Troubleshooting

Unidentified car trouble can make your life miserable. So we make it easy for you to troubleshoot the problems which is helpful because you’ll know how urgent it is to schedule a repair, what to expect from your mechanic, and how to communicate the issue clearly.

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Engine & Driveability Problems

Q: I have a Baleno 2001 in good condition. But when I start the car, the Engine Check light comes on, and remains on. What does this mean?

The Check Engine Light alerts you when a problem occurs with the engine control system or emission controls on your vehicle. Depending on the nature of the problem, the Check Engine Light may come on and remain on continuously or flash.

Some intermittent problems will make the Check Engine Light come on only while the fault is occurring (such as engine misfire). The Check Engine light usually remains on once a fault has been detected, and will remain on to remind you that a problem has occurred that needs to be investigated.

There is no way to know what the problem is until you plug a scan tool into the vehicle's diagnostic connector and read out the code(s) that turned the light on.

Q. Why does the engine warning light comes on my dashboard and doesn't go away?

If the engine oil pressure warning light is on, it means your engine has lost normal oil pressure. You should immediately stop driving and turn the engine off. The engine can be severely damaged if oil pressure is lost.

Possible Causes of Low Oil Pressure Warning Light:

A low oil level (check the dipstick), bad oil pump, or defective oil pressure sending unit, oil pressure gauge or warning light switch.

Q: I get this sign after 15-20 minutes of driving, what does this mean?

 

Driving with the temperature warning light on can increase the risk expensive engine damage!

When the temperature light comes on/ or the temperature gauge enters the red mark, it means your engine is overheating.

An engine should not overheat if the cooling system is properly filled and is working normally- even during hot weather or stop-and-go driving.

Read below what to do when your car overheats:

http://www.carspiritpk.com/2016/10/02/what-to-do-if-your-car-overheats/

Q. I have recently changed the radiator but the car keeps on overheating. I have also changed head gasket and replaced the coolant but car still overheats, why?

Overheating can be caused by anything that decreases the cooling system's ability to absorb, transport and dissipate heat: A low coolant level, a coolant leak , poor heat conductivity inside the engine because of accumulated deposits in the water jackets, a defective thermostat that doesn't open, poor airflow through the radiator, a slipping fan clutch, an inoperative electric cooling fan, a collapsed lower radiator hose, an eroded or loose water pump impeller, or even a defective radiator cap.

One of nature's basic laws says that heat always flows from an area of higher temperature to an area of lower temperature, never the other way around. The only way to cool hot metal, therefore, is to keep it in constant contact with a cooler liquid. And the only way to do that is to keep the coolant in constant circulation. As soon as the circulation stops, either because of a problem with the water pump, thermostat or loss of coolant, engine temperatures begin to rise and the engine starts to overheat.

The coolant also has to get rid of the heat it soaks up inside the engine. If the radiator is clogged with bugs and debris, or if its internal passages are blocked with sediment, rust or gunk, the cooling efficiency will be reduced and the engine will run hot. The same thing will happen if the cooling fan is not engaging or spinning fast enough to pull air through the radiator.

The thermostat must be doing its job to keep the engine's average temperature within the normal range so the engine does not overheat. If the thermostat fails to open, it will effectively block the flow of coolant and the engine will overheat.

Exhaust restrictions can also cause the engine to overheat. The exhaust carries a lot of heat away from the engine, so if the catalytic converter is restricted, or a pipe has been crimped or crushed, exhaust flow can be restricted causing heat to build up inside the engine.

It's also possible that your engine really isn't overheating at all. Your temperature gauge or warning lamp might be coming on because of a faulty coolant sensor. Sometimes this can be caused by a low coolant level or air trapped under the sensor.

What can cause the engine to overheat?

  • Bad thermostat
  • Cooling system leakage
  • Bad headgasket
  • Radiator fan not working
  • Faulty water pump
  • Slipping belt
  • Clogged or dirty radiator
  • Excessive exhaust pressure

Q: My car often gives me starting problems. What do I need to check?

Diagnosing a car that’s unable to start, requires a logical approach to figuring out what might be the actual problem. Below is a list of possible causes that can prevent your car from starting.

