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car cough clinic

What's your car telling you?

You can sometimes tell what’s wrong with your car just by listening to the sound – or ‘cough’ – it’s making. We’ve recorded some of the most common coughs to help you work out what’s going on under the bonnet.

Unless you really know what you’re doing, we don’t recommend trying to fix your car yourself. Have a look in your vehicle’s handbook for advice, but if the problem persists, call us for breakdown support on 0800 88 77 66, or ring your local garage.

To prevent faults developing in the first place, we recommend regular servicing along with frequent maintenance checks.

Listen and learn

This suggests a partially discharged battery. Switch off all controls, leave for 15 minutes and try again. If it starts, drive around in daylight for about an hour to recharge the battery, or use a battery charger.

Most common cause – lights left on.

Your battery’s flat. If your car’s not been used for a while you could try starting with jump leads  or using a battery charger. If you’ve driven it recently, the battery’s probably worn out and needs replacing.

Most common cause – even the alarm will drain a worn battery after a couple of weeks.

This could be down to a flooded engine (there may be a strong smell of petrol), or a problem with the ignition or immobiliser (there may be a flashing key symbol on the dashboard).

Most common cause – service is overdue, damp weather or restarting a cold engine.

If you hear a clunk but the engine doesn’t turn over, you’ve got a faulty starter motor.

Most common cause – poor electrical connection, worn or sticking brushes in the starter motor.

Your alternator drive belt is slipping. You may also hear it when manoeuvring slowly, or after driving through a deep puddle.

Most common cause – worn, stretched or incorrectly adjusted drive belt.

This sounds like a fuel problem. It may be a safety switch that can be reset (check your handbook), or a problem caused by the wrong fuel/low fuel levels.

It sounds like your timing belt has broken. This belt turns the camshaft to operate the engine's valves, and if it breaks, severe internal engine damage can occur. This is a serious fault that needs immediate professional help.

The best medicine

Whatever ‘cough’ your vehicle has, start by taking a look in the handbook for advice.

If the problem persists, or is one that requires immediate help, call us on 0800 88 77 66 or ring a garage.

Car cough

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