Today's cars are complex systems in which proper performance depends on all the parts running at their very best.

Sometimes one symptom can be associated with a number of different problems that range from minor to extremely serious. When the problem is misdiagnosed, you risk wasting money on unnecessary repairs or causing severe damage to your vehicle.

Check out this list of 10 common car misdiagnoses before you book your car into a garage:

1. Alignment Problems

If your car has been pulling to one side, it doesn't necessarily mean that you need an expensive realignment. Often, a tire rotation is enough to fix this problem. You might also have low tire pressure or a slipped belt.

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2. Transmission Trouble

Many problems with simple fixes can imitate a transmission problem. Because transmission repair is so expensive, make sure to check for a disconnected hose or plugged filter first.

3. Dead Battery

When your car won't start, your first inclination might be to replace the battery. Before you do this, test your alternator. If the problem is in the alternator, a battery swap might provide a temporary fix, but the new battery will not stay properly charged and will also die soon.

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4. Shock or Strut Problems

A car that squeaks or clunks over bumps might have a problem with worn shock absorbers or struts, or it could have worn stabilizer bar end links. Check the end links to see if they need to be replaced.

5. Broken Air Conditioner

Air conditioning system fixes should always be performed by trained professionals, but before accepting a low-refrigerant diagnosis, make sure that your technician runs a check to make sure that you don't have a refrigerant leak. This way you avoid overcharging the system and causing permanent damage.

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6. Bad Oxygen Sensor

Before replacing the oxygen sensor, ask the technician to check the vacuum hose. A leaking vacuum hose will show up with a diagnostic code that indicates a problem with the oxygen sensor.

7. Damaged Mass Air Flow Sensor

Before you replace the MAF sensor, try cleaning it. A tune-up or some new spark plugs might also solve the problem.

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8. Bent Fan Blades

A loose or bent fan blade makes a clicking sound when you drive. Many other problems can cause this same noise. Before replacing the fan blades, check to see if you have a loose wheel cover, a stuck valve lifter or even low oil. The fan blade could also just need to be tightened.

9. Defective Muffler

Before paying for a new muffler, make sure that rumbling sound isn't being caused by a worn universal joint or a problem with the converter.

10. Defective Engine Ignition Timer

A malfunctioning engine ignition timer will cause your engine to ping. Using a gasoline with a lower octane than is appropriate for your car's engine will create the same sound. Before you pay for the replacement, try using a higher octane gasoline.

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Staying informed of possible diagnosis mistakes that can occur will help you avoid being taken for a ride. Make sure to always use a reputable auto mechanic and always get a second opinion when major repairs are recommended.

This blog was contributed by Sean, who is an automotive enthusiast and manages the automotive blog http://www.cashforcar.org/.

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