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.

    Leave a comment

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Linda Tyree says

    I watched the videos and the tips given for car washing and purchasing and changing a tire. This information is so valuable. Thanks so much.

  2. Rachela Max says

    Omg Great!! I really don’t know about some of the noise that happens in the car. Thanks for sharing this informative article.

  3. irene rhein says

    we’ve had # 6 on and off ..once in a while ……..for years. First thought someone was knocking on the car to get our attention. Only hear it occasionally.

  4. Darrell smith sr says

    The problem nowadays is finding a good honest and reasonable priced mechanic even the ones recommended by roadside service or insurance companies take you for a ride… mechanics are not what they used to be… auto world is in a sad state

  5. Rob Palmer says

    There are some evolved problems with autos which may offer danger and inconvenience, but not be up to recall level yet. Also some recalls for which the owner has not been advised. Suggestion: With ID information on file for any client’s auto, GEICO could offer the option to advise owners of such problems in addition to any manufacturer notice. Redundancy in communication can be helpful.

      • Eluterio G. Barrera Jr. says

        I have contacted the local Chevrolet dealer on my recall of air bags on my 2007 Tahoe to no availe. They keep saying the Manuf. will contact them and they will get in touch with me. This has been going on for more than three years, and I have yet to get the air bags replaced on my vehicle, which is a safety hazard. Is there some place I could call or someone to get in touch with concerning this safety issue?

  6. JL Taylor III says

    I always thought those items were common sense to be listening for. But a good thing to let people know about.