Tips for Troubleshooting Common Car Problems

Even with routine maintenance, every car will eventually run into an issue or two. When something goes wrong, it is smart to try basic troubleshooting before automatically taking it to the repair shop. Many common car problems have simple causes that vehicle owners themselves can easily diagnose and fix. 

Car Won’t Start

This is one of the most frustrating experiences for any driver. If your car will not crank over at all when you turn the key, the culprit is likely an electrical issue. First, make sure you didn’t simply leave your headlights, dome lights, or radio on which can drain the battery. Use a battery charger for car to revive it if that’s the case. The people at Clore Automotive say that if the battery itself is over three or four years old, it may just be too weak to start the engine. Or you could have a loose or corroded battery cable connection that needs tightening or cleaning. 

Check Engine Light

When this dashboard indicator illuminates, the vehicle’s computer has detected a fault of some kind. It could be something minor or serious. Connecting an inexpensive OBD2 (On-Board Diagnostic) code reader tool quickly identifies the specific error code that triggered the light. Then you can research typical causes and see if it’s something you can fix yourself before visiting a mechanic. 

Soft Brakes

A soft, spongy brake pedal that requires pumping to get good braking is usually a sign that air has entered the brake lines and hydraulic system. Bleeding the brake fluid system forces out any air bubbles to restore solid, responsive pedal feel. Do this by cracking each brake caliper bleed valve and pumping the pedal while topping off fluid levels until no more air purges.

Steering Problems

If your steering wheel is shuddering, vibrating, or making strange noises, the likely issue is a failing component in the steering or suspension system. Using a mechanic’s stethoscope or long screwdriver to listen for noises at each front wheel can isolate if it’s a ball joint, tie rod end, control arm bushing or other part in need of replacement. Low power steering fluid can also cause stiff, noisy steering.

Engine Misfiring

That unmistakable hesitation, sputtering or jerkiness while accelerating usually indicates an engine cylinder isn’t firing properly. Swapping out spark plugs and plug wires is a common fix for clearing misfires in older vehicles. Using a combustion leak detector test can also diagnose if a cracked head, bad valve, or other internal issue causes the misfire.

Strange Smells

When weird odors waft from the vents or engine bay, it’s often a sign that something needs attention. A thick burned smell could mean oil is leaking onto hot exhaust areas. Whiffs of gas indicate a fuel system leak. And sweet, syrup-like aromas frequently mean coolant is leaking from somewhere in the cooling system. Stay vigilant and investigate strong smells to identify their root cause.

Strange Noises

Odd chirps, squeaks, or rumbles from under the hood shouldn’t be ignored either. These sounds usually mean a worn accessory belt, bad water pump, failing alternator bearing, or other mechanical component that may be about to fail. Listen carefully to determine where the noise is coming from and inspect those specific areas for a root cause.


Taking time to diagnose and troubleshoot first means you may be able to quickly and inexpensively resolve many common vehicle issues that would otherwise require an expensive trip to the repair shop. Using some basic automotive tools and testing methods, it’s often possible to pinpoint underlying problems yourself. Even if you feel the repair is beyond your skill level, having an accurate diagnosis ahead of time saves on labor charges.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Back to top button