Maintaining your car is more than just keeping its tires inflated correctly and checking its oil. You should also be aware of common problems that can arise as well as how to repair them.
How can you diagnose your car? You can do this by inspecting it visually and paying attention to other signs, such as sounds or odors, that can mean something is wrong.
You can also use an OBD scanner to diagnose your car. With that in mind, let’s explore some of the most common car problems and why they don’t have to get in the way of your next car journey.
If you’d like to see a graphical breakdown of the most common car problems, we got you covered:
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- 1 14 Common Car Problems: Can You Fix Them?
- 1.1 #1 Your Tire Has A Puncture
- 1.2 #2 Your Battery Is Dead
- 1.3 #3 Your Headlight Isn’t Working
- 1.4 #4 The CEL Light Comes On
- 1.5 #5 The Engine Is Sputtering
- 1.6 #6 The Brakes Are Squeaking
- 1.7 #7 The Tires Are Wearing Unevenly
- 1.8 #8 You Have To Do Many Oil Changes
- 1.9 #9 Your Spark Plugs Are Worn Out
- 1.10 #10 Your Car Is Overheating
- 1.11 #11 Your Exhaust Fumes Look Strange
- 1.12 #12 Your Car Battles To Start
- 1.13 #13 Your Alternator Is Failing
- 1.14 #14 Your Car Failed Its Emissions Test
- 2 Related Questions
- 3 Conclusion
14 Common Car Problems: Can You Fix Them?
#1 Your Tire Has A Puncture
This is one of the most common car problems car owners experience. It’s normal for tires to wear out over time, and the older they are the more at risk they are of having punctures.
If your car tire has a puncture, you should try to repair it. But this is not always possible. It depends on where the puncture has occurred.
If there’s a puncture in the central part of the tire, then it can be repaired; if it’s on the outer area close to the sidewall, then it won’t be able to get fixed and you’ll have to replace the tire.
If you want to make the tire repairs yourself, you will need to use a buffer machine and some buffering solution. Bear in mind that part of your car maintenance should include changing your tires after every 50,000 miles.
#2 Your Battery Is Dead
When your battery dies, you will have to jumpstart your car. But, this is not the best long-term solution for a faulty battery.
You will have to change your battery every five or so years to ensure that it’s working properly.
You can change your battery yourself, which can save you some money.
You won’t even need many tools in order to do so. You can find out more about how to change your car battery for a new one by reading this guide.
#3 Your Headlight Isn’t Working
This is another common problem that can happen when you least expect it, but it’s pretty easy to fix. Here’s how to do it in less than an hour:
- Make sure you have the tools you need. These include your new headlight, a 4-in-1 screwdriver, and a wrench set.
- Remove the headlight assembly retaining bolts. Then, pull the unit forward.
- Make sure you disconnect the wiring harness from the bulb. Twist the bulb a quarter turn before pulling it out.
- Take your new bulb and push it in until you can feel the O-ring set. Twist the bulb so that it is securely in place.
- Reconnect the wiring harness.
#4 The CEL Light Comes On
A Check Engine Light (CEL) that comes on and won’t go away is a very common problem for car owners. It shouldn’t be ignored because it could point to a serious problem that needs repairs as soon as possible.
Since the CEL can point to hundreds of possible problems, you want to diagnose what’s going on with your car. You can do this with the use of an OBD2 scanner.
Connect the scanning device to your car’s OBD port and it will be able to scan your car’s engine and components for problems that have triggered the CEL to come on.
#5 The Engine Is Sputtering
If your engine is sputtering or misfiring, this is a sign that the car’s fuel and ignition system has gone awry. The engine needs the right blend of fuel and air to work properly.
If this is not the case, it can lead to problems like sputtering. You will need to replace the car’s fuel and ignition system parts as recommended by your car manufacturer.
Other causes of a sputtering engine could be worn spark plugs or a dirty mass airflow sensor. You can clean this sensor yourself – in fact, you should do so whenever you change the car’s air filter.
- Remove the sensor from the air duct. Make sure you disconnect the electrical connector, too.
- Then, spray mass air flow cleaner onto the plate or wire. Avoid rubbing it as this can damage the parts, so merely let it dry before replacing it.
#6 The Brakes Are Squeaking
Your car’s brakes can only last for up to 65,000 miles so sooner or later you will need to replace them.
If your brakes have been squealing or squeaking lately, you should have them seen by a mechanic.
And, if your brakes have started making grinding noises, this means that they will probably need to be replaced.
However, squeaky brakes can also be a result of friction because of rust and dew accumulating on the brake pads. This should go away on its own so keep an eye on it to be sure it does.
It’s also good to prevent your brakes from becoming rusty by storing your car in the garage.
#7 The Tires Are Wearing Unevenly
If you’ve noticed that your car’s tires are wearing away unevenly, that can point to a problem in which the suspension needs to be aligned. What can you do?
