Using Edmunds To Troubleshoot Car Problems

Identify the Issue Before You Pay for Repairs or DIY


  • Edmunds Answers

    Edmunds Answers

    Readers and Edmunds staff respond to questions on Edmunds Answers. | March 18, 2010

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Unless you're a gearhead or an ace mechanic, you probably can't diagnose common automotive problems on your own. But bringing your car in for repairs whenever it misbehaves is inconvenient and expensive. Wouldn't it be easier if you could troubleshoot car problems before you pay for service? The fix might turn out to be something simple that doesn't even require a shop visit.

That's where Edmunds can help. Our editors and car-savvy readers offer a wealth of automotive information on the many hiccups and breakdowns that affect different models. Although identifying the cause of a rattle or squeak may seem like panning for gold, a few choice nuggets of owner info could save you substantial amounts of time and money, and help you better describe a vehicle's trouble to a service advisor or mechanic.

Defining the Problem

Does your vehicle's misery have company? The Edmunds features below will help you troubleshoot car problems by reading the experiences of other drivers and owners.

  • Look at our Long-Term Road Tests to see if we've had your model in our fleet. If so, read what our editors said while putting the car through its paces. Whatever problems a particular model or brand tends to have, chances are our editors will have discovered it.

Example: Our testing director's daughter burned her legs on a Mini Cooper S tailpipe because it extended too far out from the back of the car. That problem was shared by all Coopers with the same design.

  • Check for Recalls or Technical Service Bulletins (TSBs) for your vehicle. Recalls are government-mandated, relate to safety and emissions issues, and have no end date. TSBs cover other types of issues, are voluntarily sent to dealers by automakers and are generally good during warranty only. Auto repairs on recalls and TSBs are usually done free of charge. But don't expect the automaker to notify you about TSBs. Unlike recalls, which are infrequent on a particular model, TSBs can number in the dozens, but it's often worth the time spent searching.

Examples: Anyone searching under "2007 Mini Cooper" will discover a government recall for the exhaust pipe issue mentioned above. But even minor problems, like engine rattles and overheated footwells, were listed as Mini Cooper TSBs that dealers would fix — if consumers knew enough to ask.

  • In Consumer Ratings and Reviews, owners frequently post entries when something goes wrong with their cars, and they'll often document their attempts at repair. Input your year, make and model (and style/trim if needed) to see only entries related to your vehicle. Or search under other years or models as well.

You've Got Questions, We've Got AnswersSometimes you need a more personal approach. That's where Edmunds' social media is at its best, allowing you to start or join a conversation, or ask a direct question.

  • On Edmunds Answers (below), readers ask automotive questions, and other readers and Edmunds staffers answer those questions directly. You can ask a new question or search previously asked questions in the Maintenance and Repair category to find others who've had issues similar to yours.
  • Ask questions on our Facebook page and on Twitter. Other vehicle owners, Edmunds staff, dealers, and even manufacturers are available to help answer your inquiries.
  • CarSpace Forums offer a great deal of information from experts and fellow owners. Use the make/model pull-down menus to find the discussions related to your vehicle. Then search within these discussions for the main issue or faulty part causing the problem — such as "steering and suspension" or "dimming lights" — to quickly locate other owners with an answer about this issue. Or you can look under the Maintenance & Repair Forum. You can join an existing discussion or start one of your own.

Example: When the transmission died on one of our editors' personal vehicles (a 2002 Honda Odyssey), we discovered through the Forums that those transmissions were failure-prone. Armed with that information, we were able to get a dealer service center to replace it free of charge, even though the van was a few months past its warranty.

Other Resources

Although Edmunds has most of the bases covered, you may not always find what you're looking for on our site. If that happens, try the following.

  • Auto Zone's troubleshooting guide. It's comprehensive, well executed and fun to use.
  • eHow.com's category on Diagnosing Car Problems allows you to search under text, videos or both, with topics like "Troubleshooting Electric Motor Starters" and "Clutch Replacement Signs." Master mechanics and other professionals contribute most of the information.
  • If you think your car's problem may affect its safety, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration's consumer site, SaferCar.gov can help. Use this site to learn if there's a potential safety problem before a recall is issued by searching "Early Warning Reports" and "Defect Investigations" for your vehicle. You can also use the site to file a complaint about a vehicle, component, child seat or tire.

