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How Can I Tell if My Car is Going to Break Down

George Brown, 4 years ago

5 min read

  • Advice
  • Maintenance
Car Breakdown 2 (1)

Every driver understands that any car has the potential to breakdown, and we’ve all had experience of dealing with a motor that isn’t working to its full potential.

With basic car maintenance, you might be able to prevent future faults with your car, but you can't stop all of them. However, the majority of breakdowns are preceded by warning signs and signals – you just need to know the red flags. If you’ve seen, heard and or felt the following, then there’s a chance that your car is telling you something isn’t right…

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Signs that your car is going to breakdown

We cannot stress the importance of basic car maintenance– after all, give your car a little TLC could be the difference between your car  passing or failing its MOT. Take the time to check over what condition your car is in. This is crucial if you’re about to go on a long journey.

The best way to keep your car in tip-top condition is to have it serviced regularly. This will extend the life of its components considerably and help you avoid any nasty repair bills in the future.


Car Battery damage or corrosion

If you can see green powder around the battery, safely change it  before it causes future problems. When your battery is on its way out, particularly if it's faulty, you should be able to notice the signs beforehand. For example, your car will likely struggle to start and might stall frequently.


Lumps of thick oil sticking onto the dipstick

To avoid damage to the engine you should change the oil. Alternatively, if you'd rather not do this yourself or you don't feel confident enough, you can find a friendly local mechanic through WhoCanFixMyCar who will do it for you.


Metal flakes in the oil

Metal flakes floating around in the oil signifies that something may have corroded, so you should find a local garage and get it sorted before more problems occur.


Green or blue puddles under the car

This would suggest that coolant has leaked. Replacing your coolant is easy enough to do yourself - just make sure that if you buy concentrated coolant you dilute it as per the instructions on the bottle - but this is only a short term fix if you have a coolant leak.

If your coolant is totally empty and the leak seems severe, it's best to avoid driving your car (even if you fill it up with coolant) until the problem has been fixed. Driving a car with low or no coolant can cause severe damage to the engine. In this instance, search for a mobile mechanic.

It's important to get a coolant leak fixed as soon as you notice it to prevent your car's engine from overheating.


An uneven tyre tread

This could be a sign of suspension problems or misaligned wheels. A good way to test the tread depth of your tyres is to use the 20p test, which we explain here.

If your tyres are wearing unevenly, it's best to get them checked by a mechanic who will be able to diagnose any problems before they become more serious over time.


What to look for on the dashboard

In general, dashboard lights signal standard maintenance issues. However, there are some signals that require immediate attention. You should go to your local garage if:

  • Upon starting the vehicle, battery icon doesn’t light up, or stays lit while driving. Constant or no light suggests there is an issue with the battery or the battery charging system.

  • An illuminated or flashing engine light indicates the engine needs servicing.

  • An exclamation mark within a circle may suggest that brake fluid needs topping up. If you’ve done this and the light stay on, there may be a sensor fault.

  • An illuminated ABS icon while driving highlights problems with the anti-lock braking system.

  • A lit up oil can icon means your oil needs topping up. If it stays on once replenished, switch the engine off and seek help from a mobile mechanic.


What to listen out for

  • A chugging, or chugs slowly before starting after a while. This may mean that the battery is discharged or flat.

  • High pitched squeal when driving. This means the fan belt may need to be replaced or tightened.

  • Squealing noise when you brake. This indicates worn brake pads, and that your brakes may need replacing.

  • A hissing sound as you drive. This suggest an overheated engine or leaking coolant.


What odours to look how for

  • A smoking bonnet means the car is overheating.

  • The exhaust emitting blue smoke means that oil has entered the fuel supply, affecting your car’s capability to run cleanly.

  • White smoke from the exhaust suggests that water or antifreeze has entered the fuel supply.

  • Dark or smelly smoke from the exhaust, may mean that the filter needs changing.

If you think your car is on the brink of a break down, then book in an appointment at a garage near you as soon as possible with WhoCanFixMyCar – we’ve sourced thousands of local garages so that you can get your car fixed with ease!


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