Common Car Noises and What They Mean

If you're not a car expert, every little squeak, rattle or other noise can bring uncertainty to your drive. Car noises are often signs of your car aging, but they can also be due to bigger issues that need more immediate attention. Caliber Auto Care is here to help you understand possible causes of the problem. Learn the difference between common car noises before taking your car in for maintenance.

Why is my car squeaking?

The answer to this question depends on where it's coming from. Here are the most common sources of car squeaking noises:

  • Brakes
  • Serpentine belt
  • A/C compressor
  • Body liner rubbing against wheels

Brakes

If you hear squeaking or squealing coming from your brakes, the solution could be as simple as getting new brake pads. These are usually an inexpensive but necessary fix. Using bad brake pads will eventually damage other brake and wheel components.

If you hear a grinding noise coming from your brakes, your brake pads definitely need to be replaced. What’s worse, if your car has disc brakes, this could mean that your rotors need to be replaced as well.

Replacing rotors, pads and flushing the brake system is expensive. Make sure you address brake noises before they start making a grinding sound.

Car noises under the hood

Most often, squealing from under the hood of your vehicle is an issue with your serpentine belt. Sometimes it’s because the belt is old, stiff or cracked and needs to be replaced. However, your serpentine belt helps power many different engine components including the alternator, A/C compressor, power steering and water pump. If any of these parts are not working properly, this could be putting extra stress on the serpentine belt, causing it to squeal.

Take your vehicle to professionals, like Caliber Auto Care, when you hear squealing from under the hood. If your serpentine belt breaks under the pressure, this can be a serious issue. Your vehicle’s power steering will be inoperable, and driving the vehicle will be extremely difficult. It's important to note that in the event of a front-end crash, the serpentine belt is vulnerable to damage.

Squealing after a crash or accident? Caliber Collision can help get you back on the road quickly and safely. You can even get an estimate before you schedule an appointment.

What is engine knock?

There are several reasons your engine may knock. Sometimes, a knocking or pinging noise can mean that your engine is in need of a tune-up. Bad spark plugs or a clogged engine air filter have been known to cause pinging noises, slow starts upon ignition, and more.

The most common causes of engine knock include:

  • Hydrolocked engine after driving through high water
  • Bent piston or rod in engine

Hydrolocked engine

Did you drive through high water recently? If you did and the knocking sound began afterward, it could be that you “hydrolocked” your engine.

Rods and pistons

Hearing squealing and squeaking can be worrisome. But, if you hear a pronounced and repetitive knocking coming from your engine, get it looked at by a professional immediately. We recommend getting a tow and not starting the engine again. There could be an issue with the rods and pistons. These pieces are integral parts that work together to make your engine go.

Did you hear these noises after an accident? Schedule an appointment with Caliber Collision to get a free estimate for the repairs to get you back on the road safely and Back to the Rhythm of Your Life®.

Car noises when turning

Here are the most common causes of car noises you’ll hear when turning:

  • Damaged axles
  • Bad wheel bearings
  • Bad wheel hub
  • Loose body parts in wheel well

Axles

Perhaps you were driving down your street without an issue, but then a loud noise began once you went to make a turn. Popping or clicking when you go to steer around a bend might mean a problem with your front or rear axle. You may need new constant velocity joints, which connect your axle to the transmission and wheels. For all-wheel-drive vehicles you have four joints to worry about and two for front-wheel drive. Get this looked at before you end up having to replace your whole axle.

Wheel bearings and wheel hubs

If you hear more of a whining or howling while turning, it could be an issue with your vehicle’s bearings. According to GEICO, if you hear the noise as "you turn left, right and back again, the issue is likely your front-wheel bearings. A gradually growing, steady howl signals rear-wheel bearings."

If you hear a loud howling noise that increases in volume around 50 MPH and then starts to get quieter at higher speeds, your wheel hub or bearings could be in bad condition. If you are noticing this noise getting louder when you make turns, it’s very likely that you do have a wheel hub issue.

Depending on your vehicle, a bad bearing or bad wheel hub means an expensive replacement. But don’t shy away from the cost — bad bearings or wheel hubs can lead to your wheel being severed from the vehicle.

Car rattling noises

Here are the most common causes of car rattling noises:

  • Change or other items stuck under carpeting or paneling
  • Loose exhaust components
  • Loose body parts in engine or wheel well

Going crazy trying to find the source of that pesky rattling noise in your vehicle? This sound could be caused by something as simple as loose change under the upholstery. It could also be something more serious like your exhaust system coming unfixed from your vehicle. For example, your exhaust pipe may be out of alignment.

However, rattling could also mean you have a more serious problem on your hands. One worst case scenario could be piston slap, which means your pistons aren't moving properly and should be looked at as soon as possible. If you think this might be an issue, get it looked at by a professional before continuing to drive normally.

Caliber Auto Care’s ASE certified technicians have heard it all. Bring your vehicle in and no matter the noise your car is making, they’ll find the cause and fix it so the rest of your day is a smooth ride. 

Sources:

https://haynes.com/en-gb/tips-tutorials/what-piston-and-what-does-it-do

https://blog.nationwide.com/common-car-noise-meanings/

https://www.geico.com/living/driving/auto/auto-care/car-noises/

https://www.mynrma.com.au/cars-and-driving/car-servicing/resources/what-car-noises-mean

https://www.jdpower.com/cars/shopping-guides/why-is-my-car-making-a-rattling-noise-when-at-idle

Find a Caliber Auto Care location

Caliber Auto Care takes the place of your dealership’s service department and your local quick oil and mechanical repair shop with efficient, high-quality auto repair or maintenance services at an affordable price.

We know that scheduling car care services between work, school and play can be a hassle. That’s why we make it as easy and straightforward as possible, offering you neighborhood convenience, superior service, comfortable waiting areas or free local shuttle service and the option of staying in your vehicle for some services while we work. It’s all about meeting your needs and standing behind our work.

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