Engine Problems and Diagnosis

engine-problems-and-diagnosis

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Experiencing Car Engine Problems? 

Whether you’re on a fun drive or your commute to work, the last thing you want and expect is your engine to give out on you. It never fails -- engine troubles happen at the worst possible time.You’re running late or out of cellular service area. You’re hours from a tow truck or down to your last dollar. Deep down, you just know that it’s not going to be a quick fix, or a cheap one.

Regardless of the vehicle make and model you drive, engine problems are always around the corner. Even with proper maintenance like oil change services, issues can still happen. If any engine damage or engine trouble comes about you will have to look out for engine problem signs.

Common Engine Problem Symptoms

Your engine is a complicated machine. Hundreds of components need to work together to make it run at all, and many other factors come into play that can cause a breakdown. Here are some of the major engine problem symptoms 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 the ‘death knock’. If you’ve ever heard an engine knocking, you’re aware of the pain it causes. And that pain is definitely warranted.

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 car in many cases too, through vibrations in the steering wheel or floorboards. Sometimes the knocking sound becomes a light tapping noise in the engine, and 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 death knock happens because of low oil pressure. One way or another, your engine oil isn’t able to properly lubricate the engine’s internal components. It could be a failed oil pump, plugged oil galleries inside your engine, or a blocked oil pickup screen.

Aside from the knocking noise, you’re going to notice a couple other things: the engine temperature is higher than normal and the Check Engine light is most likely illuminated.

Unfortunately, it’s probably too late. When you have an engine rod knock sound, the damage is already done. Crankshaft bearings have overheated and scored, your engine’s cylinder walls have been scratched up, and you’re blowing smoke out your tailpipe.

In most instances, you’re going to need an engine replacement. Sometimes the engine can be repaired but the engine replacement cost is usually very close. The repair bill is not for the faint of heart.

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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. And over time, you’re bound to notice a decrease in performance.

Engine rattling when accelerating is a problem with many root causes. It could be emanating from:

  • One or more cylinders with worn piston rings. This is known as ‘piston slap’ as the pistons wiggle and bang around inside the cylinder.
  • Variable valve timing system problems, commonly found on Honda and Toyota engines, although many other makes now use variable valve timing as well.
  • Loose or worn timing chains. Although timing chains shouldn’t need to be replaced during the operating life of an engine, it can happen. GMC Terrain and Chevrolet Equinox engines had a bad spell with timing chain failures.
  • Worn engine valves. Also known as tappets, the engine valve lifters can require adjustment or 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.

When Your Engine Leaks

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.

Gaskets can be made of a host of different materials. They could be thin layers of metal like many types of cylinder head gaskets. They could be 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 is Leaking Oil

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, wear over time because a rotating part is moving inside the seal. 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. Or it might be a sudden burst that dumps a huge puddle of oil underneath your car. Whether an oil leak or car leaking water, 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, and need a whole engine replacement.

Engine Overheating Problems

Some 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 - an antifreeze leak, a hole in the radiator, a failing water pump, ruptured cooling system hoses, a leaking heater core - your engine temperature can skyrocket.

When temperatures get into the red zone, spiking to the top of your temperature gauge, you have only seconds before permanent damage occurs. Overheating can cause a warped cylinder head, burnt head gaskets, a crack in the engine block, and you could be left with a seized engine. On top of the engine damage your car suffers, you’ll still have cooling system repairs that need your attention. Otherwise, you’ll repeat the same fate all over again.

Fuel Injector Problems

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 no 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. Over time, your spark plugs will need to be changed, but more importantly, you’ll need to figure out the cause of the flooding.

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.

Car Engine Problem Solutions?

So you're having car engine problems, but what are the solutions? Engine repair or engine replacement are two that stand out, and have a heavy price tag to them. In the case that your care is too expensive to repair, or would be considered 'totaled', you can sell a totaled car easily online. See what your options are, and how much your car is worth compared to the engine repair costs.

Engine Diagnosis and Repairs

If your issue was on our list of car engine problems, then you have a few choices to address engine issues. For a free check engine light diagnosis you can usually ask a local Autozone to use their engine diagnosis tool. This will give you a brief understanding of what is going on under the hood, but you will probably need a professional's set of eyes to get to the bottom of it.

Getting your engine professionally diagnosed and repaired is pretty costly. This involves having a mechanic look at your engine to figure out the exact cause of the engine problem. Then replacing any damaged components, which greatly increases engine problem costs.

The problem with engine repairs is this: there’s something else that can still go wrong. Another component may be weak, and a fresh engine repair might stress that part to the point of failure also. Now you have to go through the annoyance of getting that repaired as well. It’s costly and time-consuming. It can creep up close to the cost of an engine replacement without the benefit of warranty.

Engine repairs can be a few hundred dollars up to several thousand dollars, depending on the extent of the damage and the model you drive.

Engine Replacement Costs

If your engine is badly damaged, you can choose to bypass the repair option altogether and replace your engine completely. A replacement engine can save days in the repair process and often comes with a good warranty.

Beware that engine replacement is big bucks. You can get a used engine installed, but the better choice is a new or reman engine. It’s going to provide the coverage in the event you experience engine problems in the next few years.

A used engine with installation can run $1,500 and up (much higher in some cases). You can expect a new or remanufactured engine to be $3,000 and up for gas engines. A Ford 5.4 L engine, or a Dodge 4.7 L Engine might be $3,000 and up, for example.

Ford V10 engine problems could cost you $5,000 or more! And if you're having Jeep engine problems the repair cost could be comparably high as well. On the cheaper end of things might be Ford Focus engine problems, which would be between $450 and $700 for the engine, though not including labor costs.

Diesel engines are several thousand extra added cost compared to standard internal combustion engine problems. In all of these situations selling your car with a blown engine is probably best.

A Better Option - Sell Your Damaged Car

You’re busy, and you don’t have the time to deal with engine repairs. You are experiencing car engine failure, so what's to do? You need to do something about your broken-down car NOW. A better option is Damaged Cars. We buy cars no matter what’s wrong with them.

Need a head gasket repair or a complete engine replacement? Is your engine overheating or knocking badly? Is your engine repair more money than you can afford, or is the quote more than the car is worth? No problem.

Just request a guaranteed offer from us. When you accept our offer, we’ll come pick up your car for free. Then, we pay for your car on the spot, engine damage and all. It’s easy and hassle-free.

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