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Detecting a Car Breakdown

What to do if the Check Engine Light goes on

Even the most reliable cars on the market, such as our Top 5 Used Cars, are subject to the occasional breakdown. The most likely time for your car to experience problems is during the winter when temperatures drop. However it’s wise to be able to spot any breakdown symptoms all year round. Follow our guidelines below and try to spot the tell-tale symptoms of a probable breakdown.

– If your car won’t start, or more importantly won’t turn over at all, the problem may be a broken starter motor or flat battery. Have a pair of jump leads handy and try to re charge the battery from another vehicle. Once you have the car running again, be sure to use it for at least an hour to try and get charge into the battery. If the same problem persists and the car fails to start again, it’s probably a faulty alternator. At this point you need to seek professional help from your local garage.

– It goes without saying that brakes are the most important safety feature on any vehicle. You should get them checked regularly, especially if you’re driving long distances. If however you have failed to do this, there are some tell-tale signs of faulty brakes.

They will begin to make a dull grinding noise if the pads have worn thin, or worse have gone through to the discs. The car may also begin pulling to one side or the brake pedal will begin to feel ‘spongy’ under foot. If you notice any of these symptoms visit a garage immediately.

– If you have a faulty clutch it will be an expensive fix. However get it fixed ASAP as leaving it could damage the fly wheel which would then damage your engine. This would of course cost you more money in the long run.

If your engine revs rise suddenly whilst you’re accelerating, this indicates the clutch is slipping and you have a problem.

– It goes without saying that you must always maintain the tyres on any car. However tyre wear can actually give guidance on other problems that may be occurring elsewhere. For example if they don’t wear evenly it could indicate the vehicle has a tracking problem (steering fault). Of course it could also indicate uneven tyre pressures, either way it must be addressed.

– When going round corners if the car makes a knocking sound, or even a ‘droning’ sound, this could point towards a worn wheel bearing. If left unchecked this will cause further damage to the vehicle. Get this checked out immediately, because if discovered early it’s a relatively simple fix.


– During the winter, the waterproof seals on a vehicle may split or crack due to freezing temperatures. This in turn can cause leaks, allowing water to make its way to the vehicle’s electrical systems. This can damage anything from the electric windows to the central locking system. If something electrical goes wrong, try to eliminate the possibility of water damage first.

– If you find the car drags or hesitates under acceleration, this could indicate a faulty fuel system. It could be a number of elements including a faulty fuel pump.

Often when fuel runs low on a car, dirty sediment left in the tank can get sucked into the system. This can then lead to a blockage and restricts how much fuel reaches the engine. On the other hand you could actually just be low on fuel so make sure this is the first thing you check!

If it isn’t the fuel system then old spark plugs could be to blame. This won’t be too costly but be sure to have a professional complete any changes that are required.

– Finally if your vehicle develops loud knocking or rattling noises (from within the engine) then safely pull over immediately. On level ground, check your oil levels and top them up if required. If you’re lucky this will solve the problem, but if the noises continue then you could be in for a nasty bill. Take your car straight to the garage as it could be on the verge of engine failure.

If you want to reduce the chances of your car suffering from a breakdown, then take a look at our Car Care Tips for lots of great ideas to help maintain your car for longer.