Problems With Petrol Cars: 11 Known Issues (Explained)

For more than a century now, we’ve relied on gas-powered cars for the main part of our transportation needs. It’s possible today for most people to travel tens of miles to work every day or even across continents, all in the comfort of their own vehicle.

Even with their revolutionary capabilities, however, petrol cars have their limitations as well.

Here, we’ll take a look at some of their most common issues when compared with diesel, hybrid, or electric vehicles.

The Most Common Issues with Petrol Cars

Let’s start with the most obvious one.

The impact on the environment.

1. They’re Not Doing the Environment Any Favors

Let’s face it – even when petrol cars are working perfectly, they still have a negative impact on the environment. This is one of the biggest issues with cars that use gasoline, and that’s why it tops our list.

We’ve known for a while now that gas-powered cars can have many harmful effects, from creating the potential for oil spills to reducing air quality and raising levels of CO2. From their construction to the emissions that come from their tailpipes, they create a hazard at almost every stage of their life cycle.

While the environmental impact of diesel compared to petrol can vary, electric vehicles are the pretty clear winners here.

Driving an electric vehicle has been shown to lead to reduced emissions in 95% of the world, a number that will only increase as more of our electricity comes from renewables.

With more states and countries taking measures to cut the production of petrol cars, they may soon even come close to being obsolete.

2. Oil Pump Failures

Your oil pump is one of the main driving forces of your car’s engine, and helps to ensure that oil circulates to the rotating bearings and pistons.

Oil pumps fail for a variety of reasons, and their performance is often inhibited by infrequent oil changes, the use of an oil not suited to your engine, or other issues that keep oil from moving smoothly through the engine.

Compared to gas-driven cars, electric cars such as Teslas don’t need oil changes.

If your oil pump isn’t working properly, the first sign will likely be a notification on your dashboard that signifies low oil pressure. The temperature of your engine may also rise, since the decrease in oil circulation can lead to greater friction between engine components, resulting in an increased amount of heat.

Another sign is a knocking sound in your engine that is usually caused by the hydraulic lifters. When improperly lubricated, these lifters can begin to make noise and wear unevenly while operating.

This sound is usually audible even when your car is idling – if you hear it, you should get to a mechanic right away, as it could otherwise cause damage to your hydraulic lifters that would be expensive to fix.

3. Buildup from Old Engine Oil

Commonly known as ‘oil sludge’, old motor oil can combine with contaminants or become oxidized and turn into a viscous buildup that coats your engine.

This both decreases the level of oil and inhibits the oil flow through the engine, creating stress on the components.

Oil buildup and debris can result in a myriad of engine problems, from poor lubrication to leaving deposits on important parts such as spark plugs and timing belts. Left unattended, these issues can lead to engine damage that requires expensive repairs.

This is why regular oil changes and filter replacements are some of the most basic things you can do to keep your car running well.

4. Engine Detonation Can Become Prolonged

Prolonged engine detonation is also known as a spark knock, due to the knocking noise it creates in your engine.

It may sound like a high-pitched, metallic pinging or rattling, and occurs as a result of excess heat or pressure in the engine that throws off the timing of the cylinders.

If your engine is knocking, it can have severe effects, including damage to your spark plugs, pistons, gaskets, and hammered rod bearings.

There are a variety of causes that can lead to engine knocking. Low-quality fuel, particularly if your vehicle requires high-octane gasoline, can cause spark knocking because it means the fuel has less resistance to detonation.

Problems that cause too much engine heat, such as a malfunctioning air control system or hot spark plugs, can also lead to knocking.

5. Worn Spark Plugs

Spark plugs are responsible for igniting your car’s fuel inside of the combustion chamber, thereby initiating the power of your engine.

If your spark plugs become too worn, they can produce a weaker spark that could result in your engine misfiring – i.e., failing to turn over. Worn spark plugs can also reduce the efficiency of your vehicle, and can even cause serious damage if they become worn enough to break.

Worn spark plugs are more common in older vehicles.

Depending on the type of spark plugs your car uses, they’ll likely need to be replaced between 30,000 and 100,000 miles.

6. Inaccurate or Damaged Oxygen Sensor

Oxygen sensors have a big effect on your car, as they determine the ratio of oxygen and gasoline in your engine.

Sometimes the sensors simply suffer a malfunction, or they can become obscured over time with combustion byproducts such as oil ash and sulfur.

If the sensor’s reading of the ratio in your engine is off, it can result in poor gas mileage, irregular combustion intervals, a rough idling sound, and even the emission of carbon monoxide. This could lead your car to fail an emissions test and potentially expose you to harmful toxins.

A malfunctioning oxygen sensor should cause your check-engine light to turn on. It typically needs replaced every 60,000 to 90,000 miles, or every 45,000 miles if your vehicle is over fifteen years old.

7. Burning of Engine Oil

While it’s typical for your petrol car to use up oil as it runs, there’s also a point where it can be a bad sign for your car’s performance.

Exactly how much oil your car uses up will depend on the make and the type of petrol engine – typically, you can expect to lose about a quart of oil between oil changes.

In the case of excess oil consumption, oil might be being burned either inside of your engine or externally. Engine oil is burned internally when worn seals or valve stems allow oil to leak into the combustion chamber, resulting in the combination of the oil with your engine’s fuel supply.

This not only decreases the amount of oil in your engine, but can also lead to long-term problems for your engine’s performance. A common sign of oil burning in your combustion chamber is a bluish tinge in the smoke coming from your tailpipe – if you notice this, you should see a mechanic as soon as possible.

Oil can also escape from your engine and be burned up externally when it lands on a hot surface.

