As one modern-day philosopher (Forrest Gump) once pondered, “Life is like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re going to get.”
You can pretty much translate the entire sentiment of that statement to car maintenance and, in particular, car repairs. Sometimes it can feel like you never know which problem is going to spring up next.
Well, worry no more.
I’ve created this guide to the most common car problems that I’ve come across so you can prep for likely faults you’ll encounter.
Common car problems to expect
The fact that all modern cars essentially share the same basic design and type of technology means that you can roughly predict what type of faults to expect. So, with that in mind, here are some of the most common car problems that I've come across.
1. Flat battery
Okay, flat batteries are probably more likely to affect older cars, rather than lease cars which you usually get brand new, but you can still be at the mercy of a flat battery in a particularly harsh winter if you’re not careful.
Because batteries work using chemical processes, their performance can be hampered during cold weather which results in them losing their stored energy. New batteries can be quite expensive so taking care of your current one makes good financial sense. That said, it is really easy to install a new battery in your car and you shouldn’t need a mechanic to do it.
You can reduce your risk of getting a flat battery by regularly using your car in the winter to make sure that the battery stays topped up (driving your car charges the battery).
If you use your car a lot, you’ll know how tricky it can be to stop your car from getting scratches and bumps. It’s a bit like the way that I seem to pick up random bruises on my legs for no particular reason. Similarly, lots of different situations can cause scratches and scuffs on your car – think, moving furniture, navigating narrow supermarket car parks and dodging errant car doors when you’re driving down a narrow street.
Small scratches or scuffs that have damaged the paint off of your car can be easily fixed by yourself. The majority of car shops (or even supermarkets in some cases) sell little tubes of car paint in the most common shades that are available. These look a bit like pens, and inside is a tiny brush that’s connected to the paint. You just squeeze the tub until the paint reaches the brush and then use it to paint over the damage on your car.
3. Worn out brake pads
Worn out brake pads are another perennial problem that you should expect to have to deal with at some point.
The secret to your car’s braking system is its brake pads. These are behind the wheel. When you press your brake pedal, the brake pads are pushed against the wheel’s brake rotor, causing the car to lose momentum.
The high amount of heat and friction that’s generated when you brake causes these pads to wear down after a while, so they’ll need replacing after a while.
Symptoms that suggest your brake pads might need replacing include hearing squeaking sounds when you brake, feeling vibration through the steering wheel, or feeling the car pulling to one side.
"Loud and obnoxious breaks are impossible to miss." Sam Olmsted from Superior Honda, says. "Chances are there are issues with your brake pads or it may be due to brake dust."
4. Windscreen chips
You can get windscreen chips from things that you wouldn’t necessarily think are strong enough to even cause a scratch on their own, mainly because of the fact that you hit them at speed.
Small stones, road debris and grit that hit your windscreen can cause chips and cracks to develop, which can eventually end up destroying your entire windscreen. You can fail your MOT too, if the chip or crack is over a certain size (check out my MOT BLOG to find out more). Sometimes, a direct hit to your car in an accident can cause the windscreen to crack too.
5. Broken lights
Over time, you’re guaranteed that at least one of your car’s lights will probably need replacing. Broken lights are a pretty common problem you’re likely to experience with your car – even if it’s relatively new.
Luckily, it’s a pretty easy thing to fix yourself. You just need to take out the offending light and replace it with a new one.
6. Cooling problems
Korey Adekoya from Shabana Motors says: "One of the most common and inconvenient problems results from engine and engine cooling system issues. While your car could be overheating or running too cold, there may be an internal problem. If that is the case, you should pay attention to the temperature gauge, check the engine light, and look for any puddles below your car. Although the solution could be as simple as adding more coolant to your car, another common cause for overheating could be a faulty radiator fan."