7 Car Noises You Should Never Ignore

car x-rayHmm. 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.

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

Originally published March 2017.

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  1. valter maksuti says

    i had a ford edge 2013 v 6 while driving feels like clinking or jump kind of wired most of time on low speed. now i have 2017 chevy colorado lt midnight edition beautiful but clinking on low speed same as ford before i had honda accord never have a problem and for that reason i think chevy and ford have problem engine – transmition connection

  2. Fatimah Croom says

    Thank you, that information is very helpful. I just bought a RAV4 and the back wheel make a strange sound. I called my sales rep last week to get me into the auto shop at West Herr. I have not heard back from him yet. I will call him again on Wednesday. Again thank you Geico for the “auto sound alert “.

  3. Charisse Edwards says

    my Pontiac Vibe makes a loud grinding sound only when i start it up every morning…. it’s not because it’s cold as i park it in the garage…took it to WestFall Odell and they said it was the starter…got a new starter next morning it did it again….

  4. Thamas Woltering says

    I’m seeing too many GEICO ads on my TV. At least what I’ve just watched are beneficial.
    Your other ads are Buffet’s was to hawk auto insurance. You’ve saturated TV just with too many ads and it increases my cost by about 6% to 7%.
    My rates are up due to my age and Buffet’s ad policy. I’ll be shopping at next renewal.

  5. Chris Carucci says

    Here’s a good tip if you Car is tight but when accelerating 40-50 feels like wind hitting it slight swerve
    Could be worn ball joints / tie rods
    Get to a mechanic ASAP

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