  • Low battery (Check battery voltage, recharge if low, or jump start with another vehicle or battery charger).
  • Loose or corroded battery cables (Inspect, clean and tighten BOTH ends of BOTH battery cables).
  • Bad starter relay wiring connections or ground connection (Inspect, clean, tighten wiring connections).
  • Bad starter relay/solenoid (Check for voltage at relay, if relay has voltage but there is no "click" when key is turned to start, replace relay).
  • Bad starter (Jump battery voltage direct to starter to see if it spins, or remove starter and have it bench tested at auto parts store).
  • Damaged starter drive or teeth on flywheel (Remove starter and inspect drive gear and flywheel teeth, replace damaged parts if necessary).
  • Bad ignition switch (Check to see if voltage reaches starter relay/solenoid when turn to start. If not, check for open P/N switch and brake or clutch pedal switch. Replace ignition switch if defective).
  • Bad Start Button or Smart Key Fob If nothing happens when you push the Start button, the battery in your key fob may be dead, or the fob may be defective, or there may be a problem with the push button circuit. Refer to your owner manual for emergency starting procedure if your Key fob won't start your car. On some vehicles, placing the fob next to the push start button, pressing the Start button with the fob, or inserting the fob into a special slot on the instrument panel, steering column or center console may allow it to communicate with the ignition system so your engine will crank and start.

Q. Car takes self (engine cranks), but it wont start. What can be the problem?

If the engine cranks over normally when you attempt to start your car, but the engine does not start, the problem may be NO FUEL, NO SPARK or NO COMPRESSION. The engine needs adequate fuel pressure, a properly timed spark and normal compression to start.

Fuel Related Issues

  • Bad fuel pump (Pump should run for a few seconds when ignition key is turned to start, no buzz means no fuel delivery to the engine).
  • Bad fuel pump relay.
  • No fuel in the tank (Check the fuel gauge, and keep in mind the gauge may not be reading accurately).
  • Bad fuel (Contaminated with water or poor fuel).
  • No power to Fuel Injectors (Due to faulty fuel injector relay, blown fuse, no input signal to PCM from crank position sensor or cam position sensor, or bad PCM driver circuit).
  • Major vacuum leak (An open EGR valve, disconnected vacuum hose, PCV valve, etc, can create a large vacuum leak and allow too much air to be sucked into the engine. This will make the air/fuel mixture too lean and make the engine hard to start. Engine will usually idle rough if it does start.

Ignition Related Issues:

  • Bad crankshaft position sensor or distributor pickup.
  • Bad ignition module
  • Bad ignition coil(s). Ignition coil creates high voltage to fire the spark plugs. On engines with a distributor, a bad coil will prevent spark at all the spark plugs. On engines with a distributor-less ignition system or coil-on-plug ignition, a bad coil will only affect one or two cylinders depending on the application. This may make the engine hard to start, but it will run on the remaining cylinders that are firing.
  • Cracks or carbon tracks inside distributor cap or on rotor (on older engines with distributors, cracks or carbon tracks allow spark to short to ground before it reaches the spark plugs). Same thing can happen in coil-on-plug ignition systems if cracks or carbon tracks inside coil tube.
  • Bad spark plug wires (if wet, cracked, burned or internal resistance exceeds specifications, can interfere with good spark and make engine hard to start).
  • Fouled spark plugs (if the electrodes are contaminated with deposits, spark may short to ground before jumping gap causing misfires. Can make engine hard to start and run poorly. If plugs are wet when removed, it means they are not firing or engine is flooded).

Compression Related Issues:

  • Broken timing belt or chain (Belt failure will prevent the valves from opening. The engine will NOT run if the belt has broken, and it may have bent valves or other damage as a result of the belt breaking).
  • Broken camshaft (This can happen on an overhead cam engine if the engine has overheated, warped the head and seized the camshaft).
  • Plugged catalytic converter (Creates a restriction that causes exhaust backpressure to back up. Engine may start but usually dies within a minute or two).

An engine that stalls repeatedly can be really annoying. Stalling problems are often temperature related and often occur during cold weather or when a cold engine is first started.

