Don’t Ignore These 9 Signs that Your Car Needs a Service

Mechanic performing a service on a car

Cars are complex, technical machines that needs to be properly looked after. Part of any maintenance schedule should be regular service checks, where parts can be inspected and changed if necessary. Whilst some services, particularly for more high-end vehicles, can be expensive, they will save you money in the long run, preventing breakdowns, and increasing your chances of passing an MOT.

So, if you’re wondering about those strange noises or some weird car behaviour, then this is the list for you. And if you’re currently on a tight budget, and don’t want to drop money on a service for no reason, then use this list to check for where issues could be getting to the point where avoiding a service could potentially cost you more…

1. Dashboard Lights

Perhaps the most blatant sign your car needs a service. Since the start of the nineties, the majority of cars have had lights on the dashboard, giving you a heads up of any issues with the car. The check engine light however is probably the most important. Situated next to the fuel gauge, it’s a clear message to get your car serviced if it comes on.

The check engine light doesn’t refer to a specific problem within the engine, and can be triggered by a range of issues. Don’t however think because you haven’t noticed any change in response or performance from the car that the light is unimportant. As with many car issues, leave it unattended at your peril, as you may find it causes further faults – or even compounds problems.

The service light is also one that requires a fast reaction. When this spanner shaped light illuminates, it’s a message to get to that service.

2. Vibration and Pulling Problems Whilst Braking

Is your car responding strangely when braking? Worn pads or discs, suspension issues, or a steering problem could be the culprit. And whilst many of these parts are expected to wear out over time, this doesn’t stop them from turning your car into a danger on the road. Any sign of braking oversensitivity or resistance is a sure-fire sign that you could do with a service.

3. Unusual Sounds

You get used to the sounds your car makes whilst behind the wheel. Noises can be a good early indicator of issues. Keep one ear open for high pitched whines and squeals emanating from under the bonnet, as this is often a sign of deeper issues ranging from cambelt problems, creating high temperatures in the engine, or even battery issues.

Whilst on the road high pitch noises indicate that your tyres could well be unbalanced or overly worn or your power steering fluid is becoming old and contaminated. If that whine comes from the brakes, then this is an unmissable sign that they need to be examined. Uneven engine noise is often caused by an issue with the air fuel mix, which could also be causing misfires.

4. Ignition Issues

When you start your car, expect a smooth, easy start. If you’re hearing the engine struggle, splutter and cough, or a high pitched squeal or whirring sound, then you know something is up with the engine.

Starting noise are often caused by a loose or worn cambelt, which will require a service. If you’re having problems on starting, even without the noises, finding yourself endlessly turning the key, then this is another reason to get that service. You could be looking at a number of issues, ranging from the battery reaching its last legs, to the starter motor developing faults.

5. Stalling

Once you’ve got over the red face and embarrassment, be weary of stalls that are not your fault, with the car correctly in gear, and the proper application of the clutch. Lots of people will often continue to drive with such a fault, blaming themselves rather than looking deeper into the problem, which is often caused by dirt and debris clogging up the fuel filters or spark plug issues. Both of these problems are easily serviceable, making that trip to the garage simple, not too expensive, and worth saving your shame at a junction.

6. Decrease in Power

Normally you’ll have a good yardstick of how the car performs and reacts from your experience behind the wheel. If you notice that the car isn’t giving you the same output as before – we’re talking difficulties getting up to the required speed, or a drop in the miles per gallon – then it’s time for a service. Often it will simply be the car getting older, which does often come with a noticeable depreciation in power; however, it could be something less innocuous like a stuck brake pad or incorrect tyre pressures. Both issues that can be simply resolved.

7. Smoke

Smoke may not be as bad as you might imagine. Often the vapours will be caused by steam released from an overheating radiator. Certainly not the end of the world, but something that may need a professional eye. Additionally, smoke can come from an overheating engine, or if the exhaust is excessively smoky, then you could be looking at an oil blockage or the build up of impurities in the oil system. Both of these can cause severe damage to your engine if unchecked, so get that service booked as soon as possible.

8. Leaks

Car leaking? Stains and spills glaring up at you when you move your car? Car leaks are never great with dark coloured oil stains, or more brightly coloured brake fluid leaks being amongst the worst. Leaks around the exhaust pipe could also be a sign of trouble. Get that service as soon as possible.

9. Gnashing Gears

Over time the constant movement and friction between gears will leave the transmission needing attention – for both automatic and manual gearboxes. Fortunately problems will manifest as a loud, grinding or crunching sounds when you change gear. Attend to this one early enough and you can avoid that big expense.

Our Final Word

It’s not uncommon for drivers to finally read the car manual when something goes wrong. Don’t be that guy or girl. Fully acquaint yourself with the manual when you get the car; especially if it’s a model or make you’ve never driven before.

The car manual will give you the full lowdown on the service intervals – the times or mileages when you’ll want to service your car to avoid the big expensive faults, as well as the simple stuff like oil changes and tyre pressure checks.

And you’ll be pleased you got the car regularly serviced when the full service history gives you extra cash from the sell on value before you get your next motor. All good under the hood.

This entry was posted in Maintenance on by Justin Smith.

About Justin Smith

As the man at the helm of BreakerLink, it is no surprise that its Director, Justin Smith, has always had a keen interest in cars, bikes and most things wheeled. Having spent over two decades in the car parts industry, Justin combines his passion that since 2002, has successfully united those looking for new and used car parts with the breaker that supplies them. Follow Justin on LinkedIn.

Disclaimer: These articles are for guidance purposes only. If you have any questions regarding any matter relating to your vehicle we would recommend that you seek the advice of an appropriate professional. We accept no responsibility or liability should you suffer financial or personal damages in relation to the advice stated on this website.