6 Signs You Have Engine Problems And What To Do

Learn to Spot Auto Engine Trouble And Fix It Before Costs Add Up

Blue BMW with White Smoke Coming from It

Identify common symptoms of engine problems before it's too late to fix them.

Your car has many systems, some critical, others not. A broken A/C is uncomfortable, but a malfunctioning engine makes your car a really expensive paperweight. Fortunately, there are many warning signs your engine is in trouble before it seizes up on you. Here are four signs you’ve got some trouble brewing under the hood. Sturtevant Auto offers cheap engines and engine parts.

1. The Engine Is Shaking, Possibly Violently

If your car turns over just fine but shakes while it’s running, there could be a few things wrong with it.  cheapest to fix is bad spark plugs. Eventually, spark plugs will wear out.

Try changing them and see if your car runs normally. Slightly worse, but still a relatively inexpensive fix, is loose or damaged hoses. Check to make sure all the vacuum and air hoses are properly connected and there are no cracks in them. Tighten loose hoses and replace cracked ones and the shaking should stop. More expensive to fix, and possibly requiring a mechanic’s help, are your timing belt, fuel intake system and motor mounts. Unless you know what you’re doing under the hood, you should have a qualified mechanic diagnose and repair these problems.

2.  Smoke, Either Black, White or Blue, Is Coming from the Engine

No matter what color smoke you see, there’s bad news. White smoke can indicate a blown head gasket or cracked cylinder head, both serious, potentially car-killing problems. Blue smoke usually means you have worn valves or piston rings leaking oil into the combustion area of the engine. Black smoke can mean many things.

You may have a clogged air filter, the ignition timing could be off or there could be a malfunction in your emission system. Other than the clogged air filter, fixing any of these problems will require more than a little know-how. If your air filter is not the problem, you should probably take your smoking engine to a mechanic.

3.  Your Car Keeps Overheating

Unless the weather is unusually hot, it should take a few minutes for your engine to go from cold to its normal operating temperature. If you notice your car is rapidly heating up or is getting hotter than normal, possibly overheating, there are a few things to check first. Your cooling system may have leaks, a lack of coolant or even the wrong coolant blend. Try flushing the system and refilling it.

If the coolant level drops, check for a leak. If your engine isn’t leaking coolant, you may have a broken water pump. Try replacing the water pump to get the cooling system working again. If it still isn’t working, you might need to replace your radiator.

A water pump or radiator replacement can be fairly expensive, so you should try the coolant flush first. If you do need to replace the water pump or radiator, you can always buy used parts to make the repairs a bit more affordable.

Common Symptoms of Engine Problems

Check for worn or broken gaskets for the source of problems in your engine.

4.  The Engine Is Abnormally Loud

If your car is louder than normal, it’s most likely not the engine. The problem is in the exhaust system, which is connected to, but distinct from, the engine. Usually, it’s the muffler or catalytic converter causing the loud noises.

Either one can degrade over time and require replacing. There are also several gaskets and seals that may have broken or ruptured and need to be fixed. Check for any damaged gaskets and replace any you see requiring repairs. A good mechanic can help determine exactly what is causing the noise.

If your car needs an engine part replaced, you could spend a small fortune getting new parts. Instead, save a bundle by purchasing gently used auto parts from Sturtevant Auto. Our 11 acres of salvage vehicles has a wide range of donor cars to choose from, guaranteeing you find the exact used replacement engine part you’re looking for at a price you can afford.

You can get OEM replacement parts for most cars from our salvage yard. We even sell complete engines, if you'd rather swap out a high milage engine with a newer one. We stock many makes and models, letting you find exactly the right part for your vehicle.

5.  Oil Puddle Under Parked Car

If you notice a pitch-black oil puddle on the concrete whenever you back your car up, it’s an unfortunate sign that something is wrong with your vehicle.  While this is often an indicator of something serious that an experienced mechanic needs to examine, there are several troubleshooting steps you can take to simply help identify the problem, or at least eliminate a few easy-to-solve issues before you spend a fortune on repairs.

1. For safety reasons, keep a fire extinguisher in your car.

Leaking oil of any type can back up resulting in hard-to-spot fire hazards.

2. Make sure that the puddle is actually oil!

Cars are prone to several different fluids like transmission fluid, coolant, and more.  Oil (for those of you living under a rock) will be brown/black and be thick in appearance.