Engine stalls when cold right after starting

This kind of stalling problem often means the engine is not getting enough fuel and/or too much air. A cold engine needs a fairly rich fuel mixture to start, and to idle smoothly while it warms up. Any of the following could cause or contribute to this kind of stalling problem:

  • An engine vacuum leak.
  • A dirty or defective airflow sensor. This can upset the air/fuel mixture causing idle, stalling and hesitation problems.
  • A defective idle speed control system. Idle speed on a fuel injected engine is controlled by allowing a small amount of air to bypass the throttle. If the idle air bypass circuit is plugged with dirt or fuel varnish, or the solenoid valve is sticking or broken, the engine may not get enough air to idle normally causing it to stall.
  • A faulty coolant sensor. If the coolant sensor is bad and tells the PCM the engine is colder or warmer than it really is, that can screw up the fuel mixture, too. If the coolant sensor reads colder than normal, or cold all the time, the engine will run rich. This won't cause cold stalling but it can make for a rough idle once the engine warms up, and it kills fuel economy.
  • A faulty air temperature sensor. This sensor tells the PCM the temperature of the air entering the intake manifold. The PCM needs an accurate input so it can balance the air/fuel mixture properly. Just like a bad coolant sensor, a bad air temperature sensor can upset the fuel mixture causing stalling problems.
  • A bad Manifold Absolute Pressure (MAP) sensor. If the MAP sensor is not reading accurately, the PCM may add too much fuel or not enough, causing the engine to stall.
  • Low engine compression. If your engine has a lot of miles on it and compression is low because the piston rings and/or cylinders are worn, or it has one or more leaky valves, it may not have enough oomph to keep idling. A compression check will tell you if this is a problem or not, and if it is there's no easy fix other than to overhaul or replace the engine.
  • Worn or fouled spark plugs. Ignition misfire can make any engine stall at idle. If the spark plugs have not been changed in a long time, a new set of plugs and/or plug wires can restore a good hot spark and eliminate the misfire. A weak ignition coil or a faulty crankshaft position sensor may also cause a stalling problem.

Engine stalls when you stop for a traffic light or when idling

A stop light or idle stall often means the engine is not idling fast enough (idle speed too low), or the engine is being lugged down by a load on it created by the air conditioning compressor and/or alternator. Possible causes that may contribute to this kind of stalling include:

  • A Bad A/C compressor. If the stalling problem only occurs when the A/C is on, there is an issue with the compressor.
  • Unusually high electrical load on the charging system. If the battery is run down and the alternator is working hard to recharge it, the increases load on the engine may pull down the idle rpm to the point where it causes the engine to stall. Low voltage can adversely affect the operation of the ignition system and fuel injectors, causing stalling and misfiring.

Engine stalls unexpectedly while driving

  • Stalls like this are often ignition-related and happen when the engine loses spark. The underlying cause is often a bad crankshaft position sensor, or sometimes a failing ignition coil (if the engine has only one coil). A faulty ignition switch that loses contact intermittently may also cause the engine to suddenly die for no reason.
  • When this happens, open the hood and check for spark. This can be done by pulling off a plug wire (if the engine has plug wires), and placing the end near the block while a helper cranks the engine. If you do not see a spark or hear the plug wire snapping when the engine is cranking, the fault is in the ignition system.
  • If the engine has spark, it may have died due to a loss of fuel pressure. When fuel pumps fail, they usually just quit with little or no warning. Listen for a buzz from the fuel tank when the ignition is turned on. No buzz means the fuel pump isn't running. It might just be a blown fuse or a bad relay, but on a high mileage vehicle it's often a bad fuel pump.

Hesitation is when your engine misfires, stumbles or lacks power when you accelerate or step on the throttle. The problem often means the air/fuel mixture is not being properly enriched or is going lean, or the ignition system is weak and is misfiring when the engine comes under load or the air/fuel mixture goes lean.

Possible Causes of Engine Hesitation or Stumble:

  • Dirty fuel injectors (cleaning the injectors often fixes this).
  • Bad MAP (manifold absolute pressure) sensor
  • Bad TPS (throttle position) sensor
  • Bad or dirty MAF (mass airflow) sensor
  • Low fuel pressure (leaky fuel pressure regulator, weak fuel pump or low system voltage or charging voltage that causes the fuel pump to run slow)
  • Vacuum leaks (intake manifold, vacuum hoses, throttle body, EGR valve)
  • Bad gasoline (fuel contaminated with water or too much alcohol)

Sometimes, what feels like a hesitation is actually ignition misfire rather than lean misfire. The causes of ignition misfire may include:

  • Dirty or worn spark plugs
  • Bad plug wires
  • Weak ignition coil
  • Wet plug wires

Battery & Electrical Problems

Q. My car battery goes dead very often. Every morning I have to 'dhakka start' the car but then it runs fine the whole day. What can be the problem?

