We all know it’s important to take care of your vehicle’s engine; but some common engine problems can get overlooked.
So, as a vehicle owner it is important that you’re; constantly on the lookout for symptoms of common engine problems.
But, it never fails, that most common engine problems; seem to happen at the worst possible time.
As you drive down the road you should be noting strange noises; or other odd issues that may suddenly appear. And, if something ever comes up; take note of the conditions around you when it happened.
Thats why, it’s worth recognising and considering the signs; that could indicate that not all is well with your engine.
To help you spot the signs of common engine problems, we’re taking a look at the signs and symptoms. Consequently, which tell you when something’s wrong under the hood.
From suspicious noises and smoke to other visible signs, also by understanding what to look out for.
Common Engine Problems Symptoms
Your engine is a complicated machine, with hundreds of components that need to work together to make it run properly.
Consequently, here are some of the more common engine problems to look out for. And, how you can do preliminary engine diagnosis:
Engine Knocking Sounds
The only sound worse than your engine stopping altogether is ‘engine knocking’. So, if you’ve ever heard an engine knocking, you’re aware of the pain it causes.
An engine knock sounds like “tok-tok-tok-tok”, which is why some people might also call it ‘engine ticking‘. It’s a noise that you can feel inside the vehicle in many cases. Also, through vibrations in the steering wheel or floorboards. Sometimes the knocking sound becomes a light tapping noise in the engine. But, goes away when you rev the engine up. But, it comes right back when you let off the gas. When it gets really bad, the knock is there all the time.
What Causes Engine Knock
Commonly, the ‘engine knocking’ happens because of low oil pressure. One way or another, your engine oil isn’t able to properly lubricate the engine’s internal components.
Aside from the knocking noise, you’re going to notice a couple other common engine problems:
- The engine temperature is higher than normal
- The Check Engine light is on
Unfortunately, it’s probably too late. Scoring to the engine bearings has already happened. Damage has already happened to your cylinder walls. And, you’re blowing smoke out your tailpipe. In most instances, you’re going to need an engine replacement.
My Engine is Rattling
If your car has more than 100,000 miles on it, normal wear is setting in. With that comes some expected repairs but you don’t want to hear your engine rattling. It’s that sound that goes “tap-a-tap-a-tap-a-tap”, and usually comes from the front or top of your engine.
You’re most likely to hear an engine rattle when your engine is cold. But, it could stick around when your engine is hot if it’s become bad. Depending on the problem, the Check Engine light may or may not be on. Performance will slowly decrease.
Engine rattling when accelerating is a problem with many root causes. It could be coming from:
- One or more cylinders with worn piston rings. Also, as the pistons wiggle and bang around inside the cylinder they make a noise called ‘piston slap’.
- Variable valve timing system problems are more common as they age. Mostly because of lack of maintenance.
- Loose or worn timing chains. Although timing chains shouldn’t need to be replaced during the operating life of an engine, it can happen.
- Worn engine valves. Also known as tappets, the valve lifters may require adjustment. Furthermore, they may have wear on them, causing a space between the lifter and the valve. Hence, the tapping noise when they touch.
Most, if not all, of the causes of engine rattling require extensive repairs. Without prompt attention, you could find yourself doubling up on repair costs or in need of engine replacement instead.
At every joint in the engine, there’s a gasket or seal. It serves two purposes: keep engine fluids inside and contaminants outside. The problem is, gaskets aren’t always perfect.
Gasket construction can take many forms. They could be thin layers of metal like many types of cylinder head gaskets. Possibly cork, like old-school valve cover gaskets. They might be rubber, like an o-ring on a cooler hose. It may be just a thin layer of gasket-making material like (ATV) sealant.
Engine Oil Leaking
Any gasket can degrade and fail. For some, like an oil pan gasket, it’s usually just a matter of time before it seeps or leaks. Others, like the front or rear crankshaft oil seal, just wear over time.
Rubber seals and silicone can deteriorate with time and exposure, and just crack.
No matter what type of seal or how it happens, a leak starts to form. It may be slow at first with an occasional drip from the undercarriage. Whether an oil leak or a coolant leak, it needs to be fixed.
An oil leak can be a very minor repair or an extremely involved engine repair. The longer it’s left unattended, the more damage can result. If your engine runs out of oil, you could develop that dreaded engine knock or even a blown engine.
Some common engine problems are because of external systems. That’s the case for most overheating concerns. Your engine’s cooling system regulates the engine temperature, maintaining a precise operating range for fuel and emissions efficiency. When something goes wrong in the cooling system your engine temperature can skyrocket.
Any of the following can be the cause:
- Antifreeze leak
- Hole in the radiator
- Failing water pump
- Ruptured cooling system hoses
- Leaking heater core
When temperatures get into the red zone, you have only seconds before permanent damage occurs.
Overheating can cause a warped cylinder head, burnt head gaskets or a crack in the engine block. On top of the engine damage your vehicle suffers, you’ll still have cooling system repairs that need your attention. Otherwise, you’ll repeat the same fate all over again.
You probably didn’t consider fuel system issues as the cause of engine failure. But, it happens more often than you’d expect. Your engine relies on the precise amount of fuel delivered at exactly the right time. If too much or too little fuel is injected; severe issues can occur in your engine or exhaust system.
When too much fuel is injected into the combustion chamber; it’s called burning ‘rich’. The first thing you’ll notice is black smoke from the exhaust pipe, especially when you accelerate.
In essence, this is partially burnt fuel carried out of your tailpipe in the exhaust. These unburned particles can superheat your catalytic converter. That’s not good, because if your catalytic converter melts down, there’s too much backpressure on your engine. Seals can blow, your engine can overheat, or you can end up with a blown engine altogether.
Another nagging issue from too much fuel is a flooded engine. On startup, excess fuel wets your spark plug tips, preventing them from igniting the fuel/air mixture in the cylinders. If you get your engine started; the Check Engine light will likely be on and your engine will run rough.
Engine is Misfiring
When not enough fuel is delivered to your engine’s cylinders; it’s called running ‘lean’. It’s a condition that’s responsible for many engine rebuilds and engine replacements that should never have been necessary otherwise.
When your engine is running lean, it can misfire and run poorly. You’ll experience a lack of power and stumbling. You’ll have engine noise known as pinging as a result, but more important is the damage happening inside the engine.
You might be surprised to find that; fuel performs a cooling action inside the cylinder. If there isn’t enough fuel inside each cylinder, it can burn too hot and cause a major malfunction. It can burn out piston rings or exhaust gaskets. It can burn out your spark plugs prematurely. Or if it’s left uncorrected for far too long; it can burn out your piston itself.
Running rich or lean can be caused by a multitude of conditions. It could be a fuel pump failure or a fuel injector leaking. It could be a plugged fuel filter or contaminated fuel. Whatever the root cause; it needs to be fixed alongside the engine repair or engine replacement you complete.
Although some engine problems are bigger than others; the vast majority can be avoided by regularly taking care of maintenance issues. So, With proper maintenance, you reduce the chances of a breaking down and minimise the risk of needing expensive repairs. Finally, you can save yourself time and money by quickly diagnosing engine problems; before they cause more harm to your vehicle.
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