>18 Most Common Problems & Issues
18 Most Common Problems & Issues
Cars can be a blessing and a curse. It's all plain sailing one day, and then a new squeak or rattle arrives to ruin the mood.
Knowing the common car problems UK drivers face from month to month and knowing how to address them can save you stress and money from unexpected car repairs. If you have a pretty good idea of what’s causing a problem, you’ll be better able to decide if fixing it can wait for a week or two, or if it needs urgent attention and you better take it to a garage asap.
Most car problems and issues in the UK are well known and are usually experienced by every driver at one time or another. The good news is that most of them aren’t serious, they do, however, serve as a warning that more serious problems with your car might arise further down the road.
This post explains the 18 most common car problems in 2023 to look out for and what you can do about them.
Squealing brakes are a common problem for most British cars. You’re driving down the motorway and notice a squeak when braking.
Squeaking brakes could be due to issues with brake pads and rotors, or callipers and frames. Don't just turn the radio up and drown out the sound. Faulty brakes is a serious issue for cars, have your brakes checked by a professional ASAP as you might need to get your brake pads replaced.
Another common car issue is suspension.
If you’ve noticed your car ride is bumpier than usual, it might be an issue with your shock absorbers or springs. Your shocks are responsible for ensuring smooth rides, reliable vehicle handling, and longer tyre life. If they wear out, you might notice a loss of vehicle control and general drivability issues. If it takes longer to stop, or you notice uneven tyre wear, get it checked. Fixing your suspension earlier could save you from a serious car issue like the suspension system collapsing.
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Ignition System Problems
The ignition system includes the car’s battery, starter, and the ignition button or key assembly on the steering column or dashboard. If any of those components aren’t 100% ship shape, the engine won't turn over or you’ll be at risk of engine failure while you're driving, which you can problem guess, isn't a cheap car problem to fix.
Everyone knows you need well-inflated tyres with good treads that are suited to the season and weather. Without those basics, you can degrade steering control and sacrifice fuel efficiency. That's why it's essential to get your tyres looked at whenever you run over a sharp object like a chunk of broken glass.
Tyres can last for 5 or more years if they are well looked after, so if you spot any issues, then you’re better off heading straight to the garage. If you notice a leak or the tyres look worn out, don’t wait. Get them patched or replaced.
The alternator is responsible for keeping the flow of electricity throughout the car’s systems in balance after the car has started. It also keeps the battery at the right charge level, so it remains in good condition. If the alternator fails, your battery will run out of juice prematurely and you’ll likely notice problems at startup. To avoid an alternator fault, you should have it checked regularly. When issues are found, it's best to replace the alternator and avoid the risk of a bigger problem occurring later.
Thirsty for oil
If you’ve recently noticed that your car is thirstier than normal for new oil and you’re constantly seeing the oil warning light come on then you might have a problem. Changing your oil regularly is important to make sure the engine doesn’t corrode or block the oil filter.
Steering wheel issues
Sometimes your car’s steering wheel can start to wobble or shake when you’re driving. If it happens when you’re driving at speed on the motorway, it often indicates a problem with the tyre or wheel balance. The best way to discover the cause is to have the car checked by a professional.
Related: Steering Rack Replacement Cost Guide
The radiator keeps the car engine at the right temperature, so leaking fluid can lead to overheating and breakdown in engine oil viscosity. Rust is usually the cause of radiator leaks, though they can also be caused by poor maintenance, manufacturing defects, or poor-quality engine fluids. When a leak happens, it's normally better to replace a radiator rather than rely on a patch.
Worn-out spark plugs
While technological improvements have made failed spark plugs a less common issue than they used to be, old or defective plugs still cause problems. They can still stop your car from starting or running, while damaged connectors can cause other problems with the car’s electrical systems. Find out how much it costs to replace spark plugs with our guide.
An engine that simply won’t run is obviously a major problem, and unfortunately, it’s a common problem in the UK. It can be caused by any number of component or system failures but is more likely to happen in older vehicles. You’ll need a qualified mechanic to tell you for sure what’s happened and what can be done to get you back on the road again.
Using too much fuel
Often cars that are having problems with their engines will also be thirstier than normal with low fuel economy. The engine will consume more fuel than normal if the fuel filter, air filter, mass air flow sensors, and O2 sensors are dirty or need replacing. That’s why it’s so important to stay on top of your servicing.
Unexplained warning light
Seeing a warning light on the dashboard come on can be one of the most frustrating facets of owning a car. It can be caused by a myriad of issues, and sometimes comes on when there isn't any other mechanical symptom to indicate you have a problem. There is a long list of warning codes to check when the warning light starts shining so get it checked by a professional mechanic to find the root cause.
A small car problem but a problem nonetheless, and a faulty bulb on a headlight can mean will you fail your MOT. There’s not much you can do to watch out for bulbs as they tend to just fail through normal wear and tear.
Unusual weather or a storm can cause more debris on the road which can they fly up and crack a windscreen. Even something as small as a pebble can cause a crack if it’s going fast enough. Cracks in the windscreen need to be sorted quickly as it means the windscreen is not as strong, so could eventually spread and shatter.
Most car batteries last for between two and three years, but batteries dying before their time is a frustratingly common occurrence. If your car sits unused for long periods, the battery can simply lose its charge since it isn’t being replenished normally by the engine.
Transmission failure in automatics
If you keep to your car’s recommended maintenance schedule and address any other issues as they arise, the automatic transmission in today’s vehicles is normally good for 200,000km or more. Automatic transmissions use hydraulic components and have numerous gaskets and seals that can be damaged by dirt or leaks. When that happens, the transmission can slip or cease running smoothly.
Older cars tend to struggle with emission problems and as electric vehicles become the norm, then this problem should fade out. In the meantime, though, you’ll need to make sure your emissions systems are up to par, as something like a faulty o2 sensor could cause more problems further along.
Initially, you might think rust is not a major problem for a car but if you don’t fix the issue then it can be dangerous. If rust manages to penetrate the surface of your car and spreads into the frame, then you have a serious structural issue on your hands.
Small fixes now stop big fixes later
Small issues tend to get worse over time, but the good news is that small and cost-effective repairs now can stop you from paying thousands on a major repair bill later that you can’t afford — you just need to catch the issue early. Keep your car in good condition and keep your and your family safe on the road.