How to Check for Car Trouble Yourself

disc brake rotor

Sometimes you just know that something is not working well in your car. You might not know what it is, but you hear a faint noise that wasn’t there before or your car drives differently in a way that’s difficult to explain to a friend or mechanic. Luckily, with most vehicles, there are some very simple tests that you can do at home and without any complicated equipment to test vital systems on your car.


Checking your tires is a vital piece of vehicle maintenance as it not only keeps you from losing control of your car, but the quality of your tires have an effect on almost every other system on your car, from brakes to suspension. One of the easiest ways that you can check your car’s tread depth is to use the classic “penny test.” All you need to do this test is a penny. Insert the penny (Lincoln side facing you and upside-down) into one of the grooves of your tires. Ideally, on new tires, the tire should end right before it reaches Lincoln’s ear. Anything between that and the crown of Lincoln’s head is okay. If your tire blocks end anywhere between Lincoln’s head and the edge of the penny, get new tires.

Air Filter

Air filters are truly the unsung heroes of the automobile. Without them you would likely have to replace your engine every few hundred miles. In a nutshell, what they do is allow the combustion process itself to happen. In order to have combustion at all there needs to be energy, fuel, and, you guessed it, oxygen. The air filter helps keep your engine free from anything that might potentially clog up the engine and prevent air from flowing into the engine, preventing the combustion process.

Checking your air filter is, depending on the vehicle, one of the easiest under-the-hood tests to do. It’s usually in a large plastic case and can either be round or rectangular. The casing is usually held closed with a pair of fasteners that can be unlocked by hand or by simple assemblies that can be removed with a screwdriver. Once you pull out the air filter all you need to do is check if it’s dirty. If it is you can tap it against your bumper and usually vacuum it and the port it sits over. You should immediately see a difference in your gas mileage.


Your suspension is likely one of the reasons that most people don’t get motion sick in cars anymore. Without a suspension your car would feel every bump, turn, acceleration, and brake far more and would bounce you around as it did. One of the simplest ways to test your suspension is the “bounce test”. It’s called the bounce test for a reason. Simply go to each of your car’s four corners and give the bumper a few pushes down. Once it’s on the downward portion of the bounce, let go. Ideally, when you do the bounce test your car should come to a rest in the car’s natural resting position and not bounce up further than that point much, if at all. If the corner continues to bounce on its own, you need to have your suspension checked.

Read Part 2

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