What to Do When You’re Experiencing Car Problems

There are over 37,000 car accidents every year in the United States. While some of these accidents are because of factors outside the driver’s control, many are caused by preventable car problems. From faulty brakes to worn-out tires, many issues can put you and your passengers at risk on the road.

The good news is that many of these problems can be fixed with a little bit of knowledge and effort. Keep reading for some common car problems and tips on how to repair them.

Car Won’t Start

If you’re on a road trip and need to reach your destination ASAP, just call for help. Look around for a tow truck or a friendly face with jumper cables, and you’ll be back on the road in no time!

If you’re all alone and there are no tow trucks nearby (or if they’re too expensive), here’s what you can do.

Check the Battery

A dead or dying battery can cause all sorts of problems, from a car that doesn’t start to lights that don’t come on and windows that don’t roll down. The best way to check if your battery is working properly is by checking for cracks or leaks in it. If there are no cosmetic issues, charge the battery at a nearby mechanic.

Inspect the Coils

The coils generate the sparks that ignite the fuel in the cylinders. They’re under your distributor cap and are small electromagnets. These magnets generate a high voltage when current passes through them.

If you’re experiencing problems starting your car, it may be time to replace your coils.

Change Your Spark Plugs

The little tubes you see under your car’s hood are called spark plugs. They activate the fuel in your engine and get it going. If they aren’t working right, your engine won’t start.

If you want to replace your spark plugs, remember to use the type recommended by your vehicle manufacturer. You’ll get better performance out of your car if you do this. It’s also safe to install spark plugs that are better than the ones recommended.

This job is pretty easy to mess up. If you’re not sure what you’re doing, grab a mechanic to give you a hand.

Engine Turning Off

A malfunctioning engine is generally caused by a faulty ignition system. It’s often the result of either a broken fuel pump or dead wires.

If you’ve recently checked your engine and everything seems fine, here are a few things you can do to get your engine started again.

Refill Your Fuel Tank

There’s a chance that the fuel sensor is broken, so you won’t know if the car turned off because it’s low on gas. To rule out this option, fill up the tank and try to start your car again.

Replace the ECU

ECU is short for electronic control unit, and it’s the main computer that controls how your engine runs. There are 5 main reasons why ECUs fail, but the most common problem is an electrical failure. This can happen if the ECU gets a static shock or is exposed to water or other liquids.

When the computer stops working, you won’t be able to start your engine again until you replace it. This may cost a few thousand dollars, but it’s much cheaper than replacing your car. Refurbished ECUs are a good option if you’re on a budget, but ask a mechanic for their opinion on the ECU’s condition before you buy.

Smoking Engine

If your ride is emitting smoke, the usual suspect is oil. When there’s not enough of it, parts rub together and create heat. This heat turns into smoke that puffs out of the exhaust pipe.

To avoid this, make sure you get an oil change every 5,000 to 7,500 miles.

Change the Wires

Besides an oil change, hot wires can also cause smoking. If the wires are old, worn out, or damaged, they can get too hot and start to burn.

These wires send power from the alternator through your car’s electrical system and to the spark plugs. If the wires are hot, they can mess up the whole process and start degrading your alternator and spark plugs.

Late Acceleration

If your car takes its sweet time to get going, it could be a case of lousy compression. This happens when you’ve been running on fuel that’s aged and grubby. If that’s the scenario and you’ve got time on your hands (and some equipment), here’s what to do.

Clean the Fuel Tank Strainer

If your car is slow to start, it could be due to a clogged fuel tank strainer. A fuel tank strainer prevents debris from entering the fuel tank and causing problems for your engine.

Before you remove the strainer, make sure the tank is bone dry of gas. Some tanks come with a drain valve for an easy fuel dump, but if not, you can siphon the gas line to get the fuel out.

Handle the tank with care. Pull it off, but don’t mess with any valves or covers. That’ll save you headaches when it’s time to put everything back in order.

Check the tank for any scum, holes, or rust before you move on.

Afterward, apply fuel system cleaner using a soft sponge. It might take a few rounds to get it clean.

Once the tank is sparkling, replace it and fill your tank with fresh gas.

Get New Fuel Injectors

You can find the fuel injectors in a car’s intake manifold. They help your vehicle speed up. If they fail, you won’t be able to accelerate smoothly.

A mechanic would have to handle the replacement, but you can check the injectors for leaks and damage. Use a spray bottle filled with water to check for leaks. If you see bubbles forming around any of the hoses or fittings, it’s time to replace those parts.

