Most Common Car Complaints

Here are the most common car complaints, their underlying car issues, and how you can tackle the issues when you encounter them.

Not everyone ends up with their dream car.

For many, sacrifices have to be made for one reason or another.

However, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side either, as even Bentleys have their issues.

What are some of the most common car complaints?

  1. Bad mileage
  2. Poor power
  3. Fluid leak
  4. Rough ride
  5. Grinding sounds
  6. Deep scratches
  7. Engine won’t start
  8. Engine overheating
  9. Interior odors
  10. AC blowing warm
  11. Failed emissions test
  12. Check engine light

Thankfully, I will cover each of these complaints in great detail in this guide.

Who knows, you may be able to solve what’s causing the issue and end up with a daily driver that you enjoy.

Let’s jump right into it!

Table of ContentsShow

Complaint #1: I Don’t Get Good Gas Mileage

how to improve gas mileage

There are many reasons you might be experiencing worse gas mileage than you have in the past. Some of the most common include improperly inflated tires, worn spark plugs, bad oxygen sensors, or you may just have bad driving habits.

Reduced fuel mileage is usually one of the first signs that suggest something is off in your car. Be sure to look for other symptoms it might coincide with to help track down the cause.

Additionally, you can also check out our guide on how to improve your gas mileage.

Complaint #2: It Feels Like There’s Less Power

car engine

An engine needs three things to run: air, fuel, and electricity. Each converges inside the combustion chamber to create a controlled explosion to power the vehicle.

If any of these ingredients are not at optimal levels, you may notice a lack of engine power.

One of the first things to check is your fuel and air filters, which work to remove contaminants before they cause harm to the rest of the system. However, over time these filters can become clogged, which can result in not enough air reaching the combustion chamber.

As for electricity, the issue may stem from worn spark plugs or a bad battery. Regardless, a lack of engine power can be a safety hazard, so we suggest taking your vehicle in for a diagnostic scan as soon as possible.

Complaint #3: My Car Is Leaking Fluid

transmission fluid leak

While it’s easier to tell if you live somewhere with snow, it’s never a good sign to find a puddle of liquid under your car. Thankfully, the color can tell you a bit more about where it’s coming from.

Here’s what each color is:

  • Amber: Gasoline
  • Green/Blue/Purple: Wiper Fluid
  • Bright Green/Orange: Radiator Fluid
  • Brown: Engine Oil
  • Clear: Power Steering Fluid
  • Red/Pink: Transmission/Power Steering Fluid
  • Yellow: Brake Fluid

Remember, if there’s a puddle of fluid under your car, it means it isn’t where it should be, meaning the parts that need it aren’t getting it. Knowing what the fluid is, is only half the battle. You still have to determine where the leak is coming from.

Thankfully, by having your car inspected at the first signs of a problem, you may be able to solve the issue before it becomes worse.

Complaint #4: The Ride Is Rough

car shuddering while driving

Here’s another common car complaint that’s easy to notice, a rough ride. Thankfully, this doesn’t always signal an expensive repair. It may just be that your tires are improperly inflated. Another possible culprit is that the wheels are misaligned, which can be resolved for as little as $50.

Beyond that, there may be an issue with the suspension system, like worn shocks, struts, or springs. In this case, it may actually be hazardous to continue driving.

For more information about why your car might be shaking when driving, check out our previous article.

Complaint #5: Something Is Making A Grinding Noise

woman on phone opens car hood to look at engine

There’s basically no scenario where something making a grinding sound is a good thing, especially if it’s your car. Sadly, there are many reasons a car might do so, some of which are hard to replicate, making it hard to track down the cause.

Some examples include:

  • Worn brake pads
  • Lack of engine oil
  • Lack of transmission fluid
  • No power steering fluid
  • Worn wheel hubs
  • Worn clutch

Some only appear when speeding up, while others appear when slowing down, making turns, or changing gears.

Regardless of where it’s coming from, it always means something is happening that shouldn’t be – metal is grinding on metal. This can’t continue for long as the part will eventually wear out entirely. For this reason, you should resolve the issue before it ends up leaving you stranded somewhere.

Complaint #6: There’s A Deep Scratch In The Paint

How to Remove Deep Scratches From Your Car

There is not much worse than getting that first deep scratch on a shiny new car. Thankfully, in many cases, you can remove it yourself at home by following this simple guide.

