Cars are a lot like people – they usually let you know when something isn’t quite right with them. Whether it’s clicking, squealing or grinding, turning up the radio to drown it out can prove expensive and dangerous.
Get familiar with the common causes for the sounds you might hear, and learn what you should do about them.
The Braking Banshee
If your car makes a squealing or screeching sound when you brake, your system requires attention. You may need:
- Brake pad replacement
- Brake line leak repair
- Rotor resurfacing
- Full brake system replacement
If your car makes otherworldly sounds when you hit the brakes, it’s typically a sign that the pads aren’t releasing correctly. This generates excessive heat, which results in excessive noise.
This problem won’t correct itself. In fact, it will only get worse. Make haste to your auto mechanic to have the system inspected ASAP.
Note that some vehicles have built-in brake wear indicators that squeal or chirp to let you know when the brake pads need to be replaced.
The Daily Grind
Grinding noises can signal a few different problems, usually related to the brake system, a wheel or axle bearing, a problem in the clutch assembly or a failing starter.
If you hear a grinding sound when braking, that could be an indication that you need new brake pads, calipers or rotors.
A grinding sound when making a turn, especially along with a loud clicking sound, may indicate a problem in a bearing or the CV (constant velocity) joint or boot.
Grinding sounds that occur while you’re starting the car are typically related to the starter. Growling or grinding that starts when you press the clutch often indicates a failing part in the transmission or clutch assembly.
Sputtering and Coughing and Rumbling! Oh My!
If your car sounds like you’ve trapped an angry badger under the hood, then you might have a problem in the exhaust system.
When your car simply sounds louder than before and the extra decibels seem to come from under the car, you may have a hole or bad gasket in your exhaust system somewhere.
If you hear what sounds like a box of rocks rumbling around underneath your car, then that could mean a problem with the catalytic converter, the universal joint (u-joint) or the axle.
Is That a Bird Under the Hood?
If you hear a chirping or squealing noise under the hood, then it may just be a problem with one of your car’s belts – usually a fan or drive belt.
The drive belt is also called the serpentine belt, and your car needs it to run the air conditioning, power steering and alternator. It’s not uncommon for the belt to stretch and wear out over time. Typically this causes an unpleasant squealing sound for a period of time, prior to breaking.
If a belt breaks while you’re driving, it can cause extensive damage in the engine compartment. If you hear belt noises, get to the auto shop for evaluation.