Top 10 Car Troubleshooting Hacks Every Car Owner Must Know!

Car troubleshooting is an essential skill that every car owner should possess. By mastering basic car maintenance, we can drive more safely and reliably and save significant time and money in the long run. 

This article reveals some invaluable car troubleshooting hacks that are easy to learn and apply. 

Whether you’re dealing with a flat tire, a drained battery, or unusual engine noises, being equipped with this knowledge can transform an overwhelming situation into a manageable one. So buckle up and get ready to become more adept at caring for your vehicle.

Top 10 Car Troubleshooting Hacks

1. Check Engine Light Diagnosis

The check engine light is crucial to your vehicle’s onboard diagnostic system. When it illuminates, it’s your car’s way of telling you something is wrong and needs your attention. 

Ignoring this indicator can lead to serious engine damage and expensive repairs. Getting a diagnostic code reading is an essential step in diagnosing the problem. 

When the check engine light comes on, your car’s computer system generates a specific code corresponding to the issue. Automotive parts stores often offer free code readings. 

Make sure to jot down the code and refer to your vehicle’s manual or an online resource to understand what the code indicates. 

Remember, the code is merely a starting point. It can guide you to the issue, but further investigation might be necessary to pinpoint the exact cause of the problem.

2. Tire Maintenance 

Maintaining optimal tire health is paramount to having a smooth and safe driving experience. Tires in good condition can significantly improve fuel efficiency and vehicle handling, reducing the likelihood of accidents. 

You should regularly check your tire pressure to ensure your tires are in good condition. To do this, you’ll need a tire pressure gauge. The procedure is straightforward:

  1. Remove the cap from the tire’s valve stem.
  2. Place the tire pressure gauge onto the valve stem and press down hard enough so the hissing sound disappears.
  3. Read the measurement on the pressure gauge. 

The correct tire pressure for your vehicle can usually be found in your owner’s manual or on a sticker in the door jamb or glove box door. 

Remember, tire pressure should be checked when the tires are cold, as heat will cause the tires to expand and give a false reading. 

If your tires are under-inflated, use an air compressor to fill them to the correct level. Over-inflated tires, on the other hand, should have some air let out. 

Regularly monitoring and maintaining your tire pressure is a simple yet effective way to ensure your safety on the road.

3. Jumpstarting Your Car 

Learning to jumpstart your car is a crucial skill for all drivers. This knowledge can be a real lifesaver when your car battery dies unexpectedly, leaving you stranded. 

It can save you time, money, and the inconvenience of waiting for roadside assistance. Moreover, it fosters self-reliance and a deeper understanding of your vehicle’s workings. 

Here is a simple, step-by-step procedure to jumpstart your car safely:

  1. Ensure both cars are off. Position the working car so that the jumper cables can reach both batteries.
  2. Open both hoods and locate the batteries. Identify the positive (+) and negative (-) terminals.
  3. Connect one end of the red jumper cable to the dead battery’s positive terminal. Connect the other end of the red cable to the positive terminal of the good battery.
  4. Connect one end of the black jumper cable to the good battery’s negative terminal. Connect the other end of the black cable to an unpainted, metal part of the car with the dead battery (this is the ground).
  5. Start the engine of the car with a good battery. Let it run for a few minutes to allow the dead battery to charge.
  6. Try to start the car with the dead battery. If it starts, let both cars idle for a few more minutes before disconnecting the cables.
  7. Disconnect the cables in the reverse order that you connected them.

Remember, safety is of utmost importance during this process. Always wear protective gloves and glasses, and ensure the cables don’t touch each other once connected. If you’re unsure or uncomfortable performing these steps, call for professional help.

4. Changing a Flat Tire

Knowing how to change a flat tire is another essential skill that can be useful during unforeseen situations. 

A sudden tire blowout can occur anywhere, anytime, and having the knowledge and confidence to change a flat tire can get you back on the road swiftly without relying on help from others. 

It can save you time potential towing fees, and make you feel more empowered as a driver. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to change a flat tire:

  1. Find a Safe Location: When you realize you have a flat tire, do not abruptly brake or turn. Slow down, signal, and carefully move to a flat, stable place to change the tire.
  2. Prepare Your Tools: You will need a jack, lug wrench, fully inflated spare tire, vehicle owner’s manual, and wheel wedges. You may also want to have gloves and a flashlight on hand.
  3. Use Wheel Wedges: These are placed against the tire opposite the flat to prevent the car from moving while changing it.
  4. Remove the Hubcap or Wheel Cover: If your vehicle has one, it may be easier to remove before lifting the vehicle with the jack.
  5. Loosen the Lug Nuts: Using the lug wrench, turn the lug nuts counterclockwise until you break their resistance.
  6. Place the Jack Under the Vehicle: The correct spot varies depending on the vehicle. Check your owner’s manual.
  7. Raise the Vehicle with the Jack: Ensure the jack is securely positioned and then raise the vehicle.
  8. Unscrew the Lug Nuts: Now it’s time to remove the lug nuts all the way.
  9. Remove the Flat Tire: Pull the tire towards you to remove it.
  10. Mount the Spare Tire: Place the spare on the hub and align the rim with the lug bolts. 
  11. Tighten the Lug Nuts By Hand: Once the spare is on, you can start tightening the lug nuts with your hand as far as they’ll go.
  12. Lower the Vehicle and Tighten the Lug Nuts Again: Lower the vehicle without applying full weight on the tire, then tighten the lug nuts as much as possible.
  13. Lower the Vehicle All the Way: Bring the vehicle all the way down and remove the jack. Give the lug nuts another pull with the wrench to ensure they’re as tight as possible.
  14. Replace the Hubcap: If your hubcap or wheel cover will fit your spare, put it back on the same way you removed it from the flat.
  15. Check the Spare Tire’s Tire Pressure: Ensure the spare has enough air pressure. Your owner’s manual will list the correct pressure.

