You roll down your window and instead of hearing a purr or vroom, your car has started making a strange noise. That can signal trouble and shouldn’t be ignored. Here are 10 common and uncommon ways your car is telling you it’s time to be looked at as soon as possible.
- A sound like a coin in a clothes dryer
If you hear something rattling around inside a wheel at low speeds (and it stops as you drive faster), it could be a loose lug nut inside a hub cap. That might mean your wheel wasn’t tightened properly the last time it was removed or replaced.
- Brakes squealing, grinding or growling
If you hear a squealing noise, your brake pads or shoes might be nearing the end of their service life and must be replaced. If they grind or growl, it’s likely more serious. It could be a sign that pads are so worn that metal is touching metal—a serious problem that could affect braking efficiency.
- Finger-snapping, popping or clicking sound when you turn
If you have a front-wheel-drive or all-wheel drive vehicle and hear this sound when you turn a corner (but the noise stops when you steer straight), one or both of the constant velocity (CV) joints on your front axle could need replacing.
- A rhythmic squeak that speeds up as you accelerate
For rear-wheel or four-wheel drive vehicles making this sound, the culprit could be the universal joint (U-joint), which is found in pairs and is a component of the driveshaft.
- Howling, whining or even “singing”
This is usually a sign that your bearings—the tiny metal balls that help parts rotate smoothly—aren’t doing their job. But which ones? If you have front-wheel drive, and the sound changes as you turn left, right and back again, it’s likely your front-wheel bearings; a gradually growing, steady howl signals rear-wheel bearings. If you have rear-wheel drive and the whine gets louder as you accelerate, your differential, which allows your wheels to spin at different rates when needed, could be leaking fluid.
- Rhythmic clunking, tapping or banging from under the hood
There could be a serious problem with your car’s valves, connecting rods or pistons.
- Squealing under the hood when starting up or accelerating
Your car’s accessory belts—that drive things like your power steering pump, air conditioner compressor and alternator—could be loose or worn. With newer cars, it may point to the serpentine belt (also known as the drive belt), which transports power to multiple accessories at once, and is relatively easy and cheap to fix.
- A flapping noise
This could either be something interfering with the fan or a disintegrating belt.
- Popping in the engine compartment
An array of issues could be responsible for this sound, particularly if is accompanied by some engine hesitation. The checklist includes an ignition problem, a clogged fuel filter, worn or dirty spark plugs, damaged spark plug wires or a compromised catalytic converter.
- Rattles from beneath the vehicle
This could signal a loose exhaust system or even loose brake pads.
The bottom line
If conditions are so poor or worn, making the fix very expensive, it might be time for a new vehicle. With a new car purchase, you would not be stuck with a big repair bill for what might be a questionable car on the road.
Resources: GEICO, BankRate, LLC.