You should get your tires aligned regularly. You can also rotate the tires so that you change the tires’ positions to make them wear down more evenly.
This will mainly assist the front tires because they are the ones that experience the most stress since they’re in charge of turning and steering the vehicle.
#8 You Have To Do Many Oil Changes
If your car needs regular oil changes and refilling, it should warn you that there’s a problem you need to fix. If you see the oil light on your dashboard, that’s confirmation of something that’s wrong.
The problem could be that the oil filter is clogged.
Now, even though modern cars do usually have systems in place that contain filter bypasses, you should still change the oil filter whenever you change the oil, just to ensure that it continues to work properly.
#9 Your Spark Plugs Are Worn Out
If your car is suffering from misfiring, low gas mileage, or ineffective acceleration, the culprit could be a worn out spark plug. Your car’s “check engine” light might also come on.
You can change your car’s spark plugs, but you will need quite a few tools for the job. These include a spark plug wire puller, needle-nose pliers, a socket/ratchet set, a torque wrench, and a swivel socket.
While not necessarily a big job, changing a spark plug might be complicated depending on the type of car you have.
For example, if you have a V-6 model, you might have to remove some of the intake manifolds in order to replace the plug.
This could make you choose to take your car to a mechanic if you’re not confident with doing it yourself.
#10 Your Car Is Overheating
There’s no doubt that when your car gets very hot it can make you worry that something is seriously wrong. The problem points to something being wrong with the car’s cooling system.
However, before taking your car to the mechanic to have it checked out, make sure you check the car’s coolant level.
Something as simple as not having enough coolant in the vehicle could result in the car overheating.
If that doesn’t solve the problem, it’s worth taking your car to the mechanic as the problem could be a blockage somewhere in the car’s cooling system.
#11 Your Exhaust Fumes Look Strange
Different exhaust fume colors can point to different problems in your car. So, it’s worth knowing what the different colors mean as this can help you diagnose what’s wrong with your car.
- White or grey smoke: This usually means that the engine coolant is being combusted with the fuel and there’s a leak – the engine block, cylinder head, and head gasket should be checked accordingly.
- Blue smoke: This usually means that there’s a leak in the valve seals, but it could also signal that the piston rings are worn out. What this does is cause the engine oil to move into the combustion chamber. When the oil burns with the fuel, it causes the exhaust fumes to come out blue.
- Black smoke: This indicates that too much fuel is being burned in the combustion chambers. The reason? There’s a leak in the fuel injector, or a fuel pressure regulator is malfunctioning. There could also be a blockage in the fuel combustion pipe.
#12 Your Car Battles To Start
If your car is struggling to start, one of the most obvious causes is a dead battery. But there could be other culprits, such as that the battery terminal cable connections have a problem.
If your car doesn’t make any noise at all when you turn the key in the ignition, then this points to the connections being faulty.
If your car cranks but just doesn’t start, you could have a malfunctioning spark plug or something wrong with the fuel supply to your car’s engine.
#13 Your Alternator Is Failing
A battery that dies could signal a problem with your alternator, but there are other signs that your alternator is failing.
These include your warning indicator lights coming on, your car’s headlights flickering or growing dim, systems such as power locks and windows not working, and strange noises such as rattling.
This is caused by the alternator which results in bearings malfunctioning in the engine.
To have your alternator tested, you will be able to do so at a service station but bear in mind you’ll be charged for the labor involved.
Auto parts stores are worth checking out because they will usually test your alternators (as well as batteries) completely free of charge.
However, you’ll probably need to have removed the alternator first. Luckily, that’s not a difficult task. Here’s a comprehensive guide (via Instructables) that will also help you if you need to replace a failing alternator with a new one.
#14 Your Car Failed Its Emissions Test
Most U.S. states require you to take your car to an emissions test, which usually occurs every year. Failing the test means that your car’s emissions are not within a healthy or safe range.
There are many reasons why your car could fail this test, and you’ll be notified that something is wrong because the “check engine” light will come on.
This is important to investigate and repair before taking your car to the emissions test, which is why it’s a good idea to invest in an OBD2 scanner.
This scanner will give you error codes to inform you of what’s causing the “check engine” light to come on so that you can either repair the problem yourself or take it to your mechanic.
What are some reasons why your car would fail an emissions test?
Reasons include if your car needs an oil change, it has worn spark plugs, the air filter is dirty, and your car has a rich air-fuel mixture.
All these need to be dealt with before the next test.
Can you recycle an old car battery?
Many auto parts stores will accept your old car batteries. Alternatively, you should check your local waste or recycling center to find out if they will take them.
When something happens and your car doesn’t work in the way it should, it’s normal to feel stressed.
After reading this article, you now know about the most common car problems and what you can do to fix them and – hopefully – prevent them in the future.
While you might not be able to repair your car whenever it experiences a fault, you can definitely be more prepared to deal with it and its costs by knowing what’s wrong with your car in the first place.