Remember, safety should always be your top priority. Be cautious when on the side of a busy road, and always use your hazard lights to signal distress. 

If you feel uncomfortable changing a flat tire, don’t hesitate to call for professional help.

5. Basic Fluid Checks

Regular fluid checks are essential to ensure your vehicle’s smooth operation and longevity. Here’s how to check and maintain some of the most crucial fluid levels.

  • Checking the Oil Level

Your engine oil is vital for properly functioning your car as it lubricates its internal parts, reducing friction and preventing overheating. To check your oil level:

  1. Turn off the vehicle and let it cool for a few minutes.
  2. Lift the hood and locate the dipstick.
  3. Pull out the dipstick, wipe it clean, and reinsert it fully.
  4. Pull it out again and observe the oil level. It should be between the two marks. 
  • Checking the Coolant Level

Coolant, or antifreeze, prevents the engine from overheating in summer and freezing in winter. To check:

  1. Ensure the engine is cool. Opening a hot radiator cap can be dangerous.
  2. The coolant reservoir typically has level markings. The level should be between the ‘MIN’ and ‘MAX’ lines.
  • Checking the Brake Fluid Level

Brake fluid is essential for the brake system to function properly. To check:

  1. Locate the brake fluid reservoir in the engine bay.
  2. The level should be between the ‘MIN’ and ‘MAX’ markings.
  • Checking the Windshield Washer Fluid Level

Windshield washer fluid helps in maintaining visibility. To check:

  1. Find the washer fluid reservoir.
  2. The reservoir is often translucent with level markings. 

Regular checks and maintenance of these fluids are critical for safe and efficient driving. Always refer to your vehicle’s owner’s manual for specific information.

6. Replacing Air Filters

Air filters play a crucial role in your vehicle, preventing contaminants like dust and pollen from entering and damaging your engine. 

Regular replacement of air filters not only optimizes your car’s performance but enhances its fuel efficiency and longevity.

To replace your vehicle’s air filter, follow the steps below:

  1. Identify the location of the air filter box by referring to your owner’s manual.
  2. Open the air filter box. This usually involves releasing a series of clips around the box’s perimeter.
  3. Note how the current air filter fits into the box, then remove the old filter.
  4. Inspect the filter box for any debris and clean it out before installing the new filter.
  5. Insert the new air filter in the same position as the old one. Ensure it fits snugly and all edges are sealed within the box.
  6. Close the box and secure it with the clips.

Replacing your air filter regularly is a simple yet effective way to maintain your car’s health. Changing your air filter every 12,000 to 15,000 miles is recommended, but refer to your vehicle’s owner’s manual for specifics.

7. Battery Maintenance 

An automobile’s battery is central to its operation, providing the necessary power to start the engine and fuel the electrical systems. 

Sustaining a healthy battery is crucial, as any malfunction can lead to the vehicle’s inability to start, potentially stranding you at an inconvenient time or place. 

Moreover, a robust battery contributes to the overall efficiency of your car’s electrical system, including the performance of the lights, audio system, and air conditioning. It also lessens the load on the alternator, potentially prolonging its life.

Here are some tips for maintaining a healthy car battery:

Cleaning the Battery Terminals 

Over time, the battery terminals can accumulate corrosion, which can hinder the flow of electricity. Cleaning these terminals regularly is a simple yet effective way to maintain your battery’s performance. 

  1. Disconnect the battery cables, starting with the negative cable.
  2. Use a mixture of baking soda and water to clean the terminals. Apply this solution with a toothbrush and scrub gently.
  3. Rinse the terminals with clean water and dry them using a clean cloth.
  4. Reconnect the battery cables, starting with the positive cable.

Checking the Battery’s Health

Regular checks can help identify potential battery issues before they become larger problems. 

  1. Visual Inspection: Look for signs of bulging, cracks, or leaks in the battery. If you identify any of these issues, it’s time to replace the battery.
  2. Voltage Test: Use a multimeter to check the battery’s voltage. A healthy car battery should read between 12.4 and 12.7 volts when the car is off.
  3. Professional Inspection: Consider getting your battery professionally tested at regular intervals. This test can help identify potential issues like a failing cell or low electrolyte levels.

