As a new driver or beginner mechanic, knowing how to diagnose engine problems, or any faults in your car for that matter, will put you in good stead for saving some money down the line. This is particularly the case for some of the more common car issues – you don’t want to be spending excessive money on identifying an issue that you could have personally spotted and fixed.
Here, we’ll go over some of the most common car faults and how to find them yourself.
Diagnosing car problems by sight
If there’s a puddle underneath your car, you can pretty much guarantee that’s a bad sign. Wherever the leak is coming from, you’re losing valuable liquids that your car needs to function on.
It could be oil, brake fluid, coolant, or anything else, so start looking straight away.
Pay attention to your warning lights
We know it sounds like an obvious one, but your warning lights are there for a reason. If one of them lights up, it’s going to be worth investigating.
Some of these lights are pretty self-explanatory, like the tyre pressure, engine temperature, or oil light. Others, however, can be a little more complicated. The check engine light, for example, could mean any range of issues. That’s when you should be engaging your other senses to find the source of your problem.
Diagnosing car problems by sound
A creaking sound is likely to be to do with your suspension. When force is put on a worn-out suspension, you’ll hear that clunking noise. It’s more likely to happen when you’re going over a bump, so listen out for that when you’re on the road. The noise here will be caused by the joints having dried out, as they need regular lubrication to keep working properly.
A squealing car could mean one of two things, depending on when it happens. If your car squeals when you turn the wheel, your power steering belt could be loose.
If your car squeals when you hit the brakes, though, then your pads may well be worn out. All this means is that it’s time to replace your brake pads. They have a wear indicator that wears away with use, eventually coming into contact with the rotor and causing that squealing sound.
Another unpleasant noise: grinding usually means gears. If they’re not meshing together properly, they’ll be forcing themselves into place, which is what creates that grinding sound.
If your gears are worn or you’re low on fluid, your transmission won’t be working quite right. That’s where you need to start looking.
Last but not least, if your car judders or thumps when driving over speed bumps, then your suspension may need looking at. Coils can crack and break, so may need updating after a few years of wear and tear.
Diagnosing car problems by feeling
Unfortunately, vibration could be caused by any number of things. It’s more an indicator that something is wrong, rather than telling you exactly what. If your vehicle’s vibrating, start looking for other warning signs to combine it with.
Check your tyres and wheels, suspension, brakes, and the engine itself. Any one of these things could be causing your car to shake.
Loose or hard steering
If your steering wheel isn’t easily doing exactly what you’re telling it to do, your car’s going to be much harder to control.
If the steering feels too loose, it could be that there’s an issue with the tie rods, as these are what keep your front wheels moving in sync with one another. If your wheel is stiff, though, it’s more likely to be a problem with something in your power steering system.
Equally, if you find the car pulls to one side, this typically means your wheels need realigning.
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