Once you identify potential sources for your vehicle's problem, print out the information and bring it with you to a mechanic who knows your make very well. The Edmunds community can assist here, too: Our Dealer Ratings and Reviews can help you to choose the best local dealership for your needs.

Related articles:
How Can a Technical Service Bulletin Help Me?
Corner Garage vs. Dealer Service Department
Car Not Fixed Right? Get Results from the Auto Repair Shop

Comments

  • Looking for the Lighter fuse

  • heisler1 heisler1 Posts:

    I have a 2001 mazda 626. Car has 70k miles everything working good. Daughter driving it when it threw the belt that turns power steering and air conditioner. Replaced it but now when you drive it will not shift to over drive and the overdrive light comes on and can not be reset until you turn the engine off. As soon as you get to the point where it should shift to overdrive the same thing happens again.

  • null_ null_ Posts:

    Hello. I have a 2006 Toyota Camry XLE V-6, 3.o. The air coditioning indicator light is blinking, and when I have the heater going, the air conditioner or heater, goes in and out and creates a squuek in the belt. Can you give me a clue on what is happening? Does the air conditioning need servicing? Thank you. Dave Chaffee, Fresno, Ca

  • milman73 milman73 Posts:

    My 92 GrandMarquis has almost no brake pedal, fluid is full and no leaks. Pads are good. Calipers seem to function ok. What is causing this?

  • milman73 milman73 Posts:

    My 92 GrandMarquis has almost no brake pedal. Fluid is full,lines are bled,no leaks, pads are good,calipers function ok. What is causing this? I went from no pedal while checking this out to full pedal then back to no pedal..Help!!!!

  • blondy1 blondy1 Posts:

    have you run into situation of this kind. Own a 2007 Nissan sentra with 65000km. One day the Security indicator light came on than the PS light came on car stalled. Checked fuses and relays changed Electrical Part fuse and tightened connections on battery car now is running BUT now my heater isnt working...any ideas why it stopped working???

  • zooby zooby Posts:

    Very descriptive post really!Thanks a lot for sharing it with us.

  • nocas nocas Posts:

    Dear Edmunds My name is Noé, i live in Angola and i've a Audi A4 1.8T/2002 model. Recently i hade a problem with my black boss, couse of water inside and i just brougth a new black box from germany. Problem is that here in my country the audi shop tells me that they need to re-programe the car systen and they can only do it on line! Is this true? Is their any other way i can repair my car? Please send me an answer soon please, let me know what i can do!

  • I have a ford escort zx2 1999, And has been a great car until now it idles hard when I'm stopped and now acts like it is not breathing when I stop. Yes I'm a girl and that is the best way to explain it. Also my engine like cam eon and they said I needed an oxygen censor, did that and the next day it came back on anf then they said gas cap, did that and two days later it came back on Any one have a clue? It has 113,00 miles and has had regular good maintenance done since I bought it with 42,00 miles. Thanks .

  • towlehouse towlehouse Posts:

    I own a 2009 hyundai vera cruz. This year the car is having problems with providing heat on the passenger side. When the car is driving on the highway the heat blows cold both on the floor and through the glove box of all places. When the car comes to a stop and idles the heat seems to come back. I have had it into the dealership twice and both times they tell me it doesn't do if for them and everything checks out perfect with the computer diagnosis. Does anyone have any suggestions for me? Getting desperate in these northeast winters.

  • jerry174 jerry174 Posts:

    What kind of tires do you recommend for a 2010 RX450H 19" wheel I am looking for something that rides smooth.

  • 10cookie 10cookie Posts:

    1997 acura 3.0cl wont start. the battery is fine. runs ok, but died in the driveway and cant get started. next morning I got it started. I drove to the store and it did it again. stranded.

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