From time to time everyone finds they have an issue with their car. If you do develop a problem it is never a good idea to ignore it; taking care of a minor issue as soon as it occurs is the best way of avoiding huge repair bills later on. Safety is another concern too, keeping your car in good condition is the best way of keeping your family safe when out on the road.
This list covers 25 of the most common problems found in newer cars. If you have an older vehicle it might not be on this list and there are lots of other problems not included. We have highlighted what we think are the more usual issues so you can look out for them in your own car.
Normal Wear and Tear
There are some problems that will always happen to any type of car – it doesn’t matter about the make or model, the quality of the manufacturing process or how well you maintain the vehicle. Over time there are normal signs that a vehicle is ageing and this means some problems start to crop up. Usually these are small things that can be easily fixed; if they turn into something more serious it could mean that it becomes more economical to sell the car. Let’s take a look at some of the more common issues and see if these are likely to be a quick fix or a costly repair.
1. A Warning Light Shows
Warning lights appear when one of the sensors detect an error and highlights it to the engine control unit. There are around 200 warning codes so you will need to take this to a professional who can then check the system, find out the source of the warning and carry out the necessary repairs.
2. The Engine is Sputtering
There are multiple parts that keep an engine running well but a misfiring or sputtering engine is one of the most common issues. For an engine to run efficiently the right amount of air and fuel must mix and then burn within the combustion chamber. In order for this to run correctly there are a number of components in the fuel and ignition systems that have to work in unison. In order to keep these types of issues to a minimum the fuel and ignition systems must be maintained and replaced according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
3. The Steering Wheel is Shaking
There are a number of reasons why a steering wheel shakes when driving a vehicle. Damaged suspension components or wheel bearings are usually to blame if this happens immediately after you start the car and pull away. If the wheel shakes at higher speeds it is more often an issue with tyre/wheel balance. To resolve this you will need to take the car for a proper mechanical inspection. It could be as simple a fix as getting your wheels aligned.
4. The Brake Pads are Worn
Brakes will naturally wear down with use so it is vital that you keep on top of maintenance and make sure any problem is resolved long before the brakes fail. Sometimes factory defects mean that brake pads and rotors wear out more quickly than they would normally.
5. The Brakes are Squeaking/Grinding
The brake system will start to wear out just like any other moving part you have in the car. Brakes are vital – they are essential to make sure you can stop safety so any kind of brake related problems, including unusual noise or a soft brake pedal, should be taken care of by a professional mechanic at the earliest possible opportunity. There are some minor issues that can cause brakes to squeak or squeal but once you start to notice grinding you definitely need to get them replaced.
6. The Tyres are Flat
A tyre will obviously be flat if it is punctured but it can also be caused by normal wear and tear. Keeping the tyres rotated in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions can help extend their life. Best practice is to rotate the tyres when you change your engine oil or every 5,000 miles.
7. The Tyres are Wearing Unevenly
A certain amount of wear over time is normal but if you find that the tyres wear down quickly this indicates a potential problem. If there is vibration through the steering wheel or you find that your tyres are wearing unevenly you should ask someone to check the vehicle. It could be that the suspension needs alignment. In addition, sometime tyre problems are caused by external factors or by defects in manufacture.
8. The Car is Consuming Too Much Oil
Fresh oil is essential for a car to function but if you are constantly topping up your oil level you may have a problem with the car. If you start to notice a drop off in performance or the oil light comes on you will definitely need to check the oil. If you don’t get the oil changed regularly you might find that the engine becomes corroded. Poor quality oil or lack of regular changes can also cause blockages in the oil filter. It is best to change the oil filter at the same time as you change the oil although some modern cars do have a filter bypass system in place.
9. The Alternator is Failing
The alternator is an essential part of the running of your car – it keeps your battery charged and makes sure all the electrics run once you have started the vehicle. If it breaks your battery can wear out and you find it difficult to start the car. Keep up with the service intervals and make sure you get it replaced in good time.
10. The Radiator is Leaking
Radiator leaks are almost always caused by corrosion. Corrosion itself can have a lot of causes but once you get one leak you are likely to get more so it makes sense to replace the whole radiator. If you don’t keep the radiator in good condition you can get problems with overheating and, ultimately, could end up with an engine fire.
11. The Starter Motor is Failing
The starter motor is the component that turns the engine over when you start the car. If it fails it is either a result of electrical solenoid damage, the motor itself has broken or there are other faults in the electrical system. It is difficult to assess when a starter motor is likely to break and to avoid replacing it unnecessarily it is best to get the car inspected by a professional to determine the cause of the starting issues before doing so.
12. There are Cracks in the Windscreen
Usually it takes some kind of external force like a stone to crack a windscreen but there are some cars that are prone to damage because of factory production vulnerabilities. Although a small crack might not seem like a big deal, they can spread rapidly and compromise the integrity of the glass.
13. The Car Gives Out Excessive Emissions
The emission system is designed to keep pollution to a minimum while making sure your car runs properly. The system includes a lot of sensitive equipment that can fail from time to time and these cause a variety of different problems in the car. For example, an O2 sensor that is faulty may start affecting the fuel mixture, leading to inefficiencies in the running and economy of the vehicle.
14. There are Fuel Leaks Through Evaporation
Fuel is sensitive to temperature and when it is hot the fuel will expand. This means that there has to be some way of venting the fumes. Since the fumes are toxic modern cars are fitted with equipment to stop that toxicity reaching the outside. The main problems you get with this is leaking through evaporation. Most problems happen with the fuel cap and it is easy and cheap to replace these regularly. However, if you see a warning light never ignore it – if you end up with a failure in the catalytic converter the repairs could be costly.