A car battery can run down for any of several reasons:

  • You accidentally left the lights on or some other accessory that draws power from the battery even when the ignition key is off.
  • The battery is not being recharged while the vehicle is being driven (you have a charging problem).
  • Your battery is old and will not hold a charge anymore. The battery needs to be replaced.

Q. My battery is ok, but the car gives starting problems. What needs to be fixed?

If your battery is fine but car gives starting problems, most likely you need to check/ replace the starter motor.

Starter Diagnosis:

What happens when you turn the key and try to start the engine?

  • If the answer is, "Nothing," you should check the battery, battery terminals, battery cables and ignition circuit to make sure voltage is reaching the starter.
  • If the battery is low or has corroded terminals or loose cable connections, the starter may not crank because of low voltage.
  • If the solenoid that energizes the starter motor is faulty or has loose electrical connections, it will prevent the starter from cranking, too.
  • A faulty ignition switch, park/neutral safety switch on the transmission linkage or a wiring problem are other faults that can also prevent a starter from cranking.

Starter problems can be caused by worn-out brushes, by shorts or by worn bushings that increase drag or allow the armature shaft to rub against the pole shoes.

Continuous and prolonged cranking is very hard on a starter motor because it generates excessive heat. If not allowed to cool down every 30 seconds or so for at least a couple of minutes, the starter will be damaged by continuous cranking.

The first sign of alternator trouble may be dim headlights or an engine that is slow to crank (or will not crank at all). The alternator actually keeps the battery charged, and supplies voltage for the entire electrical system. So if the alternator, voltage regulator, generator belt or wiring that connects the charging system to the battery and electrical system goes bad, it can create serious problems.

Alternator charging problems can be caused by electrical faults in the charging system itself, by poor wiring connections at the battery or elsewhere, or by a slipping or broken belt. If there is no charging output, the battery will quickly discharge. Usually you may have 20 minutes to 50 minutes of driving time before everything goes dead and the vehicle shuts down.

Once battery voltage drops below a certain threshold, the onboard electronics, ignition and fuel systems may stop working normally and cause the engine to stall. The battery will not have enough reserve power to restart the engine, so the vehicle will be stranded until the problem can be diagnosed and repaired.

Recharging the battery or jump starting the battery with booster cables from another battery or vehicle may get the engine running again, but it will not be for long if the charging system is not producing normal voltage.

If you encounter such situation avoid driving the car with headlights on, and stop using any accessory (radio/ music player etc) that consumes the battery power. Find a nearby workshop where you can get the alternator inspected and fixed.

HVAC Problems

Q. My car air-condition doesn't seem to be cooling.. What should i need to check?

The most likely cause of an automotive air conditioner cooling problem is no refrigerant in the system. If the refrigerant has escaped due to a leak, then the leak needs to be identified and repaired before the system is recharged.

Q. Although my car a/c seems to be working fine, it isn't cool as it used t be. Why is it so?

If the air conditioning is set to max cool and fans on high, but is only blowing moderately cool air:

  • Check to see that the cooling fans on the condenser or radiator are running when the air conditioning is on.
  • Look for any restrictions like leaves, bugs or dirt that would keep air from passing over the condenser.
  • Check the cabin air filter to ensure that it is not clogged.

Q. My car heater isn't seem to be working. What should I need to check?

There can be many reasons:

  • If the blower motor doesn't work (no sound), it probably means the motor is bad and needs to be replaced unless debris has jammed the blower fan or there is an electrical fault such as a blown fuse, bad relay, switch or resistor, or loose wire.
  • Another often overlooked cause of poor blower performance, heating, cooling and defrosting is a plugged cabin air filter. These filters are used on many later-model vehicles and should be changed according to the maintenance schedule in the owner's manual. Filters that have activated charcoal to absorb odors should be replaced yearly. Dust filters should be replaced every two to three years as a rule. Cabin air filters can usually be found under or behind the glove box, or at the base of the windshield where air enters the HVAC system through the cowl duct.
  • Blocked circulation through the heater core, due to either sediment in the core or a defective heater control valve.
  • A Defective or missing thermostat that allows the engine to run too cool can also reduce heater output. Maintaining the correct engine operating temperature (usually 200 to 220 degrees F.) is essential not only for good heater output but also for good fuel mileage and proper operation of various emissions control functions.
  • A weak water pump that fails to circulate an adequate amount of coolant to the heater will also reduce heater output.

