The top 10 car repairs and how they effect you

February 14, 2018
The top 10 car repairs and how they effect you

Introduction to car repair

Many car owners get nervous when the colder months are around as the chances of a car failure or break down increase with the cold weather. Whilst we are in the middle of winter we thought it would be a good idea to look at the top 10 car repairs, the symptoms and why the repairs are done. These are common car repairs that virtually every driver will see or experience in their lifetime of owning a vehicle, even a relatively new vehicle in warranty can succumb to such repair needs.

Here at Whatlington Garage Hastings we see these car repairs on a daily basis and are fully equipped with skilled mechanics to handle all scenarios. If you need any help or advice please do give us a call on 01424 870 307. So without any delay here are the top 10 repairs

1 - Clutch Replacement

What is a clutch and flywheel? What does the clutch do?

The clutch is the device which allows the transfer of power between your engine and the gearbox. It does this by having a layer of friction material on the clutch which grips and passes the power through but with age and wear this layer of friction material gets thinner and thinner until it can no longer grip correctly.

Eventually this will cause the clutch to slip meaning that you cannot get power across to your gearbox and you end up stationary with a revving engine. It's unusual for a clutch to go early and a long life span is the norm, usually well over 70,000 miles and in some cases well into the 100,000 ranges but this life span will really depend on the use and driving style of the driver.

The clutch is fixed quite simply by replacing the parts using a clutch kit, this renews the clutch plate with its various parts. Whilst this is a common repair, it can be expensive especially if the flywheel is replaced at the same time and it isn't uncommon for a clutch to be between £500 and £1000 for some vehicles with dual mass flywheels.

Symptoms of a faulty clutch
Issues changing gear (stuck in gear, stuck out of gear)
Lack of power whilst going up a hill
Slipping (e.g. engine revs but car doesn't move)
Noises when in gear (although can be gearbox too)

2 - Cambelt & Water Pump Replacement

What is the cambelt and water pump? Why do I need a cambelt and water pump?

A cambelt or timing belt is the most essential part of your engine. Quite simply it's a rubber belt that allows the bottom end of the engine to run in time with the top end of the engine. Without the two parts being in time the pistons and the valves will collide causing the engine to become unusable.

The cambelt is normally supplied as a kit, consisting of the rubber belt, tensioner and any associated pulleys. It is also common to change the water pump at the same time when the pump is driven by the cambelt. Every vehicle is different but there will be a mileage and time specification for changing the belt and you run the risk of serious engine damage by exceeding these specifications.

If for any reason the cambelt does break, the cost of repair can become very expensive due to the internals of the engine coming into contact and breaking/bending which in most cases requires an expensive engine rebuild.

It is essential to have your cambelt replaced as soon as you meet either the age or mileage criteria for your vehicle, or you or a mechanic suspect a cambelt component to be making a noise or showing any signs of wear. Typical prices for a cambelt range from £300 to £600 but we can always provide a full quote.

It is worth noting that not all cars are fitted with cambelts, some are chain driven and these do not require changing as long as oil changes are carried out correctly. If a chain driven makes a noise it should be checked immediately.

Symptoms of a faulty cambelt 
Engine will not start or turn over (makes a 'fast' noise)
Grinding, rubbing or squeaking noises

3 - Brake pads & discs replacements

What are brake pads and discs? What do the pads and discs do?

The brake pads and discs are what enable your vehicle to stop, they work by applying the pads against the discs, this friction causes the car to slow down. As the miles stack up the friction material on the brake pads wear down, as does the flat surface of the discs and this results in poor performance, vibrations and eventually metal to metal grinding.

Therefor it is important to get your breaks checked at your services and not to ignore any warning lights or break noises. By changing your pads before they get down to metal will ensure a longer life on the discs, if you do wait until you get a grinding noise then this is the pads metal backing grinding against the disc and ruins the discs surface.

Breaks are always done on both sides at the same time but front and rear are done independently as generally speaking the rear brakes aren't used as much thus take longer to wear. On some vehicles the back brakes are a different setup consisting of shoes and drums.

Brakes are considered a consumable item on a car (like tyres), are fairly quick to replace and prices for pads can be in the region of £80-£150 for the front. Discs can add a significant expense but generally doesn't effect the labour time.

Symptoms of faulty brakes
Braking not as effective as it used to be
Squeaking or grinding noise on braking
Brake warning lights on dash
Vibrating or juddering on breaking
MOT or Service advisory/fail

More Reading
Braking Systems - Discs/Pads & Drums/Shoes

4 - Alternator Replacement

What is an Alternator? What does the Alternator do?

The alternator generates power to run your car and charge your battery. It is an electrical device which is driven by an aux belt connected to the engine. All electrical items within your vehicle will draw power from the alternator and as such, the more you use, the more load it puts on the alternator and the more likely it is to fail.

The alternator is a simple setup and can often be repaired either by renewing the unit itself or in some cases renewing the bearing/pulley on the end. For noises this can often be resolved by adjusting the belts tension or renewing the belt and/or tensioner.

Symptoms of a faulty alternator
Squealing noise when using items in the car (e.g. heaters on)
Battery does not charge
Warning light on dashboard
Lights are dim or flicker when in use

5 - Starter Motor Replacement

What is a starter motor? What does a starter motor do?

