10 Common Car Repairs: How to Fix Them and What it Will Cost You

February 3rd, 2016 by

A mechanic is holding a wrench over an engine bay.

Getting a great deal on a new or used car is exciting, especially if the money you end up paying came in below budget. The initial excitement can wear off quickly, however, especially when your vehicle starts having problems. Car owners know that the initial cost to buy a car, is far below what the actual cost of owning a vehicle ends up being.

There are a lot of responsibilities that come along with vehicle ownership, and most of these require cash. From putting gas in the tank each week, to keeping up with that quarterly oil change. Cincinnati drivers, prepare yourselves for car ownership by knowing some of the most common issues you may face during the lifetime of your vehicle. Knowing what to expect not only helps with the stress you might experience when these situations arise, but can also guide you towards the right course of action for fixing these common problems.

1. Loose Fuel Cap

When the “Check Engine” light comes on, one of the first things many of us do is panic. The sense of fear and dread that fill us at the sight of that little light is quite understandable, too. There are so many things that could be attached to that warning, including a faulty oxygen sensor, catalytic converter issues, a faulty mass airflow sensor… or just a loose fuel cap.

Therefore, if your “Check Engine” light comes on, and there’s no smoke, no strange noises or smells, and your vehicle seems to be driving, as usual, pop open the fuel tank cover and check out the fuel cap first.

Is the gas cap fully tightened? Some vehicles require three audible “clicks” in order to seal the tank, while others let you twist until you can twist no more, so try a few different things if this is a new-to-you vehicle.

If the fuel cap seems to be tightened, there might be some other hidden damage that needs addressed. Though it seems counter-intuitive, briefly remove the cap and inspect it for cracks or wear and tear, especially along the threaded area where it screws into the vehicle. If it looks okay, but fails to screw on tightly, that can be another sign of damage. The good news is that a new fuel cap is usually pretty inexpensive and can be easily ordered from our service experts at McCluskey Chevrolet for just a few dollars. And yes, you can install it yourself, if you wish.

2. Engine Coolant Sensor Replacement

The Engine Coolant Sensor sounds important because it is. Engines run due to thousands of combustion events happening each minute under the hood. As a result, a significant amount of heat is created, which can easily kill an engine. To prevent that terrible probability, liquid coolant passes through a system of passages that traverse the engine block, cylinder head, and even intake manifold. The engine coolant sensor gauges the temperature of this liquid coolant as it passes through each area, and if the temperature is dangerously high, it provides an alert to the driver, usually in the form of a light or message.

Changing the coolant is easily accomplished by an experienced technician during your regularly scheduled maintenance appointments at McCluskey Chevrolet, but if the sensors fail, the replacement is a little more involved. If you’ve noticed that you’re using a lot more fuel than usual or detect a sooty smoke coming from the engine when you accelerate quickly, that might be a sign that your engine coolant sensors need to be replaced. Head to McCluskey for quick and easy replacement at the first sign of trouble.

Pink coolant is being poured into a radiator as part of a full service fluid check and oil change in Cincinnati.

3. Removing an Aftermarket Alarm

Aftermarket alarms are notoriously difficult to remove, which makes sense. They’re supposed to be an anti-theft deterrent. In fact, legend has it that the first car alarm was developed by a Denver prisoner in 1913. Regardless, we’re all far too familiar with the wailing and shrieking of a triggered alarm system.

The added challenge of an aftermarket alarm is that the installer generally needs to “borrow” power from another system within the vehicle. If this isn’t done to the letter, that other system can fail. If you attempt to cut the wires leading to the alarm system without understanding the power source, that source can fail.

Alternately, you can pay for a technician who has expert knowledge of every wire in your vehicle to take care of the problem for you. By bringing your vehicle and its aftermarket alarm to McCluskey Chevrolet, you’ll know that our technicians aren’t slicing the wires to your fuel pump or activating an engine immobilizer.

4. Spark Plug Replacement

There are people who know how to change their own spark plugs, so it might be surprising to some to find them on this list. However, for as small as they are, spark plugs are incredibly important to the health and longevity of your vehicle. Problems stemming from the spark plugs can be annoying, such as causing the engine to consume more fuel, or catastrophic, including failure of the catalytic converter (which is also on this list!).

The spark plugs in your vehicle help ignite the fuel in the cylinders, so you can’t really drive without them. But as that spark ignites, it slowly erodes over time. When it erodes to a point where the spark can’t make the trip across the electrodes, you’ll start noticing performance issues in your vehicle.

Many spark plugs have a 30,000-mile lifespan, but some are rated for up to 100,000-miles. Your owner’s manual will provide more details, and the technicians at McCluskey Chevrolet will be happy to swiftly and correctly replace them for you.

