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What to Do When Your Car Breaks Down and Your Car Payment is Due

January 9, 2019 | By Ana Elliot

Cars are amazing, aren’t they? Amazing vessels of technology that get us from point A to point B in comfort and, often, style. Where would we be without them? Taking horse and buggies to work? That is a life no one wants to live in! But… Do they really have to be so expensive?

Between car payments and regular maintenance, we are already paying enough and then there is the terrible, awful car troubles!

Is your car making a weird noise? Does it smell like gas all of a sudden and for no reason? Does it vibrate as you brake? What is happening?! And how much will it cost! Before you spiral down into the deep abyss of panic, let us try to help.

What's Wrong with My Car? A Guide to the Most Common Car Issues

So, first things first, before we panic about your car payment, let’s figure out what is wrong with your car. Here is a list of common car complaints and what they could possibly mean:

Does Your Car Shake or Shutter in Any Way?

If your car is doing any weird vibrating, shaking, or shuttering, (and odds are it probably isn’t just twerking at the club) it could have several issues.
It could be a problem in your wheels: your car tires could be splitting or your wheels are out of balance or alignment.

If it isn’t the wheels, then you are looking at a host of other options, including a loose timing belt or hose around the engine.

It could also be an issue with your spark plugs, which will probably be accompanied by a check engine light.

Is Your Car Smoking?

Is there white smoke coming out of some part of your car? Did your car pick up a dirty habit, or is something wrong? If there is white smoke coming out of your exhaust pipe that quickly dissipates, then it’s probably just regular old exhaust. If the smoke isn’t dissipating quickly, you could have an issue with your coolant leaking.

If there is smoke from your engine or if there is a sweet odor, you could also have a coolant problem and potential overheating.

Smelling Rotten Eggs?

If your car is smelling like rotten eggs or sulfur, you probably have an issue with your catalytic converter, or you need to replace your fuel filter.

You might even want to try using a higher quality of gas. Make sure you are using the correct octane gas for your car's specifications. Going lower could be what is actually causing the odor!

Hearing Weird Noises?

If your car is making odd noises, especially when you are turning, you are also looking at some problems.
If your car is creaking or squealing, some joints might need greasing or you might have some damage that needs looking at. Clicking while turning is probably a problem with your CV. If your car is making noise even when you aren’t turning, it’s probably an issue with your belt.

Car Not Starting?

Is your car not even starting? Well, that generally falls into one of two categories based on what happens when you turn the key: your car does make noises, or it doesn't.

If your car makes noises and cranks when you turn your key, you are probably looking at a spark plug issue, fuel pump failure, or an issue with your security system. It also might be – and I know, this might feel super obvious to say, but it is true – that you are out of gas (I know, I know, I said it would be obvious).

If your car is making no noise or just a clicking sound, it might be your battery. Depending on where you live, batteries can last longer or shorter (humidity is a key factor). It also might be a worn starter or an issue with your alternator.

How to Pay for Your Repairs, Even If Your Car Payment Is Due

Car repairs can range from relatively inexpensive to slack-jawed-horror and anywhere in between.
Something as simple as worn spark plugs or wires can cost you $300+.

Issues in your engine such as cracked engine block, or issues with your cylinder head or a head gasket can set you back a minimum of $1,000. Replacing your catalytic converter can cost $900 plus due to labor. Having to replace your engine could be thousands of dollars in total.

Any of this is enough to hurt you and is costly.

If you have a car payment on top of everything, you might be struggling with how to balance that car payment and your repairs.

If you are lucky enough to have paid for your car outright and avoided a car payment, however, huzzah! This part of the article isn’t for you. It's for the rest of us – those of us who had to go take out an auto loan when we got our cars and pay every month for the pleasure of convenient transportation.

If your car needs costly repairs and you don’t have the cash lying around, maybe you could look into putting it on your credit card if your interest rate is low enough. Or, perhaps you’ve had issues with your credit cards or are at your credit limit, something like a payday loan or a personal installment loan might help. It can be a struggle trying to balance everything without a helping hand.

For those of you who have paid off your car and own it outright, you can look into title loans to help you. Auto title loans only work if you own your car outright. You can’t have any remaining lien on your car. Basically, with a title loan, you take out a short-term loan with your car title as collateral. This can be a very convenient way to get cash in a tight spot! If you want to learn more about title loans, we’d be happy to help you! Check out our title loan FAQ page here.

Go Forth And Repair!

Not seeing your issue here? If you want a bit more information about common car issues, you can always check out this article from Car Brain, too!

Hopefully, this list has armed you with the info you need so you don’t freak out next time your car does something weird. But hopefully, it has also helped you feel more secure in your ability to diagnose and pay for any costly repairs that come your way. It might be difficult in this world of car payments, regular maintenance, and surprise repairs, but together we can help each other get through it!