Most Common Car Complaints [2024 List]: What Drivers Need to Know

Most Common Car Complaints

Driving your trusty automobile, hearing the purr of the engine, and gazing out over the open road – there’s nothing quite like it. That is, until something goes wrong. Engine troubles, faulty electronics, gear shifting issues, and more – even the most reliable vehicles can run into problems.

So what are the most common mechanical and systemic issues plaguing car owners in 2023? Broadly speaking, they fall into three main buckets: engine issues, transmission problems, and interior mishaps. Often coming on slowly before turning into huge headaches, the sooner you can identify potential problems, the less costly and time-consuming they are to fix.

Covering today’s top 13 most referenced car complaints, read on to discover the tell-tale symptoms, repair options, and preventative steps for the leading automotive pitfalls. From oil leaks to AC compressor failure, transmission slippage to uneven brake wear – arm yourself with knowledge so you can keep your car running smoothly all year long!

Engine Problems

As the beating heart of your motor vehicle, the engine endures incredible stresses. Eventually wear and tear adds up, leading to some of the most prevalent car complaints today. Here are the major engine issues plaguing drivers in 2023.

Oil Leaks

One of the most commonly referenced mechanical problems, oil leaks occur when engine oil escapes through cracks and worn seals. Typically more of a nuisance than catastrophic event, left unchecked they can lead to serious issues.

  • Symptoms – Visible oil streaks in driveway, burning oil smell, low oil levels between changes
  • Causes – Cracked gaskets, deteriorated seals, loose drain plug
  • Solutions – Identify source of leak(s). Replace gaskets, seals, washers, drain plug as needed.

Engine Overheating

Another widespread engine complaint, overheating means the motor is running dangerously hot. If left alone, extremely high temps can warp cylinder heads and gaskets.

  • Symptoms – High temperature gauge reading, steaming/overheating engine noises
  • Causes – Coolant leaks, defective radiator fans/caps, faulty water pump
  • Solutions – Address leaks, replace cooling system components as needed

Knocking Noises

Sometimes compared to rattling or pinging, knocking noises point to improper combustion and serious internal issues.

  • Symptoms – Metallic knocking sound, especially under acceleration
  • Causes – Excess carbon buildup, bad bearings, improper ignition timing
  • Solutions – Adjust timing, clean intake valves, replace worn bearings

Electrical System Issues

Today’s computer-controlled engines rely on complex electrical systems – from the battery and alternator to an array of sensors. Breakdowns here create huge headaches.

Battery Failure

The humble lead-acid battery is tasked with starting your engine and running all vehicle electronics. Their eventual death is unavoidable.

  • Symptoms – Dim lights, sluggish starting, complete failure to turn over
  • Causes – Regular wear and age, vibrations, extreme temps
  • Solutions – Load test battery, replace if necessary

Alternator Problems

The alternator supplies power to components while engine is running. When it goes bad, the fun really begins!

  • Symptoms – Battery not charging, flickering lights, stalling engine
  • Causes – Fraying wires, loose connections, worn brushes
  • Solutions – Inspect wires & connections, test/rebuild alternator

Faulty Sensors

Modern engines depend on input from various sensors. Defective sensors play havoc with systems.

  • Symptoms – Check engine light, rough idle, poor acceleration
  • Causes – Old age, dirt/debris accumulation
  • Solutions – Identify faulty sensor, replace as needed

Transmission Problems

Automatic and manual transmissions must endure incredible stresses to transfer power from engine to wheels. Over time, these complex components show their Achilles heels through some telltale signs.

Slipping Transmission

Most common in automatics, slipping occurs when internal components lose grip during gear changes. Leads to acceleration lag.

  • Symptoms – High RPMs without acceleration, burning smell
  • Causes – Low fluid, leakages, worn gears
  • Solutions – Check fluid. Repair leaks. Flush contamination. Rebuild/replace transmission.

Delayed Shifting

Another automatic transmission red flag, delays lead to unpleasant sensations as engine RPMs spike before engagement.

  • Symptoms – Long pause before gear change, high-RPM revving
  • Causes – Low fluid, clogs, faulty sensor
  • Solutions – Diagnose issue. Repair/replace sensors. Fluid flush.

Transmission Fluids Leak

Automatic transmissions require specific fluids at proper levels. External leaks impact internal lubrication.

  • Symptoms – Fluids pooling under car, burning smell
  • Causes – Bad seals, connections, pan gasket
  • Solutions – Identify origin. Replace leaky gaskets/seals/fittings.

Brake Problems

Of all systems critical to daily driving, none are more essential than your brakes. Be alert for any undesirable changes when decelerating or symptoms appearing during inspection.

Squealing Brakes

The classic high-pitched brake squeal, often upon first application or at low speeds. Annoying at best, dangerous at worst.

  • Symptoms – Audible squeaking sound under braking
  • Causes – Deposits on pad surface, lack of lubrication
  • Solutions – Clean and sand pads. Lubricate caliper slider pins.

Vibrating Brakes

Brake shudder occurring under braking, felt through steering wheel and/or seat. Gets dramatically worse over time.

  • Symptoms – Vibrating sensation under braking
  • Causes – Uneven pad deposits, rotors not thick enough
  • Solutions – Resurface or replace rotors. Replace brake pads.

Uneven Brake Pad Wear

Brake pads wearing faster on one side points to problems in the underlying mechanics.

  • Symptoms – Thinner pad material on one wheel
  • Causes – Sticking slide pins, piston or caliper issues
  • Solutions – Lubricate and ensure free movement of all components.

Air Conditioning Issues

When cabin comfort goes out the window, vehicle occupants get mighty unhappy mighty quick. Be alert for these warning signs of AC troubles ahead.

AC Blowing Hot Air

On hot days, nothing worse than an AC system blowing heated air. Likely indicates refrigerant issues.

  • Symptoms – Warm air from vents on hot days
  • Causes – Refrigerant leak or compressor failure
  • Solutions – Recharge refrigerant. Repair leak & recharge. Replace compressor.

AC Compressor Failure

The heart of any air conditioning system, the compressor circulates refrigerant. When it dies, cold air dies with it.

  • Symptoms – No cold air blowing through AC system
  • Causes – Mechanical breakdown from debris or bad bearing
  • Solutions – Replace broken AC compressor

Refrigerant Leaks

The lifeblood for heat transfer, leaks mean AC refrigerant escapes from sealed system. No refrigerant, no cooling.

  • Symptoms – Higher head pressure readings. Reduced cooling capacity.
  • Causes – Damaged hoses, bad seals or fittings
  • Solutions – Identify and repair refrigerant leak(s). Recharge system.

Key Car Complaint Comparison

Complaint Category% Problems Reported
AC System12%

Pros and Cons of Understanding Common Car Complaints


  • Identify issues early before small problems become major repairs
  • Reduce repair costs by addressing wear and tear proactively
  • Make informed decisions on preventative maintenance
  • Budget wisely for eventual part replacements
  • Evaluate older vehicles accurately when purchasing used
  • Increase breakdown prevention knowledge generally


  • Anxiety about common problems manifesting
  • Information overload for non-gearheads
  • Research time needed to fully educate yourself
  • Repair costs inevitable anyway at some point
  • Hard to diagnose problems without mechanics tools
  • DIY repairs can be daunting for many owners


Like it or not, no vehicle runs perfectly forever. Thanks to heavy usage paired with vibration, heat, dirt, and other extremes, critical components eventually wear out. Knowing the most common car complaints equips you to recognize issues in their early stages. Predicting problems before they strand you gives you greatly improved maintenance options. Here’s hoping this overview better prepares you to face the mechanical demons waiting to pounce!

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *