What’s going on with my car? Diagnosing common car problems
Shakes, bumps, noises and faulty air-con – what the heck is going on with my car?
Like people, cars sometimes experience little hiccups and need a bit of a health check and some extra attention to get back on track. So, there’s no need to panic if your near-new car is suddenly acting strangely. Even if your car is new, taking some precautions will ensure you help prevent these common car problems in the future. Here are some common car troubles, and what you can do to sort them out.
The problem: Uneven tyre wear.
Recognise it: It may not be obvious when driving that your car’s tyres are unevenly worn, but worn tyres can be dangerous due to their reduced grip on the road. A quick check will tell you if your tyres are worn unevenly. The easiest way is to jack up your car and inspect each tyre individually, noting whether there are any bald spots on the inside or outside of the tyre, or whether there are any dips and dents in the tyre tread.
Fix it: Rotating your tyres and having your wheels aligned regularly.
In terms of how often you should get your tyres rotated, it’s different for every vehicle and type of tyre, but having them rotated at every oil change is a good rule of thumb. Check with the tyre manufacturer for a more specific time frame. Remember that the more often you rotate your tyres, the more evenly they’ll wear, and when you have the tyres rotated, you should also get them checked for balance and alignment.
The problem: Problems starting the engine.
Recognise it: Your car either takes a long time to start, or the car simply won’t start at all.
Fix it: There are a number of reasons which can cause a car engine not to start, the most common, of course, being a dead battery. Pay special attention to the noise it makes when you turn the key. Is the car completely silent? If so, there may be a problem with your battery terminal cable connections. Does your car crank over but not start? Then it may be your spark plugs or fuel supply to your engine. In any case, if you’re out on the road, try jumpstarting your car then investigating the cause further when you’re safely back at home.
The problem: Air conditioner not working.
Recognise it: Your air con will switch on, but you notice it’s just blowing room-temperature air around rather than cold air.
Fix it: The most likely cause of this is that there is no refrigerant left in your system. This could be caused by a leak in your system somewhere, which will have to be fixed before refilling the refrigerant. If you’re car-savvy and you own a set of air conditioning gauges, refilling the refrigerant is usually easy to do yourself. However, if you’re not so confident, enlist the help of a knowledgeable friend or take a quick trip to the mechanic.
The problem: Engine overheating.
Recognise it: You may notice steam or smoke coming from your bonnet, or the needle on your engine temperature gauge may be through the roof.
Fix it: Overheating can be caused by a few different factors. The simplest cause may be that your car needs more coolant. Yet depleted coolant can be caused by bigger problem, like leaks or faulty hoses, so always check for the underlying cause before simply filling it up with more. Another common reason for overheating may be that the radiator fan which keeps your engine cool is faulty, so check your fan motor connection and fan thermostat.
The problem: Noisy brakes.
Recognise it: You’ll know it when you hear it!
Fix it: There could be a number of reasons for noisy brakes. It could be that your brake pads are loose, worn out, or you may have brake dust inside the drum. If you can’t see anything wrong with your brake pads, and you suspect it may be brake dust, it may be best to leave this to a professional – brake dust can be extremely dangerous if accidentally inhaled.
Always remember, if you don’t feel confident tackling your car troubles on your own, taking your car in for a quick service and tune up to get you back on the road in no time. Also, don’t forget to take care of the outside appearance of your car as well as the inside – a little DIY waxing and car detailing will help prevent aesthetic problems (like rust and worn out interiors) later down the track. See our car care guide for a few tips and tricks.
What are some other common car troubles, and what’s your best advice for recognising and fixing them?