Brake Light On

If your brake light is on, check the brake fluid level. If it’s low, add more until you have enough for safe operation (usually about three-quarters full).

If there’s no improvement, move on to inspecting the pads. Look for holes and make sure they aren’t warped when you press down on them with your finger. If everything looks good, you may have a bad wire or fuse.

Take your car to the nearest mechanic and explain the symptoms in detail.

Strange Engine Noises

Hearing a bang or clatter doesn’t mean your car is about to break down. There’s usually something loose inside the engine that needs to be tightened up.

If you hear a hissing sound that’s as loud as a deflated tire coming from beneath your hood, there’s a good chance your intake manifold is messed up. If this part is leaking, the engine will not get enough oxygen and may stall or fail to start. You’ll need to take your car in for repairs ASAP.

When these sounds are accompanied by a sputtering engine, you’re probably dealing with a misfire or one of the other problems below.

Bad O2 Sensor

If your O2 sensor is messed up, you might experience slow takeoff or coughing while you’re driving. The O2 sensor keeps an eye on the amount of air flowing into your engine. So, if there’s something wonky with your O2 sensor, your ride might be less efficient and noisier than usual.

Unclog the Fuel System

If your car stutters when you’re accelerating, there may be junk in the fuel system.

To figure out what’s wrong, take out the air filter and remove any clamps or hoses attached to it. Check each line for any dirt or junk that might be jamming the fuel flow into your engine. Vacuum out the gunk before putting the hoses back on.

Shaky Steering Wheel

When your steering wheel is shaking, it could often mean that something’s up with your tires. If you have poor alignment or are driving on worn tires, your vehicle will be harder to control.

About 664 people passed away in 2020 because of issues with their car tires. To prevent this chaos, just rotate and balance your wheels regularly, and replace them if they’re starting to wear thin.

If you’re confident your tires are fine, here are some other things that could be causing your steering wheel to shake, along with some solutions.

Poor Suspension Parts

When your steering wheel starts to rattle, it might mean that some of the suspension bits are on their last legs. The shocks and struts are the parts that break down the most.

If you feel like you’re bouncing on a trampoline while driving, it’s time to replace your shocks. Have your mechanic take a look at these parts to get this problem sorted.

Deformed Brakes

If your brakes aren’t looking or feeling right, they might cause some wobbles through the wheel. You can restore your brake functions by getting your rotors turned or resurfaced.

Poor Fuel Efficiency

Are you finding yourself filling up your gas tank more often than usual? Many factors can impact your gas mileage, and understanding them can help you save money at the pump. Here are four common causes of poor fuel efficiency and their solutions.

Worn Out Spark Plugs

Spark plugs make the fuel in your engine burn more efficiently. If they’re not working well, you’ll use more gas than normal. If you swap out those old spark plugs, you can get up to 30% better gas mileage.

Underinflated Tires

If your tires aren’t at the recommended level, they’ll produce more friction against the road. This causes your vehicle to work harder and, consequently, waste gasoline. Keep an eye on your tire pressure and pump them up as needed.

Aggressive Driving

If you’re speeding, accelerating too fast, and slamming on the brakes, you’re going to burn through your gas pretty quickly. Don’t be too wild behind the wheel, and you’ll save more money on fuel.

Coolant Leaks

Coolant leaks are usually caused by a busted radiator. Cracks in your radiator let the liquid escape to the engine and mix with oil and air. A coolant leak can mess up your head gasket, so this fix is going to cost you a few thousand dollars.

While the price can be daunting, you must resolve the leak before it turns into more engine problems. A leaking head gasket will lead to overheating, which can cause other issues like cracked cylinder heads. If your car is overheating while driving, stop immediately and check for coolant leaks.

Key Fob Malfunctioning

The most common reason for a broken key fob is that the battery died. Replacing it will get you back on the road.

The second reason could be interference from other devices or objects nearby, such as cell phones or other wireless devices like Bluetooth speakers. If this is the case, try moving further away from these items until you find a spot where your key fob works again.

If none of these things help fix your problem, you may need to replace your key fob. You can order one from the dealership where you bought your car.

Fix Your Car Problems

If you’re experiencing any of these car problems, a mechanic should be your first call. Just know that fixing your radiator, cooling system, or head gasket is going to cost you a few hundred dollars. Still, paying this price is better than having your car break down while driving.

You can prevent future issues by regularly inspecting your car. If you get confused when trying to remember all the different tips for car care, turn to our automotive section for expert advice on maintaining your ride.

Related Posts