Common Car Problems and How to Spot Them

Don't get caught out by car issues that might leave you stranded on the roadside. 😟 Identifying common vehicle problems in a timely manner helps prevent damage in the short and long term. With that in mind, this guide is your one-stop shop to better understand some of the most common car troubles and how to spot them. 

What Common Car Problems Should I Look Out For?

Brake Wear

Brake wear is a common wear and tear issue. Indicators of worn brakes include a squealing or grinding sound when braking or your car pulling to one side. If these symptoms arise, inspect your brake pads immediately to ensure safety.

Tip: Brake pads can be seen through the wheel, so look to determine thickness. The thinner the brake pad, the worse its condition will be. At least 3mm of pad should be visible. 

Tyre Degradation

Tyres naturally degrade over time due to various factors, impacting road grip and potentially causing dangerous situations like skidding or aquaplaning. Regularly check your tyre tread depth (maintaining above 1.6mm), and watch for visible damage such as cracks or bulges. 

Tip: You can check tyre tread depth using a simple coin test or a tread depth gauge to check that it's above the legal limit of 1.6mm. If you can’t see the border of a 20p piece the tread is under the limit - check your tyres once a month.

Battery Issues

Battery failure ranks high on the list of common car problems, often causing headaches for drivers. Symptoms of a failing battery may include difficulty starting your car, particularly in cold weather, or noticeably dimmer interior lights. If you're experiencing these issues, it's a clear sign that your car battery needs inspection and, potentially, replacement.

Tip: Look into using a multimeter or a car battery tester, which allows you to measure the voltage of your battery and determine whether it's working properly.

Alternator Faults

Alternator faults can manifest as a lit warning light on your dashboard, dim headlights, or a continually dying battery. If you're frequently replacing the battery, your alternator – which is responsible for recharging the battery – could be the underlying issue.

Tip: Again, a multimeter can be helpful for checking any alternator faults on your car.

Transmission Failure

Transmission problems can lead to serious vehicle damage, with signs of issues including delays in gear shifting or an unexplained surge or jerk of your car. If you experience these, it's likely you're facing transmission troubles that require urgent attention.

Tip: You can try parking your vehicle and engaging the parking brake. From here, depress the clutch pedal and shift into first gear to see if there are any grinding sounds or unusual sensations. 

How Do I Diagnose a Problem with My Car?

While some car problems can be quite obvious, others might require a keen eye and ear. Listen to your car, as strange noises often signal issues. For instance, a squealing sound could signal brake wear, while a grinding noise might mean there's an issue with your transmission. 

Equally important are the smells your car emits. If you notice a burning oil or rubber smell, investigate the cause, as these scents often signal more serious issues, like leaking fluids or overheating components.

Another area to monitor is your dashboard. Warning lights can illuminate for various reasons, including engine malfunctions, battery problems or alternator faults. Understanding what each light signifies helps you act swiftly and prevent minor issues from escalating into significant, costly repairs.

Remember, consistent care and attention to your vehicle not only prolongs its life but also ensures a safer and smoother driving experience. It's also important to get a regular car service to maximise engine performance and efficiency, as well as check that it's in tip-top shape.

Become a Car-Problem Spotting Pro

Maintaining your vehicle's health is super important for your safety and the longevity of your car. So take a moment to understand the common car problems in our list and know how to spot them for a smooth drive. After all, prevention is better than cure and increases your chances of a safe drive. 🚗

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