10 common car noises that could mean trouble! (2023)

10 common car noises that could mean trouble! (1)

Sometimes, it seems as though our cars speak in their own language; a language filled with squeaks, squeals, roars, and bangs. To the untrained ear, these quickly become background noise until something out of the ordinary catches our attention. Even then, if you don't know what to listen for, it can be easy to let those sounds fade into the mix.

But while comprehending this automotive language can be difficult, it's important to listen when your car speaks! They are often trying to tell us that something is wrong. That's why today, we'll give you a lesson in speaking car. Read on as we translate these 10 common car noises that could mean trouble!

1. Squealing sound when you start your car

What you hear: Aloud squealing sound after starting the car that gradually fades.

What it could mean: If you've ever heard a loud, screeching, squealing noise from the front of your car as you crank the ignition, you very well may have a serpentine belt that is failing, or nearing the end of its lifespan.

The serpentine belt is a long rubber belt that runs around a number of pulleys and wheels in front of the engine. Depending on the specific make and model of your vehicle, the belt may be attached to the crankshaft as well as other systems, such as the AC compressor, the alternator, power steering system, and potentially other pumps. In other words, it is an essential component for many of your vehicle's systems.

There are a number of different reasons your serpentine belt might make such an unpleasant noise when you start your car, but the most common cause is simply wear and tear. After time and use, the rubber belt becomes brittle, which can cause it to crack and slip, creating that shrill sound.

If your vehicle is making such a sound, it's important that you inspect the belt for sign of wear as soon as possible and replace it if needed. If left unattended for too long, the belt could fall off of the pulleys, incapacitating the systems that rely on it. In some cases, this could mean you're left without air conditioning, but it may also leave you stranded on the side of the road.

2. Rattling noises when driving over a bump

What you hear:A rattling, vibrating, or squeaking sound coming from the wheels when you drive over a speed bump or pothole.

(Video) Common Car and Truck Problem Noises Translated, Explained and Diagnosed!

What it could mean:There's a lot going on in the front end of your car. Apart from your engine, you have a suspension system with all sorts of parts that can rattle, especially if you have bad bushings.

Bushings are rubber or synthetic components in the suspension system meant to cushion the various parts, reduce friction, and prevent vibrations. Like most rubber parts on a car, these can get brittle and break down over time. For this reason, bad bushings are often the culprit when it comes to these types of sounds.However, it may also be a bad sway bar link or possibly worn struts, shocks, or ball joints.

It can be difficult to pinpoint a sound when you're in the car, so you may find it helpful to perform a bounce test at home when the vehicle is stationary. While parked, simply press down firmly on the front corner of the car and listen for the sound. This may not tell you exactly which bushing needs to be replaced, but it will tell you that your suspension is the source of the rattling. Ideally, this shouldn't produce any rattling or knocking, so if your test consistently produces noisy results, it's time to see the mechanic.

3. Squeaking or whining when turning the steering wheel

What you hear:Squeaking, whining, or groaning when making a turn.

What it could mean:If your vehicle was made within the last 50 years, chances are you have a power steering system. While some newer vehicles have implemented electric power steering, the most common variants are hydraulic systems.

Like all hydraulic systems, power steering requires fluid to operate. When that fluid is low, or when the pump begins to fail, air can find its way into the lines, which can cause all sorts of strange noises. If you notice squeaking or whining when you turn, or if you find that it is difficult to turn, check your power steering fluid levels. You may simply need to top off the reservoir, but it could also be indicative of a leak.

4. Low droning or humming noise

What you hear:A low droning noise that increases in volume when accelerating.

What it could mean:A new set of tires not only gives you a smooth ride, it should be relatively quiet. When your tires are old or worn, they can begin to make a consistent droning sound, especially if they have worn unevenly. Alternatively, an underinflated tire can produce a similar sound.

If you hear such a sound, inspect your tires as soon as you can. You might simply need a little air, or you may have a leak. Your tires naturally wear down over time, but issues with your balance and alignment may cause the tread to degrade asymmetrically. In any case, routine tire maintenance is essential, and you'll likely need to visit the tire shop in the near future.

(Video) 8 Common Noises Your Car Makes and How To Fix It - Grind, Clunk, Squeal, Click, Groan, Rattle Engine

5. Screeching or growling when you step on the brake pedal

What you hear:A high-pitched screeching sound, or a low, growling, grating sound when you step on the brakes.

What it could mean:Your brakes can often be the source of all kinds of unnerving sounds, and they usually indicate that maintenance is required. The more high-pitch noises are often caused by built-in wear indicators in your brake pads, which means you may only need to replace the pads themselves. The lower, scraping sound could mean that your pads have almost completely worn away and the brake caliper is grinding against the rotor. Either way, you'll want to look into replacing your brakes as soon as possible.

