Engine Troubleshooting Tips

Contrary to popular belief these days, cars do require maintenance and failure to provide it will leave you in a position to wonder what is wrong. Even the best car owners will be caught from time to time due to basic mechanical failure and find themselves wondering what happened. While many people rely on repair shops to do the actual work on a car, it is a still a good idea to know how to do some basic engine troubleshooting. Being able to do engine troubleshooting will help you speak the mechanics language and help protect you from the few that may try to sell you repairs you don’t need.

Take Note of When the Problem Occurs

Problems that occur at low speeds can be routed back to different causes then problems that occur at higher speeds. A car may run fine when it’s rolling down the road but when it comes to a standstill the engine may start to run rough. It is differences in the vehicles behavior that should be noted when engine troubleshooting. Not only will the information help you narrow down which system the car is having the issue, it will also be valuable information to the mechanic who will do the repairs.

Look For Outward Signs

Your car will tell you when something is going wrong. For example if the exhaust is blasting out the back end where before it was barely noticeable then you know something has changed in how the fuel is being burned. Engine troubleshooting often requires detective work and many times the clues have to be followed back to the source, such as exhaust. Look under the car for oil spots or other fluids that may be leaking out of the engine block for further clues in your process of engine troubleshooting.

Take a Sniff

Many engine troubles can be first detected by smell. Antifreeze that is leaking will smell sweet and syrupy when the smell comes through the vents. Steering fluid generally is more acidic smelling. Regardless, if a new smell is being detected in the car that wasn’t there before try to determine what is smells like and how long the engine has to run before you notice it. Then, when the car is turned off and the engine is cooled down, you can pull the different dipsticks and sniff the fluid to try and match up the smell.

Use Your Ears

It is wise to turn off the radio from time to time and listen to the engine as you roll down the road. This will allow you to develop a sense of how your car is supposed to sound. Then when the need arises, you will be able to effectively do engine troubleshooting because you will recognize the subtle difference in the sound of your engine instead of having to wait until it sounds drastically different. Large amounts of money can be saved by developing this skill and being able to do early engine troubleshooting.

Computer Check

When the service engine light turns on, it is important to take notice. Unfortunately, the service engine light won’t tell you what is wrong. You will need to connect to the on board computer to find out what code has registered. Computer scanners are not cheap tools to purchase, but many repair shops and auto parts stores will run a scan of your car’s computer for very little money or even free. Once you know the code, you can look it up in your owner’s manual.

Basic engine troubleshooting is something every car owner should be able to do. Basic car systems such as heating and cooling are not complex and with a little time looking under the hood, an owner can become familiar with the basics. In addition, engine troubleshooting is a good skill to have, as it will allow you to relate the symptoms of the problem more clearly to the mechanic completing the repairs. Engine troubleshooting may not always lead you to the root of the problem, but it will help peal back the layers for a better understanding of your car’s engine.