What Do You Check First: The Car Trouble Quiz



By: Craig

7 Min Quiz

Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

It's an art. It's a science. But it's mainly expensive when your car doesn't run properly. That's why it's great to know enough about your car to stop a small problem from becoming a big bill. You may need to add oil to the engine, add air to your tires, or top off the antifreeze to keep your car on the road and not in the repair shop. However, when the motor won't turn over or black smoke is coming from the hood, it's time to pull over and call a tow truck or "Triple A". 

Knowing the meaning of different icons when they flash on your dashboard can help you eliminate some likely issues. Usually you can categorize the situation by electrical problems, tires/alignment problems, or hose and fluid problems. However, there can be problems with the dashboard icons themselves remaining lit even though your mechanic has fixed the problem! Don't worry, sometimes even good mechanics forget to reset the dash board. Also, in many modern cars, a loose gas cap will not only cause you to lose gas through evaporation, but it often can cause the 'check engine' light to flash. So, it's not always a disaster when an icon flashes on your dash, but it always is smart to be prepared with a little auto know=how. You can start that preparation right now by taking this quiz and learning what you should check first when you have car trouble. Happy driving!

You notice a flashing red light on your dashboard. It shows a can with a handle and a small droplet. What should you be checking first?

As soon as the oil light starts blinking on your dashboard, you should immediately stop and have the oil level checked in your engine. Failure to do so could result in your engine ultimately seizing.


Cars have many warning lights but what should you be checking if one with a steering wheel with a key underneath it starts flashing?

A fault to your ignition system could prove troublesome. It is best to get that checked out before it gets worse.


Your car is idling in a very rough fashion and certainly not performing as it should. You put in a new set of spark plugs but the problem persists. What else should you check?

If changing your spark plugs has not stopped the car from idling roughly, the next thing to check is your high tension leads. These can also lead to starting problems, so if your car is harder to start, one of them breaking down could be the reason. Always keep them free from any dampness by spraying WD 40 on the connectors.


You notice a flashing red light on your dashboard. It shows a keyhole as well as a key. What should you do immediately?

This warning light shows a fault in the ignition system. This you will need to have it checked out.


A warning light of a circle with an exclamation mark flanked by two brackets on either side means you have a problem with your ______ system?

Just a few years ago, only luxury models had ABS braking. Now they are found on most makes of vehicles. ABS improves braking tremendously and is not something you want to have malfunction. Get it sorted out as soon as possible.


You notice a flashing red light on your dashboard. It shows a rectangular shape with a + and - in it. What should you be checking first?

In most cases, when the battery warning indicator begins flashing on your dashboard, the battery is not receiving a charge from your alternator. This could be a result of an old, faulty battery or the alternator belt may have broken, preventing the battery from receiving a charge.


A yellow flashing light that looks like a tire with an exclamation mark indicates that you need to?

Not all cars have this warning indicator on their dashboards so you may need to check your tire pressures manually. And please do because tires with low pressures not only increase fuel consumption, they are downright dangerous and affect handling.


You notice a flashing red light on your dashboard. It shows a steering wheel. What should ou be checking first?

When this light comes on your dashboard, it is important to immediately check the levels of the liquid that help augment the power steering system. Often, by ensuring they are the correct levels, the light will go off. If not, consult a mechanic.


A strange orange light that looks like a rectangle with dots in it has started flashing on your dashboard. What is it warning you about?

Today, cars that run on diesel are just as efficient at their gas counterparts. Of course, a diesel engine can have its own set of unique problems. If this light flashes, it is best to get it checked out.


You notice a small amount of black smoke coming from under your hood. What could be the problem?

When your car runs too rich, the engine cannot burn all the fuel effectively. Not only is it not running in an optimum way but you are wasting gas!


You notice a flashing red light on your dashboard. It shows a thermometer standing about two wavy lines of liquid. What should you check first?

Failure to see why the temperature light on your dashboard has started flashing could cause your engine to overheat, which can harm it. As soon as you see this light, pull over at your nearest gas station and ensure the radiator is filled to its proper level.


Your diesel vehicle has suddenly started flashing a warning light on its dashboard. It looks like a thin line making two ovals. What should you check?

This light will come on when you start your engine, particularly in cold weather. If it stays on, it indicates that a glow plug, which helps to start and warm a diesel engine, is faulty.


You notice a flashing red light on your dashboard. It shows the figure of a human with a belt around them and a large bag in front of them. What do you check first?

Both your seatbelt and airbag are there for your protection. Any faults to either of these could spell danger, especially if you are involved in an accident.


When driving on a straight piece of tarmac, you have noticed that your car begins to pull to the left or right when holding the steering wheel gently? What is causing this?

A car pulling to either side is a sure sign that the wheels need to be realigned. If not done, your tires will wear unevenly.


A rather strange light, which is shaped like a side profile of an engine, has started blinking on your dashboard. What is it warning you about?

