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What’s That Sound? 10 Common Vehicle Sounds and What They Mean

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What’s That Sound? 10 Common Vehicle Sounds and What They Mean brake pad

What’s that sound? Could it be trouble with the brake pad?

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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