How to spot a failing engine

How to spot a failing engine 25th September 2014

If you're a regular driver, it's likely that you'll know your car very well. The way it runs, the way it feels and even how it sounds will all be familiar, so you probably imagine that if something starts to go wrong with the vehicle you'll know straight away. 

However, it's often not that easy, and signs that the car's engine is starting to fail can almost become part of the general feel of driving, leading to drivers failing to diagnose problems. Before they know it, they've broken down and they're stranded in the middle of nowhere.

So what are the best ways to identify a failing engine so it can be diagnosed before the problem gets bigger and more costly?

  • Fuel consumption. Because of how much it costs and how regularly people fill up, keeping an eye on fuel consumption is the easiest way to diagnose issues under the bonnet. If your car starts to guzzle petrol and you're dropping from 25 miles per gallon to 15, it's worth having someone check it out.
  • Knocking noises. One of the most commonly ignored issues, a knocking sound coming from the engine is a real sign that something may be going wrong. While it can be as simple as a bad tank of petrol, it could also be an indicator that the engine is misfiring, and ignoring this can lead to irreparable damage.  
  • Car fails to start. In the winter, most drivers will have experienced a morning when their car turns over but won't start first time or at all. If this becomes common, though, there may be a problem to address. It could be as easy as changing the battery, but other more serious issues in other components, like the fuel pump, distributor, or spark plugs may lead to them needing replacing.
  • Running or stalling. It would seem obvious that these would be indicators of an issue that needs to be addressed, but it's often not that easy to tell if you're driving all the time. If your ride feels rougher than normal or if you're frequently stalling while pulling away from junctions, it's unlikely to be anything very serious, but failing to address the problem can lead to long-term engine damage. 

Posted by Danielle Barge