In this case, you will likely be able to tell there’s a problem from the smell of burning oil.

Here are some of the reasons that engine oil may be escaping your oil pan and burning up:

  • Damage to the oil pan
  • Damaged or improperly fitted oil filter
  • Worn piston rings
  • Worn valve seals
  • Loose or missing oil filler cap

8. They Can Be Extremely Noisy

While many of us enjoy the steady thrum of a revved engine, there’s also no denying that cars contribute greatly to noise pollution.

The roar of gas-powered vehicles can result in a distracting and unpleasant commotion, particularly for pedestrians and residents in car-centric areas or businesses that operate near well-traveled roads.

Electric cars, when compared with petrol cars, have the benefit of eliminating engine noise completely.

Electric cars, however, do have sounds of their own. Check here what weird sounds to expect from electric cars.

While it’s also true that a fair amount of the noise from cars is also caused by the friction between their tires and the road, particularly when traveling at high speeds, some electric car brands, such as Tesla, have even taken steps to implement tires that reduce road noise, aiming for the quietest ride possible.

This sort of smooth, silent ride just isn’t possible with petrol-powered cars, and they’ll likely remain a somewhat annoying intrusion in any area that’s also occupied by people who aren’t driving.

9. Engine Coolant Needs Replacement

Coolant plays an important part in – you guessed it – keeping your engine cool. A mixture of antifreeze and water, it flows through the radiator and water pump system to remove excess heat.

However, if your coolant is too dirty or is leaking, it won’t be able to sufficiently cool down your car, leading to potential overheating problems.

Your coolant system needs to be flushed regularly to prevent buildup and sediment from clogging your system or reducing cooling efficiency. This is not the same as simply draining your coolant and replacing it, but instead cleans out the whole system.

You can check your owners’ manual or speak with your mechanic about how often to flush your coolant.

Coolant can also leak if there is damage to the coolant system or worn valve components, meaning that no matter how often you top it off, your levels will quickly dip. You can usually tell if coolant is leaking from below your car, or you may have a light that indicates low coolant levels.

10. They’re Not the Most Efficient

Even with all the improvements over the last century, gasoline-powered cars still don’t have the greatest efficiency levels.

They produce a lot of runoff energy in the form of heat, so much so that in chilly winter months, pretty much all of the heat used to warm you up comes from the excesses of the engine.

Diesel engines and electric vehicles are both more efficient than petrol cars, with diesel being 20%-35% more economical in their gas mileage and EVs losing hardly any energy to thermal runoff.

It’s true that both of these latter options have their energy downsides as well – electric vehicles have the concern of range, and diesel typically takes an efficiency hit while city driving.

But when it comes to pure energy-in, energy-out, petrol still has a clear disadvantage.

11. They Don’t Last as Long as Diesel Cars

Petrol cars are known to have a significantly shorter life span than diesel engines.

While petrol car engines start to show significant wear between 120,000 to 150,000 miles, some diesel engines (only the engines!) are able to last up to a million – yes, a million – miles.

This is due both to the sturdier construction of diesel engines – they tend to have thicker castings and cylinder walls – as well as to the fact that their cylinder liners are replaceable.

While the liner starts to show wear at about 200,000 or 300,000 miles, it can easily be switched out without having to replace the entire engine.

Pros and Cons of Petrol Cars

Let’s start with the pros.

Pros of Petrol

Today, petrol cars are still the most popular option on the road in the US. This means that if you drive one, you’ll have the convenience of easy access to fuel stations and qualified mechanics.

The same can’t yet be said for many electric and even hybrid vehicles.

In today’s car market, you will also get the widest range of options if you’re looking for a petrol car. While electric and hybrid vehicles are limited to a few brands, and the popularity of diesel engines lags behind petrol, you can find almost any car, from an offroading SUV to a sporty convertible to an everyday sedan, if you’re all right with driving a petrol engine.

If you’re on a budget, petrol cars are also likely to be less expensive than diesel or electric alternatives.

The cost to refuel and maintain your car may also be a bit cheaper as well, though this tends to vary by brand, location, and energy prices.

Cons of Petrol

Some cons of petrol vehicles include:

  • Negative environmental impact
  • Oil pump failure
  • Engine oil buildup
  • Prolonged engine detonation
  • Bad spark plugs
  • Bad oxygen sensor
  • Leaking engine oil
  • Loud road noise
  • Engine coolant buildup
  • Poor efficiency performance
  • Lower life expectancy

What’s the Resale Value of Petrol Cars?

While the exact resale value of any car will depend on its age, make, and condition, what’s the rundown on average resale prices of petrol cars compared to diesel or electric?

Right now, petrol cars depreciate at about the same rate as most diesel cars; however, they depreciate much more slowly on average when compared to electric vehicles.

Electric vehicles have been shown to depreciate up to twice as fast as gas-powered cars, losing $28,500 in value on average over five years, compared to $16,000 for petrol cars.

However, it’s also true that with states like California already planning bans on new gas-powered vehicles, the long-term future of petrol car resale is uncertain.

Bans like these could mean that resale prices could increase for a short time, if buying a new petrol vehicle becomes illegal.

As the world continues to shift gradually away from using gas altogether, though, most petrol cars will likely become much less valuable. While it’s unlikely that petrol cars will disappear completely, they may slowly go the way of vintage collector’s items.


– Car Burning Oil: How Much Consumption is ‘Normal’?

– Signs That Your Oxygen Sensor Is Bad

– Electric Vehicle Myths

– Diesel vs Gas Engines: What’s the Difference?

– Ten Common Car Engine Problems and What Causes Them

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