What’s That Sound? 10 Common Vehicle Sounds and What They Mean
You can tell a lot about what your car is doing by simply listening to it. On a racetrack, the rev of the engine and the squeal of the tires can tell you when you should shift or when you’re approaching the grip limit.
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During regular driving, though, being able to identify common vehicle sounds and what they mean can be a useful diagnostic tool when something is wrong. Here’s our top 10.
1. Squealing when braking – either you have dirt on your brake rotors, pads, or shoes, or the pads or shoes are badly worn.
2. Grinding when braking – yikes! The brake pads are so worn down that bare metal is scraping against bare metal!
3. Clunking when braking – a brake caliper is not mounted properly, or brake hardware is out of place.
4. Whining when turning the steering wheel – the power steering fluid needs to be replaced or the linkage is damaged.
5. Squealing when accelerating – one or more belts are loose and slipping.
6. Grinding when shifting with a manual transmission – you are not fully engaging the clutch when shifting, or the clutch is worn or requires adjusting.
7. Hissing or sizzling under the hood, after shutting off the engine – the engine is overheating, but most likely a fluid is leaking.
8. Popping under the hood – the engine is misfiring. This is also characterized by a loss in power and can be caused by ignition problems, a clogged fuel filter, worn or dirty spark plugs, damaged spark plug wires, or a damaged catalytic converter.
9. The engine gets abnormally loud when accelerating – the exhaust system is damaged or the car isn’t advancing to the next gear when it should (caused by slipping the clutch in a manual).
10. Tapping or clicking under the hood – the engine is low on oil. If the oil level is okay, it may indicate blockage in the system or a valve train issue.
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