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What are those strange noises coming from my car?


It used to be you could get a car fixed for a week’s pay, now it’s a bank loan.

What’s that sound? Was it your car or maybe the one that just passed.

Calm down. It’s important to know what those sounds might mean. Let’s say the car backfires. A backfire could be due to an incorrect ignition timing setting, a faulty ignition, or leaky valves. Take it to the garage and tell your mechanic you think there could be an ignition problem. 

If your mechanic tells you to leave the car outside because he doesn’t want to soil his clean floor with the oil coming out of your car’s tail pipe, then you know it’s not the ignition but maybe leaky valves.

Then there’s that chatterbox engine. You can’t hear the radio because of the “click, click, click.” Darn it, that’s your favorite song from the 60s. “Kumbaya… Kumbaya.” You think, “Please stop chattering so I can enjoy the music.”

This chattering noise could mean insufficient engine oil or worn or badly-adjusted valves. The solution is simple—add oil if needed and have your mechanic check it out.

Also, change your oil on a regular basis. Any fool knows this and can be reminded by placing Post-it notes in the car, office, and on the your kitchen cabinets or refrigerator.

The different engine sounds give clues to technicians as to what problem might exist. It’s important that the owner of a car listen closely to the sounds of his car and give this information to the maintenance technician.

Another irritating sound is the whining or screeching sound. Is that a belt? Check it out quick. It could be the incorrect tension on a camshaft drive belt, which needs to be fixed right away.

Then there’s that rattle when you accelerate. It might be fixed by just paying a little more for a higher grade of fuel. However, check the engine temperature gauge because sometimes overheating is the cause of the rattle. The rattle also might be related to incorrect ignition timing and an ignition system fault. If it keeps rattling, get your car to a mechanic.

What’s that knocking in the engine, especially when you increase your speed? It could be serious because the camshaft might be worn. Take your car to a mechanic as soon as possible.

Screeching when under acceleration may be caused by a slipping auxiliary drive belt or fan belt. The solution is to check or adjust the belt. Of course 99.9% of us don’t know how to do this properly—so take it to a mechanic.

One of the most common bad sounds coming from a car is screeching when steering. This is most likely the power steering belt slipping. The solution is to check it and adjust the belt. Or, 99.9% rule again, have a mechanic do it.

An engine moan is another horror. The moan when steering is usually related to power steering low fluid levels. A clue as to where the fluid is going is to check the ground under where you park the car. Little spots on the ground right under the power steering lines usually mean leaky steering lines.

A groan when braking usually means a worn brake component. You best see your mechanic on that one.

A roar or rasp under acceleration may be related to an exhaust problem. Get your mechanic to check the exhaust system.

If there’s a hiss from the engine, much like the sound of snake hissing, there is most likely coolant leaking and air/vacuum hoses that need repair.

Clicking from wheels usually means a loose hubcap or a stone in the hubcap, or just a stone lodged in the tire tread. That’s one problem most anyone can fix. Just tighten the hubcap or remove the stone.

It does pay to listen to the sounds of your car and act promptly. When sounds are heard, the car is trying to tell you that things just aren’t right.

There is no prettier sound in the world than a smooth running car (to some of us anyway). Even though it’s the sound many mechanics hate to hear as cars pass their shops, it sure makes car owners happy.

posted 11.11.2010

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