Driving Tips

Auto Troubleshooting 101: A Guide to Diagnosing Car Problems


Today you’ll learn what to look and listen for when your vehicle starts having problems. Use the information below as a guideline. Not only will it help you identify potential problems, it will also help you describe those problems to a trained service technician. That way, they’ll know where to look and what to look for, right away.

This guide is not exhaustive. There will be times when even with all the right resources, you still won’t have a clue what’s wrong. That’s OK. That’s what trained professionals are for.

#1 Be Detailed


When your vehicle first starts showing signs of trouble, pay attention. Grab a pen and paper and write the following information down.

  • WHEN did the problem start?
  • WHAT were you doing in the vehicle when it started? (i.e. turning a sharp corner).
  • HOW often does it happen? (i.e. does the problem happen all day, or only when you first start driving).
  • HAS this problem happened before?
  • WHO has inspected the car since? What was done, if anything?

The answers to these questions will help your mechanic locate the source of the problem. Obviously, it would be ideal to write down issues as you observe them, but keeping a mental list works too.

#2 Take it For a Stop-and-Start Test


IF your car will start, take it for the stop-and-start test. Basically, you’ll want to turn the engine over, let it run for a minute or two, and then turn it off. If your vehicle won’t start, you’ll need to remember what you were doing just before it stalled. Otherwise, stopping and starting your car might just yield the most information in your troubleshooting adventures.

When you run the stop-and-start test, look for anything out of place. Does it take longer to turn over? What sounds, if any, does it make as you turn it off?

#3 Consult an Auto Repair Manual


This is key. If you have a good auto repair manual, you might be able to correctly identify the problem without the help of a mechanic. You might be able to fix it yourself, too.

That’s the best case scenario.

Usually, though, a good manual will help you at least pinpoint the location of the problem. You’re going to need a manual that is specific to your vehicle, though. Your best bet?

Canada Parts Online. Here you can search the year, make and model of your vehicle and find the exact manual written for your ride. Some even include detailed diagrams and instructions on how to repair the problem, if you’re feeling particularly mechanically savvy.

Helpful Tip

After you’ve…

  • Written down the details of the problem
  • Run the stop-and-start test
  • Consulted your vehicle’s repair manual

It’s time to take it to the professionals. Then, after you’ve finished describing the issue, make sure to ask questions. A great mechanic will supply recommendations and suggestions based on the information you provide. Don’t settle for “I’ll fix it.” Have them tell you their game plan.

Screw scratching your head and using elementary adjectives to describe the problem. After today’s class, you should be able to identify your car’s issue and then explain the situation to your mechanic with confidence! Good luck and happy troubleshooting.


Go Auto has 38 dealerships across Alberta and Western B.C.. If you’re having auto problems, book a service appointment today. We’ll troubleshoot the issue for you.