Five Easy Ways to Diagnose Car Problems

Knowing some telltale signs of common car problems can save you both time and money. Even if you’re not mechanically inclined, being able to identify warning signs of car trouble can help you communicate with a qualified mechanic, making isolating the problem and resolving it much easier.
The good news is that today’s vehicles are more reliable than ever before. Global competition and the increased use of precision technology in auto manufacturing has vastly improved the reliability of vehicles in the past two decades. J.D. Power and Associates, a respected research firm, found that automakers have made big strides in recent years. In 2016, new vehicle quality was up 6 percent over the previous year.

Woman who opened the hood of her car


Malfunctions still happen, however, and knowing a few basics of diagnosing car problems is a skill every auto owner should cultivate. Here are a few methods of diagnosing car problems that just about anyone can master:
Open up your ears – Unusual noises are often a sign that some mechanical component of your vehicle is malfunctioning. By just listening, you can diagnose a wide range of problems, including engine trouble, power steering malfunctions, or brakes in need of replacement, among other issues.

If you hear squealing when you apply the brakes, chances are that your brake pads have become worn down and need replacement.

Car wheel

A creaking or squeaking sound that occurs when you turn the wheel can indicate worn-out shocks, power steering problems, or a damaged suspension, among other problems.

If your engine is making a knocking noise, a variety of reasons can be the cause. It could just be that you’ve put the wrong octane fuel in the vehicle or that your spark plugs are damaged or improperly installed. More serious causes of engine knocking could be problems with your vehicle’s crankshaft. Engine problems can be expensive, but using quality recycled auto parts can greatly reduce their cost. Your mechanic may have access to great used auto parts that can help you take some of the financial bite out of major auto repairs.

Inside of a car's hood

If you’re hearing clicking or popping sounds while your vehicle is in operation, this can be the sign of loose drive belts, worn out tires, or low engine oil. Listen to the sound carefully and try to determine which part of the vehicle it’s coming from.

Sniff out trouble – Your sense of smell can be a powerful ally in diagnosing car trouble. There are several easily recognizable smells that can indicate car trouble. For example, if you’re smelling gas or oil while you drive, this can indicate that there’s a leak. Leaking fuel or oil can be a safety hazard, so it’s worthwhile to have a qualified mechanic check it out.

If you’ve noticed an unexplainable sweet smell in your vehicle, this can indicate that engine coolant is leaking. Leaking engine coolant can result in inadequate cooling of your auto’s engine, which can lead to serious damage.

If you detect the smell of sulfur, it can indicate problems with the battery or catalytic converter of your vehicle. Damaged or malfunctioning batteries often emit a sulfur smell. Another possible explanation is a problem with your fuel system.

Last, if you notice a mold or mildew smell, chances are that you need to replace the cabin air filter in your vehicle. In some cases, the cause may also be the growth of mold or mildew in your vehicle. These cases will require a thorough cleaning and possible replacement of some cabin components.

Some holding a car part

Get hands-on – Your sense of touch can often help diagnose car trouble. Detecting heat and vibration can help you locate where problems are occurring and even determine their cause.

For example, if you feel an excessive vibration while holding the steering wheel, it can indicate problems with engine mounts or the engine itself. Poor throttle response when you press the gas can also indicate engine problems or, possibly, issues with the fuel delivery system.

If you feel like your air conditioning system isn’t working properly, put your hands up to the vents. If you don’t feel a normal amount of air coming through, or if the air isn’t cool enough, this may indicate issues with the vehicle’s HVAC system.

Keep your eyes open – Giving your vehicle a visual inspection can help you detect possible problems. Take the time to take a look under the hood every month or so. Check the battery to see if you can detect any corrosion around the battery terminals. Look at the belts to see if they are worn.

Also, take the time to check your tires. If the tread on your tires looks degraded or if you can detect damage to your tires, it may be worthwhile to have them looked over by a professional.

A visual inspection can also help you determine if any bodywork is necessary. Check for dents and dings and, also, look to ensure that your paint isn’t cracked or peeling. By catching these problems early and resolving them, you can help preserve the resale value of your vehicle.

You also need to keep an eye on your dashboard warning lights. If any of them are activated, be sure to talk to a mechanic about the matter. Your warning lights are important indicators of your vehicle’s mechanical health. Don’t ignore them!

Regularly check your fluids – One of the best things car owners can do to detect potential problems in their vehicles is to regularly check fluid levels. Start with the engine oil. It’s a good idea to check the oil every month or so to determine if it’s at adequate levels and that it is clean.

Someone putting fluid in car

If your oil is low, and you’ve recently changed it, this can be a sign of a leak or other problems. When your oil is dark and sludgy, it means that it is time to change the oil. If you’ve recently changed the oil and it’s sludgy, this can indicate that contaminants are building up in your engine.

Oil’s not the only fluid you need to check. It’s also worthwhile to check your transmission fluid a few times a year. Your fluid should be a clear pink or orange color. If your fluid is dark or is low, it’s time for a flush and a fluid change. If the fluid level quickly drops or is discolored after a change, this may indicate serious problems with your transmission.
If your car does need repair, it doesn’t have to be outrageously expensive. For example, the average check-engine-light-related car repair cost automobile owners $387.31 in 2015, according to CarMD. With the use of quality recycled auto parts, the price of fixing car problems can be much less for auto owners, especially if the repair involves a major component such as an A/C air compressor, transmission, or engine part. Finding quality providers of used parts is important to ensure you’re getting the best value, however.

Two men shaking hands

Bessler Auto Parts serves Ohio and Kentucky with quality late-model, recycled auto parts. A family-owned business, Bessler Auto Parts helps auto owners make repairs more affordable by making top-quality used auto parts available. Car restoration enthusiasts also like the wide range of hard-to-find components available at Bessler Auto Parts.
As a member of Team PRP, the Automotive Recyclers Association, the Kentucky Auto and Truck Recyclers Association, and the United Recyclers Group, Bessler Auto Parts maintains the highest professional standards in the auto recycling industry. Contact the Bessler Auto Parts today to find the parts you need at an outstanding price.