8 Common Car Faults to Look Out For

If they’re in regular use, cars will definitely start showing signs of wear and tear. This can potentially lead to at least a few minor faults over the lifetime of the vehicle, along with a couple of more serious issues too. To prevent small issues becoming expensive ones, it’s a good idea to look out for common car faults, and get anything you’re concerned about looked at.

Bear in mind that different makes and models of vehicle are likely to have different propensities to develop particular faults. Some cars are notorious for certain issues, from engine problems to a likelihood of rust. And because not all cars age at the same rate, you may not expect to see faults until a little later down the line.

We’ve looked at eight common faults to keep an eye out for below. Most of these involve parts of the car that are used most frequently, such as the engine, tyres, clutch and brakes.  

1. Tyre Problems

As our tyres come into direct contact with the road surface, they are liable to wear down fairly quickly. Legally, the depth of your tyre tread has to be at least 1.6mm – you can test this using a 20 pence piece. It’s recommended that you replace any tyres before they reach this limit though, to keep your car as safe as possible.

Also check to see if your tyres are wearing unevenly, as this can be a sign that the wheels need to be rebalanced. Thin tyres can furthermore lead to punctures, which in turn can mean having to change a flat tyre on the side of a busy road!

2. Damaged Suspension

As well as causing issues with your tyres, poor road quality can lead to bad suspension. You’ll certainly feel the difference if your suspension has been damaged, as every pothole will make an impact! Try driving a route that includes various road surfaces, like uneven tarmac and speed bumps, and see if you notice anything odd.

Common signs of damaged suspension include getting jolted around in your seat, loose handling and hearing knocks and thumps when you travel across uneven surfaces. You may need to get a few springs replaced, or other worn parts, so that the issue doesn’t get any worse.

car faults

3. Worn Brake Pads

We use our brakes every time we get behind the wheel, so it should come as no surprise that the pads can get worn relatively quickly. In fact, worn brake pads are one of the most common types of fault on a car, and they need to be replaced often. They can last anywhere between around 30,000 and 70,000 miles, depending on the way the vehicle is driven.

If your brake pads are coming to the end of their life, you may see a warning light on your dashboard, or you will probably hear grinding or squealing noises when you press the brake pedal. It’s essential that you don’t ignore such warning signs – less responsive brakes can lead to accidents on the road.

4. Worn Out Clutch

In the same way your brake pads can get work over time, so can your clutch. You may be able to feel it when this happens – it will feel like the pedal is slipping when you use it. And chances are, if your clutch is worn out, you’ll smell it! This fault gives off the scent of burnt toast.

A worn out clutch can be a serious problem, as it will mean you’re unable to change gears. You may therefore find yourself breaking down on the side of the road. Make sure you get your clutch looked at if you do suspect there is an issue.

5. Shaky Steering Wheel

If your steering wheel starts to shake, this can be a sign of a much more serious issue. It may indicate that there is a problem with the car’s suspension. And the shaking itself can also be incredibly dangerous, particularly if you’re driving at higher speeds on a motorway. 

It’s a good idea to check whether your tyre balance or wheel bearings are behaving properly, and see if the suspension is out of alignment. If the car is pulling to one side when you drive it, this could be an indication that the wheels are not suitably aligned, and that you need to take the vehicle to a mechanic.

6. Overheating Engine

Car engines are made up of various parts, which all need to work together for the vehicle to run smoothly. One of the functions of an engine is the burning of a mixture of air and fuel in the combustion chamber, which is an extremely hot process. It therefore makes sense that engines can overheat.

Problems with the vehicle’s cooling system are the likely cause of overheating, so see if topping up your coolant helps, check for any leaks, and find out if the radiator has signs of corrosion. You may also want to listen out for rattling or knocking sounds coming from the engine – these could indicate an urgent problem.

Common Car Faults

7. Exhaust Issues

If you see any smoke coming from your exhaust, you know there is an issue. You may be able to tell what the problem is by the colour of the smoke though. For instance, blue or black smoke may mean that your car isn’t burning fuel at the correct rate, or engine oil is burning alongside the fuel.

With grey or white smoke, it’s likely that coolant is being combusted along with fuel, indicating a leak. This will probably be found in the head gasket, engine block, or cylinder head. Any of these issues are a sign that you need to get your exhaust looked at!

8. Poor Fuel Efficiency

You may already know the typical fuel consumption of your vehicle, especially if you’ve been driving it for a number of years. If not, you should be able to easily find this information online. Once you have these details, look out for sudden drops in efficiency.

Using more fuel than normal can mean a fault, such as your engine not being serviced properly. Alternatively, the car’s air filters, fuel filters or O2 sensors may be clogged, and need cleaning or replacing.

Checking for Vehicle Faults

Over time, just about every car will develop a few faults. The trick is to keep your vehicle in the best condition possible and pay close attention to it, so that you can spot any small faults before they become larger ones. Fixing a smaller issue will undoubtedly be much cheaper than waiting until it develops into something serious.

Look out for the issues listed above, by checking your car over regularly and listening out for any unusual noises. Your dashboard lights should also give you some indication of any problems with things like the engine. If you see an orange light, this is probably a warning light, encouraging you to seek advice. A red light almost certainly means a major fault that needs to be investigated as soon as possible.

Overall, it’s sensible to keep an eye out for any abnormalities your vehicle may display, so that you can prevent a more serious, not to mention expensive, fault from occurring. And if you’re worried about anything that seems unusual, take your car to the garage. Even if it’s not an issue to be concerned about, at least checking with a mechanic will give you peace of mind.

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