3. Use your sense of smell.

We all know what that traditional burnt oil smell is.  This could mean that oil is leaking directly onto the engine block; effectively helping you narrow down where the leak is originating from. 

4. Check your engine gaskets, seals, and other connections.

This is going to take some elbow grease. Due to variations in vehicles, check online forums and owner's guides for tips on how to identify your oil pain seals, oil pan drain plugs, timing cover seals, and valve cover gaskets.  If you find a leak in one of these areas, unfortunately, there is no completely solid way to fix it.  Some vehicle owners have had different levels of success with products marketed for this very issue.  Do your research, read product reviews, and don’t be afraid to consult with someone at your local automotive store about what options are available.

5. Tighten anything that is loose.

This means anything close to the oil pan.  When we say anything…we mean anything.  Sometimes an oil leak can be something as simple as just a lose nut or bolt.

6. Take your car into a mechanic.

If a DIY fix does not solve the issue, it may be time to take your vehicle to a trained mechanic.  Oil leaks can be extremely expensive, however, they simply cannot be ignored and must be attended to immediately.

6.  Check Engine Light

Is there really any better way to tell that something is wrong with your engine than to have a giant orange light on the inside of your car pop on telling you to check your engine? The check engine light is a symbol that has different levels of importance to different people. For some the check engine light is merely a dashboard decoration made purely to be ignored.  For others, it is a warning sign that something could possibly be wrong. In extreme cases, some people rush their vehicle to the mechanic immediately! Before you do anything rash, take the time to give some of these quick fixes a try first.

  • Buy an OBD.  An OBD (Onboard Diagnostic) is a tiny little device that plugs into your vehicle and easily identifies the problem.  It is very important to keep the instructions that go along with your particular OBD model. Don’t want to blow $100 on an OBD? Ask some of your gearhead friends if they’re in the mood to do you a favor!
  • To use an OBD:
    • Get a solid flashlight and shine it on the lower edge of your driver-side dash to locate the plug-in (Note: check your vehicle’s owner’s manual if your port is not located here.)
    • Plug the OBD into the port, and turn the key to the idle position (DO NOT TURN THE ENGINE ON!)
    • Most OBDs only have two buttons—hit the “scan” button
    • Take the code that pops up on your OBD’s screen, and use your device instructions to determine what your code means.
  • Perform any necessary fixes, or have a mechanic do it for you.  Self-explanatory.
  • Disconnect the battery.  Sometimes the check engine light is just a simple fluke.  Disconnecting the battery and reconnecting it can sometimes reset the light back to normal.  Sometimes the check engine light can be a sign that your battery is about to die.
  • Wait it out.  It is important to note that sometimes after the issue has been fixed, it can take a bit of time for the check engine light to go away. If the problem still persists after a few weeks, it may be time to go back to the drawing board. 
  • Just leave it.  In the end, if it’s not bugging you then I guess there is no reason to get upset about…until you find yourself stranded in the desert one sunny afternoon.
Diagnosing Common Signs of Engine Problems

Check for worn or broken gaskets for the source of problems in your engine.

Can’t Fix It? Buy a Used Salvage Car

While some of these issues are fixable, many different aspects of the automotive world are extremely costly. Sometimes only lots of expensive, special equipment backed by years of knowledge is the only cure for certain automotive issues. In these extreme cases, it can be cheaper to find an alternative vehicle rather than pay thousands and thousands of dollars in repairs. That’s why Sturtevant Auto offers great deals on salvaged cars and car parts.

We’ll Buy What You’ve Got

Anyone seeking an affordable replacement car that runs should see what we have in our inventory. Buying a temporary vehicle that is both sturdy and reliable is a great, often underutilized alternative to paying a mechanic multiple thousands of dollars to simply place a Band-Aid on your already doomed car, truck, or SUV! Better yet—we’ll give you a great price for your running or non-running car with engine problems.

Think You Can Fix It? We’ve Got Engine Parts!

Many people with some level of automotive knowledge also choose to fix up their vehicles themselves. If you can do it, this is a fantastic way to save money; especially if you know where to find discount auto salvage parts at unbeatable prices. If you are an amateur mechanic, car enthusiast, or simply love messing around with cars, come check out our salvage yard!

We have parts for almost any popular make and model and will help you navigate through our inventory so that you can find whatever it is you may need. We even do used windshield glass for those experiencing nothing more than a cracked front window!