Modern cars are a heck of a lot more complicated than those of yesteryear. Back in the old days, cars were basically just a simple carburetted internal combustion engine, a gear box, a differential and four wheels. No computers, no electronic fuel injection, no electric differentials. They were simple, and therefore much easier for the average car owner to diagnose and even fix most minor malfunctions.
Of course, that’s not without its downsides such as lack of comfort and features, thirsty engine etc. Most people are quite happy with the features, drivability and fuel efficiency that are ubiquitous in modern vehicles, so you’d be hard pressed to find people who would prefer to wind the technological clock back. But it can be difficult to know common car breakdown causes to check when you encounter a spot of trouble.
While cars are now far more complex and reliant on computer systems that we dare not interfere with, even if we could, the same basic principles still apply when it comes to much of a modern car’s mechanical components. So, if the warning light comes on while you’re on the road, if the car won’t start, or if something just feels a bit off, there are still accessible parts of the car that you can fix and hopefully get yourself back up and running.
Let’s take a look at some of the common causes of car breakdowns, and what you might be able to do about them.
Low Engine Oil
If you notice oil stains on your driveway or garage floor, you may have a leak. You might also notice the engine running a little rough. If either of these are the case, you’ll need to check your engine oil level via the dipstick. When the engine is cold, simply pull the dipstick out, wipe off the oil with a rag or tissue paper, put it back in and then pull it out again. The oil line should be somewhere between the ‘full’ and ’empty’ markers. If it’s getting a little low, it’s worth topping it up with some fresh oil.
Without proper lubrication, the engine’s moving parts can generate too much friction and result in damage, so it’s very important that the engine oil is maintained.
This tops the list of car breakdown causes, and can leave drivers stranded and late for work or appointments. It’s also one of the easiest problems to avoid. Provided you get your car serviced regularly, your car battery should never go dead if you take a few basic precautions.
To prevent ending up with a faulty battery, it’s worth taking the following tips into consideration:
- Always make sure you don’t leave the lights on when parked—this includes internal lights too
- Charge the battery overnight every couple of weeks if you use your car mostly for short journeys
- If you’re going away for an extended period of time, ask somebody to take your car for a drive every now and then
This is the component that charges the battery while the car is running. If it’s faulty, you might notice some of the car’s electrical components don’t work properly, such as the headlights, entertainment/GPS system and air conditioner.
It’s not always easy to tell if it’s the alternator or a dead battery that’s the problem, but if the car starts via its own ignition and then conks out, it’s likely to be the alternator. On the other hand, if the car requires a jump start but then continues to run, it’s most likely the battery that is the issue.
There are many car breakdown causes that result in your vehicle overheating, and for many of those causes there isn’t much you can do about. But if you do notice the temperature gauge creep up a bit high, there are a couple of things you can check.
Firstly, the coolant level. But before you can check this, you must wait for the engine to cool down. If you open the radiator cap before the engine has cooled down, boiling hot fluid will spray out and can cause serious burns to your face, arms and hands.
Once the engine has cooled down you can check the levels and top up with coolant or water if you have any on hand. This may be enough to get you home, but a low coolant level usually means there is a leak somewhere in the system which will need to be seen to by a mechanic.
Another cause of overheating is a blown fan belt. If the fans can’t pump cool air into the radiator, the engine temperature will begin to shoot up. If this is the case, you’re going to need a tow to your local mechanic.
If you’re sitting in your car turning the keys and nothing is happening, then there’s possibly an issue with the starter motor.
This is the electrical connector to the car battery that sets the engine in motion when you turn the ignition key.
If there’s a loud clicking noise when you turn the key, then there is an issue with the wiring and connectors. This will need to be diagnosed and fixed by a professional mechanic.
These are some of the main car breakdown causes, many of which you can diagnose yourself, and some you can even remedy. Of course, the best way to avoid running into any of these problems is to have your car regularly serviced by professionals. Our Skoda Service in Perth has the best mechanics in the business, so book your car in with us and we’ll make sure you’re driving out of the garage in tip top shape.