9 Engine Problems You Should Never Ignore

Marc Skirvin
Marc Skirvin

What's in this Article

Is your car as reliable as it used to be?

Whether you’re looking to sell or trade your vehicle, you need to make sure that it runs properly. All cars have quirks that we get used to and ignore. But not all quirks are harmless.

Read on to learn about 9 common engine problems that you should never ignore!

The Engine Won’t Start

This one is pretty hard to ignore, but it’s one of the most common issues car owners face. And what makes it worse, there can be many reasons behind it.

If you hear a clicking sound but it’s not cranking then it might be a battery issue. If the car cranks but does not start, then you might have an issue with your ignition.

It could be as simple as the battery cables have corroded, or your fuel filters have a blockage. Or, you may have faulty fuel pumps, a broken ignition switch, or discharged batteries.


Overheating is what it sounds like, your engine gets too hot and parts fail. The usual cause for this is a coolant leak. It could come from the radiator, the engine, or the hose connected to the coolant system.

Other causes of overheating include:

  • Faulty water pumps
  • Broken electric cooling fans
  • Faulty thermostats

Your manufacturer will have a mileage schedule. So, it’s important that you have your cooling system flushed when it’s due. This allows a mechanic to check the system is in working order and doing its job of cooling your engine.


If your car stalls while driving, it could be an engine issue. If it’s coming to a sudden stop in the middle of the road, that’s a huge safety issue! In fact, even a minor hesitation can cause an accident on busy or tricky roads.

Issues with the fuel line, fuel filter or spark plugs may be causing this stalling. But, it’s not always related to the engine, so it’s important to get a professional mechanic to take a look.


Knocking happens when fuel in the engine cylinders burns unevenly. When cylinders have the right balance of fuel and air, the fuel burns in small regulated pockets. If not, it can burn all at once (think sparklers compared to fireworks).

When each pocket burns, there’s a little shock that ignites the next one in a continuous cycle. Engine knocking are the shocks going off at the wrong time. This results in an annoying sound and also damage to your pistons and cylinders.

Oil Issues

One of the most common causes of engine problems is not performing regular oil changes. If you don’t change the oil when needed, your engine will lose its efficiency over time. And then, at one point, it will stop working completely.

To keep your engine working the best it can, you need the right sort of oil. Leading car manufacturers currently recommend synthetic oil to get the best results.

It only costs a few dollars more than regular oil, but you’ll notice the difference. It’s better to be safe than sorry. You don’t want to break down in the middle of the highway for the sake of a few bucks.

Lack of Coolant

Issues with your coolant system are common and you shouldn’t ignore it. The standard is to flush your coolant system either every 3 years or 30,000 miles.

Most vehicle owners only do this when their maintenance provider tells them to. If you do this though, by then most of the parts that use coolant will have already degraded more than they should.

As we’ve seen, low coolant levels can overheat your engine but it’s not the only coolant related issue. Other ways it can overheat your engine include:

  • Burnt out radiator
  • Broken engine thermostat
  • Clogged hoses
  • Loose/broken plugs
  • Leaks in your coolant system
  • Clogged coolant system
  • Cracked/blown gasket head

If you keep driving with any of these issues, there’s a chance you’ll cause permanent damage to your engine. So, get these fixed immediately. Otherwise, you may need to rebuild or replace the entire engine.

Water in the Engine

Your car may protect you from hail, snow, and rain but it can’t protect its engine. A heavy rainstorm or high water can get into the engine and cause serious damage.

One way water can cause damage is by bending the piston rods when it enters the engine. You might not see major issues to start with, but if left it can cause serious problems.

Water will move to the combustion chamber via a manifold. This is where the spark plug is. So, if water reaches that point, it’ll shut your engine off right away, regardless of where you are.

Steam or Smoke

Smoke coming from your hood is never a good sign, no matter what color it is. If you see this, immediately take your car to an auto repair shop. Reasons smoke or steam can occur include:

  • Worn gaskets
  • Bad cylinders
  • Poor crankcase
  • Damaged rings
  • Wrong grade of oil

So always pay attention to your engine. Some brands have high-quality engines and accessories to help avoid white smoke. Usually, you’ll find this in Japanese brands like Honda, Toyota, and Suzuki.

Abnormal Loud Noises

You might hear other noises that aren’t knocking, and these can be indicators of an issue. Any weird, unique squeaks and vibrations you should pay attention to. You could have a weak starter, a worn timing belt among other things.

If you do start hearing some weird noises, don’t ignore it. It’s not a quirk or a funny part of your car’s “personality”.

9 times out of 10 there’s a reason behind these noises and the longer you leave it the more serious those issues can get. So, if something doesn’t sound right, take your car to a mechanic immediately to get to the bottom of it.

Pay Attention to These Common Engine Problems

If you car suffers from any of these common engine problems, then it isn’t something you can ignore. They could all be signs of major problems that could junk your car. So, if you want to keep driving or sell on your car you need to get your engine checked out.

Whatever the state of your car, you can sell it for cash today. With Cash Auto Salvage, inconvenient viewings, ads and pre-sale repairs are a thing of the past. With our instant online offer generator, you can have an offer from us to buy your car, truck, van, or SUV within 90 seconds. It’s that simple.

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About the Author


Marc is the Co-Founder of Cash Auto Salvage and Director of daily operations. He retired from a leading Internet Marketing company in 2013 and has been involved in the automotive industry ever since.

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