Car Sounds – Nine Noises to Notice

woman inspecting car engine

All cars make noise, of course, but some of the noises can be more alarming than others. Although your first inclination might be to ignore any unusual sounds in hopes they will disappear on their own, few if any car problems resolve themselves. But should every new noise send you racing to your mechanic?  Not necessarily. Here are some of the more typical car noises and what you should do about them.

9 Car Noises To Check

  1. Squealing brakes – When you drove your car off the lot for the first time, you probably heard nothing in particular when you stepped on the brakes, but now you hear sounds resembling a five-year-old playing a violin every time you approach a red light. How concerned should you be? Squealing brakes are a warning sound but not cause for immediate concern. Your brakes need to be looked at, but you aren’t endangering your life if you don’t stop at the garage on the way home from work today. But don’t let it continue squealing for too long, or what is now a fairly simple issue will turn into something more significant.
  2. The scratching, whining sound of metal on metal – Metal screeching across metal is never a sound you want to hear, not only because it’s painful to the ears, but because it is indicative of a serious problem. (If you left your squealing brakes from #1 untreated for too long, the squealing will be replaced by this metal-on-metal sound.) This is the kind of sound that should send you to the phone to make a service appointment right away.
  3. A flappy sound when the AC is on – Does it sound like there’s a piece of rubber flopping open and closed in your air vent? Well, there probably is. This is not a serious issue, merely an annoyance, and not a sign of a serious issue that needs immediate attention. At worst, it might impede the air flow into the car, but you can safely ignore this until the next time the car is in being serviced for something else.
  4. Squealing from under the hood – Instead of that child playing violin near your brakes, you’re sure she’s actually under the hood. This likely means a serpentine or fan belt problem. Since these belts keep a variety of systems functioning, their failure will be a serious issue. Although you are not in imminent danger, it does mean your next trip in the car should be to a mechanic.
  5. Humming or droning from the tires – Although the roll of tires down the road always makes some level of humming noise, a marked increase in volume or the kind of sound they make should cause concern, especially if you know you have older tires. This increase in humming indicates the tires are at the end of their lifespan, and you run the risk of blowing a tire if you don’t attend to this quickly.
  6. Whining from the steering wheel while turning – As you go around a corner, you turn the wheel as far as it will go and you hear a whining sound. You are putting stress on the power steering pump. You might be able to fix this yourself right away – just don’t turn the wheel quite so far, or back off on the turning just a hair until the noise stops. However, if the sound happens even when you make wide turns, well short of turning the wheel to its furthest point, your power steering pump is probably already damaged, which is not something you’ll fix yourself. If the power steering pump fails, you’ll know – you will need a lot more muscle to actually turn the car. And although fifty years ago most cars didn’t have power steering, nowadays you won’t want to drive without it.
  7. Hissing from the engine – If you are hearing a hissing sound from the engine either while driving or after you’ve turned it off, you may have a coolant issue and/or an overheating engine; if the hissing is accompanied by steam leaking from the hood, you definitely have an overheated engine. In this situation, you should pull off the road immediately. You can destroy the engine if you continue to drive it while overheated, also do a car maintenance during cold weather.
  8. Clicking or tapping from the engine – This can indicate a serious problem with your engine’s oil pressure. You may be able to remedy this yourself by adding oil after allowing the engine to cool. But if the addition of oil doesn’t get rid of the clicking, you need to head to the mechanic’s right away. Again, you can ruin the engine completely if you drive with improper oil pressure.
  9. Roaring exhaust from under the car when accelerating – If you can hear an extra roar of the exhaust from underneath you when you step on the gas, this indicates a serious problem in the exhaust system. Although it’s not particularly detrimental to the engine, a faulty exhaust system could be leaking carbon monoxide into the car. That can make you sick and even cause you to pass out, especially if it’s winter and your windows are up. This sound requires an immediate trip to a mechanic.

Your car is going to make noises, and many of them you can ignore. But when your car makes new noises, noises that don’t go away, you should listen to them. Modern cars are unlikely to undergo catastrophic failure with no warning while you’re zipping down the highway, so think of those new noises as a sign of a looming larger problem. Do you want to look into the problem now, while it’s probably still small and manageable, or do you want to ignore it, and wind up having to deal with – and pay for – a bigger problem somewhere down the line?  Your car is probably one of your largest assets.  One of the best things you can do for your car’s long-term health, and therefore your wallet’s, is to maintain your car regularly, and have a mechanic investigate anything out of the ordinary as soon as possible. The other is to make sure it is properly insured. Gebhardt Insurance Group can find you the best insurance at the right price. Click on Contact Us above or call us at 520-836-3244.

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Steve Gebhardt

Gebhardt Insurance Group was honored by AAA Insurance for being the top New Policy Agency in Arizona for 2013 and achieving the "Emerald Achievement Award."

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