What is your car trying to tell you?

March 08 2018


You can tell a lot about the health of your vehicle just by listening to the sounds it makes. Some sounds are normal; others are telltale signs of potential problems on the horizon. Here are some common car sounds and what they could mean.

  • Engine squeals or whirs: A screeching noise that worsens as you accelerate is probably a bad belt. A whirring near the engine pulleys may indicate problems with the alternator, air conditioner compressor or water pump.
  • Engine clicks, ticks, pops or knocks: Clicking and ticking may be the result of bent fan blades, low oil pressure or a failing pump. Popping is often caused by a dirty filter, but it could indicate ignition problems. Knocking can occur if you use the wrong type of gasoline or have an issue with your exhaust gas recirculation valve or rod bearings.
  • Steering column growls or clicks: Growling indicates a lack of steering fluid or a problem with the steering pump or rack. Clicking often points to worn bearings or a bad CV joint.
  • Noisy brakes and wheels: Squealing brakes could mean bad pads, dust in the brake drums or loose wheel bearings. Knocking may be due to abnormal tire-tread wear or a bent wheel. 
  • Exhaust noise: This noise can be caused by a cracked exhaust manifold, or a worn muffler or exhaust pipe. If the vehicle is backfiring, a faulty ignition, worn or broken camshaft, or leaking valves may be to blame.

The best way to diagnose a noise is to take your vehicle in for service. It could help you avoid an emergency -- or costly repairs -- down the road.

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