Always wear protective gear when handling a car battery, and refer to your vehicle’s owner’s manual for additional guidance.

8. Listening to Unusual Sounds

Paying attention to unusual noises your car makes is integral to maintaining its health. 

Unfamiliar sounds often indicate underlying issues that may be minor initially but can escalate if left unattended. 

Identifying these sounds early can prevent potential damage, save money on repairs, and enhance your vehicle’s longevity.

Common Sounds and Their Possible Indications:

  1. Squealing or Screeching During Braking: This sound usually indicates worn brake pads. It’s a sign that the pads are nearing the end of their lifespan and need replacement. Ignoring this can lead to costly rotor damage.
  2. Clicking or Ticking Noise: A clicking noise that intensifies with the speed of the car can point to a failing CV joint in the axle. On the other hand, a ticking sound from the engine may indicate low oil pressure.
  3. Rumbling or Roaring Noise: These noises often suggest problems with the exhaust system, like a hole in the muffler. 
  4. Knocking Sound: This sound from your engine could indicate a problem with the fuel-air mixture combustion, potentially suggesting issues with the spark plugs or fuel injectors.
  5. Whining During Acceleration: A whining sound that becomes noticeable during acceleration can be a sign of a worn-out transmission or a problem with the power steering system. 

Remember, these are potential indications, and a professional inspection can only confirm the exact cause. If you notice any of these sounds, it’s advisable to schedule a check-up with a trusted mechanic promptly.

9. Emergency Kit

Never underestimate the importance of carrying an emergency kit in your car. It can make a significant difference in managing unexpected situations on the road.

An emergency kit serves as a lifeline when you are stranded, awaiting assistance, or dealing with minor incidents that your knowledge and emergency kit can quickly resolve. 

It’s crucial to keep a well-stocked kit that caters to various emergencies, from minor mechanical issues to first aid necessities.

Essential Items for an Emergency Kit and Their Purposes:

First Aid Kit: This should include bandages, antiseptics, tweezers, medical tape, and other basic supplies. A first aid kit can provide immediate relief in case of minor accidents or injuries.

  • Flashlights and Extra Batteries: These are vital for visibility during night-time emergencies or when inspecting your car in dark areas.
  • Jumper Cables: Dead batteries are a common car issue. Jumper cables can allow another vehicle to provide the necessary spark to get your vehicle running again.
  • Tire Repair Kit and Pump: If a tire loses air or goes flat, these tools can provide a temporary solution until you can reach a garage.
  • Blanket, Water, and Non-Perishable Food: If you find yourself stranded, particularly in cold weather, these supplies can be a lifesaver, providing warmth, hydration, and sustenance.
  • Reflective Warning Triangles: These enhance your visibility on the roadside, alerting other drivers to your presence and potentially preventing further accidents.
  • Multi-tool: This compact item contains tools for small repairs or tasks like cutting, screwing, etc.

Remember, your safety comes first. An appropriately stocked car emergency kit can be your best co-pilot during a crisis. 

Make sure to check and replenish your kit periodically to ensure all items are in working order and haven’t expired.

10. Read the Owner’s Manual

While it might seem like a tedious task, reading your car’s owner’s manual is an activity of paramount importance that shouldn’t be overlooked. 

The owner’s manual is akin to an encyclopedia of your car, packed with detailed information spanning from the basic operations to the complex systems that keep your vehicle running. 

Each car is unique, and the owner’s manual is the definitive guide to understanding your vehicle’s specific requirements and quirks. 

It provides critical insights beyond simple do’s and don’ts, such as your car’s maintenance schedule, which is tailored to your vehicle’s model and make. 

Abiding by this schedule can prolong your car’s lifespan and ensure it remains in optimal condition.

Furthermore, the manual offers invaluable troubleshooting guidance. Refer to your manual before rushing to a mechanic or an online forum in the face of an issue. 

It contains solutions to common problems and can help you understand whether a problem is serious or a minor issue you can resolve yourself.

Essentially, the owner’s manual is your first defense against minor issues and a guide to maintaining your car’s health. 

Do not relegate it to your glove compartment; familiarize yourself with it, refer to it often, and let it guide you in making informed decisions about your vehicle’s maintenance and operation.


In conclusion, understanding and implementing these troubleshooting hacks can significantly simplify the process of car ownership, making it safer, more cost-effective, and less daunting. 

These strategies, from keeping an emergency car kit to diligently reading your owner’s manual, equip you with practical knowledge and tools to deal with minor issues effectively. 

They enable you to maintain your car in optimal condition, prolong its lifespan, and potentially save considerable money on unnecessary mechanic services. 

While each car is unique, these tips are universally applicable, serving as a roadmap to better, more informed car ownership. 

Remember, being proactive rather than reactive about your car’s maintenance can make all the difference. After all, forewarned is forearmed.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top