Common Car Problems You Should Know How To Fix
Common Car Problems You Should Know How To Fix
When you’re working on your car, it’s important that you have the proper tools, the proper instruction, and the proper safety gear. Rule No. 1: Don’t work on a car when right after you turned it off or when it’s running.
This is because pipes are piping hot (just accept it), caps and fluids are under a lot of pressure, and liquids aren’t at accurate levels for measurement. You’ll just end up hurting yourself. Wait for about an hour and make some ice tea or hot chocolate for yourself, depending on the weather.
If you’re serious about investing time and effort into this, we suggest purchasing these items:
- Car Service Manuals – These essentially tell you how to completely tear your car down and put it back together in excellent visual and textual detail. Extremely useful in trying to figure out how to get to a part or how to take something apart.
- Basic garage tool kit: A car jack, support stands, complete sets of open-end and socket wrenches, complete sets of phillips and flathead screwdrivers, drain pan, and a complete set of pliers.
- A Multimeter – This is an important tool for testing electrical current throughout the car.
- An OBD Code Reader- These might seem expensive, but you plug this into your car, and it will tell you exactly what the problem is, when your “Check Engine” light comes on.
In no particular order, below are some very common car problems you need to know how to fix
Having a flat tyre feels as creeping and annoying as the flat tyre looks. Flat tyres are quite annoying especially when you are working under a schedule and you have that all important date or the multi-million dollar business deal meeting to catch up with.
Symptoms: Your car is tilting, and there is a loud thumping noise
Fix: If you’re not strong enough, that’s one thing, but this is something any capable human being with common sense should be able to figure out. In your trunk, you have a spare tire. Within that spare tire is usually a small car jack with a built-in lever and lug nut ratchet. Put the jack on a stable part of the frame (no plastic pieces!), pump up the car, remove the lug nuts and put the donut on. Just make sure you adequately tighten the nuts, and slowly bring down the jack.
A Dead Battery
Ever tried putting On your car and all it does is to keep giving you the ‘laughing cry’ without the car coming on?
Symptoms: Your car won’t start
Fix: You will need a tester or charger at your house, to make sure the battery is actually the problem and not the starter or alternator. If there’s any corrosion, clean that off with a metal brush. Unbolt the negative terminal first, then the positive. There might also be a ground wire that you’ll need to take off. Then, put the new one in. It’s that simple.
Head or Tail Lights Out
Symptoms: Well at this point, the common symptom is a very sharp abdominal pain. Just kidding. The blinkers blink faster, or you know, you won’t see it lighting up.
Fix: If you don’t want to figure it out yourself, all you have to do is ask somebody at a car shop which type of bulb you need, based on which make or model you have. If you have a basic vehicle, you DO NOT need the ultra premium lights. Once you have the bulbs, you can usually pop lights out of the back of the housing, and (with the car turned off), unplug the old bulb. Slide the new one in, and you’re good to go.
Faulty Side Mirror
Symptoms: Your blind spot just got a lot bigger
This one is a little hard to explain without showing you a diagram, so we dug up the image below to show you how minimal the work is for replacing a side-view mirror. We see hanging mirrors, broken mirrors, makeup replacement mirrors all too often. In reality, we should never see it, considering how easy they are to replace on our own.
Faulty Spark Plugs
Symptoms: Hard starts or rough idles
Fix: Spark plugs basically do the work of sparking the combustion in your engine. If the spark plugs are all gunked-up or misfiring, the engine won’t be running and starting properly. This is where the deep sockets come into play (even better, if they’re magnetic).
Pop off the covers, unscrew those puppies, and put some new, clean ones in there. Unless the engine is extremely far back in the bay to the point where you can’t access the plugs without a lot more work, this is something you can easily do.
An Oil Change
Symptoms: You should be doing this every 3,000-5,000 miles, based on the age of your car and the type of oil you use
Fix: There are four things you need to know before changing your oil: what type of oil and oil fiter you need (owner’s manual or books at the auto shop), where the oil pan bolt is, where the oil filter is (service manual), and how much oil your engine holds (owner’s manual).
When you’ve got that down, there are three basic steps: Loosen the bolt and drain the old oil, replace the oil filter, and refill the engine with new oil after tightening the bolt back up. Make sure you put a little bit of oil in the filter and lubricate the rubber ring with oil.
Faulty or Dead Alternator
Symptoms: Your car won’t turn over, and the gadgets inside don’t even light up
Fix: People see something electrical and thing it’s automatically complicated. That couldn’t be further from the truth. This is going to sound extremely simple, and that’s becuase it is. Remove the electrical connections (there should be a power wires and a harness connector), unbolt the brackets, and use the built-in tension arm to free the serpentine belt. That’s it. Put the new one back in the way it came out, reconnect the wires, and boom, fire her up.
Symptoms: An intensly annoying squeak every two seconds, cracks in the belts
Fix: A bad belt will usually be pretty easy to spot. You’ll see the wear starting to fray and crack. Before you start ripping off your current belt, make sure you have a belt diagram or draw a belt diagram. You’re going to want to know the path the belt takes.
Once you’ve got this down, use a ratchet to loosen the tension arm, freeing the belt. With the pulleys exposed, make sure there is no excess rubber, grime or oil that would hasten belt disintegration. Use your diagram to reroute the new belt, lock up the tension arm, and you’re ready to go.
Bad Brake Pads or Rotors
Symptoms: Unbearable squeaking and squealing
Fix: Once you’ve got the car jacked up and the tire removed, you’re ready to take off the caliper and remove the actual pads. You’ll first want to remove the slide pins, which hold the caliper in place. Once these are out, you’ll be able to separate the caliper, which will then only be hanging by the brake line. Don’t let it rest only on this line, put it on something or use something to hold it up.
You’ll be able to remove the actual pads now, which, if the car was squealing, will be heavily worn down. From here, you’ll need a c-clamp, in order to compress the piston back down into the caliper. Be careful with this; you don’t want to push the seal back in unevenly. While everything is apart, this is also a great time to check to see if the worn pads did any damage to the rotors.
If you run your finger across the rotor, and you feel deep grooves or uneven and warped surfaces, you’re going to want to replace the rotos, as well. Now you’re ready to slide the pads back across the rotors, re-insert the brake caliper over the pads and tighten up the pins. The final thing you want to do is check your brake fluid. It might sound like a lot, but take your time, follow the service manual, and you’ll be fine.
Symptoms: You can’t see your antifreeze, when you take off the cap (see: puddle under your car)
Fix: When your radiator is leaking, it’s a better idea just to replace the entire thing, rather than trying to patch it up with welding or sealant. You’d only be delaying the inevitable. Start by jacking up the car and removing the drain bolt at the bottom of the radiator to remove all coolant. While that’s going on, you can start removing the overflow tank, unplugging the cooling fans, removing the top radiator hose, and taking off the top brackets that help hold the radiator in place.
If there’s room, you can remove the fans right there, or you can wait to remove them after you pull it all out in one big package. If you have an automatic car, you’ll also have to remove the transmission cooling line. From there, slide the new radiator in and swap all the tubes and rubber pieces. Finally, fill the car with either premixed fluid or a 50-50 mixture of antifreeze and water.