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10 car noises to make you wor­ried

 1. Hiss­ing


Sure, there might be a bundle of rattle snakes liv­ing under the hood but if your car or truck’s engine makes a hiss­ing sound it could also be an indic­a­tion of a leak, either in the cool­ing sys­tem or a vacu­um line. If it’s the former over­heat­ing is a con­cern, the lat­ter, driv­ab­il­ity and fuel-eco­nomy issues could res­ult. A trip to the mech­an­ic is in order.

 2. Clunk­ing


If your vehicle clunks while driv­ing over bumps or pot holes some­thing is def­in­itely out of order. Chances are it’s not a case of road­way elves knock­ing on the under­car­riage, even if these dimin­ut­ive humanoids are sworn to pro­tect the high­ways and thor­ough­fares of Amer­ica. Mov­ing on …

Bad ball joints, worn con­trol-arm bush­ings or faulty sta­bil­izer link-pins can cause unciv­il­ized sounds, but oth­er chassis com­pon­ents could be to blame as well. Even a loose exhaust sys­tem can flop round and make per­cuss­ive noises.

When this happened to me, the prob­lem was the sus­pen­sion struts. I found a second hand strut and replaced it, clunk­ing noise gone! Note: I also replaced the sway-bar link (sta­bil­izer link), not sure if this was part of the prob­lem as well.

 3. Por­cine Squeal­ing

Serpentine Belt

If your car’s engine is mak­ing a shriek­ing sound it could be an issue with the ser­pent­ine belt. Either the rub­ber has got­ten old and brittle or the ten­sion­er could be fail­ing. If the lat­ter is to blame the belt may not have the appro­pri­ate pres­sure applied to it, caus­ing slip­page and ulti­mately ill-mannered com­mo­tion. For­tu­nately this repair should be rel­at­ively simple and inex­pens­ive so there’s no excuse for put­ting this off. Get it taken care of before the belt snaps or pops off when you’re driv­ing home at 2:00 in the morn­ing dur­ing an ice storm, because, you know, that’s when it would hap­pen.

 4. Metal­lic Screech­ing or Gut­tur­al Groan­ing

Brake Squealing

If there’s a screech­ing sound when you apply the brakes it’s a good chance the pads have reached the end of their use­ful lives. Many are engin­eered with small met­al tabs that rub against the rotor when the fric­tion mater­i­al is worn away to a cer­tain point. The squeal­ing sound is an indic­a­tion that it’s time for a brake job.

If you put off this neces­sary main­ten­ance for too long the noise could pro­gress to a demon­ic growl­ing. No, this doesn’t mean your car has been pos­sessed by malevol­ent spir­its bent on your destruc­tion. Instead it occurs when the pads have been worn down all the way to the riv­ets or steel back­ing plates, a very bad situ­ation. If a sim­il­ar but less harsh rum­bling noise hap­pens all the time while mov­ing it can sig­nal a bad wheel bear­ing.

 5. Click­ety-Clack

CV Joints

If your front-wheel-drive vehicle sounds like an Amtrak train while mov­ing at low speed with the wheel­sturned it could be an indic­a­tion that the con­stant velo­city or CV joints are fail­ing. They’re loc­ated on the ends of the drive axles.

And these are some of the hard­est work­ing parts in a car. They send power the wheels and deal with ver­tic­al inputs from the road all while allow­ing you to steer. There’s a lot going on in a small area so cut ‘em some slack. A sim­il­ar noise com­ing from the back of a rear-drive vehicle can be an indic­a­tion of a bad uni­ver­sal joint.

6. Growl­ing or Moan­ing

Power Steering Pump

Also dur­ing turns, if your vehicle starts growl­ing like a starved lion­ess it may be an indic­a­tion that the power-steer­ing pump is not long for this world. And you may not be either if you ignore this issue.

