What’s Wrong With My Car?

Common Mechanical Problems

It seems that our cars only break down at the most inconvenient time possible! When we’re running late for an event that we have been looking forward to for ages or when we need to help out a friend.

It is possible to reduce the probability of a broken down car with a regular servicing schedule and a great mechanic taking care of you. However, if you find yourself with a car that is broken down or making weird noises then the following information may be very helpful to you.

Common Terms Used To Describe Mechanical Problems

  • Misfire: When a cylinder doesn’t ignite the air/fuel mixture, meaning no power is made
  • Backfire: When some or all of the air/fuel mixture isn’t ignited in the cylinder and combusts in the exhaust
  • Shimmy: Side to side motion that you can feel through the tyres and often the steering wheel too.
  • Sluggish: How your car feels when you accelerate but you don’t get the usual amount of power from acceleration at the same level.
  • Knocking/pinging: When the air/fuel mixture is ignited before the desired time determined by the spark plug, put increased stress on the engine & its components.
  • Dieseling: When an engine continues to run even after it has been shut off. Not commonly seen in Fuel Injected vehicles.
  • Bottoming Out: When the suspension maximises how far it compresses, usually because components have hit rubber bump stops to stop it from traveling further.
  • Surge: When air is unexpectedly pushed into the fuel system, causing it to momentarily starve the engine of fuel
  • Hesitation/bogging: When you’re engine misfires or stumbles when you step on the accelerator
  • Crackling: Sometimes a faulty speaker
  • Buzzing Under The Car: Might be a crack in the exhaust, leaking exhaust, obstruction or injector tick
  • Hissing Under The Bonnet: Vacuum hose issue
  • Popping In Your Engine: May be not enough fuel going into your engine which might indicate spark plug or timing belt issue
  • Screeching tyres in a car park: Tyre pressure may be the cause
  • Tick, tick noise from outside the car: Sometimes you can get a stone stuck in your tyre
  • Squealing: Can be an indication of low brakes
  • Scraping: Brakes may be completely worn out
  • Running Rich: When you’re engine is getting to much fuel (can cause it to smell like fuel and run poorly)
  • Running Lean: Not enough fuel is getting to the engine, cause the combustion chamber to heat up, damage components and potentially knock
  • Wheel/tyre Scrubbing: When your tyres hit the underbody or fenders of your car, usually occurs over a big bump
  • Blown shocks: When your shock absorbers can no longer effectively absorb bumps and impacts

Has Your Car Run Out Of Fuel?

When you’re about to run out of fuel, your engine will start to show signs of fuel starvation. This includes:

  • A loss in engine power
  • Engine hesitation
  • Sputtering
  • Intermittent power surges
  • Backfires

If this starts to happen, you should pull off to the side of the road as soon as it’s safe and possible to do so. Turn your engine off to stop the engine from being starved of fuel and too much air or debris from the bottom of the fuel tank getting in the fuel lines. If you continue to drive, your vehicle’s engine will run out of fuel and turn off, potentially damaging your engine. If you have mechanical power steering and brake boosters, they will also fail, making braking and steering much more difficult than under normal circumstances – potentially leading to a crash.

Have You Got A Flat Battery?

There are a number of car battery myths and facts out there, but one thing is certain: if your car has a flat battery it won’t start. The battery is necessary to prime the fuel pump, power the starter motor and make the spark plugs fire. If your radio isn’t working and there are no lights on inside your car, then this means that the issue is most likely an issue with your electrics. The first item we generally check is the fuse box to ensure a blown fuse isn’t preventing the car from starting. If all the fuses look to be intact, the battery is the next likely issue.

Common symptoms of a flat battery include:

  • A slow engine crank
  • Your battery won’t charge
  • A bloated battery
  • A rotten egg smell

Batteries usually have an indicator that shows whether or not they are in good condition. If this indicator is red, then the battery will definitely need to be replaced. Green indicates a flat battery, but it may not be caused by the battery itself, but by a power drain in your electronics or a faulty charging system.

To check if the battery is flat, use a multimeter to read its voltage. It should be around 12 volts with no load on it. When cranking the car, a healthy battery may drop down to between 9-10 volts. If the battery reads below either of these figures, then it’s flat and will need to be charged/replaced. Find out how to charge your car battery. Alternatively, a jumpstart should get you back on the road and allow you to drive your car to a mechanic for diagnosis and repair.

When buying a new battery, many people go to grab the cheapest option for their vehicle – but is this really the best option? Should you really buy a cheap battery?

Faulty Starter Motor

If your battery has power and there aren’t any blown fuses, the next common problem is the starter motor. There are a few telltale signs of a faulty starter including:

  1. All of the lights and electronics seem to be working correctly and are not dimming or failing when trying to start the car.
  2. You’ve tried to jumpstart the car, but it still won’t work.
  3. Unusual clicking, grinding or whirring noises coming from the engine bay.
  4. Intermittent issues starting the car. If the car only starts sometimes, this indicates a starter that is failing.
  5. Smoke from under the hood when trying to start your car. The starter is powered by electricity and can overheat if there is an electrical fault.

Take your car to a mechanic to replace the starter if you notice any of these problems.

In the event that you notice any of the problems described above, or your car is making strange noises, give Australian Mechanical a call on 07 3356 1538. We can diagnose issues, repair faults and provide peace of mind that your car is working exactly as it should. Contact us today to find out how we can help you.

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