When you own a car, knowing how to diagnose common problems is very important. If you do not know how to spot potential problems, something that could be easily be fixed can turn into a major problem that will require total engine replacement. The key to diagnosing a problem is to narrow down the problem so that you can isolate the system in the car that is causing the problem with the engine. If you do not have basic knowledge of common engine problems, now is the time to learn. Here are signs to look for and issues that may cause these common problems:
If Your Engine Has Trouble Starting or the Engine Conks Out
If the engine will not start, you should listen for a crank noise. If the engine does not sound like it is cranking, the issue may be with your battery. If the engine is cranking but will not turn over, the problem may be with the starter. If the engine starts, but conks out while it is in drive or park, there could be a problem with the fuel system. Vehicles typically conk out when the fuel pressure is not right or there is vacuum hose leak. You may also smell fuel when you attempt to start the engine if there is a leaky valve.
If Your Engine is Overheating Quickly
When you see smoke and steam coming from your hood, this is a sign that your engine is overheating even before your temperature gauge shows that the engine is hot. There are a number of different problems that could lead to an overheating engine. Typically, the problem is with your cooling system. If the radiator or other heat exchangers are not doing their jobs, coolant will not reach the engine while it is operating. You may also need to inspect the coolant to see if it is low. If none of this solves the problem, there could be a problem with one of the heads in your engine.
If Your Engine is Backfiring
A backfiring engine sounds like firecrackers are being lit under your hood. If your engine is backfiring or you smell a burning smell, the problem could be serious. You may have a burn valve, a broken camshaft, or the timing belt might have slipped.
Just because you are not a licensed mechanic does not mean you cannot isolate the problem and identify which part needs to be repaired or replaced. By identifying the problem, you can price how much repairs will cost and how serious the problem really is.
Jennie is a freelance writer who is also mechanically minded. Growing up, she spent a lot of time with her father working on cars, old radios, even odds and ends like cooling towers or swamp coolers. Jennie has just recently made the move to central Seattle with her husband and two golden retrievers.