6. Loud bang from the rear of the car

What you hear:A loud bang, similar to the sound of a firecracker or a gun.

What it could mean: While the sound of a backfire is frightening, in most cases the explosive sound is a result of fuel burning at the wrong time (rather than some catastrophic explosion). Your engine may be running too rich(i.e. the fuel to air ratio is leaning heavily towards the fuel), the timing may be off, or there could be an issue with the spark plugs.

While this doesn't necessarily constitute an emergency, it means your engine isn't running at the highest efficiency, and if allowed to continue, it could damage your exhaust system. For that reason, it's recommended that you see a mechanic as soon as possible.

7. Rumbling

What you hear: A low engine rumble accompanied by vibrations when idling.

What it could mean: To function properly, your engine requires the correct mixture of fuel and air as well as a working spark plug to trigger the ignition. If any one of these elements is lacking, it may cause the rumbling vibrations you experience at low RPMs.

This could be caused by dirty fuel injectors, which inhibits the fuel portion of the required mixture. Usually, adding a fuel injector cleaning solution to your gas tank can clear this up.The rumbling may also be caused by a lack of oxygen in the mix, which could mean your air filter is dirty and needs to be replaced. Alternatively, the oxygen sensor may be bad, resulting in the wrong fuel to oxygen mixture.

Finally, this could be caused by worn spark plugs. When your spark plugs fail to fire, or fire inconsistently, the combustion in your engine will be inconsistent, resulting in an uneven rumble. It is recommended that you replace your spark plugs every 30,000 to 50,000 miles, but consult your owner's manual for specific maintenance guidelines.

8. Knocking or pinging from under the hood

What you hear: Knocking or pinging from the engine that increases with acceleration.

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What it could mean: While the particular sounds may vary based on your specific engine, they are generally referred to as "engine knock". Engine knock is typically tied to the improper detonation of the fuel inside the engine cylinders.

When your engine is properly functioning, all of the fuel in a given cylinder combusts at the same time. When the burn is uneven, or when the fuel detonates at different times, it can cause this concussive sound. Sometimes, this is a result of using fuel with a low octane rating, but may also be indicative of damage somewhere in the engine.

A more specific type of engine knock is known as "rod knock," which can occur when certain parts within your engine begin to wear, if you have a drop in oil pressure, or if your oil is incredibly dirty.

Whatever the cause, engine knocking is something that needs to be addressed as quickly as possible.

9. Sounds like an off-kilter washing machine

What you hear: A wobbling sound like a washing machine on a high spin cycle with loose change inside.

What it could mean: Mechanics often compare this sound to that of a washing machine or clothes dryer for a good reason: the resemblance is uncanny. However, when you hear this sound while driving, the implications are much more severe.

This sound is often caused by a loose lug nut spinning and banging around inside your hubcap, which means your wheel is not secure. If you hear this noise, pull over as soon as you safely can and tighten the loose nut or call roadside assistance to take you to a mechanic.

10. Roaring sound during acceleration

What you hear: A roaring sound that increases as you accelerate, usually coming from beneath the driver's seat.

What it could mean: Engines are noisy, but so is the process of venting the engine's exhaust. Usually, these hot gases are directed through a muffler, which greatly decreases the roaring sound. However, if there is acrack somewhere in the exhaust system, the gases escape before they can reach the muffler.

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Alternatively, a roaring sound could mean your catalytic converter is having a very specific problem: it's missing. In recent years, catalytic converter theft has become a real issue across Texas and the country generally. If you hear a roaring noise when you turn on your car or step on the accelerator, stop and make sure that you still have a catalytic converter attached to your exhaust system (you can read all about catalytic converter theft here).

Beyond the sounds and vibrations, a damaged exhaust system could result in carbon monoxide leaking into the cabin. If you notice these sounds and symptoms, get to the mechanic right away.

Wrapping up

We've covered 10 common car noises today, but the list is far from exhaustive. If the noise your car is making doesn't match one of the items listed here, or if it is slightly different, it's always best to defer to the experts.

If your car noises are accompanied by a"check engine" light, it's usually a sign that something isn't quite right to say the least. Although a check engine light is a binary message (it's either on or off), it is an indicator that your car's computer has more to say. Even if you plan on going to the mechanic soon, you can often get valuable information by pulling the error code from your car's computer. That sounds technical, but most auto parts stores have a special device they can hook up to your car. This device talks to your car's computer and gives it an error code, which can give you a detailed printout of the problem to take to a mechanic.