True, many new cars and trucks are equipped with elec­tric­ally assisted steer­ing, arrange­ments that often neg­ate the need for a tra­di­tion­al hydraul­ic setup. Still, lots of vehicles just a few years old are out­fit­ted with such sys­tems and if they’re start­ing to go south it’s best to get this issue taken care of before you lose boost and can’t turn prop­erly.


 7. Under-Hood Per­cus­sion


If you hear a rat­tling, pinging or ham­mer­ing sound beware. This rack­et is asso­ci­ated with three sep­ar­ate but related com­bus­tion prob­lems: det­on­a­tion, pre-igni­tion and spark knock, all of which can be extremely harm­ful. They often occur dur­ing accel­er­a­tion or while the engine is under load.

Essen­tially what’s hap­pen­ing when one of these prob­lems mani­fests is abnor­mal igni­tion. Instead of an even fir­ing of the air-fuel mix­ture with­in an engine’s com­bus­tion cham­ber there are mul­tiple flame fronts. When these pres­sure waves col­lide they pro­duce a pinging or clat­ter­ing sound. Det­on­a­tion is the per­haps the most severe issue and can lit­er­ally des­troy pis­tons.

Run­ning high­er octane gas­ol­ine, chan­ging the air-fuel mix­ture, retard­ing igni­tion tim­ing or de-car­bon­iz­ing com­bus­tion cham­bers can rec­ti­fy these prob­lems.

 8. Clat­ter­ing or Knock­ing


If your vehicle’s engine makes a clat­ter­ing or knock­ing noise that increases with RPM it could be in ser­i­ous trouble. The former, which is usu­ally a “tap-tap-tap” sound, can be indic­at­ive of a lift­er that isn’t pump­ing up or a sign that the valve clear­ances need to be adjus­ted. This isn’t neces­sar­ily a fatal issue, but it’s one you should have checked out by a qual­i­fied pro­fes­sion­al soon­er than later.

How­ever, if the noise is deep and ham­mer­ing get out your wal­let. This can point to a bad rod bear­ing, which is a ser­i­ous job to replace. But wait, it gets worse! It can also indic­ate that your engine has spun a bear­ing, some­thing that requires pulling the entire lower end — and likely the whole power­train — to address.

 9. Cap’n Crunch

Grinding Gears

If you drive some­thing with a manu­al trans­mis­sion (thank you!) and you’re start­ing to hear a crunch­ing sound while chan­ging gears it can be a symp­tom of sev­er­al dif­fer­ent prob­lems, ones usu­ally asso­ci­ated with high mileage.

SEE ALSO: Top Five Fam­ily Sedans of 2015

For starters, gear grind­ing can be indic­at­ive of a worn out syn­chron­izer, the trans­mis­sion com­pon­ent that enables easy shift­ing from one ratio to anoth­er. If these are dilap­id­ated they will not be able to equal­ize the speeds of the dif­fer­ent shafts inside the trans­mis­sion and the dog clutches will grind. Like­wise, a drag­ging clutch could be the cul­prit, one that’s not fully dis­en­ga­ging when the ped­al is depressed. Both of these issues often require extens­ive ser­vice work to cor­rect.

 10. Howl­ing


If your rear-wheel-drive car or truck is mak­ing a howl­ing sound that seems to be com­ing from out back, this can be a symp­tom of a prob­lem with the dif­fer­en­tial. A vari­ety of noises can be pro­duced by one of these com­pon­ents in dif­fer­ent driv­ing situ­ations, from accel­er­a­tion to decel­er­a­tion to steady-state motor­ing. Pin­ion pre­load, worn gears or bad bear­ings can cause these noises.

Pay close atten­tion to the sound, does it seem related to the engine speed, or the vehicle speed? (i.e. Does the sound change when the car shifts gears? Can you hear it while rev­ving the engine in Park?)

If it’s vehicle speed, I’d have the wheel bear­ings looked at. If it’s engine speed, then exhaust may be the cul­prit, or less likely, a pul­ley bear­ing for the ser­pent­ine belt.

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