What Is that Strange Noise Coming From My Car?

We’ve all been in that situation where we are driving along and we hear an unfamiliar noise coming from our vehicles. Modern vehicles are more reliable than ever, but they still need regular maintenance. Many motorists don’t notice needed repairs until something changes. You’re the most familiar with how your car is supposed to sound, so any new, unusual sound is an immediate call to action to contact an auto repair service. Whether it’s a clunking sound, a loud clank, a squeal, or a whistle, don’t dismiss it and keep going. It is important to identify the source before it turns into a bigger problem.

Here are some tips to help you identify strange noises and know when it is time to head on over to your mechanic:

Squealing while braking

If you are hearing a high-pitched sound that appears to be coming from your tires when you break, it may be your brake pads. When your brake hardware is worn, the pad is not releasing properly, causing excessive heat and noise. Some vehicle manufacturers build in a brake wear indication system that emits a squealing noise when the brake pads need to be replaced. While it may not be urgent, the indicator is letting you know that your brakes are wearing down and need to be replaced.

Grinding when braking

Are you hearing a grinding sound when you apply pressure to your brake pedal? This is an indicator that your brake pads were not replaced in time and something is rubbing against the brake rotors. The brake pads are beyond their wear limit and are coming into rough, uneven contact with the rotors. When this happens, your rotors need to be replaced. Do not wait. When your brake material is completely worn, it could result in brake failure.

Sputtering, rumbling or rattling exhaust noises

If your vehicle sounds louder than normal from under the vehicle, you may have a crack, leak, or hole in your exhaust. The noise would normally be silenced by your muffler, but when your exhaust system malfunctions, any vibrations or sounds will make their way inside of your vehicle. Exhaust system repairs can be as simple as reattaching a loose pipe, replacing a corroded pipe section, or attaching a new muffler. However, just because the repairs seem minimal, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it immediately. When your exhaust system malfunctions, that means carbon monoxide is seeping into your vehicle, so it’s urgent to get to a repair shop as soon as possible.

Squealing from under the hood

When you hear a squealing sound from under your vehicle’s hood, your serpentine belt is either loose or worn out. This single belt transfers power produced by the engine to multiple accessories like the air conditioning, power steering, and alternator. Over time, the belt can wear down and slip, causing the squealing sound. You may notice it more when your car starts up, when you rev up, or when you turn on the air conditioning. This should be attended to ASAP. A new drive belt is an easy, inexpensive repair, so get it checked out as soon as you notice a problem. Avoiding repair can cause much bigger problems. If the serpentine belt breaks, the drive torque is lost and the vehicle can no longer drive. The vehicle will lose power steering, or the charging system, or the engine cooling system, or all of them.

Humming, growling or roaring noise when driving down the road

Do you have old tires on your vehicle? Tires that may be beyond their service life can make a growling or roaring noise when driving. However, this can also indicate a more serious issue like bad wheel bearing. The easiest way to distinguish between the two is to move the wheel back and forth (as if you are changing lanes) while driving a constant speed down the road. If you notice a change in pitch while changing lanes and the noise returns when the car is going straight again, then chances are high that you have a bad bearing. Get this issue checked out immediately. You don’t want to be stranded on the side of the road with a vehicle that won’t move.