Sounds Like Trouble — Car Noises to Listen For

It’s easy to compare the performance of a car to that of a human body. Whenever something is not functioning correctly in the car, there are usually telltale symptoms such as the squealing of brakes. Of course, all cars emit some sort of sound, whether they are straight from the factory or have several thousand kilometers worth of mileage. The art, therefore, lies in deciphering normal car noises from worrisome car noises. More often than not, the noises worth paying particular attention to will be irregular, signaling a problem with the car. They include screeching, knocking, grinding, squealing, and scraping.

Car Noises

Worrisome Car Noises

Clicking sound in the steering wheel. Sometimes you might hear a sound coming from the steering wheel that sounds like a “click.” The noise will intensify with increased speed and when the steering wheel is turned in any direction. This is one of the major noises to be concerned about, because it can indicate worn out bearings, a bad CV joint, or a low level of steering fluid. Since the steering wheel is the device that keeps you on the road, steering wheel noises should be diagnosed immediately because a loss in control of the automobile could result in a terrible accident.

Screeching sound when braking. Brakes are another essential part of motoring that should be kept in tip-top condition at all times. They play a pivotal role in an automobile. Modern car manufacturers now install brakes in such a way that the pads are sandwiched in between metal components. When the pads wear out, the metals come into contact and result in the screeching noise. This noise is therefore an indication that your brake pads need replacing. If the noise is a squeal instead of a screech, it could signify a larger problem in the backing plate, drums, brake shoes, or linings.

Noises in the wheels. This is another location to pay special attention to, mainly because the wheels should ideally produce no noise at all. The chirping, rumbling, or growling noise could be due to loose wheel bearings, a faulty CV joint, worn out tyre treads or even ply separation. Any noises in the wheels should be assessed by a professional, who will then advise you on whether or not parts need to be repaired or replaced.

Engine noises. Noises in the engine come in a range sounds including clicking, rapping, rattling, tapping, knocking and screeching. The interesting bit about engine noises is that they are not restricted to coming solely from underneath the car’s bonnet, but also from the rear end via the exhaust pipes. As long as it is associated with the engine, any kind of noise should not be taken lightly.

Engine noises my signal the following problems:
• Rapping could mean faulty or worn-out bearings.
• Screeching could mean the fan belt or auxiliary drive belt is slipping.
• Tapping and clicking could mean reduced pool pressure or immoderate valve lash.
• Knocking could mean an overheating engine, low octane fuel, or inoperative EGR valve.
• Rattling could mean using the wrong fuel grade or a faulty ignition system.
• Backfiring could mean a faulty ignition or catalytic converter or leaky valves.
• Hissing could mean leaking coolant.

Roar in the exhaust pipes. One reason why drivers are encouraged to drive with at least a window cracked open is that it allows them to hear noises coming from outside the car, such as a roaring exhaust pipe. When the car is in acceleration and there is a rasp coming from the exhaust, you could be dealing with a blown exhaust system. This would lead to the release of harmful carbon monoxide into the atmosphere, and as such, you could even get fined for pollution. When you hear the roar, pull over to have the exhaust checked and replaced if necessary. Not fixing this problem can also increase your fuel consumption.

Diagnosing car noises

Staying in tune with the sounds that your car makes can greatly extend its life on the road. A single noise can be caused by a variety of issues, which are sometimes dangerous, so once you have located the source of the concerning noise don’t delay in having it looked at. And always remember to seek a second opinion from an expert before making any replacements or adjustments.