Diagnose Common Car Problems Yourself With These Tips


While it is always a good idea to have your vehicle serviced by a mechanic, there are some common car problems that you can easily diagnose yourself. By using your senses, you can quickly identify problems that will save you time and money in the long run.

One of the best ways to identify car issues is by looking underneath your vehicle. Often, there are fluid puddles underneath which can indicate serious problems that should be addressed immediately. If you think the issue goes beyond a simple tinkering, visit an Auto Repair Shop in Sunrise as soon as possible.

1. Check the Warning Lights

Modern cars are packed with sensors and systems, and many of them rely on dashboard warning lights to tell you when something is wrong.

The most serious lights are red, denoting a major problem, or the fact that something is broken. Others are yellow or amber, indicating a lesser problem that needs to be dealt with.

Checking the warning lights on your car is a simple way to prevent problems. However, some problems can’t be fixed without a trip to the auto repair shop.

2. Check Your Tires

Tires are a big part of any vehicle’s safety and comfort. So it’s crucial to regularly check your tires to make sure they’re in good condition.

One easy way to tell if your tires are worn is to examine them for any uneven wear or cracks in the sidewall. If you spot these, you’ll want to replace your tires at once.

Tread depth is also important to look at, especially if you often drive on slick surfaces. You can easily test your tread depth with a standard U.S. Penny.

Many tires on the market today have treadwear indicator bars that are molded into the grooves of the tire. These bars become visible when the tread wears down to less than 2/32 inch.

3. Check the Oil

Motor oil is a key component of your vehicle’s engine. It provides lubrication to keep moving parts running smoothly, and if the oil levels in your engine drop too low, you could be facing serious problems with the internals of your car’s powertrain.

You can check the oil level in your vehicle with a dipstick. Simply locate the dipstick on your hood, pull it out of the tube, and wipe it clean with a rag.

Don’t forget to wait for the oil to settle back in the pan before checking it again. You’ll get a better reading this way because the oil will have time to cool down and reach its full level.

4. Check Your Brakes

A brake check is an important part of regular car maintenance. It can help avoid costly repairs and collisions.

One of the most obvious signs that your brakes need service is if they require more force to stop than they used to. This can be caused by air in your brake fluid, a leak in your master cylinder or brake pads that are too thin.

Another symptom that brakes need service is if you feel vibrations in the pedal or steering wheel when you press on them. Vibrations are a sign that the brake pads have worn down unevenly, and they could cause your rotors to warp.

Inspection of your brake pads is relatively easy to do with some vehicles. However, it may take more work if you have to remove the wheel.

5. Check Your Tire Pressure

The pressure of your tires is a vital part of driving safety and performance. It is recommended that you check your tire pressure at least once a month to make sure they are inflated properly and to catch any signs of damage or wear, which could eventually lead to a flat.

Your vehicle’s ideal tire pressure is usually listed inside the driver’s door, but if it isn’t, you can find the information in your owner’s manual. The temperature also affects your tire pressure, so a change in weather can throw off the numbers and cause you to lose air quicker.

To check your tire pressure, unscrew the valve cap and use a tire pressure gauge to get an accurate reading. Place the gauge firmly onto the valve stem and press down until you hear the hissing sound of air escaping.

6. Check Your Windshield Wipers

Windshield wipers are one of the most overlooked components on your vehicle, and when they don’t work, you can experience a number of issues. Some of these can be fixed by yourself, while others might need to be replaced entirely.

The first thing to check is the wiper blades. If they’re noisy, squeaky or not cleaning your windshield, you may need new ones.

Wiper blades are made of soft rubber and over time, they wear out and need replacing. They should be changed every six months or sooner if you live in a harsh climate.

7. Check Your Air Conditioning

During hot summer days, you rely on your air conditioning to keep you cool and comfortable. Getting a system that doesn’t work properly is no fun and can make your road trip miserable for everyone in the car.

Your air conditioner relies on a compressor to pump refrigerant throughout the system. Without it, the other components can’t cool the air, so it’s vital to have this part checked regularly.

Checking the refrigerant level is an easy way to tell if you need to have this part replaced. Use a fluorescent leak tracer kit, UV light and yellow glasses to shine the light around your AC’s condenser, hoses and compressor.

Once you’ve found a leak, it is important to fix it before it becomes worse. The longer it goes, the more expensive it will be to repair.

8. Check Your Audio System

Unwanted noises coming from your sound system can be an extremely frustrating experience. However, there are ways to solve this problem on your own before a trip to the repair shop.

Often, these problems are caused by wiring issues or a low voltage supply. Depending on the severity of the issue, you may need to replace all or part of your audio cables.

Another common audio problem is distorted audio. This can happen because of poor wiring, a bad capacitor, or blown fuses.

If the noise is intermittent or accompanied by other symptoms such as alternator whine, you could have a problem with your car’s grounding. Often, people make the mistake of using their negative battery post as a ground, which can cause all kinds of noise to be absorbed by your audio system.

9. Check Your Heater

A car heater is an essential part of keeping you and your passengers warm on cold days. But just like any other part of your vehicle, a broken heater can be a pain.

Checking the heater is easy to do yourself, and it can save you a trip to the repair shop. But if the problem is more complex, it may require some work from a professional.

The most common cause of a faulty heater is low coolant levels. When your coolant level drops, the heater core can’t get the hot antifreeze it needs for heat-exchange, and the air that passes through the vents will be cold.

Other potential causes are a leaking heater control valve, or a clogged heater core. The latter of these issues is more difficult to fix and can take a significant amount of time to resolve.

10. Check Your Lights

The lights on your vehicle play a vital role in helping you see and be seen on the road. Whether it’s the headlights, rear number plate light, or daytime running lights, it’s important to check that they are working correctly.

Another essential part of your car’s lighting system is the indicator lights. If one of these goes out, it could indicate a serious problem with your vehicle.

Luckily, it’s possible to get diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs) from your car’s computer, which will provide you with a starting point for diagnosing the issue. You can find a code reader/scan tool at any auto parts store for free, or you can get a professional to scan your vehicle for you.