There's no doubt that having to take the time to get your car to a mechanic can be a pain; it's hard to juggle a daily routine as is, and adding a trip to the shop only makes things more complicated. If your car seems to run more or less normally despite the noise, it can be easy to let that sound fade into the background and get drowned out by all of the other noises in life. But as inconvenient as it may be in the moment, it's nothing compared to the inconvenience you'll experience when your car inevitably breaks down on the side of the road, and the same goes for the cost of repairs.

The bottom line: If your car is making a funny noise, don't wait. Take it to the shop right away!

10 common car noises that could mean trouble! (2)

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Read more: If your car is making strange noises, a breakdown may soon follow. If your car breaks down on the road, remember these four critical steps

(Video) Car Engine Noises and What They Mean - What Can You Hear Going Wrong?


What does an unhealthy engine sound like? ›

You can hear tapping, knocking, and grinding if the engine is in a condition that needs a remedy. The whirring of the engine is one indication that it is unhealthy. As the speed increases, the whirring gets worse. A loud exhaust noise can also be indicative of a problem, as well as a backfiring of the engine.

Why is my car making weird sounds? ›

Chugging or rattling noises

A chugging sound could mean there's a blockage in the exhaust system. [2] A rattling sound might mean it's out of alignment. A hissing sound could mean there's a crack in the exhaust system. Take your car in for an exhaust system check.

What is abnormal engine noise? ›

Detonation. Sounds like: High-pitched metallic pinging noise. Common causes: Improper timing, lean air/fuel ratio, or improper octane. You can prevent detonation by increasing the octane level of your fuel, reducing manifold pressure, enriching the air/fuel mixture, or obstructing the ignition timing.

What are the 3 common suspension noises? ›

The Four Sounds of Suspension Problems

There are four sounds in particular that you should look out for: creaking, grunting, rattling, and knocking. See your auto collision center if you hear any of these noises, and keep reading for more on the four sounds of suspension problems.

When should I be concerned about car noises? ›

A chugging sound could mean there's a blockage in the exhaust system. [2] A rattling sound might mean it's out of alignment. A hissing sound could mean there's a crack in the exhaust system. Take your car in for an exhaust system check.

What are the top 5 signs of engine trouble? ›

  • 5 Signs Your Engine Needs a Checkup. Share. ...
  • Check engine light comes on. A check engine light that stays illuminated on your dashboard after starting your vehicle is an early sign of an issue. ...
  • Hard starts. ...
  • Stalling. ...
  • Rough idling or acceleration. ...
  • Reduced gas mileage.

What does a transmission going out sound like? ›

Clunking, humming or whining sounds are signs of automatic transmission problems. Faulty manual transmissions will also give off loud machinelike sounds that seem to come out of nowhere. A clunking noise when you shift gears is a telltale transmission situation.

What is clunking sound in front end? ›

Potential issues that may cause front end clunking are: Loose or damaged tie rod. Loose or damaged tires or tire lug nuts. Loose or damaged wheel bearings or ball joints. Problem with sway bar.

What does a wheel bearing sound like? ›

Squealing & Growling

The classic sounds of a bad wheel bearing are cyclic chirping, squealing and/or growling noise. You can also tell that the sound is related to wheel bearings if it changes in proportion to vehicle speed. The sound can get worse with every turn, or it can disappear momentarily.

What causes a roaring noise when driving? ›

What's happening: You probably have a leak or crack in your exhaust system's manifold. The roaring you hear is excess engine noise that would normally get silenced by the muffler. When your exhaust system fails, all of your engine's sound waves and vibrations get channeled into the car.

What does a car sound like when it's low on oil? ›

Should your vehicle's engine run low on engine oil it could cause it to make a loud "ticking or tapping" noise. This noise is caused by an insufficient amount oil being pumped into the top part of the engine. A simple check of the engine oil level will help you determine if the system is low.

What is knocking engine noise? ›

Commonly, engine knocking occurs because of a buildup of oily carbon deposits inside the combustion chamber. This can be caused by burning oil or incomplete combustion from misfires, which coats pistons, cylinder heads, and other parts of your engine with residue.

What sound do worn shocks make? ›

Unusual noises – When shocks and struts are worn out you may hear a clunking or knocking sound. This sound is caused by metal-to-metal contact when the shock or strut bottoms out when hitting a bump. In addition, these noises could be a result in worn shock or strut mounting components.

What does failing suspension sound like? ›

The first indication of any trouble with suspension will probably come from an unusual noise. There'll be a knocking, creaking or clanking from under the car. In extreme cases, your car might not want to drive in a straight line without you constantly making adjustments with the steering wheel.

