Cars make noise naturally because they’re complex systems of many moving parts. By now, you’re probably used to the normal “vroom”-like noises your vehicle makes as it accelerates and navigates the streets.
Sometimes, strange or unexpected noises will enter the mix, though; which leaves drivers worried about the safe function or condition of their car — and justifiably so. In some cases, these peculiar new noises are benign phenomena and nothing to worry about, but many other unfamiliar sounds could be symptoms of something that’s gone wrong with your vehicle.
But can you tell what’s going on by the noise alone?
Common Car Noises to Listen For
If your car is making any of the following sounds, that could be a signal that something’s wrong.
1.Clunking. “Clunking” is a general term that could be applied to a range of different problems, so bear with us on this one. If you hear clunking when you attempt to brake, it could be that your steering system components are starting to wear down. It could also mean that your disc brake caliper isn’t mounted properly, or has slipped; or that there’s some other damage to your braking system probably should be addressed as soon as possible.
If you hear clunking each time your car hits a bump (more than the usual impact), it’s an indicator that something is likely not right with your shock absorbers. A clunking or clicking from the back of the vehicle could indicate a problem with the rear differential in either rear- or four-wheel-drive vehicles. There could also be something loose in your chassis, such as your exhaust system. Too many things can cause a clunking noise to leave this to chance, so you should get it checked out.
2.Squealing. Squealing can also have a number of potential root causes. For example, if you hear squealing come out of your brakes when you apply them, it’s likely a sign that your disc brake pads have become worn or have suffered damage, which reduces your braking capability. If your brakes got overheated, they might also have become glazed, which can result in this kind of noise. Some squealing may just be the result of excess dirt on your brakes, however, and is nothing to worry about … but you’ll want to take this into a shop to be sure.
If the squealing comes from the engine when you accelerate, this probably means your drive belts are loose or slipping, or that you’ve pushed your steering to the limit. There may also be some misaligned components in your drive pulleys. Your alternator could also have sustained damage or become misaligned.
3.Grinding. If you hear grinding when you attempt to shift the gears, it means there’s something wrong with your transmission. It could be that the clutch has become worn, or that it needs to be adjusted. But in some cases, it’s a sign that the transmission has sustained heavy damage and may need to be replaced entirely.
If there’s grinding when you try to steer the vehicle, it could indicate wear or damage to the strut mounts. While this would not be fatal, damaged strut mounts will affect your steering and place more stress on the steering system, and lead to even more damage as time passes.
4.Growling. If your engine growls or clicks excessively when it’s idling, it’s probably a sign that your valves need adjusting, or you’re low on oil and need to top off. Don’t let your engine run chronically low on oil, or this could result in irreparable harm to your vehicle system. A power steering pump may be to blame if you hear growling when you try to turn.
A growling or “groaning” noise when you apply the brakes is a sign your braking system is way past its prime. Your braking system is obviously essential to your personal safety, so you should never let things get to this point.
5.Knocking. If you hear a knocking or “popping” sound from under the hood, it could mean that your air filters need to be replaced, or that spark plugs are worn. You might also be having ignition problems — which is clearly the case if the popping happens when you try to start the car. You may also have clogs in your catalytic converter or fuel filter; so there are too many variables to arrive at a single reliable guess here.
If you hear knocking when you drive over bumps that you can “feel” in the bottom of your car, it’s a sign that something’s wrong with the ball joints … which is a serious issue in your suspension system that needs to be addressed as soon as possible.
A popping noise from the exhaust could indicate a critical problem with your car’s exhaust system, such as a hole or leak. If you hear knocking that increases as you accelerate, it could also mean you need a valve adjustment … or it could mean you have a bad rod bearing, which is a pricey but necessary job.
Why All Noises Should Be Addressed
It’s difficult to diagnose a noise in your vehicle with just written text on the Internet. Even with sound clips and videos, every car is different and will generate different noises even for similar mechanical problems.
If you’re not a professional mechanic, it’s unwise to trust your intuition when it comes to funny noises coming from your vehicle. The minute you start noticing a clear pattern to the noise, you need to take your car to a qualified professional.
There are a few reasons for this. First, it’s hard to tell whether most noises are harmless or incredibly dangerous. The last thing you want is to get into an accident because you failed to correct a problem with your vehicle.
Second, most problems in vehicles only get worse over time. The longer you wait to get it checked out, the worse it’s going to get. So if you hear a noise in your car, don’t wait any longer.
Contact us at Kwik Kar of Tulsa, or just drop in! We’ll investigate the noise and provide you with a recommendation on what to do about it.