A Beginner's Guide to Troubleshooting Car Engine Problems

Engine Problems in your car can be identified by following a methodical approach to eliminate the causes. There are many components within a car engine, and the following advice will provide a framework to work within, to determine possible causes of engine problems.

Engine Warning Lights

If the Engine Warning Light is on, this indicates that the Electronic Engine Management System has recorded a fault with a corresponding code. The code will identify the engine problem and you will need a code scanner to download the code reading, which can be purchased from an automotive store.

Engine Starting Problems

The battery may have discharged, and if this is the case, when you try to start the engine, all you will hear is a ticking noise. If the battery is old, then replacement is worth considering. If the battery is new, it can be recharged by jump starting the vehicle and self charging, by driving for about half an hour. Before jump starting your car, you should refer to your owner's manual, to ensure that the electrical components will not be damaged by incorrectly performing this task. If the battery is functioning normally, but your car still will not start, then you should investigate the starter motor.

Ensure that there is fuel in your tank, as you may have a faulty tank level indicator. Ruling out a fuel issue, check that the spark plugs are connected securely to the distributor cap, are not damaged, and have no obvious signs of wiring corrosion. Replace accordingly.

Overheating Engine

A sure sign of overheating is smoke or steam being emitted from underneath the hood. The ignition timing could be set incorrectly and will require adjustment. If, when looking under the hood, you notice that the drive belts appear loose, they need to be tightened or completely replaced. If there is a noticeable pool of fluid underneath the car, this could be a sign of the cylinder head gasket failing. That will be confirmed in the form of billowing smoke being blown from the exhaust system. The temperature gauge on your dashboard will be on its highest reading if this is the case. Ensure that the engine coolant fluid is at the correct level, as there could be a leak in the the engine cooling system.

Engines Which Backfire

If this is the case, you will be hearing very loud noises, like explosions, from the rear of the vehicle upon acceleration. Firstly check the carburetor to ensure that the fuel and air combination are properly balanced. If these settings are correct, then thoroughly inspect the distributor cap for any cracks or hairline splits, as this can produce a backfire. Move on to the spark plugs and ensure that they are clean and undamaged and inspect the engine gaskets for any sign of damage, as they are responsible for ensuring the correct gas exchange within the engine. There may be a need at this point to also check the ignition timing.

Engine Not Accelerating

Upon acceleration, if there appears to be no increase in speed, check that the air and fuel filters are clean and replace them if necessary. A full replacement of fuel in the tank will ensure that water has not contaminated the mix. The catalytic converter may be congested and will need to be replaced if this is the case. The transmission fluid may have fallen below an adequate level and will need to be topped up. If the level is normal, then professional assistance will be needed to inspect the engine.