What do worn ball joints sound like? ›

Sound — Usually the first indication of worn or loose ball joints will be a faint, intermittent clunking noise that seems to be coming from a corner of your vehicle. The sound may be more pronounced when going over a bump or a dip or when going around a corner.

What does it sound like when you need transmission fluid? ›

Manual transmissions often make a loud clunking or grinding noise when you shift gears, while an automatic sounds like it's whining or humming. Noises could indicate that the fluid level is getting low, but you most likely won't be able to diagnose the problem yourself.

What are 7 symptoms of engine mechanical problems? ›

7 Common Signs of Engine Trouble
  • Power Loss. If you drive an older car with high mileage, you don't necessarily need to worry if it's gradually lost a bit of power over time. ...
  • Check Engine Light Turns On. ...
  • Knocking Noise. ...
  • Vibrations. ...
  • Discolored/Excessive Exhaust Smoke. ...
  • Overheating. ...
  • Engine Stalls while Idling.
2 Apr 2021

How do I know if my engine is serious? ›

If the check engine light illuminates, it will either blink or remain constantly illuminated, depending on the problem. A blinking light, or in some cars a red light instead of a yellow or orange light, indicates a problem that needs immediate attention. Either way, you should have the vehicle checked by a mechanic.

What are signs of transmission failure? ›

What Are the Transmission Failure Symptoms?
  • Refusal to Switch Gears. If your vehicle refuses or struggles to change gears, you are more than likely facing a problem with your transmission system. ...
  • Burning Smell. ...
  • Noises When in Neutral. ...
  • Slipping Gears. ...
  • Dragging Clutch. ...
  • Leaking Fluid. ...
  • Check Engine Light. ...
  • Grinding or Shaking.
16 Mar 2017

What would be knocking noise in front wheels? ›

Bad Tires/Bad Left Tire - A knocking sound may be heard when tires go bad, if they are unbalanced or misaligned, or if there is a broken belt in one of the tires. Wheel Bearings - If a wheel bearing is severely worn out the wheel will not be able to spin freely. This may cause a knocking sound to be heard.

Why does my car sound like metal clanking? ›

Possible Causes. Metal on metal contact between one or more parts of your vehicle's suspension and/or steering systems is likely to blame. Causes may range from worn suspension bushings to broken coil springs to badly worn ball-joints, and more.

Why is there a clunking sound under my car? ›

There are numerous reasons that could be behind a clunking sound. It may be the result of parts – like strut mounts and bushings – wearing out overtime, due to age, wear and tear, driving conditions and driving style. Common causes of a clunking noise include sway bar links, which are small links and easier to damage.

How can you tell if you have a blown wheel bearing? ›

Here are some indicators of a worn wheel hub bearing or other wheel-end damage:
  1. Snapping, clicking or popping. ...
  2. Grinding when the vehicle is in motion. ...
  3. Knocking or clunking. ...
  4. Humming, rumbling or growling. ...
  5. Wheel vibration and/or wobble. ...
  6. Shudder, shimmy or vibration at a constant speed.
31 Jan 2018

What happens if a wheel bearing fails while driving? ›

If your wheel bearing fails, it can cause the wheel to stop while you are driving or possibly even to fall off. At the very least, before a wheel falls off, a failed wheel bearing can/will cause significant damage to your vehicle, so it's very important to keep an eye on these and keep them maintained.

Why is my car making a loud whirring noise? ›

Whirring or Whining

Whirring and whining noises often vary as the engine runs fast or slow, and they can indicate a number of different problems, including a failing water pump, a bad power steering pump, low power steering fluid, a failing alternator, or problems with the air-conditioning system.

Why does my car sound like a helicopter? ›

There's a Problem with Your Brakes or Wheel Bearings

A number of brake problems can cause a helicopter-like sound while driving, including a warped caliper or rotor, issues with the parking brake, or just a bad brake.

Why does my car sound like a lawn mower? ›

A loud noise coming from your vehicle when you accelerate, particularly one that sounds similar to a lawn mower is most likely due to an exhaust system leak.

How long will a knocking engine last? ›

Once an engine starts to knock, the rod can fracture without warning. It could be the next time you start it in your driveway, or it could keep going for six months. Eventually though, the engine will blow and you'll be stranded somewhere.

What does a worn timing chain sound like? ›

There is a rattling sound. A lax timing chain, or worse, a broken timing chain with loose parts within the engine, will produce a rattling sound when your car is idling. This rattling sound is typically most prominent while the engine heats up and disappears after some time.

