What’s wrong with my car? Your troubleshooting guide to common car issues

What's going on with my car

Your vehicle isn’t running right, is making strange noises, or a warning light on your dash has come on, so what do you do?

Here’s your guide to what the symptoms likely mean and how to best resolve the issues.

 

Problem #1: My car is making a funny noise

Likely Cause:  It depends on the noise. The key is knowing what those noises really mean.

Car Noise Likely culprit Do I need to see a mechanic? How much will this cost?*
Backfire/loud bang Not enough fuel going into the engine or a slipped timing belt or worn spark plugs See your mechanic right away  $$
Buzzing under your car Cracked exhaust It can wait a few weeks $$
Chirping or squealing while accelerating Loose or worn out belt It can wait a few weeks $
Clicking while turning hard right or left and taking off CV drive shaft worn It can wait a few weeks $$
Clicking or tapping in your engine Low oil

(If oil level okay) loss of oil pressure

See your mechanic right away

See your mechanic right away

$

 

$$–$$$

Crackling Faulty speaker It can wait a few weeks $$
Flapping from your engine Worn belt or something is interfering with a fan See your mechanic right away $
Hissing under the hood Vacuum hose in your engine is leaking or fallen off See your mechanic right away $
Humming or whirring under your car Power steering oil level low It can wait a few weeks $
Knocking over bumps Worn suspension and steering It can wait a few weeks $$
Knocking or pinging in your engine Incorrect fuel or engine overheating See your mechanic right away $$
Popping in your engine Not enough fuel going into the engine or a slipped timing belt or worn spark plugs See your mechanic right away $$
Rattling from under the car Loose shock absorber or cracked exhaust heat shield It can wait a few weeks $$
Squealing while driving Brakes are low It can wait a few weeks $$
Scraping or grinding while braking If squealing turns to scraping your brakes are completely worn See your mechanic right away $$
Screeching while turning in a car park Low tyre pressure A quick fix for either you or your mechanic DIY
Thumping on hard acceleration (you may feel it through the steering wheel or floor) Broken engine mount It can wait a few weeks $$
Tick-tick-tick and not starting Flat battery or alternator See your mechanic right away $$
Tick-tick-tick while driving Stone stuck in tyre tread A quick fix for either you or your mechanic DIY
Whining while driving over 80km/h Worn out differential gears It can wait a few weeks $$$
Whistling while driving over 40km/h Roof racks (or you’ve left a window open slightly) A quick fix for either you or your mechanic DIY
Whop-whop-whop while driving Flat spots on your tyres It can wait a few weeks $$$

* $: Under $150 – $$: $151–$600 – $$$: $601+

Find your nearest mechanic.

 

Problem #2: One of my dashboard lights has turned on

Likely Cause: Most warning lights have a simple resolution. Here are two of the most common tricks to look for:
1 – Start with the back of the car:

If a warning light pops up, check your rear brake lights and indicators. Blown brake globes are a common reason for warning lights blinking on, so check that yours are working before you do anything else. If the brake light is the problem, its replacement will only be a few dollars, unlike replacing a major part.
2 – Check your logbook: If your service light comes on, check your logbook and know your service schedule.

Download our free infographic: What do those dashboard warning lights mean? for a full list of what specific lights mean and what to do when they come on.

Find your nearest mechanic.

Want to know more?  Check out our 5 minute video on basic car maintenance.

 

Problem #3: My car won’t start

Likely Cause: Check that the gear is in P (for Park), make sure the chip has not fallen out of your keys, press the brakes for an automatic and clutch for manual.

If neither work it is likely that you have a dead battery or faulty alternator.

Do I need a mechanic? If the first suggestions don’t work and you have a dead battery or faulty alternator then YES.

Find your nearest mechanic.

Want to know more? Check out our blog post: Your broken down survival guide- 4 tips to get out of a jam.

 

Problem #4: My car is pulling to left or right while driving

Likely Cause: You either need a wheel alignment or have a flat tyre.

Do I need a mechanic? Yes.  Find your nearest mechanic.

 

Problem #5: My car is overheating

Likely Cause: Your coolant is probably low.

Do I need a mechanic? Yes. Find your nearest mechanic.

 

Problem #6: A coloured liquid appears under my car after it’s been parked

Likely Cause: You car might have a fluid leak.

Do I need a mechanic? Yes, but not urgently.  Find your nearest mechanic.

Want to know more?  Check out our blog post: Basic car maintenance- what you should be doing but aren’t.

 

Problem #7: My car is not gripping in the rain

Likely Cause: Bald tyres.

Do I need a mechanic? Yes. Find your nearest mechanic.

Want to know more?  Check out our how to video: How to check your tyre pressures.

 

Problem #8: There are streaks or hairline cracks on my windscreen

Likely Cause: Your wiper rubbers need cleaning or replacing.

Do I need a mechanic? Yes, but not urgently.  Find your nearest mechanic.

Want to know more? Download our free Infographic: Car maintenance checklist

 

Problem #9: There are fumes inside my car

Likely Cause: Your door, window or boot seals may be broken.

Do I need a mechanic? Yes, but not urgently.  Find your nearest mechanic.

 

Problem #10: My car is making a loud knocking noise and blowing white smoke

Likely Cause: You may have put unleaded fuel in a diesel car.

Do I need a mechanic? Yes.  Find your nearest mechanic.

 

Problem #11: My car is tilting and there is a loud thumping noise

Likely Cause: You might have a flat tyre.

Do I need a mechanic? Yes. Find your nearest mechanic.

 

Still unsure what’s wrong with your car? Better to be safe than sorry, find your nearest mechanic and let them diagnose the issue.

 

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