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7 Car Noises You Should Never Ignore

Hmm. Purr. Vroom. Modern engineering has made driving a car easier on the ears than ever.

But there are some car noises you don’t want to hear, because they can signal trouble. Every once in a while, roll down the windows and start listening for “any sound that is odd,” says Mike Peth, director of technical training at Ohio Technical College in Cleveland. “You know your car, so you can often pick up something that may become a problem.”

These seven car noises might be warning signs of trouble:

  1. A sound like a coin in a clothes dryer.
  2. Brakes squealing, grinding or growling
  3. A finger-snapping, popping or clicking sound when you turn
  4. A rhythmic squeak that speeds up as you accelerate
  5. A howling, whining or even “singing”
  6. Rhythmic clunking, tapping or banging from under the hood.
  7. Squealing under the hood at start-up or when accelerating.
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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. Take your car to a mechanic ASAP.

2. Brakes squealing, grinding or growling

What it means: 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, get your brakes checked out immediately. It could be a sign that pads are so worn that metal is touching metal—a serious problem that could affect braking efficiency. (Check out these 5 signs you need new brake pads.)

3. A finger-snapping, popping or clicking sound when you turn

What it means: If you have a front-wheel-drive or all-wheel drive vehicle and hear this sound when you turn or 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.

4. A rhythmic squeak that speeds up as you accelerate

What it means: If you have rear-wheel or four-wheel drive and hear this sound, the culprit could be the universal joint (U-joint), which are found in pairs and are components of the driveshaft. Get it checked by a mechanic immediately.

5.  A howling, whining or even “singing”

What it means: This is usually a sign that your bearings—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. Get it fixed immediately.

6. Rhythmic clunking, tapping or banging from under the hood

What it means: There could be a serious problem with valves, connecting rods or pistons. Get to a mechanic ASAP.

7. Squealing under the hood at start-up or when accelerating

What it means: This could come from worn or loose accessory belts that drive things like your power steering pump, air conditioner compressor and alternator. With newer cars, it may point to the serpentine belt, which drives multiple accessories at once, and is relatively easy and cheap to fix.

If you’re ever stranded on the road, having Emergency Roadside Service (ERS) could get you out of trouble ASAP. (It’s available through your GEICO Mobile app!) Add ERS to your policy for just pennies per day per vehicle.

By Ira Hellman

Next article: 5 Signs You Need New Tires

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    Leave a comment

  1. Patricia Mietzner says,

    My ignition on my Ford F-150 makes a sound like it makes if you try to start a truck when it’s already started try again and it just starts ok.

  2. Duck says,

    When I drive my car and open the back windows on the freeway I hear some bumping sound coming from my rear tires. It is like the wheels are loose but I have already went to different companies and suspension one and I keep on buying new things but the noise doesn’t stop

  3. Zandile says,

    Hi my car makes 2 different noise types: squicky noise when I apply brake( like ts..ts …tss, another sound it’s like it’s ocassionally hitting on something.
    I’ve been to a mechanic last week and three things were fitted ie front wheel bearing ,bolt/ball joints 2 of them,& break calliper pins (one pair) what could the problem now?

  4. Betty Jo Anderson says,

    Please help …just had the gas leak in my Chevy cobalt fixed and now when l hit the gas l hear a horn sound coming from the passenger back side, like around where the gas goes in the car-what is that? It was not there before. Did they screw something too tight or mess up something?

  5. kelly.p. says,

    i have a front wheel drive and on acceleration and braking it sounds like a train, th wheels feel a bit wobbly…is this th wheel bearings? how much does it cost to get fixed and how long does it take to change th bearings please?????

    • Trevor says,

      My car gave out a loud bang I drove a few seconds after ut was then giving a rattle sound would not drive properly making a weird sound I had to drive reel slow and with foot on clutch to go foarx when clutch was fully up I couldn’t drive forward

  6. Tanya bear horse says,

    Hello I have an 03 yukon and when I accelerate there is like a swoosh swoosh swoosh sound when I let off the gas it goes away for the most part. It had 4 wheel drive

  7. Jason says,

    I have a 2014 Hyundai Sonata, the noise comes and goes periodically. When I start accelerating sometimes I hear a fairly high pitched squeal, if I hear it and press on the brake it always goes away. Id Appreciate it if someone could let me know what might be causing this? Thank you!

  8. KBUK says,

    If a lugnut falls off your car, take it to a mechanic ASAP??

    Also you can open the boot, get the wrench and put it back on yourself… far safer than driving to a mechanic.

  9. Kolby says,

    My car is over heating and I don’t know why when I turn the car off the part where you pour water guzzles it like bubbles kinda like it’s drinking the water can you help me please

    • Pitt says,

      The reason why your antifreeze reservoir is “bubbling” and sounds like it’s “guzzling” the antifreeze is cause it’s distributing the antifreeze into the motor and the other parts under the hood that are very hot Need the antifreeze (coolant) to keep your car from overheating which in turn will cause numerous other problems that are much more expensive and could destroy the engine..
      If your car starts overheating ever turn all the heat on in the car and distribute it in the car the fastest way through the panel and floor and chances are you either have a leak in the radiator hose, a bad radiator belt, or the radiator is shot hope I helped u..

    • April James says,

      Mine did that. Mechanic said it was the Heating Core and input/ output hoses needed to be replaced. You may also have a leak in your radiator or the gaskets.

    • Simon says,

      Yeah pretty sure you need a thermostat the only time it overheats like that is if your thermostat is stuck closed or your low on coolant

  10. Itumeleng says,

    Hi i just serviced my car hundai atos done all front suspention also put new shocks ..hubs and uper arm was inserted but my car is still making noice like it doesnt have shocks more especially on bumpy road or when jumping a speed hump its too noicy please assist..i just paid R9500 but its still noicy.its a hundai atos😐.

  11. Dorthy Ray says,

    Sometimes when I apply my brakes the brake pedal goes almost to the floor board without stopping. I start pumping the brake pedal and then it works.What could be the cause of this? It is very frightening, feels like I have no control.

    • VaudevilleVolvo says,

      Have you addressed this? Your hydraulic brake system has air in it and may be low on fluid. Sometimes a bubble will travel around in the system and be present at the caliper while you brake, causing the pedal to drop. As you pump, the bubble may moves along and the system is able to push against the caliper again. Top off the fluid and bleed the brakes so no more air is in the system.

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