Even if you are not an expert when it comes to cars and don’t aspire to be one, it’s prudent to know at least a little bit about your car. Knowing how to diagnose basic car problems could save you on a costly repair, either because you are able to fix the issue yourself or because you can recognize a deeper problem with your vehicle that needs to be addressed. In this article, Part 1 addresses common issues with starting the vehicle, and Part 2 considers how to respond to car problems when you are out on the road.
Part 1 of 2: How to address car problems during startup
Step 1: Boost a dead battery. One of the most common car problems faced by drivers has to do with the battery.
If you try to turn the key and the car either does nothing a clicking sound, then it is likely you have a battery issue. In general, a dead battery can be caused by extremely cold weather or a light left on inside the car.
Whatever the cause, you’ll need to get the car jumped by a friend or a professional, and if the battery is old enough, you may even need to get it replaced.
Step 2: Inspect with the tires. Another frequent issue for drivers has to do with the tires.
First of all, it is always a good idea to take a look at your tires before you drive. You don’t have to do an amazingly thorough inspection, but it is wise to take a few seconds to look for any noticeable deformities, like a flat tire, major cracking, and so on.
If you notice your tire pressure seems a little low, then it very well could be. The best tactic here is to keep a hand-held tire gauge in your vehicle. These comes in various types, but you can find a reliable one no bigger than a ballpoint pen, and use it to check your air pressure.
Compare the readings with those listed on the door panel of the car. If they don’t match, you can fill up your tires at a local convenience store or your mechanic. If the tire is completely flat, then you’ll need to put your spare on and either get a patch or a new tire altogether.
Part 2 of 2: How to diagnose car problems on the road
Step 1: Check for overheating. Some problems, like overheating, really don’t reveal themselves until after the car has been operating for some time.
Arguably, this is the worst type of problem because it can leave you stranded. A clear indication that your car is overheating is the presence of steam coming out from under the hood. If your car starts lagging and you notice steam, then a good guess is that your car is overheating.
Your instrument cluster on your dashboard will have a temperature gauge that indicates the temperature of the vehicle; if it is in the hot zone, your car is overheating.
Pull over as soon as you can to prevent any damage.
Step 2: Watch your oil. Another possible issue you could face has to do with the oil and oil pressure in your car.
Basically, oil provides a necessary lubricating function: when the oil has leaked out, for example, the engine parts rub and friction causes them to heat up, causing serious engine damage.
The best way to tell if you are having an issue with your oil is to check it routinely to prevent a catastrophe. Stay on top of your oil changes, for one, and watch out for dashboard lights.
If the oil pressure light comes on, stop driving immediately lest you cause permanent engine damage.
Step 3: Monitor the Check Engine Light. Finally, the Check Engine Light is a catch-all for many basic car problems.
The car’s computer puts out codes identifying an issue, so the best thing is to have your car checked out by a mechanic immediately.
You don’t have to be a professional to understand a bit about your car and how it operates. With a little knowledge in hand, you can troubleshoot basic car issues on your own to determine what’s best in a given situation and how to move forward in a productive way.