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We’ve all had that feeling of panic when we put our key in the ignition and our car either clicks and does nothing else or the car tries but just won’t start. An even more frustrating feeling comes when that mocking red “check engine” light won’t go out, but it gives no indication of what is wrong. Here are three things that can happen when your car has engine problems and what each is likely to indicate. As you will notice, not all problems that indicate engine trouble are actually engine-related.

KeyIgnitionEngine Doesn’t Turn Over
If you turn the key in your ignition and all you hear is a click then it is more likely your battery that is having a problem, not your engine. If the engine tries to turn over, your problem could be:

  • Failure of the starter motor relay
  • A defective fuel pump
  • A clogged fuel filter

It is also possible that there is a problem with the ignition switch itself.

Check engine lightCheck Engine Light
This may be the best and the worst thing car manufacturers ever put in cars. On one hand, it lets you know there is some kind of problem but on the other, it gives you absolutely no indication of what that problem might be. More than likely, you are facing one of these:

  • A loose or missing gas cap
  • Faulty spark plugs or spark plug wires
  • Defective distributor or coil packs
  • Trouble with the oxygen sensor
  • Dirt in the fuel line

Engine Overheating
When smoke starts pouring out from under your hood, panic is so often the first reaction. Is your car about to catch on fire? Luckily, it most likely does not mean your car is suddenly going to explode. What it does most likely indicate is:

  • Coolant is low or empty
  • Radiator hose is twisted or broken
  • Thermostat is worn out
  • Cooling fan has stopped functioning
  • Radiator cap is crooked
  • Air filter is dirty

overheating-engineFinal Words
Your car’s engine is like the heart of your vehicle. Like the human heart, you can pretty much get a general idea about the cause when something goes wrong, but to get a definite diagnosis you need to consult with a professional. Luckily, most engine problems are easily fixed if you seek service quickly. Taking your car in for regular inspections can help find problems that are developing. Getting them fixed at that time will help prevent most of the above problems.