If We Tell You the Car Problem, Can You Give Us a Potential Solution?


By: Robin Tyler

6 Min Quiz

Image: Jon Feingersh Photography Inc / DigitalVision / Getty Images

About This Quiz

The internal combustion engine that powered the first vehicle, Karl Benz's Patent Motorwagen, was far more straightforward than they are today, that's for sure. And when a modern engine starts having problems, you know it's going to hit you where it hurts ... in your wallet.

But the beauty with modern engines is that they generally warn you if there's a problem coming. This is done with a series of lights which will flash on your dashboard to indicate if there's a potential problem. And it's not just the engine that you could be warned about; it's the anti-lock braking system, the airbags, emission systems and so much more.

There are many other visual indicators that your car is in trouble. For example, steam rising from the hood or black smoke coming out of the tailpipe. Sometimes you can tell something's wrong from the way your car drives, like when it pulls to the right when you hold the steering wheel loosely.

The question is, do you know what these lights and other visual cues actually mean in what could be wrong with your vehicle? Well, in this quiz, we're going to test your knowledge. Are you up to the challenge? Good luck!

Your engine is running rough, as a cylinder seems to be misfiring. What should you check first from the options below?

Often, if an engine suddenly starts misfiring on one cylinder, a quick check might reveal that it's a spark plug that has fouled up, particularly in older cars. This will cause it not to spark correctly, and combustion in that cylinder does not take place.


If the horn on the car stops working, what is an easy thing to check first?

The first thing to check in this scenario is the fuse. Always start with the most obvious thing that could be the problem and then proceed from there.


You notice a green liquid under your car. What fluid levels should you check immediately?

It could also be an orange liquid, depending on what coolant type you have in your car. Make sure you do not have a leak in your radiator as well. Losing coolant can cause your vehicle to overheat.


While driving, your car pulls to the left when you hold the steering wheel loosely. Can you tell us what the problem might be?

Wheel alignment can easily be altered if you drive your cars into a curb, for example. If you don't get it re-set, your tires will wear unevenly.


A red light showing a container with a droplet is blinking on your dashboard. What should you check immediately?

If you see this light, you should immediately check the oil level in the engine. In all probability, your car needs oil. Failure to do so could damage the engine significantly.


If a car has some flames coming from its tailpipe while revving, it is ______?

A car that is running too rich cannot burn all the gas entering the cylinder during the combustion process. This means that excess fuel is dumped out the exhaust system with the exhaust gases, where it will ignite.


When installing new spark plugs into your vehicle, what should you always do?

With the use of a feeler gauge, checking the gap on your spark plugs is a necessity before installing them. Why? Well, if the gap is too wide, the plug will not spark effectively.


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 pressure manually. And please do, because tires with low pressure not only increase fuel consumption, but they're downright dangerous and affect handling.


True or false? To diagnose some problems with modern cars, you can plug in a laptop.

All modern cars use computers as their "brains." They have inputs in the cabin where a laptop (with the correct software) can be plugged in to diagnose problems.


After running your gas tank dry, your car will not start after refilling it. What could be the problem?

Running your car dry is never a good idea. Fuel pumps are lubricated by the gasoline that they pump, so if there is no gas, the pump can become damaged. This would be the first thing to check in situations like this.


A strange orange light that looks like a rectangle with dots inside it has started flashing on the dashboard of your diesel vehicle. 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's best to get it checked out.


What could have happened to the braking system on your vehicle if the brakes suddenly stop working?

Vapor lock is when brake fluid in the braking system turns into a gas, causing brake failure. This can come from constant braking, like when driving down a steep hill, for example.


A flashing red light on your dashboard shows a thermometer standing in 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.


When driving, you notice steam rising out from under the hood. What should you do?

If the car is not overheating significantly, the issue might be a loose radiator cap that is letting steam escape. Check that first. If there is overheating, the problem might be a little more significant. Start with the small things first, however.