 

Brake Problems

Q. When I start may car, the ABS light doesn't go off in the dashboard, why?

When a wheel speed sensor (WSS) fails or there's a problem in the sensor's wiring circuit, it usually disables the ABS system and causes the ABS warning light to come on. Loss of a wheel speed signal is a serious problem because the ABS module needs accurate input from all its sensors to determine whether or not a wheel is locking up. Without this vital information, the ABS system can't do its job.

 

Q. When I drive, I notice that the brake (parking light) is on, even though my handbrake is down..

Well if the light is on all the time, it could mean you simply forgot to release the parking (emergency) brake. The brake warning light remains on when the brake is set as a reminder. If the brake warning light remains on when the parking brake is released, then something needs to be fixed.

If the brake warning light comes on when you apply the brakes, or is on continuously, it means that hydraulic pressure has been lost in one side of the brake system or that the fluid level in the master cylinder is dangerously low (due to a leak somewhere in the brake system). In either case, the fluid level in the master cylinder should be checked. Adding brake fluid to the master cylinder reservoir may temporarily solve the problem. But if there's likely a leak, the new fluid will soon be lost and the warning light will come back on.

Brake fluid leaks are serious because a leak can result in brake failure! The brakes need to be inspected as soon as possible to determine why the fluid level is low. Leaks can occur in brake hoses, brake lines, disc brake calipers, drum brake wheel cylinders or the master cylinder itself. Wet spots at hose or line connections would indicate a leak that needs to be fixed immediately.

Q. When I press the brake pedal, the brakes produce a very annoying sound. Why does it happen?

The brake noises are caused by a combination of factors that sometimes add up to create noise:

Brake squeal is really a high frequency vibration. In disc brakes, it can be caused by vibrations between the pads and rotors, the pads and calipers, or the calipers and their mounts.

In drum brakes, the vibrations can originate between the shoes and drums, or between the shoes and backing plates.

If you are experiencing noisy brakes, you can check for these to deal with the problem:

  • Dampen the pads
  • Lubricate the calipers
  • Replace the caliper hardware (slides, pins or bushings)
  • Replace the brake pads
  • Resurface the disc rotors
  • Clean the brakes (drums)

Brake problems usually indicate the need for certain repairs or replacement, here is a quick review of some common fixes:

Low Brake Fluid:

This may be due to worn disc brake pads, or it may indicate a leak in the brake system. If the 'Brake Warning Light' is also on, most likely the problem is a leak. Leaks are dangerous because they can cause brake failure. The brake calipers, wheel cylinders, brake hoses and lines, and master cylinder all need to be inspected. If a leak is found, the defective component must be replaced. Your vehicle should NOT be driven until the leak can be repaired.

Low Brake Pedal:

The brake pedal may go low if the shoe adjusters on rear drum brakes are rusted or sticking and not compensating for normal lining wear. Adjusting the rear drum brakes may restore a full pedal. But unless the adjusters are cleaned or replaced the problem will return as the linings continue to wear. Other causes include worn brake linings or a fluid leak.

Spongy or Soft Brake Pedal:

This is usually caused by air in the brake system, either as a result of improper bleeding, fluid loss or a very low fluid level. The cure is to bleed all of the brake lines.

Excessive Brake Pedal Travel:

Possible causes include worn brake linings front or rear (or both), mis-adjusted drum brakes, or air in the brake lines. This can be dangerous because the brake pedal may run out of travel before the brakes are fully applied. Pumping the pedal when you apply the brakes usually helps, but you need to diagnose and fix the problem.

Brake Pedal Sinks to Floor:

This may occur while holding your foot on the brake pedal at a stop light. If the pedal goes slowly down, it means the master cylinder is not holding pressure. This is also a potentially dangerous condition because a worn master cylinder or a leak in the hydraulic system may cause the brakes to fail.

Brake Pedal Pulsation:

Indicates a brake rotor that is worn unevenly. The rotor needs to be resurfaced or replaced.

Scraping Noise from Brakes:

Usually indicates metal-to-metal contact due to worn out disc brake pads (or shoes on rear drum brakes). The rotors and/or drums will likely have to be resurface or replaced because the scraping sound indicates you might have waited too long to replace the pads and shoes.

