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Noise from your car

What's that noise from my car?

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Hearing an unfamiliar noise coming from you car can be unsettling. You worry about your vehicle breaking down and leaving you stranded, the expensive repairs your car may need, and how you're going to get around without a vehicle as yours sits in the shop being repaired. Believe it or not, that noise may be a good thing. When your car starts to make unfamiliar noises, it's trying to tell you something. How you respond determines how big an inconvenience the problem will end up being.

Noises made by your car are very hard to trace since they tend to travel along the body of the vehicle. With careful observation you can isolate most noises and quickly learn where they are coming from.

Squealing or Squeaking Noises

Brakes are designed to warn you when they're going bad. A small piece of metal attached to the brake will emit a squealing noise when they are worn, warning you that your brake pads may need replacing.

While squealing brakes can be very annoying, it is not always a sign that there is a problem. Some braking noise is considered normal since the system can be affected by different driving conditions. Severe braking, dusty or sandy roads, the type of brake pads used, and even humidity can make your brakes squeal in protest. Even though you may not notice any difference in your vehicle’s braking performance, you should have an expert inspect and perform any maintenance. Brakes are a vital system in your car, and your safety relies on them working properly.

You may find that the squealing noise is not coming from the brakes at all. Squealing or squeaking from under the hood often means a belt is slipping. Your automobile may have an array of belt driven systems and a worn or loose belt could be the culprit. Leaking fluids from other engine systems can get on belts and create squeals as well. Before installing new belts, make sure you fix any leaks because fluids may cause belts to prematurely fail.

Squeaking from inside your vehicle can be more difficult to find. It usually happens when you are driving, so for safety reasons you should get someone to assist you. As you drive you can narrow down where the noise is coming from. Loose trim, screws and connectors could be the problem. Sometimes simply having washers installed between plastic parts can fix the noise.

Whining Noises

A whine under the body of your car could indicate that the rear axle or drive unit is faulty. It could also be the wheel bearings, the gearbox, or even wind noise. If the pitch varies with engine speed it could be an engine driven system such as the power steering pump (check the power steering fluid), air conditioner compressor, water pump, and so on.

Grinding Noises

Grinding from the wheels means your brakes could be completely worn. When brakes reach this stage, you should not drive your vehicle and get it fixed immediately. If you find your brakes are not worn, the problem may be with the wheel bearings.

If you notice the grinding noise when steering, there may be something wrong with the tie rods or other parts of your steering system. You don't want to lose your steering at any speed, so stop driving the vehicle and get your mechanic to check it out.

Automotive Rattles

There are so many different parts and connections on an automobile that pinpointing a rattle can be very difficult. A second person is often needed to diagnose the problem since it may only occur under certain conditions, for example during acceleration, etc.

Thanks to plastic, better fasteners and connectors, rattles are less prevalent than they once were. Rattles from the undercarriage often come from clamps on the exhaust system, calipers, or loose brake pads.

If the rattling comes from the interior of the vehicle make sure you rule out any cargo that could be causing the problem. You would hate to spend hours looking for a rattling part and it turns out to be a pen sitting in the glove box.

Rattling from inside the engine as you accelerate or climb hills could be caused by low octane fuel. This can lead to carbon buildup result in a rattling noise like marbles bouncing around inside your engine. If you change to a higher octane fuel, and the noise doesn't go away, take your car to your mechanic. Be aware that severe rattling can damage your engine.

The ignition timing controls or the exhaust gas recirculation valve (ERG) could also be the source of rattles.

Hissing Noises

If you hear hissing it could be a leak in your tire. If the tire goes down slowly, you most likely have a screw or nail in it. You can find the hole by putting soapy water on the tire. Small bubbles will appear where the air is escaping from the hole. You should never drive on a flat tire. Air leaks can be patched, but driving on a flat will damage the tire and make it unsafe. You could also end up damaging your rims.

The hissing sound could also be from a bad radiator hose, bad radiator cap, or from the radiator itself. When your coolant is low, pressurized steam will build up and try to escape. The low fluid will most likely mean your engine will be running hotter as well. When checking radiator coolant, let it cool first. Hot radiator fluid can cause serious burns.

A hissing sound could also come from the exhaust system, a catalytic converter could be plugged, or a vacuum line could be leaking or disconnected.

Some hissing noises from your car are normal sounds. The A/C makes a hissing noise as the freon equalizes in pressure. If the hissing noise is continuous and changes with the rpms, it could be just normal belt noises.

Clunking, Thumping, or Knocking Noises

A clunking noise when you brake could be caused by loose brake calipers, loose suspension components, or even defective shock absorbers. If the noise increases and decreases with the speed of your car it could also be worn tires. Usually if your tires are worn enough to make noises, you will notice vibrations in the steering wheel as well.

When your car makes a clunking sound when you give it gas or release the gas pedal this often indicates that the universal joints in the drive shaft are worn. If the universal joints are in good shape you will need to have the rear axle checked for excessive wear, or have the front drive unit checked.

DON'T IGNORE WHAT YOUR CAR IS TRYING TO TELL YOU. AN UNFAMILIAR NOISE ALMOST ALWAYS MEANS THERE IS A PROBLEM. IF YOU HAVE ANY CONCERNS ABOUT A NOISE COMING FROM YOUR CAR YOU SHOULD GET IT CHECKED OUT BY A MECHANIC.

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