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

This light comes on when you start your diesel 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.


For the past month, you have noticed that the gas mileage on your vehicle is lower than usual. What easy check should you first make?

You shouldn't only keep your car's tires properly inflated to extend their lifespan but to ensure a decent gas-mileage figure as well. Under-inflated tires cause more friction, and therefore, you use more gas when driving.


What do you check when you see a flashing red light on your dashboard which shows the figure of a human with a belt around them and a large bag in front of them?

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


You've noticed that it's becoming more and more difficult to turn the steering wheel on your vehicle. Which of these below should be checked?

Should a car with power steering suddenly become difficult to steer, the first thing to check is the level of the power steering fluid.


You notice that there is a terrible grinding noise coming from your brakes when you press down on the brake pedal. What's the likely cause of the problem?

Brake pads will need to be replaced as they get worn out over time. An easy way to know that they need replacing is the horrible sound you will hear when you apply brakes. In all honesty, though, you should have noticed your brakes becoming less effective beforehand!


If your car has an oil leak, what is the color of the fluid you might find on the ground where you park?

Oil is generally brown. If it's older, it might start to turn black. You could check in your engine as well to see if you can notice any oil leaks. If you find them, you should get your vehicle to a mechanic.


A warning light on your dashboard comes on, showing a steering wheel with a key. What is the likely reason?

This is a warning light to tell you of a fault in the ignition system. If not sorted out, at some point your car will probably fail to start.


Even though you've replaced the spark plugs, your vehicle is still idling in a very rough manner. What else can you check?

High tension leads that are faulty can not only cause idling problems but also lead to starting problems. If your car is hard to start lately, one of the leads breaking down could be the reason.


True or false? A broken thermostat will cause your car's engine to overheat.

The engine thermostat regulates the flow of coolant to the engine. It does this when the engine is getting hot and needs the coolant. A broken thermostat would, therefore, lead to overheating.


You notice black smoke coming from your exhaust pipe. What could the problem be?

Although black smoke coming out of a tailpipe can mean many things, you should check your air filter first to see if it is dirty, clogged up or broken.


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

Most cars nowadays come standard with ABS systems.


Vibration which you can feel in the cabin of the car while idling might come from which of these?

A broken motor mount will cause severe vibrations in the vehicle, especially when idling.


What would a flashing red light consisting of a rectangle with a plus (+) and minus (-) sign indicate?

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, which prevents the battery from receiving a charge.


Which of these bulbs should you never touch with your bare hands?

Touching a halogen bulb can will contaminate the surface off the bulb and will lead to its eventual failure.


Faulty shock absorbers should be replaced as soon as possible, but what is their role of your car's suspension system?

Shock absorbers provide a smooth ride and do this by reducing the number of oscillations occurring in the suspension system at any given time. They are also called dampers.


Your car won't start. You notice the smell of gasoline, however, and dark smoke is coming from the tailpipe. What has happened?

A flooded engine means that too much gasoline has entered the cylinder and combustion cannot take place. Sometimes just letting the car stand can alleviate the problem.


A rather strange light, which is shaped like the 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. It's best to get it checked right away; you're breaking the law if you don't.


When replacing a fuse, it should always be ____?

Always replace the blown fuse with one of the same amperage. Fuses have a lifespan, so they can fail. Trying something of a higher voltage or amperage won't work.


A car running hot but not having a leaking radiator probably has a fault with the _______?

If your radiator is not leaking or using water but the car is overheating, it's best to check the thermostat next.


Which gauge on your vehicle dashboard measures speed?

The speedometer not only tells you how fast you're going, but it will also have another dial showing you how many miles you have driven. Many cars also have a setting for measuring kph rather than just mph.


A spongy feeling in the brake pedal typically means what?

Air in the brake system is easily noticed by a spongy feel when pressing the brake pedal. You will need to "bleed" the brakes to remove the air.


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