Noises can reveal a surprising amount about the condition of a vehicle. The difference between a bump, squeal or squeak and when it typically occurs is an important diagnostic tool. Basic car issues such as thin brake pads or improper transmission oil can spiral into major system repairs, but listening to off noises while driving can help you catch them early. Here are some of the most common car trouble sounds and what they might mean for you.
Growling Brakes: Brake Pad Degeneration
Any time you hear the groan of metal on metal, it’s worth investigating what’s wrong with your vehicle. Brake pads may be the issue, as they are cushions that put friction on brakes to help the car stop. Over time, this friction erodes the brake pads, so it’s important to replace them every 10,000 or so miles.
If you hear groaning or growling noises while stopping, your brake rotors are grinding directly against the drums. Replace your brake pads right away to fix this safety hazard.
Clicking Engine: Battery or Starter Problems
Don’t ignore a clicking sound and slow engine turnover when starting up. This means that some aspect of your starter relay is malfunctioning, and soon, your vehicle won’t start at all.
Many people think jumping the battery will automatically start a failing car, but there are other causes of starter failure. The battery itself could be dead and need replacing. There could also be a problem with the alternator or crankshaft position sensor. One loud click, rather than a series of clicks, points to a problem with the starter, itself.
External Noises: Wheel Bearing Sounds
The wheel bearing on a car is the connection point between a wheel and its axle. Increased speeds put more pressure on wheel bearings, so if this part breaks, a wheel might fly off of your vehicle at highway speeds.
Luckily, listening while driving can alert you to this problem well before the component fails. The telltale sign of a failing wheel bearing is a growling or whining noise that becomes louder as you turn, especially at speed.
Gurgling Gears: Transmission Fluid Imbalance
The gears inside a transmission can overheat quickly, so transmission lines run oil back and forth between the gearbox and the radiator to cool it. If large air pockets form inside these lines, you’ll hear a gurgling sound while driving. This may mean you have a leak in your transmission lines or you need to add more transmission fluid. Either way, the transmission’s cooling system isn’t working and you’re risking an expensive breakdown.
Interior Noises: Cabin Air Filter Replacement
A properly functioning vehicle HVAC system should run quietly. If your car’s air conditioning or heating is whistling or whirring, it’s past time to replace your cabin air filter.
The cabin air filter catches dust, allergens and debris circling through your vehicle’s cabin. This keeps the air inside cleaner and healthier, and it also stops contaminants from damaging the HVAC system. Cabin air filter replacement is a cheap and easy home repair.
Paying attention to your vehicle helps keep you on the road instead of broken down on the shoulder. Turn down the radio regularly and make sure your car isn’t making any suspicious noises.