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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. 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?

  2. 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?????

  3. 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

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. 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

  7. 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😐.

  8. 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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