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Most common car engine problems and how to fix them

Anyone that has ever owned a car will be no stranger to engine problems. While this complex mechanical system is incredibly reliable, it can still have issues from time to time. Occasionally, you might run into a problem that can affect the function of the car, which means you have to act fast to be able to keep driving.

If you aren’t familiar with engine problems and how they can manifest, getting to know these issues in advance can help ease the stress of the situation and get you quick solutions. Here are a few of the most common problems you might encounter while driving and how you can fix them.

Inadequate lubrication

Your engine’s moving parts must have enough lubrication to function properly. Without it, the engine will experience extensive friction, which will inevitably cause overheating. Anyone that has seen this happen will know that an engine doesn’t last long in this state before seizing up.

One of the best ways to prevent this is to get your car serviced every once in a while. A regular oil change will make sure that your engine stays lubricated adequately. As a result, you won’t have to worry about the engine seizing up any time soon.

Sputtering engine

When you can hear your engine sputtering, you can be sure that there’s an issue with the ignition system. An engine functions best when fuel and air mix and burn within the combustion chamber in adequate amounts. If the proportion is wrong or one of the components isn’t working properly, engine sputtering is a likely consequence.

If your vehicle allows it, you can replace certain components on your own. Check your car’s manual and find out how you can reach the fuel and ignition systems. Then you should look for replacement parts as per the recommendations of the manufacturer. You might have to contact them to learn which parts are best suited for the vehicle.

Starting issues

There are numerous problems that can lead to vehicle start delays or malfunctions. One of the most common causes is alternator failure. The alternator is supposed to keep all the electrical functions of your vehicle running properly, as well as supply your battery with a charge. This helps keep these systems in peak condition. When the alternator fails, you might notice that the battery is wearing out sooner than expected and the car won’t start properly.

Check out the recommended service intervals for your vehicle and see if it might be time to replace the alternator. If it breaks at an inopportune time, you might get stuck with a car that won’t start.

Flashing warning lights

Warning lights can be an alarming sign for any vehicle owner. Plenty of Australian drivers encounter this issue from time to time. These warning lights can be difficult to interpret. They indicate that the vehicle’s engine control unit detected some form of error. Since the sensor can be triggered by hundreds of different issues, a layman will find it difficult—if not impossible—to diagnose the issue on their own.

As is the case with lubrication, getting a professional to diagnose and resolve the issue would be your best bet. The good news is that just about any professional can check the engine and get to the bottom of the issue. Whether you’re looking for a qualified mechanic in Gold Coast, NSW, Queensland, or any other area, you won’t have trouble finding someone to resolve the mysterious problem.

Vehicle overheating

While overheating might sound like a common and alarming issue, it’s an incredibly rare sight. This is because cars have immensely complex cooling systems which keep the temperatures in check. There are likely multiple sensors that keep track of coolants in the vehicle, meaning that you should be able to notice if something goes wrong in time.

If you suspect that the engine might be overheating, you should consult the manual and try to change the water pump as soon as possible. Stay on top of radiator flush services as well, as they can help you take care of the issue promptly. With these measures, you can be sure that your vehicle won’t overheat unless something really goes wrong. If you keep track of these parts and the engine is still overheating, you should consult a professional car mechanic for help.

The Motor Won’t Start

There’s not much worse than leaving your house in the morning to find that your car won’t start. If you remember, there’s a process behind a vehicle starting as it should. When something involved in that process isn’t functioning, you’ll find yourself out of luck.

  • Cause

The first, and most common reason a car won’t start, is a dead battery.  Be sure to listen for a clicking sound, which confirms you’re out of power.  Another possible issue is the starter, which is what initially gets the engine moving.

There’s also the possibility that your fuel filter is clogged.  Earlier, we mentioned several filters. Well, there’s also one for your fuel, and if it’s obstructed, or if there’s an issue with your fuel pump, the combustion process won’t initiate.

  • Solution

If you notice an audible “clicking” sound while attempting to start your car, it likely means the battery is dead.  Sometimes batteries will drain, often after sitting for several days in cold weather, or if you have a security system and don’t start it for a few days. If you have a pair of jumper cables, you can try jump-starting your car.

If it’s not the battery, your options for getting it started are somewhat limited at home. For this reason, you’ll likely have to tow it to a shop.

Service Engine Soon Light

A “Check Engine” light or “Service Engine Soon” light usually illuminates in response to an error detected by your ECM (Electronic Control Module).  This is in charge of making sure your engine is running as it should.  It gets this data from different sensors, such as the mass airflow sensor, the engine speed sensor, the oxygen sensor, or the voltage sensor (to name just a few).

 

  • Cause

Many things can cause a service light to appear, including a loose or faulty gas cap, low fluid levels, or a sensor failure.  A solid light does not mean there’s an immediate problem, it’s just alerting you that something is off.  However, if it’s blinking, there’s a serious issue, be sure to pull over right away if this happens.

First, check your gas cap to make sure it’s screwed on correctly.  Your fuel system is pressurized, and if it isn’t sealed, it prompts the ECM to signal an issue.  Next, check your fluid levels (oil, coolant, transmission fluid, etc.), as well as maintenance items (oil filter, air filter, etc.). If these all appear to be in order, it is likely time for a trip to the shop.

You also can purchase an OBD II scanner to diagnose the issue yourself. These can usually be found for between $20 to $200 at an auto parts store. They connect to the OBD port under the driver-side dash and read the code put out by the ECM.

Conclusion

Taking care of your car’s engine is absolutely essential if you want the car to function properly. If you can recognise issues before they spiral out of control, you can make sure that your car’s engine will function better and last longer. Keep in mind, you shouldn’t panic if there’s a sound or issue that you can’t recognize. Don’t hesitate to contact a mechanic to help you if you can’t resolve the problem on your own. This might even be the case for most engine problems, so keep a mechanic’s number in your car just in case.

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