Common Car Noises and What They Mean

We all know that pit-of-your-stomach feeling. You begin to make a turn after waiting at the red light and suddenly hear a loud “screeeech.” Cue the roll of the eyes and the “What in the world” you’re about to mutter. Whether it’s a screech, a humming or a rattling noise… it’s worth getting to the bottom of it. We’ve compiled a list of the most common car noises and occurrences and what they could mean for your vehicle.

Man listening for car noises

If you hear…

A Rattling Noise

A rattling noise can mean a number of things but first thing to do before freaking out is check your trunk! Loose items moving around could simply be the case. If not, it could be an item underneath your vehicle such as a component of your exhaust system. This could be a catalytic converter, muffler or other components.

Humming, Sizzling or Whining Noise

This could be a sign of coolant or oil leaking into a heated engine part. A vacuum line could be leaking or the engine could be overheating. All things to schedule an appointment for! It’s best to be left to a professional as the leaking fluids could be dangerously hot or harmful to touch.

Grinding Manual Transmission When Shifting

More than likely, this may be a clutch issue. The clutch may be worn or requires attention. Furthermore, if you’re having problems accelerating your vehicle, it may indicate a deeper issue with the transmission.

Squealing or Chirping Under the Hood

A high-pitched squeal or chirp may be a result of a belt or pulley not working correctly, low belt tension, or a worn-out serpentine belt. You may hear these sounds when accelerating.

Loud Bang

If the sound startles you and resembles a loud popping noise from the back, there’s a good chance it’s a backfire. This could be the result of the air-fuel mixture being too rich.

Slapping Noise Under the Hood

When your vehicle makes a slapping noise from the engine compartment, it’s typically from a disintegrated or broken belt. Sometimes it is as simple as something interfering with the fan. Either way, it’s best to get it checked out! Driving with a broken belt can lead to major engine damage and a vehicle repair bill you definitely don’t want!

Strange Sounds When Turning

An unusual noise (squeaking, clicking, clunking, groaning, creaking, etc.) is more than likely related to the steering and suspension systems. The fix could be as simple as your power steering pump needing fluid. Or, it may be more serious and involve your vehicle’s joints that may need replacing.

Squealing Wheels When Applying the Brakes

It’s easy to assume you need all new brakes when you hear this sound. However, this simply may be because there is dirt on the brake rotors, pads or shoes. Or, it could be a case of badly worn pads or brakes. No matter the cause, brakes are a huge safety issue if there is a problem and requires immediate attention.

Roaring Sounds When Accelerating

The very first place to check for this car noise would be your exhaust system. Another more serious reason for this could be a transmission problem. In an automatic, it may just not be advancing into the next gear. With a manual vehicle, it could be that the clutch is slipping.

Knocking From the Engine

Knock, knock, are you taking care of your vehicle? A knocking from your engine may be a mix of a few maintenance issues. Are you using the right grade of gasoline? Using the incorrect gasoline than the recommendation from the vehicle’s manufacturer is the most common cause for engine knocking. Follow the owner’s manual requirements in all things oil, gasoline and tire air pressure.

Help with car noises?

Unsure of what’s going on? We’d be happy to troubleshoot your car noises for you! Give us a call or drop by anytime. Our expert technicians here at M&L will be glad to diagnose the issue and get you back on the road. See our latest tips about sharing the road with semi trucks, and drive courteously and safely!