What are the 6 Sources of engine knocks? ›

6 Things That Can Cause Engine Knock In Your Car: Capitol Toyota Service Articles
  1. Bad Belt Tensioners/Pulleys.
  2. Rod Knock: Worn Bearings. ...
  3. Detonation Knock: Bad Knock Sensor. ...
  4. Detonation Knock: Lean Air/Fuel Mixture. ...
  5. Detonation Knock: Bad Timing. ...
  6. Detonation Knock: Too Low Octane. First, we need to know what detonation knock is. ...
13 Jun 2019

What does a misfiring spark plug sound like? ›

Finally, engine misfires also cause a unique sound. You'll hear it coming from the engine or the exhaust, rather than from inside the vehicle. It sounds like a loud popping or banging sound which stops after the misfire.

What does pinking sound like? ›

The industry term for engine knocking is engine pinking. It's described as a knocking or 'pinging' sound, and you will usually hear it while you're driving.

Can low oil cause knocking? ›

One of the most common causes of engine knocking is low oil. If your car has been using more oil than usual, it's a good idea to top it off. You can also try using a higher-quality oil, as this can help reduce engine wear. It's important to regularly change your oil because dirty oil can also cause knocking.

What makes a car make a loud noise? ›

One of the most common causes of a loud vehicle is an exhaust leak. The exhaust system carries very hot hazardous fumes out of the engine, away from the passenger cabin and releases them as less harmful emissions at the rear of the vehicle.

What car makes the most noise? ›

10 really loud cars that you can buy right now:
  • Aston Martin DBS.
  • Jaguar F-Type R.
  • Lexus LC 500.
  • Mercedes-AMG E63 S.
  • BMW M8 Competition.
  • Porsche 911 GT3.
  • Ferrari 812 GTS.
  • Lamborghini Aventador.
20 Jun 2022

What is rumbling noise in car? ›

Your car makes a rumbling noise

You may have an exhaust leak at a gasket or in one of the exhaust component, such as the flexpipe, resonator or muffler. Depending on where it's leaking, the exhaust may be repaired. If that's not feasible, you'll need to replace the leaking component.

What is rattling sound in car? ›

If the rattling sound sounds like it is coming from underneath your vehicle, you likely are experiencing a problem with your exhaust system. Exhaust system problems include catalytic converter problems, muffler issues or corroded pipe, can sound like light rattling to rocks shaking beneath your car.

What does a failing transmission sound like? ›

A failing transmission tends to sound like a high-pitched whining. Different actions, such as switching gears or accelerating, can change when this sound occurs. But when you hear it, you want to take your car to the nearest auto shop right away.

What does a failing muffler sound like? ›

[3] If you have a muffler with a hole in it, you may hear a rumbling noise. [2] If you let it go long enough, you may even get ticketed for violating noise ordinances. A rattling car muffler sound is another warning sound—a tipoff that your exhaust system is coming loose and is no longer correctly aligned.

What is the most silent car? ›

Our rankings and reviews are regularly updated as new data becomes available, so the scores you see here may not match those elsewhere on our site.
  • 2022 Audi A4 Allroad. ...
  • 2022 Genesis G90. ...
  • 2022 Cadillac Escalade. ...
  • 2022 Mercedes-Benz S-Class. ...
  • 2022 Porsche Panamera. ...
  • 2022 Honda Accord. ...
  • 2022 Kia Carnival. ...
  • 2022 Lexus LS.
23 Sept 2022

What is the loudest part of a car? ›

A muffler is a cylindrical, metal part that attaches to the exhaust. Your car's engine works off of combustion, which can be quite noisy. As the exhaust funnels through a series of pipes, the sound becomes louder and louder.

Which car is very silent? ›

The Rolls-Royce Phantom is about as luxurious as cars get which means it is also very quiet and comfortable.

What does a loose wheel sound like? ›

1. A sound like a coin in a clothes dryer. What it means: If you hear something rattling around inside a wheel at low speeds (and then 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 and replaced.

What does car sound like when it needs oil? ›

Louder Engine Noise and Knocking

If you ignore the increased engine sounds, you'll start to hear knocking, rumbling, and even roaring to let you know that your vehicle is in dire need of an oil change.

When I accelerate I hear a rattling noise? ›

Key Takeaway Rattling noises when accelerating can be caused by a number of issues, including damaged or worn-out suspension components, bad wheel bearings, low transmission fluid, loose heat shields, and faulty engine components.

Why do I hear rattling when I accelerate? ›

Your car's intake and exhaust valves can get stuck or wear out. This can lead to premature ignition inside the combustion chambers. It can also cause a rattling noise similar to the sound created by glass bottles clinking together when you accelerate.


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