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.
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.