Brake Squeal:

Can be caused by vibrations between the disc brake pads and caliper, or the pads and rotor. The noise can usually be eliminated by replacing the old pads with new ones.

Brakes Pull to One Side:

If your vehicle suddenly swerved to one side when you apply the brakes, there is uneven braking side-to-side. This usually means one front brake is not working properly. The pull will be toward the side with the good brake (because it is doing all the work). Brake pull can be caused by brake fluid, oil or grease on the brake pads, a stuck caliper, a blockage in the brake line to one of the front calipers, or sometimes loose wheel bearings.

Hard Brake Pedal:

Lack of power assist may be due to low engine vacuum, a leaky vacuum hose to the brake booster, or a defective brake booster. The booster is located between the master brake cylinder and firewall in the engine compartment. Sometimes a faulty check valve will allow vacuum to bleed out of the booster causing a hard pedal when the brakes are applied.

Steering & Suspension Problems

Q. My car doesn't go straight on plain road and slowly drifts to left side when I release the steering, why?

This generally happens due to improper wheel alignment. Three simple conditions must be met for a four-wheeled vehicle to travel in a straight line:

  1. All four wheels must be pointing in the same direction.

That is, all four wheels must be square to each other and square to the road surface (in other words, parallel to one another, perpendicular to a common center-line, and straight up and down).

  1. All four wheels must offer the same amount of rolling resistance. This includes the "caster effect" between the front wheels that steer.
  2. There must be no play in the steering or suspension linkage that positions the wheels.

If all three conditions are not met, the vehicle will drift to one side depending on which forces are at work. This creates a steering pull which the driver will counteract by steering the other way. Having to constantly apply pressure to the steering wheel to keep the car traveling in a straight line can be tiring on a long trip and can also be hard on the tires, too.

You can however get the tire air pressure checked, as a tire low on pressure may also cause vehicle to pull to that side.

A rough ride is a clear indicator your shocks or struts could be worn and in need of replacement. When every bump on the road makes your car bounce, you’ve got suspension problems and need to get it checked out.

Try the bounce test—when your car is parked, put all of your weight on the front end, release, and observe how the vehicle responds. If it bounces back and forth 3 or more times, the shocks and/or struts are worn and need replacing.

Shock absorbers, true to the name, are the main culprit when your car feels "bumpier" than ever. They're designed to keep your tires on the road. When they don't, the car will bounce all over the place. Shocks have fluid which dampen the bouncing. When they leak, their performance suffers and the absorbers will eventually fail.

Shocks or struts can be in need of replacement when you notice the following related issues:

  • Your car “nose dives” when braking (it leans forward).
  • Your vehicle “rolls” to the side when cornering (it leans side-to-side).
  • Your car “squats” during acceleration (it leans backward).

If you are experiencing a hard steering, you can check for these:

  • Incorrect Tire Pressure: Check the air pressure in your tires. All tires should have equal air and filled according to the manufacturer’s recommended PSI. Improper amount of air in tires, especially if they are too low, can cause stiff steering.
  • Improper Wheel Alignment: Check to be sure that you have proper front end alignment. A tell-tale sign would be uneven front tire wear and pulling to one side while driving. If the wheels are not aligned properly, you can also encounter hard and stiff steering, especially while making turns.
  • Low Power Steering Fluid: A low level of power steering fluid is the number one cause of a steering wheel being hard to turn. While refilling the power steering reservoir with fluid will temporarily fix the problem, the root cause of the disappearing power steering fluid will need to be found.
  • Damaged or Loose Power Steering Belt/ Damaged Pulley: Another challenge with your steering system could be that the serpentine belt has becomes loose or has broken, which will cause the power steering system will instantly become inactive. Over time, the material of the belt gradually begins to wear down. Even high-quality belts will eventually need to be replaced. If the belt is continually loose, there may be a more culprit, that being a worn pulley.
  • Power Steering Pump Failure: Although power steering pumps are designed to last for thousands of miles, it may still prematurely fail. Often times a steering pump becomes noisy when it is on its last leg. The key is to have the power steering system checked out immediately at the initial sign of a problem.
  • Faulty Steering Rack: The steering rack is the key part of the steering make-up and is part of the rack and pinion. Working with the power steering system, steering racks become damaged over time simply because of usage. If your steering wheel is hard to turn only when you first start the car but progressively gets better, then the steering rack is probably damaged. As the car warms up, the rack becomes hot and better lubricated and the problem tends to go away. However, you should still have the rack replaced.