All cars today have systems in place that regulate vehicle emissions. Best to get it checked right away.


All of a sudden, your car is idling in a very rough fashion and seems to have a loss of power. Even when you drive, it's not running properly. What should you check?

A rough idling car and a loss of power indicate that one of the spark plugs is not firing correctly and could need replacing.


In a manual car, what could a tightness on the clutch pedal indicate?

If your clutch pedal suddenly feels different under your foot, it could be an indication that it is under tension and could even brake. Rather have it checked out to be sure.


After experiencing problems with your car not starting, you have replaced the battery. Just a few days later, however, the problem returns. What should you check now?

The alternator is a crucial part of the electrical system on your car. One of its primary purposes is to charge the battery. If it does not do this, your battery will quickly run down.


You notice a small amount of white smoke coming from under your hood. Out of the exhaust, it is black and sooty. What could be the problem?

Black smoke indicates your engine is burning too much oil. Rather consult with a professional to find the cause of the problem.


For a while now, you have noticed that your car's handling isn't as great as it should be. Also, it's quite difficult to turn the wheels when standing still. What is the first thing you should check?

Often so overlooked, tire pressures are an important part of your weekly car maintenance and should always be checked. The first thing about low tire pressures that you will notice is that the car doesn't handle as well as it should and that turning the steering wheel while stationery is more difficult, even with power steering.


When driving with a heavier load than normal, what is the first thing you should do?

Heavier loads mean more weight on your tires. Always increase the pressure on your tires before driving anywhere with a heavy load.


There is a very annoying squeak coming from under the hood. What should you check first?

Perhaps the easiest belt to check is the radiator fan belt. This is often the culprit. The squeaking is normally caused by the belt slipping on the pulley. By replacing it, the squeaking will stop.


Approaching your vehicle, you notice a puddle underneath it near the front. What could be causing this?

More often than not, puddles under your vehicle are caused by a leaky radiator. Your vehicles liquid levels (radiator, power steering, oil) should all be checked once a week. Note: If your car had been running previously and the air conditioning system was on, the puddle might have been caused by that, but check your radiator fluid levels anyway.


For a period now, you have noticed your brakes not working as effectively as before but you have not seen any warning lights on the dashboard. And then they start to squeal whenever you slow down. What could be the problem?

Brake shoes/pads/disks all wear away when braking. Over time, they will need to be replaced. As soon as they start squealing, get them changed as soon as possible since it is not safe to drive like that.


While performing an overall inspection, you notice that the right-hand side tire has far more wear on the outside right of the tire than the center or inner left part of it. What is causing the problem and what needs to be done.

Uneven tire wear is caused by incorrect wheel alignment. Make sure that you have your wheels aligned and rotate your car's tires to ensure a longer life out of them.


It's stifling hot but your air conditioning system just seems to be blowing normal air, even at its coolest setting. What could be the problem?

All air conditioning systems will need to be regassed with refrigerants from time to time. Refrigerants should last a fairly long time, even if you are using your air conditioner every day. If it runs out fairly quickly, you could have a leak on your hands.


Your engine light stays on, but there's nothing wrong with the engine. What else could be the problem?

In many modern cars, a loose gas cap will not only cause you to lose gas through evaporation but it often can cause the 'check engine' light to flash on your dashboard. If this does happen, check that the gas cap is fitted correctly.


Your car is not starting. In fact, the engine won't even turn over. You have checked that the lights work, so it can't be the battery. What is the other likely cause?

The main cause of the engine not turning over is a problem with your starter motor. A gentle tap can sometimes help it to turn over again, but if you are unsure, call someone who is knowledgeable to have a look.


You notice a small amount of white smoke coming from under your hood and out of the exhaust, as well as a loss in performance. What could be the problem?

A cracked cylinder head gasket will produce plenty of white smoke from your car's engine and exhaust. This should be addressed immediately.


A small amount of liquid is appearing in the spaces where you park your car at work and at home. It seems to be oil. What could be the problem?

This could be a serious problem or something like a misaligned spark plug. Get it checked out immediately.


Your tire has a very slow leak. This could be caused by two things. What are they?

It is very easy for a nail or screw to get embedded in your tire. This will cause the air to leak slowly and tire will take some time to get flat. A faulty valve could also be the problem.


A faulty thermostat can be a reason your engine is overheating.

The engine might sometimes have the correct level of coolant but a faulty thermostat is causing it to overheat.


You find your car is not idling properly. A check of the spark plugs and high tension leads indicate they are not the problem. What else could be causing it?

A clogged fuel injector means that fuel is not getting into the engine effectively, causing it to run poorly.


When traveling in the passenger seat, you notice a vibration. What could cause this?

Whenever an engine mount comes loose, the engine will vibrate more. This is noticeable on the side of the care where it has become loose.


During a routine inspection, you notice that your car oil is frothy with a whiteness about it. What could be causing this?

This can often be caused by leaking gaskets and should be dealt with immediately.


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