SUVs are powerful vehicles, but just like cars and trucks, they can experience a wide range of problems. Many of these issues occur across all kinds of SUVs, whether you have a four-wheel drive for offroading or drive a compact SUV around town. If your SUV isn’t working as well as it used to, learn the most frequent problems your SUV might run up against with the help of SUViews.
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The Most Common SUV Issues in General
Your SUV acting up might be a new problem, but there’s a good chance that the problem itself isn’t new. Many common issues are as old as cars themselves, so they’re often easy to diagnose.
Check Engine” Light
“Check Engine.” It’s vague enough to be frustrating, but it’s supposed to be vague: multiple engine issues can trigger this message, ranging from mild to serious. If you spot a warning light or “check engine” light on your SUV’s dashboard, it’s time to take it to the mechanic.
Your SUV contains various fluids that help it run properly, but loose seals or gaskets can cause these fluids to leak out. The most well-known culprit is an oil leak, but something leaking from your SUV isn’t necessarily oil; it can also be transmission fluid, brake fluid, or coolant. If you spot something dripping from your SUV, call your mechanic.
You might not think your SUV is rusty because there’s no rust on the body. However, rust can build up on car components you don’t often see, like underneath the vehicle or under the hood. Rust can wear down many of your SUV’s components and cause them to malfunction or break down.
Rust tends to be a bigger problem for older SUVs since there’s been more time for the components to corrode and potentially more exposure to the elements. However, this can also be a problem for electric SUVs; since electric SUVs use regenerative braking, the driver tends to use the brakes less often, and underuse can lead to rust.
Misfiring or Sputtering Engine
Multiple components in your SUV’s fuel and ignition system operate in tandem to transfer the proper amounts of air and gasoline into the engine. However, your SUV’s engine will likely begin sputtering or misfiring if these components aren’t maintained.
If this starts happening, the engine typically needs maintenance; after all, its job is to get your SUV on the move, not to sound like it’s doing the vehicle version of a spit take.
Tires don’t get tired, but they do need maintenance. The rubber on your tires will wear down with use, and they need to be rotated to other positions on the SUV so that they wear down evenly. And while it may seem somewhat obvious, flat tires are a widespread phenomenon among SUV drivers that need fixing.
The most apparent cause is some kind of blunt force or puncturing of the rubber, but if you haven’t rotated or replaced your tires recently, simple overuse can do it.
Poor Fuel Efficiency
SUVs aren’t exactly known for their stellar fuel economy, but that doesn’t mean your gas tank should be experiencing the fuel version of the Great Depression. Over time, the filters and sensors in your SUV will need upkeep as they age or get dirty.
If you’re getting atrocious gas mileage compared to what you’re used to, there’s a good chance something needs to be cleaned or replaced.
Odd Noises When Braking
It’s not normal for the brakes on your SUV to sound like they’re attempting a shoddy rendition of Mariah Carey. If your brakes are squealing, grinding, or making any sort of atypical noise, or your brake pedal doesn’t feel quite right when you press on it, it’s a sign that your brakes are on their way out and need to be replaced.
The battery in your SUV naturally degrades over time and will eventually stop working altogether. A telltale sign of a dead battery is your SUV refusing to turn on; you might hear the engine make a weak attempt to power up, or you may not. Either way, it’s a sign your battery needs to be swapped out.
Unsteady Steering Wheel
When an SUV is in good condition, the steering wheel should be relatively stable; it’s not supposed to shake. There’s more than one potential cause of this: it might signal problems with your tires or wheel balance if it happens mid-drive, but if it happens as soon as you start up the SUV, the suspensions or wheel bearings may be the culprit.
No matter when it happens, if your SUV’s steering wheel seems to be imitating earthquakes in old low-budget disaster films, get it checked out.
Your SUV’s seat belts might not work the way they should, especially on older SUVs. The seatbelt may not retract all the way, or the lock may not work correctly (whether that means it’s getting stuck or not buckling in the first place). Seat belts in older SUVs can also become frayed over time.
While you can sometimes fix a non-retracting seat belt on your own, a professional must investigate frayed seat belts or a malfunctioning lock.
Luckily, overheating isn’t nearly as common as it used to be. It’s more frequent in SUVs with older cooling systems, but car cooling techniques and technology have evolved quite a bit.
However, if your SUV isn’t properly maintained, the engine can overheat, triggering a warning light on your dashboard and potentially causing hot white or gray vapor to escape the vehicle body. (If your SUV overheats, stop driving; it can start a fire, and you don’t want to take “blazing speed” too literally.)
A poorly-maintained automatic transmission can cause a multitude of issues, like a consistently-noisy engine, poor acceleration, resistance when shifting gears, gears that flat-out don’t work, or other oddities. As soon as you notice issues like this, take your SUV in. Your SUV isn’t a toddler, so it shouldn’t be complaining, whining, or refusing to do what you tell it to.
What’s Common for My SUV?
Every SUV is different, so what’s common on one model might be a rare or nonexistent problem on another. For instance, one SUV might have an irritating touchscreen navigation system but otherwise function fine, while another has known issues with its engine or battery. You’ll need to look up the issues for your specific model of SUV.
Car buyers will frequently report issues to relevant safety and consumer organizations. You can find commonly-reported issues on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website and on nonprofit organizations like Consumer Reports.
Just input the name of the car model and the model year, and you can find information on known issues, vehicle recalls, and frequent complaints about any car, truck, or SUV model.
Get the Insider Details on Your SUV with SUViews
Sketchy mechanics might misdiagnose a misbehaving SUV, and most dealers aren’t going to let you know there’s a frequent problem with that SUV you’ve been eyeing.
SUViews, our reviews give you the full report on new SUVs, including common problems and the not-so-great parts. Whether you’re looking to find out what’s wrong with your SUV or are considering getting a new ride, it always helps to have the full story, even if it includes the less-than-stellar side.