol cap and make sure it’s tightened properly. Replace it if it’s damaged or worn out.
- Oxygen sensor malfunction: If the oxygen sensor isn’t functioning correctly, it can negatively impact your vehicle’s fuel efficiency and emissions. A mechanic can replace the faulty sensor.
- Catalytic converter failure: A failing catalytic converter can lead to decreased fuel efficiency and increased emissions. It’s a more expensive repair, so it’s best to have a professional diagnose and repair the issue.
- Spark plug or ignition coil issues: Replace worn-out spark plugs and faulty ignition coils to improve your engine’s performance and fuel efficiency.
- Mass airflow sensor malfunction: This sensor measures the amount of air entering the engine, affecting fuel efficiency and emissions. It may need to be cleaned or replaced. To properly diagnose the issue, you can use an OBD-II scanner or take your vehicle to a professional mechanic.
Q. Why is my car overheating, and what can I do to fix it?
There are several reasons why a car might overheat, and various steps you can take to troubleshoot and fix the issue. Here are some common causes and potential solutions:
- Low coolant level: Insufficient coolant can cause the engine to overheat. Check the coolant level in the reservoir and top it off if necessary. If it’s empty or very low, you might have a leak. Inspect hoses, radiator, and water pump for leaks and repair as needed.
- Faulty thermostat: A thermostat regulates the flow of coolant between the engine and radiator. If it’s stuck closed, coolant won’t circulate properly, causing the engine to overheat. Replace the thermostat if you suspect it’s faulty.
- Radiator issues: A blocked or damaged radiator can prevent proper heat exchange, causing the engine to overheat. Check for debris or damage, and clean or replace the radiator as needed. A malfunctioning radiator fan can also cause overheating. Check the fan, its motor, and fuses to ensure it’s functioning correctly.
- Water pump failure: The water pump circulates coolant throughout the engine. If it’s not working properly, coolant circulation will be disrupted, and the engine will overheat. Inspect the water pump for leaks, damage, or worn-out bearings, and replace it if necessary.
- Clogged or collapsed hoses: Damaged or clogged hoses can restrict coolant flow, leading to overheating. Inspect all hoses for damage, kinks, or blockages, and replace them if needed.
- Head gasket failure: A blown head gasket can cause coolant to leak into the engine’s combustion chamber, leading to overheating. This issue typically requires professional diagnosis and repair.
If you’re not comfortable diagnosing or repairing your car yourself, it’s always best to consult with a professional mechanic. Regular maintenance, including checking coolant levels and inspecting hoses and belts, can help prevent overheating issues.
Related Reading: How To Keep Your Brand New Cars Tyres In The Best Condition
Q. What causes my brakes to squeak or grind, and how can I fix the problem?
- Worn brake pads: Over time, brake pads wear down and may begin to squeak or grind when they become too thin. The solution is to replace the worn brake pads with new ones. It’s important to address this issue promptly, as worn brake pads can cause damage to other components such as rotors and calipers.
- Glazed brake pads and/or rotors: Hard braking or high temperatures can cause brake pads and rotors to become glazed, which results in a squeaking noise. You can try lightly sanding the brake pad surfaces and rotors with fine sandpaper to remove the glaze. If that doesn’t work, you may need to replace the pads and/or rotors.
- Brake pad wear indicators: Many brake pads have built-in wear indicators that produce a squeaking noise when the pads need to be replaced. If this is the case, simply replace the brake pads to resolve the issue.
- Loose or damaged components: Sometimes, brake components can become loose or damaged, causing squeaking or grinding sounds. Inspect your brakes for any loose or damaged parts, and replace or tighten them as necessary.
- Dust or debris: Accumulated dust or debris can cause brake squeaking. Try cleaning your brake components with brake cleaner and a brush to remove dust and debris.
- Rotor surface rust: Surface rust can form on rotors when a car sits for an extended period, especially in damp conditions. This can cause a grinding noise when you first apply the brakes. Usually, this noise will go away after a few brake applications as the rust wears off. If the noise persists, consider having the rotors resurfaced or replaced.
- Incorrectly installed or poor-quality brake pads: If your brake pads were recently replaced and you’re experiencing squeaking or grinding, it could be due to poor installation or low-quality pads. Make sure the pads are properly installed and consider using higher-quality brake pads if the issue persists.
If you’re unsure about the cause of the squeaking or grinding noise or don’t feel confident addressing the issue yourself, it’s best to consult a professional mechanic for a thorough brake inspection and diagnosis.
Q. How can I tell if my car battery is dying, and what should I do if it is?
If your car battery is dying, you may notice some common symptoms. Here are a few to look out for:
- Slow engine crank: When you turn the key, the engine cranks sluggishly and may take longer than usual to start.
- Dimming headlights and electrical issues: The headlights may appear dimmer than usual, and you may also experience issues with other electrical components such as power windows, radio, and dashboard lights.
- Swollen battery case: If the battery case appears swollen or bloated, it could be a sign that the battery is overheating or has been damaged.
- Frequent jump-starts: If you frequently need to jump-start your car, it could indicate a failing battery.
- Check engine or battery warning light: The battery warning light or check engine light on the dashboard may illuminate.
- Age of the battery: Car batteries typically last 3-5 years. If your battery is older, it might be nearing the end of its life.
What to do if your car battery is dying:
- Test the battery: Use a multimeter to check the voltage of your battery. A healthy battery should read around 12.6 volts when the engine is off. If it’s below 12.4 volts, it’s likely the battery is dying.
- Inspect for corrosion: Check the battery terminals for corrosion or damage. Clean any corrosion with a wire brush and baking soda solution.
- Check the alternator: A failing alternator can cause the battery to drain. If the battery is in good condition but still dies, have a professional check the alternator.
- Replace the battery: If the battery is dying, you’ll need to replace it with a new one. Be sure to choose the correct battery for your car’s make and model.
Remember, it’s always a good idea to consult a professional mechanic if you’re unsure about the health of your car battery. Regular maintenance can help prevent battery-related issues and prolong its life.
What are your options for extended UK car warranty cover?
We don’t want to complicate this, so we’ve kept it nice and simple. Here’s three great options for mechanical breakdown or electrical failure car warranty cover, that’ll give you all you need, including cover for wear & tear.
Select this option if you want affordable cover for a long list of covered components. Gives you up to £7,000 claim limit towards the cost of parts, labour and VAT for the mechanical breakdown or electrical failure of covered parts.
Select this option to cover a wide range of components on your vehicle, and get up to £7,000 claim limit towards the cost of parts, labour and VAT in the event of mechanical breakdown or electrical failure, or imminent failure identified during an MOT or service.
Looking for comprehensive warranty protection? Our 5-Star warranty covers an extensive range of parts and offers up to £7,000 claim limit towards the cost of parts, labour and VAT for the mechanical breakdown or electrical failure of covered parts on your vehicle.