Signs Your Vehicle Isn’t Running Properly: 10 Symptoms You Should Never Ignore
Many modern cars feature high-tech diagnostic systems that monitor the health of the vehicle. Still, drivers will ignore common warnings that something is wrong. While it’s okay to prolong a few trips to the garage, some car troubles should never be overlooked. Here are 10 symptoms you should never ignore, no matter how busy you are.
Message & Warning Lights Appear
Most of today’s vehicles have a sophisticated diagnostic system that alerts you when something is wrong. No longer do you have to rely on your own senses to determine if something is wrong. When the computer inside your car recognizes that there is a problem, it attempts to warn you.
Like most people, you probably do your best to ignore most messages that you don’t feel are important. We’ve all been there. When the car starts alerting you, it’s vital that you take it seriously.
Whether it is simply a “Check Engine” light or “Low Coolant,” you want to make it a priority. Not every warning sign requires you to get right to a mechanic, but it should be high on your to-do list. Among all the lights and messages, never ignore these five:
- Low Engine Oil Pressure
- Engine Coolant Temperature Warning
- Charging System Warning
- Check Engine Light (Flashing) – solid light is typically due to emissions and not indicate immediate trouble
- Tire Pressure (TPMS) Warning
Grinding or Squeaking While Braking
The brakes on your car are created to stop you quickly. They also wear out faster than most any other component on your car. Replacing the brakes is an important part of maintenance.
Even though you know that brakes need to be replaced often, they quickly become forgotten about. We don’t tend to think about the brakes until there’s a problem. When you press your brake pedal and hear a squeak, that’s your first warning sign that something is wrong.
If you ignore the squeaking, the noise could become a grinding instead. This occurs once the braking material has worn out and is rubbing against the rotors. This is a dangerous indication that should cause you to stop in your tracks.
Tapping, Knocking or Clicking of the Engine
By maintaining your engine properly, you reduce the chance of needing costly repairs in the future. When the engine is running right, you shouldn’t hear any strange noises while driving. If you begin to hear tapping or clicking, you want to have it checked out immediately.
If the oil pressure drops, it can lead to these noises. Left alone, this causes permanent damage to your engine and other components. It’s also possible that you hear strange sounds because you used the wrong octane fuel. This is another cause of catastrophic engine wear.
The bottom line is to have any engine noise checked out immediately. By neglecting the small issues coming out of your engine, you set yourself up for costly repairs later.
Trouble Steering or a Jerky Wheel
Along with faulty brakes causing dangerous situations, you must also be aware of the steering. When you lose your ability to steer and control your vehicle, something bad is imminent.
The first steering signs show up with a slight pull to one side. Anytime that your vehicle doesn’t track in a straight line without a ton of effort, you want to have it looked at. Don’t ignore when your car jerks or begins to pull. In addition, any noise while making a turn should also be checked out.
Going Through Oil
The oil in your vehicle is essential to proper function. You must change the oil regularly to ensure optimal engine life. While it’s normal for cars to use some oil over time, you shouldn’t need to top it off frequently.
If you begin to see a dip in performance or the oil light comes on, this might be a sign that you need oil. If you run the vehicle without the right amount of oil, you risk harming the engine. Top it off and then watch to see how long it is before the level drops again.
Another complaint related to the oil could be a clogged filter. This occurs if you wait too long to change the oil. Modern cars will bypass the filter, but you shouldn’t rely on this. Make sure you replace your filter every time you do an oil change.
What factors will affect the life of my car battery?
So, you want to know if your battery will last three years or, better yet, five years, eh? Well, that all depends on your driving habits, plus the year-round climate in your area.
- Short Trips. Shorter battery life. If you take many short trips (less than 20 minutes), your battery won’t have enough time to fully recharge, shortening its overall life expectancy.
- Extreme temperatures kill batteries. The dog days of summer take the biggest toll on your battery. Scorching temperatures—and even freezing temperatures—can shorten battery life. A lot of times, waiting until the deep freeze of winter to replace your battery is often too late. The cold weather could pretty much make that heat worn battery dead on arrival.
- Find your region. Discover the average battery life.
