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3 Common Car Problems – and What Might Be Broken

There are few things more frustrating than a vehicle that isn’t running right. If your car is having any sort of problems that aren’t as obvious as a flat tire or a blown light, you could be facing any number of different issues.

Here are some common car problems that many vehicle owners experience, along with what your mechanic might need to do in order to fix them.

1. My car won’t start

Figuring out the reason your car won’t start begins with what happens when you turn the ignition key.

  • If the car is silent when you try to start it, chances are it has to do with your battery. You may have corroded battery cables or terminals that need to be cleaned, or your battery may be dead and need a jump start or replacement.
  • If the car makes a clicking sound when you turn the key, but won’t start, you may have either a dead battery or a dying starter. If you try turning the key several times and the engine eventually catches, it’s your starter.
  • If the engine cranks but won’t start, you may have a problem with your spark plugs … or you may have run out of gas.

2. My brakes are making noise / don’t work right

Brake noise is always be a cause for concern, because it’s usually a precursor to a bigger problem. Here are some common sounds or issues with brakes, and what they might mean in terms of brake repair.

  • If your brakes are squealing or whining, you probably have worn or bad brake pads.
  • If your brakes are grinding, roaring, or vibrating, you probably have really bad brake pads that will damage your discs (rotors), if they haven’t already. Vibrating brakes can also mean poor alignment or worn suspension.
  • If your brakes are grabbing or pulling the car to one side when you stop, it’s usually your pads, discs, or both.
  • If your brakes are soft or pushing too far down, it’s often a problem with your brake fluid. You may just have low brake fluid levels that a refill will take care of, or there might be a leak somewhere in your brake lines. This problem might also mean a bad brake booster.
  • If your brake pedal goes all the way to the floor and it takes a long time to stop, you may have low brake fluid, air in your brake lines, or a bad master cylinder.
  • If your brakes are too firm or hard, you may have a bad brake booster, a vacuum leak, or an obstruction in your brake lines.

3. My engine doesn’t sound right

There are so many problems that can cause engine noise, someone could probably write a book about it. Sometimes you can have engine problems and not even hear anything until it’s too late!

But if your engine sounds wrong or different, here are some possible causes.

  • If your engine is hissing, it’s probably overheating. You may see steam coming from under the hood. This is usually caused by coolant system or catalytic converter problems.
  • If your engine is whirring and the sound gets worse when you drive faster, you could have low power steering fluid, problems with the power steering pump, or a bad alternator, water pump, or A/C compressor.
  • If your engine roars and the sound is coming from under or behind the car, chances are you have a problem with the exhaust system.
  • If your engine pops and hesitates, you may need to replace the air filter, ignition wires, or distributor cap.
  • If your engine pops, spits, or backfires, you could have a slipped timing belt or chain, miswired or bad spark plugs, a worn or broken camshaft, or poor ignition timing.

It’s not easy to diagnose car problems. The best idea is to head to your local auto repair shop and explain the problem to your Fort Collins mechanic (or wherever you happen to live), who can help you get it fixed the right way.

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