How To Diagnose Common Problems With Your 4×4

Some people think that owning a 4×4 is akin to owning a spaceship! Whilst a 4×4 vehicle might have some extra features to help you successfully navigate different terrain, fundamentally it is the same as any other car.

4x4s have four wheels, a body and an engine, and the same components inside the interior that you can find in any car ever manufactured! As with all cars, when you drive a 4×4, and it develops a problem of some sort, it can often be difficult to diagnose what the source of the problem is.


Image via Flickr (credit: hansthijs)

If you own a 4×4, regardless of whether it is a Range Rover Sport or a Subaru Impreza WRX, this blog post will tell you all you need to know on how to diagnose and resolve all manner of common complaints!

Knocking noises coming from the front end

All cars have some form of suspension system to dampen the effects of driving over uneven roads and terrains, and 4×4 vehicles are no exception.

As a car ages over time, the shock absorbers can wear out and “bottom out”; this is where the piston inside of a shock absorber travels too far, and the spring around it compresses too much, causing a knocking noise.

Although that is the most-common cause of front-end knocking, there can sometimes be other causes, such as:

  • Worn engine mounts;

  • Worn lower suspension arms;

  • A loose component inside of the engine bay, such as an exhaust manifold heat shield.

It is best to determine what part of the car is causing the knocking and under what conditions it occurs.

Lack of power

4×4 cars aren’t always going to be high-performance machines, but if you genuinely feel that your car doesn’t “feel” as powerful as it once was, chances are there is something under the bonnet causing this problem.

For example, your spark plugs might be fouled with carbon and unable to detonate the petrol inside of the cylinders properly, or your ignition timing might be wrong. My 4×4 started to feel a bit sluggish recently, and when I had it serviced, it felt more powerful!

Engine won’t start

Often the cause of any non-starting engine is down to the charging system. The following list are typical examples of why your engine isn’t starting as it should:

  • Charging system – battery, alternator, starter motor, ignition system, electrical wiring;

  • Fuel – no fuel, faulty fuel pump;

  • Other problems – seized engine, no spark plugs.

Mark from suggests that it is worth giving your engine a visual inspection before phoning up a mechanic as sometimes the source of the problem can be spotted straight away – even by mechanical novices.

Noisy exhaust

Does your 4×4 sound like a tank when you accelerate? If so, it could be that you have a hole in one of your exhaust components, such as the rear or middle silencers, the catalytic converters or even the exhaust manifold.

Exhaust systems are usually made from mild steel, and so will corrode over time.

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