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Do-It-Yourself Tip: Common Car Noises and What They Mean

Car Noise Diagnosis


Noises come with operating a vehicle.

But then, there are some weird noises. Irritating noises. Problem noises.

While you may be familiar with how your car is supposed to sound…some car noises can be alarming or baffling. If you sense any new, unusual sounds, they should serve as a call to action. Listen for these noises! When your car starts producing:

  • Howls
  • Groans
  • Poppiing
  • Screeches
  • Ticking
…it needs some attention and it needs it right away.

Here, we break down the most common car noises, what problems they indicate, and what you should do to resolve them. Then, we outline some affordable and quality car part replacement options to make sure you can protect your car, your road safety, and your bank when it’s time to change some auto parts.

So, let’s start off with your machine’s purring basics.

Car Noise Detection: Where Is It Coming From?

Unexpected car noises can mean a number of different things. While some may be relatively benign, others may require more immediate repairs. The first step to diagnosing a car noise is to listen carefully for where the noise is coming from.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Does the noise come from the engine or the front of the vehicle?
  2. Does the noise occur when breaking?
  3. Does it come from your exhaust?
  4. Does the noise come from your wheels while driving?
  5. Don't know where the noise is coming from?

These noises give you clues that something may be wrong. If you hear a sound but can’t locate the source, use the guide Car Noise Guide whihc identifies more than 50 common car noises.

Take your vehicle to the mechanic’s shop as soon as possible. Maintaing a regular maintenace schduel is the best thing you can do to keep your car running smoothly even when it’s not making any noises.

Car Noises from the Engine

If your car starts making weird front or engine noises that you are not accustomed to hearing, it can mean several different engine problems.

1. Squealing from engine while accelerating. This may be caused by:

  • a loosen drive belt,
  • slipping drive belts,
  • misaligned drive pulleys, or
  • overused steering wheel.
The repair your vehicle may need: Use the manual and find the appropriate repair procedures on tightening fan belts correctly. A belt may have been worn or damaged and needs replacing.

2. Engine hesitates and a popping is heard from the engine. This may be caused by:

  • a bad accelerator pump or power circuit in the carburator,
  • a clogged catalytic converter,
  • a dirty air filter,
  • a clogged fuel filter,
  • ignition problem,
  • damaged spark wires,
  • dirty spark plugs, or
  • water in the gasoline.
The repair your vehicle may need: Check for ignition problems, clogged fuel filter, worn or dirty spark plugs, damaged spark plug wires, or a compromised catalytic converter.

3. The engine makes a ticking noise. This sound may be caused by:

  • collapsed engine valve lifters,
  • stuck engine valves,
  • sludge in engine which is stopping oil from circulating properly, or
  • out-of-place engine valves.
The repair your vehicle may need: Check for oil pressure, valve lash or for faulty or damaged engine components that need replacing.

Car Noises When Braking

Hearing a weird sound coming from your brakes is a sign to get your brakes checked out as soon as possible. In fact, car mechanics advise car owners to get the brakes checked every 10,000 miles. It's best to get into the habit of checking your vehicles brakes; it's a safety issue that requires immediate attention.

What are some common braking noises?

1. Clunking noises can be caused by:

  • damaged or missing brake hardware,
  • improperly mounted disc brake calipers, or
  • overused steering system components.
The repair your vehicle may need: You may need to fix or replace a damaged disc caliber or other hardware that is damage, missing, or improperly mounted.

2. Squealing noise when brakes are applied can be the result of:

  • overused brake pads and/or shoes,
  • overheated and glazed brake pads,
  • dirt on brake rotors, drums, pads, and/or shoes,
  • loosened or improperly mounted disc brake calipers, or
  • rotor grinding on caliper caused by wear and tear.
The repair your vehicle may need: A screeching noise when applying the brakes is an indication that your brake pads need to be replaced. It's time to get new brake pads, rotor resurfacing or replacement.

3. Scraping from the rear of the car that is heard when braking can be caused by:

  • a distorted or out-of-round brake drum,
  • severly worn brake shoes,or
  • not applying evenly pressure on the brakes over time.
The repair your vehicle may need: Your vehicle may need new brake pads, calipers and rotors.

Car Noises from the Exhaust

If the exhaust system of your car starts to make very loud noises, it's best to take your car to a reputable mechanic to analyze the problem. Some common car exhaust noises may indicate the following problems:

1. Popping noise from exhaust may be a sign that:

  • The fuel injectors are leaking.
  • There’s a hole or leak in the car's exhaust.

2. Loud exhaust can indicate that a muffler or exhaust pipe has worn out.

3. Rattling from under the car may mean that the exhaust system needs repairing.

The repair your vehicle may need: Replace your vehicle's exhaust system and/or exhaust component.

Car Noises from Wheels

What are common wheel noises?

1. Humming, growling or roaring car noise while driving can indicate:

  • a bad wheel bearing or
  • worn out tires or wheel bearings.

2. Chirping or squealing sound from a wheel while driving may be a sign of:

  • a failing axle bearing,
  • a failing wheel bearing,
  • a faulty CV joint, or
  • a faling outer constant velocity joint.