A Common Sense Approach to Automotive Troubleshooting
A good reason to bring your car into an automotive repair shop is the inability to figure out what exactly is wrong with the car. Many do-it-yourself people can become stuck on an automotive problem that they cannot get to the bottom of. The following guide is intended for people with very little automotive knowledge.
What is it doing? Or not doing?
The first step is identifying what the issue is. Is it failing to start? Is your car making a strange sound? Is it stalling when applying the accelerator? The type of problem is key when troubleshooting.
- Starting- When a car fails to start you should focus your attention on three different areas. Is the battery in need of replacement? Simply having the battery tested at any auto parts store is easy and in most cases, free. It is difficult to test the battery if it is not charged so ensure that your battery has a good charge on it before you have it tested. After ruling out the battery as the culprit, move on to the alternator. Your cars alternator is responsible for recharging your battery after cranking. You can also have the alternator tested in the same way as you can have your battery tested at an auto parts store, usually free of charge. Another way of self testing is to pay attention to your car when turning on electrical components of your car. With your car idling, turn on the cars interior light, then do something else which pulls electricity. While looking at the interior light, switch on the radio, headlights, windshield wiper, brakes, and pay attention to the interior light. Did it dim noticeably? If so, you may have an alternator issue. If the car still will not turn over, the likely culprit is the starter. Starter problems have caused many people frustration. Your car sounds weak in starting the same way as a defective battery, so you replace the battery only to find out later that the battery was fine all along.
- Sluggishness or car dies after idling- Check your cars fuel filter, or fuel pump. Some cars have the fuel filter built in to the fuel pump. Getting some bad fuel or water in the fuel system can cause this problem as well. Try using some type of fuel cleaner or fuel injection cleaner. These products are available at most auto parts stores. Ask the store manager for his suggestion when choosing the right one.
- Vibrations or car pulls to one side- Does your car vibrate constantly or only when applying the brake? If it constantly pulls to one side, the problem could be with your tires. Check for wear on your tires. Also have them rotated and/or balanced. An out of balance tire can pull hard to one side or vibrate so badly, you may think your car is going to fall into a pile of nuts and bolts on the roadside. Does it only vibrate when applying the brake? If so, this could be a defective brake caliper or bent rotor. DO NOT wait if you think the problem is with your brakes. A brake problem left unattended can end disastrously!