10 Signs That Your Car Engine Needs Maintenance – HotCars

What if we lived in a world where cars never broke down? No more tow trucks, no more unexpected repairs, and no more missed appointments. Sadly, that is barely a dream, and we may never live in a world without car troubles. Cars are complex machines with numerous moving parts that wear out over time or fail unexpectedly. Most drivers are familiar with the sinking feeling that comes with realizing their car might be in trouble when they hear strange noises, experience a drop in performance, or an unusual smell.

RELATED: 10 Easy Engine Maintenance Tips For Your Car

The engine is probably the most critical component of a gas-powered car. It is the heartbeat that generates the power to propel the vehicle, and it is imperative always to keep it in mint condition. Not all engines are built the same. Some power plants are more durable and reliable than others and can take more abuse than others. Still, all engines require regular upkeep to ensure optimal performance and longevity, and neglecting engine maintenance can result in costly repairs or even engine failure. So, you should always be on the lookout for signs that your car engine needs maintenance.

10 Flashing Dashboard Warning Lights

A dashboard completely lit up with idiot lights.
Drive Accord

Flashing dashboard warning lights are a clear indication that a critical system in your car is malfunctioning or in danger of failing. When a warning light flashes, it means that the car’s onboard computer has detected a fault or error in the system and is attempting to communicate it to the driver.

Some drivers ignore these lights and keep on driving until the whole dashboard lights up like a Christmas tree. But you shouldn’t ignore them, especially the check engine symbol, which is a straightforward sign that you need to give your engine due care and attention.

9 A Reduction In Power And Stalling

1999 Nissan Skiyline GT-R 2.6-Liter Twin Turbocharged RB26DETT Inline-Six
Bring a Trailer

The engine is your car’s source of power, and if it isn’t functioning correctly, it can lead to a loss of power or stalling while driving. Power reduction can be a result of natural degeneration as the car ages. Still, a sudden drop in performance can suggest engine problems like a clogged air filter, dirty fuel injectors, dodgy spark plugs, or a malfunctioning sensor. Also, sudden stalling and cutting out of the engine is an unmistakable sign that you should have your car checked by a qualified mechanic.

8 A Sudden Drop In Fuel Efficiency

Chevrolet Caprice police car engine swap Vehicle virgins, front quarter view closeup in garage
YouTube/Vehicle Virgins

A sudden drop in fuel efficiency can be costly, resulting in more frequent trips to the gas station and higher fuel bills. It can also indicate underlying issues with your car that must be addressed to prevent further damage.

RELATED: 10 Best Muscle Car Maintenance Tips For Longevity

If your car is using more fuel than usual, it could indicate issues with your engine due to various factors. A clogged air filter can restrict airflow to the engine, causing it to work harder and use more fuel. The engine can use more fuel if there are problems with the fuel injectors or fuel pump. Other reasons for a sudden drop in fuel efficiency can include a malfunctioning oxygen sensor or worn-out spark plugs.

7 Vibrations And Noise From The Engine

An orange Shelby GT500 and a Black Mustang GT

Wheels and tires are the source of the most common sources of unusual vibrations in a car. But vibrations and noises coming from the engine are also some of the most audible ways a car communicates that it needs attention. It might be time to visit your mechanic if it starts to shudder and vibrate while driving on a smooth, paved road.

Unusual sounds from the car’s engine, such as knocking, ticking, or grinding sounds, could indicate an issue with one or more engine components, such as spark plugs, belts, or bearings. Ignoring these warning signs can lead to more significant issues down the road and potentially costly repairs.

6 The Car Produces Excessive Smoke

If your car starts to produce smoke, this can be a big concern, and the color of the smoke indicates different issues. For instance, blue smoke can indicate oil is burning in the engine due to worn-out engine seals or gaskets, while white smoke can indicate coolant is leaking into the combustion chamber due to a blown head gasket.

Clouds of black smoke can indicate a fuel system issue causing the engine to burn more fuel than it should, a clogged air filter, or carbon build-up in the system. Check your rear bumper and if you see a black residue, it might be time to visit your mechanic.

5 The Smell Of Oil Inside The Car


The smell of oil inside your car can indicate an oil leak, resulting in decreased engine performance, reduced fuel efficiency, and potentially severe engine damage if left unchecked. You may also notice oil spots or stains on the ground where you park your car.

Oil leaks can result from worn or damaged gaskets, seals, or other engine components. Also, the engine might have a malfunctioning positive crankcase ventilation valve that is responsible for regulating the flow of gases in the engine and might cause oil leaks when not working properly. And if the oil filter is clogged or not working properly, it can cause oil to leak into the engine or other components, leading to a strong smell of oil inside the car.

4 Engine Overheating

Overheating Engine

When an engine overheats, it can cause the metal components to expand and warp, leading to damaged head gaskets, warped cylinder heads, and cracked engine blocks. It also causes safety hazards, with the potential for fires and increased emissions.

RELATED: 10 Best Sports Car Maintenance Tips For Longevity

Overheating may also include steam coming from under the hood or a strong smell of coolant. If you notice any of these signs, it’s important to stop driving your car immediately and have it towed to a qualified mechanic. Regular maintenance, such as coolant flushes and inspections of the cooling system, can help prevent engine overheating from occurring in the first place.

3 Difficulty Starting

Image showing the 'ignition barrel' and starter button on a Jeep Renegade with the script
Driving Torque

A nice and clean start every time you turn the key in the ignition is one of the sure signs of a healthy and fully operating vehicle. Newer cars have incredibly smooth and quiet ignition thanks to technological advancement, so if a car experiences difficulty starting, it might be a sign of a problem that needs addressing.

Difficult starts may come in the form of splutters, coughs, stutters, whirring or the car taking longer than usual. It could indicate a problem with the battery, starter, alternator, fuel system, ignition system, or other engine components.

2 The Manual Says So

All cars come with an owner’s manual. This booklet provides important information about your car, such as how to operate its various features, how to maintain it, and how to troubleshoot common problems. The manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule helps ensure your car runs smoothly and reliably and lasts as long as possible. It typically includes regular maintenance tasks, such as oil changes, fluid flushes, filter replacements, and inspections of various components of your car.

If your car’s manual says that you should do maintenance, it’s crucial to go along with that, so you can help prevent problems from occurring, catch potential issues early on, and prolong the life of your car.

1 High Mileage

Ford Truck broken down

High-mileage cars generally require more maintenance than new cars. As cars age and accumulates more miles, their various components will begin to wear down and may require repair or replacement. High-mileage vehicles may be more prone to leaks, corrosion, and other issues affecting the car’s performance and reliability.

RELATED: 10 Car Brands That Make The Most Durable Engines

The definition of high mileage varies depending on the make and model of the car, as well as the type of driving conditions it has been subjected to. While high mileage does not necessarily mean that a car is at the end of its lifespan, it may require more frequent maintenance to keep it running smoothly and may eventually need to be replaced.

Sources: Consumer Reports, Toyota, Car and Driver


This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.