How to Check to See If an Engine Is Healthy?
Determining the condition of a vehicle’s engine can be tricky because there are so many different components. Even when an engine seems perfectly fine and is running well, it may still experience problems due to a component breaking without first giving warning signs. However, there are a number of different things to look for that can indicate if a vehicle is experiencing any kind of mild to severe engine problems. Engines are expensive to replace and vehicles are essentially useless without a good engine, so it is important to keep your engine as healthy as possible and make repairs as needed if you suspect there is a problem.
Check the vehicle’s fluids. Fluids are one of the most efficient indicators of the condition of an engine. The oil should be brown, translucent and full. It should not smell burnt or be milky, clumpy or discolored, all of which are signs of potential engine problems. Coolant should be full and contain antifreeze, which is typically green in color.
Look for leaks. Leaks are a sign that something is amiss with the vehicle or engine. Have a trusted mechanic examine any area of the engine where you see fluid accumulating. Park the vehicle on a relatively clean concrete parking slab and leave it there over night. You will be able to see areas where there is significant fluid leaking out of the next morning because the fluids will have pooled on the concrete under the leak.
Start the car. Car should start easily without struggling, banging or stalling. Listen to the engine run. The engine should not make any tapping, knocking or pinging noises, nor should it smoke. Watch the exhaust and check to see if an unusual amount of emissions gas is being emitted. Emissions gases should be relatively clear and unnoticeable, not white, black or blue. Car should hold a steady idle.
Drive the car. Pay attention to how it accelerates, stops and maintains speed. Listen for any strange knocks, bumps or squeaks. Pay attention if the car hesitates or seems to struggle in any way. Watch gauges carefully, making sure all stay within normal range while operating. Operate vehicle at a variety of speeds for at least 30 minutes to make sure you have plenty of time to warm up and thoroughly evaluate the vehicle’s condition.
Take the car to a mechanic and have a compression check performed on the engine. The compression check measures if the engine has correct pressure. A loss of compression in an engine is a warning sign of serious problems, including problems with the rings, cylinders or valves. If any dashboard error lights are on, have mechanic attach a code reader to the vehicle’s computer and scan it for error codes to reveal problems.
Bad Battery Symptoms
If the cranking of the engine is sluggish, like your vehicle is harder to start on cold mornings, it starts inconsistently, or there’s no sound and interior lights when you try to start, suspect a failing battery, a loose or corroded connection or electrical draw. A low battery that has visible corrosion on the terminals is probably damaged.
If jumpstarting works, then you know you’ve got a battery problem. But you also need to figure out whether it’s simply at the end of its life or there are underlying issues. A dead or low battery can be caused by a failing alternator. It can also result from additional draw from auxiliary lights, fuses, sound systems, alarms and such.
Signs of a Bad Alternator
Some of the things to look for are no-starting and trouble starting, dimming lights and problems with stereo system output. If your car starts but stalls when you’re underway, your battery is probably not being recharged due to a faulty alternator. A squealing sound coming from the engine that gets louder when drains like the heater or sound system are on may be your alternator bearings.
Another telltale is turning the AM radio to a low number on the dial without music, then revving the engine. If you hear a whine or the sound goes fuzzy when you hit the gas, your alternator is probably failing.
If the vehicle won’t crank or start but the headlights are still working, look to problems with the starter or other parts of the engine.
How to if Tell Your Engine Is in Trouble
There are several different reasons an engine may need to be rebuilt. Symptoms of an engine starting to go can range from anything including burning oil, substantial oil leakage, continuous engine misfires, clouds of blue smoke from the tailpipe, or even clunks occurring just before your engine stops and gives out entirely.
Why Engines Fail
The most predominant reason for vehicle engine to feel is improper lubrication. That means there is either not enough oil, an overabundance of oil sludge, or overheating which is also linked to the lubrication system as it is needed to cool parts of the engine such as the piston and cylinder wall.
Cooling system failure is another reason for an engine to overheat. A low level or complete leakage of coolant can result in engine failure. Head gaskets leaking can be one reason for low coolant levels. Neglecting to check oil levels or replace oil if there is a leak can also kill an engine.