2009 Spring Car Guide
green mountains and blue sky with a silver gear shift in the foreground
16 costly car noises

Noises are just part of operating a vehicle.

Tire treads hum against the asphalt, wind whistles as it passes around outboard mirrors, plastic bits and pieces in the dashboard generate little squeaks as they rub together and so forth.

Most of us don't even notice these harmless notes after a while. But some noises aren't so innocuous. You should not ignore certain thumping, banging, clicking and squealing sounds. These sounds often rear their heads or intensify whenever the driver takes specific actions such as stepping on the accelerator, depressing the brake pedal or turning the steering wheel sharply.

Listen for these noises. If any suddenly becomes part of your everyday driving experience, it's time to take action. Something is probably very wrong. Ignoring the symptom won't make the problem magically go away. Delay can provide the time for a problem to worsen, and that usually translates into a bigger and more expensive repair.

Here are some of the more common noises that can spell trouble and their possible causes:

16 deadly sounds
  1. Any sound when turning a corner.
  2. Clunking when braking.
  3. Flapping.
  4. Grinding manual transmission when shifting.
  5. Hissing or sizzling under the hood.
  6. Knocking from the engine compartment.
  7. Loud bang.
  8. Low-pitch humming under the car.
  9. Popping from the engine compartment.
  1. Rattles from beneath the vehicle.
  2. Roaring that increases with acceleration.
  3. Squealing or chirping on acceleration.
  4. Squealing wheels when applying brakes.
  5. Scraping or grinding when applying brakes.
  6. Tapping or clicking from the engine compartment.
  7. Whining.

Any sound when turning a corner: More than likely this is related to the steering linkage. It either needs lubricating, or is damaged and requires replacement.

Clunking when braking: A brake caliper or other hardware is damaged, missing or improperly mounted.

Flapping: This could either be something interfering with the fan or a belt disintegrating.

Grinding manual transmission when shifting: This is probably a clutch issue. It is either worn or requires adjusting. It could also indicate a deeper problem within the transmission.

Hissing or sizzling under the hood: Heard when the engine is first shut off, something is leaking. Coolant or oil could be leaking onto a heated engine part, such as the exhaust manifold; a vacuum line could be leaking; or the engine could be overheating.


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