Wheel & Tire Problems

Tire wear is an indication that your wheels are out of alignment or that steering or suspension parts are worn. So when you find unusual tire wear, be sure to give the steering and suspension a thorough inspection to find out what's causing the problem.

Toe or Camber Misalignment

The tires have to roll straight and true, be perpendicular to the road surface (camber) and be parallel to each other (toe) to minimize tread wear. If the wheels are out of alignment, tread wear will increase. Toe misalignment has the greatest effect on tread wear, while camber misalignment causes wear on the inside or outside edge of the tread.

If your tires are wearing unevenly or rapidly, you should have the alignment of all four wheels checked. If toe or camber are out of specifications, the wheels need to be realigned back to factory specifications. This should always be done if you are buying a new set of tires.

Worn Tie Rod Ends

The most common cause of rapid tread wear on the front tires is toe misalignment due to worn tie rod ends in the steering linkage. A bent tie rod or steering arm can also change toe alignment, but in most cases the problem is the tie rod ends are worn out and have too much play.

Underinflated Tires

If the tires are not maintained at the recommended pressure and are underinflated, the tread flexes more than usual as the tire rotates. Over many miles, this will increase tread wear. Check the pressure in each tire with an accurate gauge, and inflate the tires to the pressure recommended in your owners' manual.

Sagging Springs or Bent Suspension Parts

Weak, sagging springs can cause a loss of ride height that throws off wheel alignment. Coil and leaf springs sag with age, which can alter camber as well as caster alignment. Measuring ride height will tell you if the springs are still within specifications or not.

Worn Ball Joints

Worn ball joints can also effect wheel alignment and cause uneven tire wear.

Worn Control Arm Bushings

Rubber bushings are located in the ends of the control arms where they attach to the chassis. The bolt that passes through the bushings serves as a pivot point so the control arm can move up and down with the suspension. If the bushing has deteriorated or deformed with age, it can throw the control arm out of position causing a change in camber alignment. Worn bushings can be replaced to restore proper alignment.

Worn Struts or Shock Absorbers

Tire wear can also be caused by worn struts or shock absorbers. The dampers help keep the tires in contact with the road as it encounters bumps and dips. Wear shocks or struts allow the wheels to bounce too much, which typically results in a cupped wear pattern on the tread. You may also feel the steering shudder after hitting a bump if the shocks are worn.

 

Q. I feel the tires vibrate when I am driving. This can be felt in steering wheel too. It increases with the speed of vehicle. What can be the problem?

An out-of-balance tire and wheel will typically create a vibration or shake that becomes progressively worse as the vehicle speed increases. Balancing provides a smoother ride by minimizing tire bounce. This helps improve traction, steering control and extends the life of the tires.

Q. I can hear sort of a humming noise from rear wheels which increases with the speed but disappears when the car is running slow. Why is it so?

This generally means an issue with your wheel bearings. Wheel bearing noise is usually proportional to vehicle speed. A rumbling, growling, chirping or cyclic noise of any kind from the wheels is a good indication that your wheel bearings need replacement.

Wheel bearings perform two very important jobs in a vehicle's suspension. They allow the wheels to rotate with minimal friction, and they support the vehicle's weight. To do both jobs, the bearings must be in near-perfect condition. The seals must also be leak-free, too, to keep the lubricant inside the bearings and contaminants out.

If a wheel bearing or axle bearing fails, it may cause the vehicle to lose a wheel, which also means an immediate loss of steering control.

 

Transmission Problems

If you notice that your car hesitates while driving or refuses to go into gear, then there is definitely something wrong. The moment a driver shifts from park to drive the car should immediately go into the proper gear. For automatic transmissions, you might notice that when shifting into drive or park that there is a delay before you feel the gear engage. This is usually a transmission-based concern.

Manual transmissions can have the same lacking response issue, but after shifting into gear the engine’s RPMs will surge, but the car won’t move as fast as the engine sounds like it’s going. This is usually caused by a clutch that needs to be replaced, but may sometimes point to a more severe problem.

It’s impossible to say exactly what your car will sound like when there is trouble with your transmission, but one thing is for sure, you’ll get a “I haven’t heard that sound before” feeling when you notice it.

The sounds that are produced vary widely between different makes and models, but the best way to describe them is that you’ll probably hear a humming, buzzing or whining noise.

