mechanic working under car with repairs

No. 3: Pinging noises from engine

Cars make all sorts of sounds, many of them normal. All of us have been paranoid at times about a noise coming from our car that ends up being nothing. But what if it is something more serious?

A weird noise coming from your engine could mean all sorts of things, but if it is coming from the inside of the engine block, it is probably not good. Fixing something inside the engine block requires opening it up, which is always going to be expensive.

"If you have an internal engine noise that is somewhere along the lines of a crank or piston, or an internal engine noise that is something that isn't going away and is going to get worse, or a rod knock, or a valve that's got a popping noise to it -- any of those things is an internal engine problem, and that really pushes the engine to the point that it needs to be replaced," said Larsen.

So if that pesky noise is coming from under your hood, be sure to get it checked out. And just hope it's not a problem related to our next selection ...

auto mechanic using laptop in front of car repair

No. 2: Transmission problems

If you are driving a used car that has a lot of miles on it, a bad transmission may mean it is time to say goodbye.

Fixing a bad transmission is expensive because it involves opening the transmission up and rebuilding it.

If your car is frequently slipping when it shifts gears, it probably means the transmission is about to go.

"Even the cheapest option you would have is to take the entire transmission out and replace it with a rebuilt unit," said Larsen. "In a ballpark, a typical transmission is in the $2,500 to $3,000 range."

While the last thing you probably want to hear from your mechanic is the word "transmission," not all problems are huge, as our final selection will show …

broken down car automobile with hood up

No. 1: All problems not big problems

Your used car may have failed you on a road trip and left you stranded on the side of the road, but this does not necessarily mean it is time to take it down to the junk yard.

Electrical, battery and overheating problems frequently can be taken care of with relatively cheap and easy repairs to put you back on the road.

If your car overheats, it is usually something related to the engine cooling system. It could be something as simple as a leaky hose. But just be sure to resist the urge to drive your overheating car, or it could be the last trip you ever take in it, Larsen said.

Sometimes your car might die on the road and sound like it is out of gas when you try to start it even though it isn't. This could mean that the fuel pump has gone out. Depending on what kind of car your drive, according to Larsen, it can be very cheap or very expensive because some fuel pumps come as part of a larger unit.

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