However, if the damage is severe, you may have to pay the big bucks for a professional body shop to repair it.

As for dents, the size also matters. Thankfully, Paintless Dent Repair (PDR) is usually possible. This makes bodywork a lot more affordable than it used to be due to not having to remove body panels to perform the repair.

Complaint #7: My Car Won’t Start

Start Stop technology indicator in dashboard

Remember the last time you went to start your car, but it wouldn’t turn over? For most, this would mean an end to any weekly plans. However, your engine not starting doesn’t always mean the end of the world. You may just need to jumpstart the battery.

Beyond that, other possibilities include:

  • Defective ignition switch
  • Clogged fuel filter
  • Faulty starter
  • Malfunctioning anti-theft device

This is one of those issues you can only ignore for as long as you’re willing to be without a vehicle.

For a closer look at each of the above causes of a car not starting, check out our other guide.

Complaint #8: The Engine Is Overheating

man opens hood of overheating car while dog sits in car

The average sedan engine is designed to run at an operating temperature of between 195-220 degrees Fahrenheit. It is not so much an issue if it is below this range, as it is likely still warming up.

However, if it gets much higher, it can spell disaster for your engine.

The most common causes of engine overheating include:

  • Lack of coolant
  • Water pump is faulty
  • Radiator has a blockage
  • Thermostat is stuck
  • Head gasket has blown
  • Heater core is plugged

Engine overheating isn’t one of those issues that you can ignore. In fact, neglecting an engine that’s overheating will likely lead to its demise.

Be sure to check out our other guide for an in-depth look at this serious issue.

Complaint #9: The Interior Has An Odor

how to get smoke smell out of car

There’s not much worse than being the owner of a smelly car. Thankfully, if the odor stems from cigarettes or mold, you should be able to get rid of it yourself at home.

If you didn’t know, an interior that smells like cigarettes is one of the most harmful things to the resale value of a vehicle. As for mold, it can actually be hazardous to your health when ignored.

If you would rather have a professional detail shop remove the odor, expect to spend between $100-$175. Tack on a few extra services, like an exterior wax or an engine bay cleaning, and this amount can reach more than $500.

Complaint #10: The AC Is Blowing Warm Air

Car AC Blowing Hot Air

For many, the idea of existing without a working AC system is totally out of the question. If you were recently met with a blast of hot air when it should have been cold, there’s likely something within the system that needs your attention.

Some of the most common causes include:

  • Refrigerant leak
  • Condenser is malfunctioning
  • Cooling fans are faulty
  • Compressor is bad
  • Electrical system issue

The AC system is very complex, and the longer you ignore an issue with it, the more it will cost in the long run. For a closer look at why your car’s AC is blowing warm air, check out our other guide.

Complaint #11: My Car Failed Its Emissions Test

car diagnostic exhaust gas measurement at diagnostic station

That means it’s now illegal to drive until it can pass its emissions test. Cars can fail for many reasons; a few of the most common include:

  • Oil change is needed
  • Dirty air filter
  • Loose or broken gas cap
  • Worn spark plugs

It’s also possible that your catalytic converter is malfunctioning or broken. Be sure to check out our other article for more information about catalytic converter repair costs.

Complaint #12: The Engine Light Is On

car check engine light on

Think of the Electronic Control Module (ECM) as the brain of your vehicle. It receives data from sensors situated throughout each system. If any component is malfunctioning, the ECM will pick up on it and display the check engine light.

If the light is solid, there’s something that needs your attention in the near future. However, if it’s flashing, you should immediately pull over (when safe) and turn the engine off.

To find out the exact reason the light came on, you’ll have to take your car to a shop and have them scan it.

You can always perform this yourself if you have an OBDII scanner at home. Otherwise, you can pick one up for less than $50.

Less Complaining More Maintaining

It’s that simple. If you spend more time properly maintaining your car, it will have fewer problems throughout its lifetime.

However, if it’s already displaying specific symptoms, your best bet is to have it diagnosed before it gets even worse.

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Joshua Barrett

Josh Barrett is a writer hailing from the great state of Alaska. While describing himself in the third person is not his forte, writing about any and all things automotive – is. After 13+ years hustling in the exciting world of car sales, he took off to travel the world with his dog Teemo.