9 Common Car Noises You Shouldn’t Ignore

Common Car Noises & What They Mean

Your car is telling you something, but are you paying attention? Do you hear a clunk, a squeal, or similar sounds that are hard to describe? Some car noises indicate minor issues that you can quickly fix, while others signal trouble or costly repairs. We explain common car noises and what they mean.

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Screeching or metal-on-metal grinding sound when applying brakes

That screeching sound could be due to dirt on the brakes. But when you hear the loud, irritating nails-on-chalkboard sound when braking, likely, your brake pads are completely worn through and the calipers are now grinding against the motor.

It is time to get your brake pads replaced, so head over to your mechanic as soon as possible. Your mechanic may service your brakes—which might involve cleaning, lubricating, adjusting, or replacing the brake components.

Cause for concern? Yes. Many car accidents can be linked to brakes that were degraded or failing so a little maintenance and service are essential for your safety on the road.

Unusual sounds when turning the car

If you hear unusual sounds when you turn your car, it is likely related to your steering or suspension system.

Your power steering system is a hydraulic system that relies on pressurized fluid. So, if your levels are low, you are likely to hear a whining noise before you run into performance problems. Simply adding fluid to the power steering pump could fix the problem. 

Or, the noise could be coming from your CV axle. When the CV axle shaft boot is damaged, it leaks grease. Which means that the components are dry and make a clicking noise. Your technician will assess the damage and may replace the boot and refill the grease. If the CV axle is too damaged, it should be replaced.

Cause for concern?  Yes. Have your steering and suspension system checked out immediately or else you run the risk of further damage. If the problem worsens, you’ll slowly lose control over the car’s steering. Schedule a checkup as soon as you can.  

Squealing or chirping under the hood

Bird chirping sounds or high-pitched squeals under the hood point to a loose or worn serpentine belt. The serpentine belt powers your car’s major systems, like your power steering pump, air conditioner compressor, and alternator.  However, some cars have multiple belts, so if you hear this sound only when you turn on the air conditioning, then the problem is only with that belt.

Your mechanic may adjust your serpentine belt’s tension, replace the belt tensioner or replace the belt.

Cause for concern? Yes. This is an essential engine component that needs to be in top shape to power your vehicle’s system. A squealing serpentine belt is a prompt to schedule an appointment with your mechanic as soon as possible. Your mechanic can advise you whether or not you need to replace the belt.

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Abnormal engine noises

You should have your car checked immediately you hear any abnormal engine noises. For instance, a deep knocking sound may be caused by the use of the wrong grade of fuel. If you hear a tapping or ticking noise in your engine, the issue could be the valvetrain. This could be caused by a low oil level, a need for an oil change, or a worn oil pump.

You may also hear popping, pinging, whirring, or hissing, sounds – each of which might point to any issue. 

Cause for concern? Yes! Even a minor problem in the engine could cause major damage if not checked. Your mechanic will identify the root cause of the noise and fix whatever is causing it. Whether it is a damaged or worn-out component, or an unaligned part, a quick response might save you tons of money in costly engine repairs.

Rumbling sounds from the exhaust

You probably have a crack or leak in your exhaust system if you hear a rumbling or roaring noise from underneath your seat. The noise gets louder as you accelerate and may even drown out conversation and music in the car.

The leak may be in the resonator, flex pipe, or muffler, meaning all your engine’s sound waves and vibrations get channeled into the car. Even worse, a faulty exhaust system could be letting in poisonous carbon monoxide into the cabin.

Cause for concern? Absolutely. Get this problem fixed asap by your mechanic. The leaking component may be repaired or replaced, depending on where the leak is.

Hissing or sizzling noise under the hood

You probably have a crack or leak in your exhaust system if you hear a rumbling or roaring noise from underneath your seat. The car noise when accelerating gets louder and may even drown out conversation and music in the car.

The leak may be in the resonator, flex pipe, or muffler, meaning all your engine’s sound waves and vibrations get channeled into the car. Even worse, a faulty exhaust system could be letting in poisonous carbon monoxide into the cabin.

Cause for concern? Yes. Take this problem to the experts as soon as possible. Leaving it unresolved could also cause further damage to the rest of the engine components.

A droning or humming noise

This droning sound has a consistent volume while turning, but it gets louder as you accelerate. It is likely caused by worn tires, poor quality tires, or unevenly worn tires.

Cause for concern? Yes. Unevenly worn tires could be caused by a worn suspension component, so it is a good idea to have your wheel bearings and suspension system checked out by an expert. You should also get your wheel alignment done and have your wheels rotated regularly to even out the natural discrepancies in wear over time. If your tires are old or worn out, it may be time to invest in a new set of tires.

Also, if you hear your tire squealing when you turn the steering wheel, the most likely cause is underinflated tire/s. Driving on underinflated tires can cause problems for your tires and even your suspension system, so inflate your tires to the optimum pressure as soon as possible.

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Squeaky noise while turning the steering wheel

If your steering wheel squeals when you turn right or left, this is may indicate a problem with the power-steering system. The most likely culprit is low power-steering fluid. Pop up your hood, check the level of the fluid in the reservoir, and if the level is low, top up. This should silence the noises.

If the sound persists, then there may be a leak in your power-steering lines. Or, it could be another issue within your power steering system, such as a faulty power steering pump or loose belt.

Cause for concern? Yes. Having an expert diagnose the issue might save you the hassle of having to buy a new power-steering pump and rack – and they don’t come cheap.

Rattling sounds from underneath your car

Rattling sounds from underneath your car or wheels are likely to be caused by a loose lug nut in your hub cap. The rattling sound in car when driving could also be that part of the suspension or exhaust system has come loose.

Cause for concern?  Yes, get it checked by a mechanic immediately. The fix may be as simple as properly tightening your wheels. If the problem is loose components, the mechanic will be able to fix them.

Your car has a way of telling you when something isn’t quite right. Some car noises indicate minor issues that you can quickly fix, while others signal trouble or costly repairs. Either way, it is a good idea to address these issues as soon as possible – the longer you wait the more expensive it might be to repair it.

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