23 Apr Vehicle Noises You Shouldn’t Ignore
Cars can make any number of unusual sounds, but it can be hard to determine if that squeak is just a squeak or a warning sign that your next stop should be a repair shop.
It’s happened to everyone. You get behind the wheel of your car, start the engine, and realize that your vehicle is making a sound that you’ve never heard before.
From inexplicable ticking, popping, or grinding, a car can make any number of noises that might be a sign that something’s wrong. At the very least, it means that your car needs to be taken into a repair shop for an inspection and possibly an imminent repair.
Noises, whether benign or a sign of an impending catastrophe, shouldn’t be ignored. If left alone, that pop or click could go from an inexpensive, routine repair to a costly, cascading overhaul. Some issues could even cause permanent damage and make the car unsafe to drive — and possibly headed to the scrap yard.
Listening closely to your car and being familiar with the sounds it makes will help you decipher the seriousness of the problem and mitigate any damage and, most important, keep it safely driving on the road.
Deciphering Your Car’s Language
The AAA has created a list of the 8 most common noises that drivers might hear when their vehicle is in need of repair:
- Squealing: If you hear a squealing sound while you press your foot on the gas, your car’s drive belt may be loose or slipping. A shrill squeal could also indicate that your brake pads need to be replaced, or there is dirt on your brake pads, drums, or rotors. Sometimes a squeal doesn’t indicate damage to your vehicle; rather some manufacturers build in these squealing sounds as alerts to notify drivers when they should service their brakes.
- Grinding: A grinding sound when you hit the brakes could mean that your brake pads or wheel bearings have worn out and need to be replaced as soon as possible. If you hear grinding while shifting gears, have your clutch or transmission checked for any potential issues.
- Rattling: Loose parts could cause a car to produce rattling sounds. Check your vehicle’s exhaust system or its heat shields.
- Popping: Popping is the result of a vehicle’s intake or exhaust backfiring. It indicates that the air-fuel mixture is too lean or too rich. Suspension components that need maintenance could also cause popping when the vehicle is making a turn. Check the control arm bushings, ball joints, and tie-rod ends.
- Hissing: If your car makes a hissing sound, that could be caused by an overheated engine or a leaking vacuum line. Your car’s exhaust system might also be blocked.
- Clicking: If your car doesn’t start but makes a clicking noise when you turn on the ignition, your battery may be dead or your starter’s wiring may be loose. Clicking can also occur when a car’s driveshaft has a defective constant velocity joint.
- Roaring: Sometimes your car may roar when you accelerate your vehicle. This can be attributed to a damaged exhaust or a transmission that is not properly shifting gears.
- Tapping: Tapping is a sign that your oil levels have dropped too low. Check your oil pressure gauge and oil levels with a dip stick. If your oil levels are fine, there may be an issue with the engine’s valve train.
How to Avoid Those Dire Sounds
One strategy that can help avoid these strange noises — which often mean an expensive or inconvenient repair — is to make sure you’re keeping up with your vehicle’s preventive maintenance in accordance with either the manufacturer’s guidelines or, if it is a fleet vehicle, your company’s policies.
Regular maintenance inspections during oil changes or other routine maintenance can also identify problems long before they cause serious damage. Being able to decipher the sounds your car makes instead of ignoring them is an important part of keeping your vehicle safe and running in top-top shape.