“Rattle Rattle Thunder Clatter” – Sounds Your Car Is Making and What to Do About Them

Most of us have experienced a curious sound coming from our vehicle. It is always a little nerve-racking, as some sounds can be indicators of serious problems, while others have simple fixes. Responding appropriately to the sounds your car makes can prevent problems from worsening, thus saving you a significant amount of money. The following explains what each sound means and what you can do to get rid of it.

The first part of diagnosing a noise-related problem is to determine where it is originating. Then establish when the noise occurs and how your car behaves when the noise starts. Finally, take your car into a professional mechanic and explain what your car is experiencing.

Backfire loud bang- This can be caused by an uneven air-fuel mixture or incorrect engine timing (slipped timing belt).
Chirping or squealing while accelerating- Loose, slipping belts are typically the cause of such a sound.
Clicking or tapping in your engine- The most common reason for this sound is low oil. If your oil level is good, there could be a loss of oil pressure.
Flapping- This may be a belt that is decaying or something is interfering with one of the fans.
Hissing or sizzling under the hood- If you hear this right when the engine is turned off, something is probably leaking. Any fluid that leaks under the hood hisses or sizzles when it touches the hot equipment around it.
Humming or whirring under your car- This type of sound is difficult to pinpoint because of the echoes and reverberations of the parts underneath your vehicle. A mechanic will have to diagnose it.
Knocking in your engine- This can be caused by using an incorrect fuel or oil grade. Always be sure to follow the correct oil, gasoline, and tire air pressure guidelines in your owner’s manual.
Noise from the front end while steering- May indicate bearing failure or steering linkage wear.
Popping in your engine- Potential problems include a clogged fuel filter or ignition or spark plug problems, especially if the engine misfires with the pop.
Rattling from under your car- This can be caused by loose parts such as your exhaust system.
Squealing wheels while braking- Causes range from small, such as dirt on the brake pads or rotors, to serious, such as worn pads. Brake noises are safety issues and require immediate attention.
Scraping or grinding while braking- If the squealing has gotten worse and now sounds like a scraping sound, this means your brake pads are completely worn down or close to it. This causes damage each time you apply the brakes.
Thumping on hard acceleration- May be felt through the steering wheel or floor & can be caused by broken engine or transmission mounts.
Whining- This sound usually indicates excessive transmission wear.

Each of the sounds outlined above may indicate serious problems. By identifying the what, when, and where of the sound(s), you can have the right conversation with your mechanic and prevent a small problem from growing larger and more expensive.

Does anyone else remember the old “Rattle Rattle Thunder Clatter” commercials?

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