The Worst Car Repair Situations and How to Avoid Them

Lisa Steuer McArdle
· 4 min read
Some car troubles can be easily fixed, others are more time consuming and expensive to
. No matter what, it helps to be prepared and understand the worst-case car repair situations and what they look/sound like.
Here is a basic list of some of the
worst car problems
, what they might cost you, and what you can do to avoid them.
Regular car maintenance is important to prevent major car repair problems | Twenty20

Transmission troubles

These days, electronically controlled automatic transmissions can often have problems related to software or solenoids, and are often very costly to fix. It could even cost more to fix the transmission than the value of the car, so it may not even be worth it.
What It Might Cost You: $300 to $5,000
Warning Signs: A slipping or a jerk when putting the automatic transmission in gear.
Preventative Measures: During routine maintenance, make sure your mechanic checks the transmission fluid.
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Brake problems

Obviously, having working brakes is absolutely crucial to safety.
What It Might Cost You: $300 to $1,000
Warning Signs: Squeaking or grinding noises, pulling to one side when you hit the brakes, a brake pedal that feels soft.
Preventative Measures: At least twice a year, get your brake pads and rotors checked. Brake fluid should be changed every two to three years.

Seized engine

If an engine is seized, it means it has failed due to lack of oil or oil pressure. There’s no way to fix this, so the engine must be replaced.
What It Might Cost You: $3,000 for a used engine or up to $10,000 for a remanufactured engine.
Warning Signs: Loud crank/clunking sounds.
Preventative Measures: Check your oil regularly and check your car’s owner’s manual on how often it should be changed.

Overheated engine

If caught early, it’s a fairly easy fix, but if you catch it too late, an overheated engine can do some serious damage.
What It Might Cost You: $100 to $10,000
Warning Signs: A thumping or ticking sound, finding coolant on the ground, and/or temperature gauge in the red zone.
Preventative Measures: An overheated engine could be caused by a coolant leak or a variety of other things, such as a blocked radiator or clogged heater core.

Hydrolocked engine

This can happen when a piston tries to compress water instead of the fuel/air mixture that engines are made to compress. Depending on the engine speed when this occurs, you can have no damage or may have to completely change the engine.
What It Might Cost You: $3,000 to $10,000
Warning Signs: Depending on how much water is in the engine, this can vary from a rough sound to a screening, crashing or knocking sound, followed by a complete shutoff of the engine.
Preventative Measures: Avoid driving in floods or deep puddles if possible.

Battery problems

You definitely don’t want to be stranded somewhere away from home with a dead battery. Batteries should last about three to five years, but this can vary especially if you drive in extreme heat or cold. The good news is that out of everything else on our list, this is probably the most fixable.
Warning Signs: Dim headlights and/or interior lights, and power windows reacting more slowly.
What It Might Cost You: Between $100 and $300 to replace a dead battery.
Preventative Measures: Have your battery checked during safety inspections or any visit to your dealer, especially if the battery is more than three years old.

Why regular car maintenance is so important

Unfortunately, your
car insurance
is unlikely to cover any of these issues, because typically you’re only covered if your vehicle is involved in an accident. That’s why it’s important to keep up with car maintenance as a general preventative measure.
Repair costs courtesy of

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