Manual transmissions will emit sounds that can sound as being slightly more mechanical, louder and abrupt. A clunking sounds when you shift gears almost always lies within a transmission, while constant velocity joins or the differential may be the source if the clunking is coming from the underside of your car.

As mentioned already, it is always best to get the problem diagnosed and repaired as soon as possible and not wait until later when you “find the time” or “have the money”. If you wait until later what would have been a relatively inexpensive repair can easily become a much more costly one.

A leak is probably the most recognizable symptom and should be repaired as soon as possible. Letting the fluid leak is one of the most common causes transmission break down. Automatic transmission fluid (ATF) is the life-blood of a transmission as it lubricates, cleans and conditions the seals and acts as hydraulic fluid. Without it (or even if it gets too low), the transmission might seize up and stop working completely.

ATF is bright red in color, clear and smells somewhat sweet if everything is working correctly. If this is what you find in your garage, then all that needs to be fixed is the leak.

If the fluid is dark and/or has a burnt smell then it’s time to get the fluid changed or flushed and repairs might be required.

To check if you’re running low on fluid, take your car for a short drive to warm it up and then lift the hood and read the dipstick (be sure the vehicle is on level ground). Unlike motor oil, transmission fluid is not burned off or consumed by a car so if the level is low then there is a leak somewhere that must be patched. It is recommended to top up the fluid anyway even if the leak still exists to make sure there is enough fluid for the transmission to function properly until you get it fixed.

A car is supposed to run smoothly and without any shaking, or jerking, and there is not supposed to be any grinding sounds. These all suggest that there is a problem with the gears. Manual transmissions commonly indicate problems by making a grinding noise or feeling when you shift into a gear. If the grinding occurs after engaging the clutch and shifting, this can be sign that the clutch may need to be replaced or adjusted. That said, it can also point towards several other issues including damaged or worn out gear synchronizes.

Automatic transmissions act a little differently. Instead of making a grinding noise, you will likely feel it take some time to wiggle into gear at first instead of the typical smooth transitions. As the problem gets worse, the transitions into the next gear become more jarring and involve more shaking. There are a few other reasons for grinding or shaking, but the appropriate course of action is still to have it inspected and serviced.

Any burning smell coming from your car is a cause for concern. Overheating transmission fluid is one of the causes of a burning smell. Transmission fluid helps keep the parts lubricated and cooled so that they don’t get worn out and damaged.

If there is no fluid, the system runs too hot which results in increased friction and corrosive activity as well as the build-up of additional sludge and debris. If this is not taken care of, the transmission will eventually damage itself enough to break down completely. The end result is an expensive replacement. Common causes include low fluid level or using the incorrect brand/type of fluid.

If the car will not shift after engaging the clutch and trying to move the stick, take a look at the fluid to make sure that it is at the right level. Other causes include using the incorrect thickness (type) of fluid and the clutch linkage or shift cables needing adjustment. The source of the problem could also be the vehicle’s computer system.

If you’ve already inspected the fluid, you can try resetting it. To do this, detach the battery and let it stand for thirty minutes. Then, reattach and allow the system to reset itself. This usually takes around 15-20 minutes. If this doesn’t work either, then it’s time to take it to a mechanic.

The check engine light located on your car’s dashboard is a great early indicator that something is about to go wrong (or already has) with your car, and in particular with your transmission. While the light turns on for a number of reasons other than transmission issues, it very important not to ignore this helpful warning sign.

There are sensors placed in many areas of a car’s engine that alert the computer if it senses unusual activity coming from a particular process. The sensors on a transmission can pick up on the slightest jerks and vibrations than you are not able to see or feel.

Take the vehicle in and have it inspected. They can take look and immediately tell what is happening through the use of similar diagnostic tools and the car’s computer.

A a transmission that is noisy when it is in neutral could have an inexpensive, simple solution such as adding some fluid or changing it. If that doesn’t work, the transmission may require professional attention to replace worn out parts, most commonly the bearings, worn gear teeth or the reverse idler gear.

A transmission stays in a designated gear until a shift is performed by the driver (manual) or the computer (automatic). If the transmission is spontaneously slipping in an out of gear (or simply popping into neutral) while driving, then this is a very serious issue.

The cause can be the link that holds the gears is worn or broken. Get your car inspected and repaired as soon as possible.