Consumer Reports (CR) is the go-to source for finding reliable data for many driving consumers. That data is then used to determine which car would be perfect for them and their families. One significant source of information provided by CR is the company’s reliability reports. The data for these reports come from the Auto Reliability Surveys filled out by CR members. Respondents report on problems in each of the 17 trouble spots. So, what are these 17 trouble spots, and what do they mean? 

Engine (or Electric Motor), Major

consumer reports, maintenance, reliability

Looking under the hood of a Chevy Bolt EV | Brianna Soukup/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

In this category, according to Consumer Reports, you will find engines and electric motors, cylinder heads, timing chains, superchargers, turbochargers, head gaskets, or belts that will need to be rebuilt or replaced. 

Engine (or Electric Motor), Minor 

This trouble spot includes a variety of accessory belts and pulleys, engine computers, engine mounts, oil leaks, fuel leaks, electric motor malfunctions, and engine knocks or pings. 

Engine Cooling 

Here you will find problems with the radiator, water pump, thermostat, antifreeze leaks, cooling fan, and overheating. 

Transmission (Major)

Here, you’ll want to check if there’s been a transmission rebuild or replacement, premature clutch replacement, or torque converter replacement, or if one is needed.

Transmission (Minor)

#RollsRoyce new #Ghost’s Satellite Aided Transmission draws GPS data to pre-select the optimum gear for upcoming corners. The result is unprecedented levels of ride comfort and control for a motor car. Nikko #Japan

— Rolls-Royce Motor Cars (@rollsroycecars) November 27, 2020

Here, you will find a rough shift, slipping transmission, transmission computer, clutch adjustment, leaks, and transmission sensor or solenoid. 

Drive System

Anything dealing with the driveshaft or axle, transfer case, four-wheel-drive or all-wheel drive components, driveline vibration, electrical failure, traction control, or electronic stability control, is part of the drive system detailed by Consumer Reports.

Fuel System 

Prices at the pump continue to plunge, dropping the US average for gasoline below where it was when Russia invaded Ukraine.

— CNN (@CNN) December 1, 2022

Fuel system trouble spot deals with the fuel-injection system, fuel pump, O2 sensors, emissions control devices, and any fuel tank problems. 

Electrical/Charging System 

The electrical (or charging) system involves the alternator, starter, spark plugs, auto start and stop, hybrid or electrical battery replacement and related systems, regular battery, and electric vehicle charging (when applicable). 

Climate System

Next-generation Apple CarPlay will be a whole car OS, taking over every screen and even controlling gauges and climate-control functions. The first cars to use the new CarPlay will be announced in late 2023, with nearly a dozen automakers already on board.

— CNET Cars (@CNETCars) June 6, 2022

Anything that affects how the inside of your vehicle is part of the climate system falls in this Consumer Reports category. This includes the AC compressor, fan motor, condenser, heater system, automatic climate system, evaporator, electrical failure, and refrigerant leakage. 


The suspension and steering system includes shocks or struts, ball joints, tie rods, alignment, steering linkage, power steering, wheel balance, bushings, electronic or air suspension, and springs or torsion bars. 


Is your car prepared for Winter weather?Check tyres regularly for adequate pressure and tread.Brakes and steering will be adversely affected by under-inflated or over-inflated tyres.
Tyres which have lost most of their tread can be extremely dangerous.

— roadtozero (@roadtozero) November 23, 2022

The trouble spots with brakes may seem self-explanatory. Still, to be sure, it includes the anti-lock system, parking brake, calipers, pulsation or vibration, squeaking, brake failure, master cylinder, premature wear, and regenerative braking. 


The exhaust system includes the muffler, pipes, exhaust manifold, heat shields, and leaks. 


Finding the paint and trim on the outside of the car, Consumer Reports wants drivers to check for fading, peeling, cracking, or chalking paint, along with rust, or loose interior or exterior trim or moldings. 

Body Integrity

Does the ride make any odd noises? The body integrity category looks at squeaks, rattles, wind noises, air or water leaks, and seals and/or weather stripping. 

Body Hardware


The car’s structure on the inside and outside is how you look at the hardware. Look at the windows, locks and latches, tailgate, doors, sliding doors, mirrors, seat controls (manual or power), heated steering wheel, seat belts, heated seats, cooled seats, convertible top, sunroof, or any glass defect. 

Power Equipment and Accessories

More modern vehicles are going to include power equipment and accessories. These features include cruise control, warning lights, body control module, keyless entry, wiper motor, tire pressure monitor, 12V power plug, USB port, alarm or security system, remote engine, automatic headlights, and wireless charging pad. 

In-Car Electronics 

Finally, the 17th potential trouble spot for your next car could be the in-car electronics. Features included here are the CD player, rear entertainment system, speakers, radio, in-dash GPS, voice control, Bluetooth, steering wheel controls, portable music device interface, smartphone compatibility, and head-up display. 


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