5. Ignition Coil Replacement

An ignition coil is the device that sends power to the spark plugs. You’ll typically find one coil per cylinder in your engine. Power flows from the battery through the tiny windings within each coil, multiplies, and heads to the spark plug to make it fire.

If your ignition coils are starting to fail, you might experience engine stalling, poor performance, reduced fuel economy, or your vehicle simply won’t start. You might also hear a snapping sound coming from under the hood.

There’s not really a set lifespan for all ignition coils. Some will last for a very long time, and others need to be replaced every 100,000 miles. A good idea is to have a skilled technician take a look at your ignition coils each time you come into McCluskey Chevrolet for routine maintenance. If your coils are looking burned or white, our technicians will discuss replacement with you.

6. Exhaust Gas Recirculation Valve Replacement

The exhaust gas recirculation, or EGR, valve is part of the process that recirculates air to the exhaust. It helps cut down on emissions and helps maintain the engine’s preferred operating temperature through a careful balance of cool and warm air.

If you’re noticing reduced performance or a rough idle, the EGR valves might need your attention. The cost to fix a bad valve is around $300, but having your vehicle’s air intake system serviced every 50,000 miles is an ideal preventive measure. The air intake system tends to build up carbon and sludge with use, so having an air induction service performed by the crew at McCluskey Chevrolet will reduce that build-up and help make you aware of any valves that need to be replaced before they cause a problem.

7. Oxygen Sensor Replacement

Your engine requires just the right amount of oxygen to perform correctly, and just as the name implies, the oxygen sensor detects when there is too much or not enough oxygen present.

Some high-performance vehicles can have an oxygen sensor for each cylinder and each catalytic converter, while other vehicles are less elaborate. The replacement of an oxygen sensor is generally a straightforward process but does require specialized equipment and a trained service specialist to handle the job. Prior to 1996, vehicles featured universal sensors, but today’s vehicles require specific sensors. Additionally, another issue might be the cause for oxygen sensor failure, such as leaking fluids.

The cost of replacement can start around $300 but depends on the make and model of the vehicle, along with any additional causes that might have led to sensor failure. The service team at McCluskey Chevrolet has the technology and tools to diagnose your vehicle’s issue from the root cause to the sensor replacement itself.

A hand is holding a manifold gasket over an engine.

8. Intake Manifold Gasket Replacement

The intake manifold is responsible for air distribution within the engine. Too much air is a problem, and too little air is a problem. The gasket is a rubber or paper seal that ensures the intake manifold aligns properly to the cylinder head. In turn, this means that just the right amount of air is flowing at just the right time.

While an intake manifold is designed to last as long as your vehicle does, things can go awry. Additionally, if you have other engine work done, it might be a good idea to replace the intake manifold gasket as well to ensure the parts work together as intended.

When the intake manifold starts to leak, you’ll notice the engine performing oddly, with reduced fuel economy and frequent stalling. You might also experience oil and coolant leakage. If this starts happening to you, have your vehicle towed to McCluskey Chevrolet, where technicians can inspect and replace your intake manifold gasket for around $350.

9. Catalytic Converter Replacement

As the previous repairs and replacements have indicated, poor maintenance of a variety of engine parts can lead to the catalytic converter failing. The catalytic converter replacement runs well over $1000 but can be avoided with regular maintenance and staying on top of the smaller, less expensive issues as they pop up.

The purpose of a catalytic converter involves chemistry, physics, and a lot of very specific functions, but basically filters harmful byproducts from your vehicle’s exhaust system with heat. It’s welded into the exhaust, which makes it not the easiest thing to replace on your own, too.

Without a catalytic converter, your vehicle will perform very poorly, with reduced fuel economy and slow acceleration as common side effects. More noticeably, you’ll notice a host of foul emissions coming from your car. In some cases, a failed catalytic converter will overheat and start a vehicle fire. Getting it replaced by the experts at McCluskey Chevrolet will eliminate all of these problems.

10. “Burning” Oil

Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind is having your vehicle regularly checked by a professional. The technicians at McCluskey have been trained to specifically provide maintenance and repairs to your Chevrolet. By choosing the right oil and having your oil changed regularly, your vehicle will enjoy a longer, healthier life. Neglecting a routine oil check could mean that your engine wears quickly and you need to spend thousands to replace it, or you will need to get a new car entirely. Routine maintenance, depending on what is being checked/replaced, ranges from $50 to $150 but saves thousands in the long run.

Routine maintenance isn’t too difficult, and many drivers are capable of changing their own oil. But only a fully trained Chevrolet mechanic will be able to diagnose the many simple issues that can lead to a bigger issue if left untreated. By having a trained expert look at your car at factory scheduled intervals, you’ll insure your vehicle has the best advantage on the road––a clean, working system.