The starter motor is the component which provides the initial motion of turning the engine in order for it to fire up under its own esteem. The starter motor will wear each time it is used and the electrical components on it are prone to water damage and thus over time they begin to weaken or water ingress destroys the electronics.

The starter motor is generally a quick and easy fix and some take as little as 15 minutes to fit although it is not uncommon to see starter motors in difficult locations. We are always happy to provide a quote for your vehicle.

Symptoms of a faulty starter motor
The engine does not start (turn key, no noise, or clicking)
Slow starting (e.g. sounds as if it is struggling)
Unusual noises when starting
Intermittent starting

6 - Battery Replacement

What is a battery? what does a battery do?

The battery holds the power for the initial start of your vehicle and provides the power for the starter motor to do this. As batteries age they can either leak battery acid, have damaged cells inside them and loose their ability to hold a charge.

A battery check can be performed incredibly quickly (10-15 minutes) and this will show the current health of the battery, prolonged storage in extreme temperatures, constantly draining the battery or leaving it standing for periods of time will cause the battery cells inside to die.

Not only does a battery need to hold 12v it also has to have enough current to handle the sudden pull of power required to start a car. Most people try to check a battery by seeing if they have 12v across the terminals however this doesn't give you the full health of the battery like our testers do. Even 20% lower current can cause the voltage to drop on starting and thus meaning the cars electrics won't work resulting in a failed start despite the engine turning over.

Symptoms of a faulty battery
The car does not start
Electrical equipment doesn't function
Corrosion or 'powder' on the battery
Battery not charging
Low voltage diagnostic codes

7 - CV Boot Replacement

What is a CV Boot? What does the CV Boot do?

The driving axle of the vehicle has joints known as CV joints and these allow the shafts to move when the vehicle turns or suspension moves. These joints require a constant supply of grease and protection from dust, grit and grime which is achieved by a flexible rubber cone held securely in place with clips.

Over time the rubber boot can perish causing it to crack or split open, it can be caught or snagged especially when other work is carried out or the clips can detach. When this happens the grease escapes and dirt can ingress into the joint causing the join to click and eventually fail.

The CV boot is a common fail item on MOT's and is also inspected as part of a service, it is important to get these replaced as soon as possible to stop any grit or grime getting into the joint and causing further expense.

Symptoms of a faulty CV boot
Clicking noise from CV joint
Grease left on the floor
MOT Fail
Service check item

8 - Head Gasket Replacement

What is the head gasket, why would my head gasket need replacing?

The head gasket sits between the bottom block of the engine and the head and provides a seal between the combustion chambers, oil ways and water channels through the engine. It's essential in order to keep the engine running smoothly by keeping the oil and water away from each other.

The cylinder head gasket is under constant pressure and is subjected to extreme heat whilst the engine is running and consequently this causes the gasket to degrade over time until some of the symptoms below begin to appear.

Replacing a head gasket is a fairly major task and can run into many hours to repair and hundreds of pounds in parts. You will also need a coolant flush and an oil change at the same time. There isn't a lot you can do to avoid a head gasket failure other than following the service guidelines with oil and coolant, the worst thing you can do is allow your car to overheat.

Symptoms of a faulty head gasket
Engine management light comes on
Reduced engine performance
Engine overheating
Excessive smoke from the exhaust
Engine using coolant or oil
Engine produces more noise than usual

9 - Fuel Filter Replacement

What is the fuel filter? Why should the fuel filter be replaced?

The fuel filter sits between the fuel tank and the engine, it's primary job is to filter the grime from the fuel so it is as clean as possible before entering the engine. Over time the filter can become blocked or grimed down which results in reduced fuel pressure to the engine and fuel starvation. This then has the knock on effect of causing the engine to run lumpy or even not at all.

Fuel filters are fairly simple to replace and shouldn't cause an issue if replaced in accordance with the service schedule recommended for your vehicle. Filters can vary in price from £10 through to £90 depending on the lifespan of the filter and how it is situtation within the car.

Symptoms of a faulty fuel filter
Engine management light on
Engine stutters, struggles or cuts out
Different fuel consumption
Difficulty starting the car

10 - Coilspring Replacement

What is a coil spring? how does it affect my car?

The coil spring is part of the suspension and provides support to the vehicle.Over time the springs are put through a lot of stress with the bouncing of the car and are under continuous pressure whilst fitted to the car. Due to the various parts of our roads such as speed bumps, pot holes etc the springs can be hit with sudden shock that causes them to snap, or them to slip from their mounts.

The coil springs are checked on MOT's and as part of a service schedule and it's essential for the safety of the car to get them replaced as soon as any damage is found. A damaged coil spring can cause a car to handle incorrectly, lean or pull to one side and produce various noises, it's also possible for the pressure of the spring to release and for the spring to shoot downwards into a tyre so its essential to repair and never drive.

Replacing the coil spring is fairly straight forward with the rights tools, but its common that a broken coil spring also needs a new top mount at the same time so always get these checked when replacing them or you will be back to square one.

Symptoms of a faulty coil spring
Car sits unlevel or unevenly
Poor handling of the car
Noise upon driving especially on bumps or turning
Tyre rubbing against wheel arch

Further Reading
Why not check out the Haynes guide to some of the most expensive repairs, whilst their pricing is a bit off due to using RRP genuine part prices it does go to show just what can go wrong.