15. The Sensors Are Malfunctioning
Most modern cars come with a vast number of sensors but these can have issues in and of themselves. One of the most common faults are with the fuel-air sensors and these are costly to replace, often in excess of £200.
16. There are Gear Box Problems/Transmission Failures
The gearbox means that all of the power your car engine generates can be turned into the sort of rotational force that can be used by the wheels. Over time the gears will start to wear down and you will find that it becomes more difficult to change gears. Eventually the gear box will fail, leading to a repair bill that could potentially reach thousands of pounds.
16a. The Transmission Fluid is Leaking
Any transmission system needs fluid to make sure all of the working components are kept well lubricated. In automatic cars the fluid used in transmission is also used in the hydraulic and coolant systems. Small holes can form throughout the system which allow tiny amounts of fluid to leak. Over time, or if the leaks are severe, you will find that transmission is less efficient, plus you may find that the system overheats or loses pressure. In both cases the transmission will fail. If you see a red puddle collecting under your car it can be a sign that the transmission pan is cracked.
16b. The Automatic Transmission is Slipping
Automatic transmission can be long-lasting and efficient if well-maintained. It is not unreasonable for it to last over 200,000 miles. If you start to find the transmission is less smooth or slips it could be that there is damage or clogging in the seals, gaskets and lines inside the system. The transmission should be serviced regularly to avoid this.
16c. The Transmission Filters are Clogged
Just like any other fluid, transmission fluid will pick up all sorts of particles over time and many of these end up in the filter which then become clogged and need replacing. However, the transmission system is closed meaning that if you are getting issues with clogging and blockages it is likely to be down to some serious problems that could be beyond repair.
16d. There’s Water in the Transmission System
Water and other liquids can enter the transmission system and if it does it always means bad news for the car owner. In even small amounts water will damage the components in the system and lead to transmission failure.
17. Electrical Problems: Speakers
Most new cars come with extensive electrical systems meaning that problems can occur in multiple areas. One of the most immediately noticeable, and some would say annoying, faults is when the speakers fail. Sometimes this is as simple as a wire working loose and is easily fixed by removing the speaker and reattaching the faulty wire.
18. Electrical Problems: Lights
Lighting is always a safety issue especially if it is a headlight, brake light or indicator that is gone. Corrosion and wiring can cause bulb issues but most bulbs last a long time before falling foul of normal wear and tear.
19. Electrical Problems: Flat Battery
Flat batteries are inconvenient – and can also be a major source of stress. It could be that you have left a light on accidentally or something minor that can be simply sorted out by jump-starting the car. A flat battery can occur because the battery is old and has lost the ability to keep a charge. A battery older than 3-6 years or one that has travelled over 50,000 is due for replacement. Other causes include alternator failure of problems within the charging system.
20. There are a Few Minor Issues:
Scratches, Streaking Wipers and Poor Paintwork: These things are often annoying but don’t need immediate attention. Fixing them is also cheap and easy: Some cleaner wax and paint to cover scratches, new windscreen wipers cost just a few pounds and paint defects are nearly always cosmetic. If you do see any small rust spots, make sure you deal with these so they don’t turn into a bigger problem later on.
21. Window Problems
Most new cars have electric windows and one of the major bug-bears of car owners is when they stop winding all the way up. It isn’t just annoying either – a gap can mean water can enter the car interior and damage it, or you could become more a target for thieves.
22. Faulty Starter
If it’s hard to start your car you may be starting to hear a click before the car starts – if this is the case it could be time to replace your starter motor. If it goes the car will no longer start so it needs fixing sooner rather than later.
It can come as a shock to find rust on your car though it doesn’t always represent a serious issue it depends on where the rust is found. Rust on the body work is cosmetic but rust underneath the car or on your exhaust could be potentially dangerous and should be investigated as it could eat away at essential components.
Rust needs an anode, cathode and an electrolyte to form which makes cars prone to it. If the climate is humid enough your car can develop rust even if it’s under cover. The metal in your car can act as the anode and cathode and water is an electrolyte. A quick check around your vehicle, under the wheel arches and around the exhaust on a regular basis is often enough to spot any rust issue but every few months, especially if you live in a damp or humid environment, it would be a good idea to get on your hands and knees and check under your vehicle thoroughly.
24. My Fuel Economy is Falling
If the engine runs efficiently it will burn fuel at a better rate but if parts of the systems start to wear out and are not replaced you will find the mileage will drop. Keeping on top of things like your fuel and air filters, O2 and mass air sensors, with a proactive servicing regime will keep you car running efficiently. The bottom line is that fuel economy depends on how well your maintain the engine. Making sure that the vehicle is regularly serviced, with appropriate oil changes, filter changes and new spark plugs can make all the difference when it comes to mileage.
25. The Car Keeps Overheating
Surprisingly, overheating doesn’t happen that often especially in modern cars with their complex systems, sensors and so on acting to keep the vehicle’s temperature just right. Making sure the radiator is looked after and the water pump is working are the easiest and cheapest ways to prevent problems with overheating.
Whatever car you own it will require regular maintenance and even then you will still get things that go wrong from time to time. Some car models are more prone to certain issues than others and driving style can also have some impact on wair and efficiency. No matter what your vehicle, we hope that you have found this list helpful. Staying vigilant for signs of trouble and dealing with them when they occur saves time and money and keeps you on the road.