Home Cars Five Common Car Problems & How You Can Fix Them

Five Common Car Problems & How You Can Fix Them

Vukasin Herbez February 28, 2017

Car problems? No problem…

Finding your way around the car isn’t always a straightforward process. When needing to get from A to B, being able to perform basic repairs is sometimes a necessity, though. You shouldn’t fear what lurks under the bonnet or wheel arch, as it’s sometimes a lot easier to repair than you’d think.

Obviously, the less experienced car owner won’t be expected to fix a blown head gasket or replace a clutch. That being said, the more basic and simple the repair, the more willing we should be to try our hand, with instruction of course.

Basic Safety

Before we get stuck in on the how-to guides, let’s go through some basic safety instructions first. Never, under any circumstances, work on your car directly after driving. Always let the engine cool down first, or you run a high risk of being burned or false readings on fluid levels etc.

Secondly, never work underneath a vehicle that isn’t properly supported. Changing a tire means working outside that danger zone, so a jack is fine, anything that requires laying underneath a raised vehicle means you should be looking at axle stands or ramps for safety.

An Example Of Axle Stands In Use

Also, never jack on to plastic or external parts or suspension parts. Use either designated jacking points (see your car manual) or a solid part of the chassis. DO NOT jack underparts that could move suddenly during work.

A few tools you should keep include Haynes/Helms’ manuals, socket set, spanners, multi-meter, screwdrivers, torque wrench, axle stands and nitrile gloves. OK, here we go!

Flat Tire

You’ll know if you have a flat tire, the car will be moving like a boat, and to the eye from outside it’s very obvious. Although it looks awful to the untrained eye, this is arguably the simplest of all essential repairs.

Most cars will have a spare wheel in the boot, if you don’t, then you really should get one. Most spares are located in the boot under the carpet/lining, some older models may have them in a housing attached to the body under the boot. Either way, it’s gonna be in that area.

Grab the wheel brace (looks like a spanner with a nut on the end) and the jack that most cars also have with the spare.

Top tip: loosen the wheel nuts before jacking the car, whip the tire off, put the spare on then slowly lower the vehicle. Tighten the nuts hard, many will stand on the end of the wheel brace to get extra torque.

It’s probably advisable to take her straight to a garage, where you’ll get the old wheel re-tired, and then fitted to your car with the proper torque settings.

Flat Battery

Another easy one to figure out, the car won’t start but the instrument cluster might still operate. Pop the bonnet and find the battery, it may be under a plastic shield of some description. If you don’t have access to a new battery or tools to remove it, get a pair of jump leads.

If you have spanners/sockets and a new battery, then simply remove the negative-then-positive terminals, and switch it out for the new battery.

Top tip: use terminal covers to prevent corrosion from the weather (especially winter) and never leave the car standing for long periods without driving it.

Dead Bulbs

Don’t let this one fool you, although it’s electronics, a bulb change is just a bulb change. Get past any annoying trims or housings, and it’s as easy as taking the old bulb out, asking the motor factors/store for a replacement of this type, and then popping it in (with the car turned off of course).

Legal requirements mean this has to be done, so don’t leave it until later!

Spark Plug Replacement

Don’t let the diagram fool you, this little sucker is not a complex job. You’ll know if you have a faulty spark plug as the idle will be rough/lumpy, and the start-up ignition might seem different and/or longer than before.

Never use a spark plug repair kit, these are often more expensive than the plugs themselves and it’s far safer and more methodical to just buy new plugs. They’ll often run you anywhere from a few dollars, to maybe $5-10 each, depending on the vehicle. Check with your local motor factors/store on which model goes on your vehicle.

Usually housed on the top of the engine block, under some sort of screw-pinned plastic trim, you’ll need to disconnect the HT leads or distributors first. This is usually just a pull job or maybe a bolt. Always replace all the plugs, and use your deep socket to take out the old ones.

Top tip: when chucking the new ones in don’t over-tighten as this can snap the insulation above the hex nut, but make sure it’s good and firm. You’ll get a feel for it.

Oil Change

Obviously, you shouldn’t undertake this one without the proper equipment to safely jack and keep a vehicle raised. It’s a little more technical than the rest, but still very workable. First off, buy the correct oil as advised by the manual/engine code, have a drain pan or large builder’s bucket to catch the old oil, and get a can of engine flush and a new oil filter too.

You’ll need to know how much oil your engine takes, where the sump and sump bolt are, and also follow the instructions on the can of engine flush. Loosen the sump bolt and catch the old oil and engine flush, tighten her back up, add the new oil and make sure to check the dipstick after it’s settled to ensure you haven’t over or under-filled.

Once you are happy, take her for a spin for a mile or two to get the engine lubed up once again. You should be getting an oil change at around 5-7K miles or as advised by your car owner’s manual.

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