Rick's Free Auto Repair Advice

What’s wrong with my car

What’s wrong with my car—how to get car repair help online

You can fix things but you need a little help, so you post a question asking, “What’s wrong with my car?” Do you get any good answers? Probably not. Most of the time it’s because you didn’t ask the question in the right auto forum, didn’t provide critical information or didn’t do your part by getting the trouble codes read. So I’m going to tell you how it all works. If you want help fixing your car or truck, follow this road map.

Check engine light on? Get the trouble codes read first

When the check engine light is on, you’ve got a trouble code stored in the computer. Most cars are capable of setting over 800 different trouble codes. So posting a question like, “Why is my check engine light on?” simply proves one of two things: 1)you don’t understand enough about modern cars to know that diagnosis always starts by reading the trouble codes, or 2) you’re too lazy to get the codes read for free at an auto parts store or you’re too cheap to buy a code reader.

Whichever reason, you’re not going to get any help with a check engine light, service engine soon light, SRS light, ABS light, TRAC light, or any other warning light until you get the trouble codes read. Period.

Don’t ask “What’s wrong with my car” without telling us what car you’re talking about

Honestly, do you think all cars are wired the same way, have the same engines and transmissions or the same types of problems? NEVER ask an auto related question without telling us the year, make, model, and engine. Other helpful information is: mileage, recent work and how long the problem has existed.

Be specific about symptoms

Telling us your car won’t start isn’t at all helpful. Did you mean that it cranks but won’t fire up, or that it won’t even crank? The fix for each could be completely different. Or, perhaps it cranks and fires up but won’t stay running. Do you call that a “car won’t start” problem? Are you getting the point here?

If you’re asking about a noise, tell us when and where it happens? When idling? When driving on flat pavement? When going over bumps, turning onto a driveway or going downhill?

Is it the computer, PCM, ECM?

It’s amazing how many times people just to the conclusion that the computer must be bad since they’ve replaced a few sensors. Computers do fail, but you NEVER replace a computer until you’ve exhausted all the other possibilities. Trust me, it’s rarely the computer.

I replaced the part mentioned in the code and the light is still on

This is probably the single biggest mistake DIYers make. They automatically assume that whatever part is mentioned in the code is the cause of the problem. Many times it’s NOT a bad sensor, but a bad electrical connection. Or, the sensor may be giving an out of bounds reading, but the reading is true—the underlying problem is being caused by the failure of another component.

Where to post your question

The best place to post your question is in an auto forum for your make and model because many other owners may have had hands on experience with the same problem. Next, ask the question in forums where mechanics hand out like BATauto.com, Edmunds.com, askmehelpdesk.com/cars-trucks/, etc.

I hope this has helped you understand the best way to get help when you’re asking “What’s wrong with my car?”

©, 2016 Rick Muscoplat



Posted on by Rick Muscoplat

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