What’s wrong with my car? Common car issues and what to do

TUT Staff

You’re driving down the open highway, the wind in your hair, the radio blasting, when suddenly, you hear a clink, or a hiss and your heart sinks. We’ve all been there – encountering a surprise car issue is one of the most annoying things that can happen, and it always seems to be at the beginning of a road trip or in the middle of a busy day.  

There is a myriad of different problems that can occur in a vehicle. It can be hard to know what issues require immediate servicing, and which issues are ok to leave for a few days. If you’re trying to narrow down which part of your car is faulty, this guide will help you to pinpoint the issue, and determine the best course of action. 


Engine Issues 

1. Spluttering, revving or smelly engine 

If you notice your engine is spluttering or making other unusual noises, this is usually a sign that it needs attention as soon as possible. While an engine may sometimes splutter as it runs out of gas, if your gas gauge indicates a full tank, there may be a serious issue within the fuel or exhaust system. 

The exhaust system works to collect exhaust gases from the cylinder head from an exhaust manifold. The toxic elements are then removed from these gases before they leave the vehicle at the tailpipe. 

The fuel system stores and supplies fuel to the car’s engine. Through a process of combustion, fuel and air mix, atomize and vaporize.  


A spluttering sound or a strong fuel smell is often the symptom of a leak within one of these systems, usually at the exhaust manifold. This should be dealt with immediately, as escaping gases could be dangerous to both the car and its passengers. 

You may also be dealing with a dirty or clogged fuel injector. The fuel injectors spray fuel into cylinders where it is mixed with air before combustion. When the fuel injector nozzles become clogged, which happens naturally over time, an uneven stream of fuel is produced. For optimal performance, it’s best to replace or mend the injector as soon as possible. A wide range of injectors is available at Goldfarb INC.  

2. Poor Fuel Economy 

If you seem to be going through fuel at a quicker rate than usual, this is likely a signal of an issue within the engine. This is a semi-urgent issue. You should look into repairing the issue soon, as you will waste money and time at the pumps. 

Again, it may be time to look into replacing your fuel injectors. A leak might cause fuel to seep out of the fuel injection system, effectively wasting a percentage of your fuel. 

Other reasons for poor fuel economy include bad driving habits, idling, and incorrect tire pressure. If you tend to drive too aggressively (accelerating and braking quickly), these habits will take a toll on your mileage. Similarly, if you are prone to leaving your vehicle idling unnecessarily, you will also waste gas.  


3. Smoking engine 

If you notice your engine is smoking, it’s probably advisable to get a professional’s help immediately. However, on cold days, white or black smoke from the tailpipe may just be steam coming from your hot engine and mixing with the air.  

Smoke coming directly from the engine could be a sign that coolant has entered the combustion chamber, or that you have a leaking head gasket.  

Be careful not to let your engine overheat if you notice any smoke. This may cause irreversible damage to your vehicle. 

4. Engine won’t start 

There are several possible reasons why your engine may be refusing to start. Some of the most common are a dead battery, a bad ignition switch, a broken starter or a clogged fuel filter. 

Your car battery can die for a few reasons. Whether you left the light on overnight, or you have a more serious issue within the car itself, you’ll want to get your battery up and running again quickly. If jump-starting the car works, the battery has probably died. To avoid the issue recurring, have a technician look at the battery to see if it needs replacing or mending. 

If you can switch on the car lights but it still won’t start, you may be dealing with an ignition switch or a broken starter issue. This type of issue will need a professional’s help. 

If there is a clog in the fuel filter, gas won’t be able to make its way to the engine. If it’s a serious clog, your car might not even start. The filter should be changed frequently to avoid this issue. 

Brake Issues 

5. Squeaky brakes 

Squeaky car brakes are one of those painfully unpleasant, hair-raising sounds, (think nails on a chalkboard) that demand attention. If you’ve got piercing, squeaky brakes, you likely have worn out brake pads or loose brake parts.  

Although the sound is awful, it’s there for a good reason. Car brake pads have a metal wear indicator, which, when exposed, produced the tell-tale squeak. This is designed as an auditory signal that your brake pads need attention. 

If any of the various parts of your car’s braking system become loose, they begin to vibrate, resulting in squeaking. The cure will likely be to clean or lubricate the faulty part to get the system back in working order. 

One final reason for squeaky brakes is bad weather or road conditions. You may notice some squeaking when you first start using your car on a cold morning or in particularly humid conditions. Storing your car inside an indoor garage can help to mitigate the issue.  

6. Less effective brakes 

If there’s no pressure in your brake pedal or your brakes simply aren’t functioning as they ought to, you may be out of brake fluid. Be sure to check for a leak in the brake system as this may cause you to go through brake fluid more quickly. 

Tire Issues 

7. Tires are worn unevenly 

If you notice that your tires appear to be worn unevenly, it may be because your tires are not aligned properly, they are over or under-inflated or it may indicate a worn-out suspension. 

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While it can be annoying to change your tires, it’s worth fixing this problem as soon as possible to avoid safety risks. Worn out tires make steering more challenging, and you run the risk of sudden blowouts at high speeds. 

8. Flat tires 

This is one of the more common issues people experience with their cars. Flat tires are more dangerous than some people realize. Driving on a flat tire could cause internal damage to your vehicle. You will also experience poor control of the vehicle when driving on a flat tire. 

Other Issues 

9. Broken headlight 

If your headlight has gone out, the problem will likely be the bulb. However, if replacing the bulb doesn’t fix the issue, your problem might be a corroded socket or a faulty wire. If more than one light has gone out, the issue likely lies with the fuse.  

10. Warm air or no air from the air conditioner 

On a hot day, this problem can be truly infuriating. The most common cause of air conditioner problems are leaks or compressor issues. Your car’s air conditioner pumps the refrigerant through a loop. If there’s a leak anywhere in this system, you will lose refrigerant, resulting in warm air or low air pressure. 

Unless you have experience with mechanics, an issue with the air conditioning system should be assessed by a professional. 

11. Broken windscreen 

While it is possible to drive with a broken windshield, it’s recommended that you repair it as soon as possible. If moisture or dirt gets caught in the crack, this can cause the crack to spread. In several states, police are allowed to ticket you if they deem your windshield unsafe for the road. 

12. Faulty speaker system  

If you have a blown speaker, it’s likely due to thermal failure. This occurs when the speaker overheats, typically caused by loud volumes. If you hear a rattling noise coming from the speaker, you may be dealing with a damaged speaker cone or voice coil.  


Your car is a complex machine. There is a myriad of issues that can occur externally or internally to your vehicle, and it’s important to prioritize safety. Always check whether the problem you are experiencing could be dangerous before continuing your journey.  

If you manage to identify what has gone wrong, make sure you have the correct parts and tools before attempting any self-fixes. If you start to tinker with the systems in your car incorrectly, you risk doing even more damage.  

Whatever your issue may be, be careful to research the reasons why it may have occurred in the first place. In many cases, you’ll find that there are measures you can take to prevent a recurrence of the issue, saving you time, money and a lot of hassle.