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Identifying and fixing the 10 most common car noises

If you are having car troubles you are likely old enough to recall that "Hunk of Tin" song that was fun to sing as a child growing up: "…honk honk rattle rattle crash beep beep…" But it's not all fun and games now that the sounds your car is making could disrupt your lifestyle and cost you a fortune to repair. Understanding the sounds your car is making will be the first step towards fixing the problem and preventing future problems. 

1. Squeaks and chirps 

These types of sounds can mean a variety of issues are occurring based on the task the vehicle is maneuvering. If the vehicle is accelerating while the chirping is happening, then this is likely an issue with a loose or slipping belt. If the high pitch squeak or squeal is more prominent while braking it is a good indication that the vehicle could have worn-out pads or shoes. Both of these issues are a result of wear-and-tear on the car and will need some up-keep to contribute to a functioning vehicle. A drive belt should be checked between 40,000 and 70,000 miles while brake pads should be checked at every oil change. By checking these factors within the appropriate amount of time it can help prevent failed brakes and several other expensive fixes with engine accessories.

2. Rattles 

A common explanation to the rattling noise from under your car is that there is a need for a repair to the exhaust system. Whether a part of the system needs to be patched or replaced these repairs will vary. There could be a loose pipe, a portion of the pipe could have suffered from erosion, or there could be a hole in the system somewhere. Mother Nature is almost always going to take her toll on eroding exhaust pipes and the underbelly of your car. As a preventative measure, it doesn't hurt to wash the sand and salt from the undercarriage of your vehicle depending on the climate you find yourself in most often.
3. Groans

Typically a groaning noise indicates that there is a lack of fluid. Specifically, the power-steering pump could be a little thirsty and may need a fix to carry on with its hydraulic structure. There are actually five fluids that are worth checking on a routine basis: engine oil, transmission fluid, coolant, brake fluid and power steering fluid. By ensuring you follow up with these checks, you will defend your car from dehydration and ultimately improve its function.
4. Hissing  

Hissing is a sign that there could be a leak either in the cooling system or a vacuum line. It has been suggested that a seven-point preventative cooling system maintenance check is performed at least once every two years. Unless you are familiar with identifying any cracks or tears in the hoses, pumps, plugs and gaskets under the hood of the car, this is something that can be done by a professional at the next tune-up. It will be worth it to have it checked before finding the leak the hard way. 

5. Grinding 

There are several different reasons you might hear a grinding noise from your car. The most common is stripped brakes. If the pads are completely worn off it causes metal to rub on metal, hence, the grinding noise. Another metal-on-metal outcome could be an axle bearing. You might hear or feel this coming from the wheel of your car. Another reason for the grinding sounds could be the transmission and the grinding of gears. Regardless of the grinding sounds you are experiencing it is always best to have these issues addressed sooner rather than later. The grinding will almost always lead to a more expensive fix in the future. 

6. Humming 

A need for new tires or wheel bearings could be the outcome of a humming sound in your car. To determine which you might need you can test the wheel bearings safely while changing from one lane to the next on the highway. If you hear a change in the tone of the humming while maneuvering the lane change it and it seizes while driving straight it is likely a wheel bearing. Wheel bearings can be protected by an individual's driving patterns and drive-style. Avoiding pot holes and other obstacles that obstruct a smooth driving surface can reduce the risk of damaged bearings. However, when it comes to tires, those do typically require replacement on a more routine basis due to the wear-and-tear they encounter from daily elements. 

7. Clunking

Bad ball joints might be one of the many explanations for that clunking sound you hear while cruising over bumps or pot holes. Although a long list of alternative issues stems from the clunking sound that you're experiencing. Suspension components alike could be the blame and even a loose exhaust system in the undercarriage could define the problem. Ball joints are well protected and greased adequately to perform for a long time. However, they do get worn down and can be vulnerable to dirt and grit. An alert will typically inform you of any issues that arise from this situation. You should be given plenty of notice before a ball joint fails. It's highly recommended to repair this problem at the first sign of trouble or you could end up on the side of the road. 

8. Clicking

The first and most typical place to check for problems is the oil levels. It could be that your vehicle is low on engine oil or there could be a loss of oil pressure. Oil changes are probably the most common type of service drivers are familiar with. To prevent issues with the engine oil it is smart to keep up with adequate oil changes as your owner's manual would suggest. Most individuals would use the rule-of-thumb, 3,000 mile service for their oil changes, but it is important to confirm proper time between oil changes through the owner's manual.  

9. Popping

A popping sound might be the source of several different concerns. Ignition trouble, blocked fuel filters, tattered or unclean spark plugs or impaired spark plug wires could all lead to a popping noise. Like oil changes, it is wise to refer to your owner's manual on how often to change spark plugs. The general response has been to check and change spark plugs, if necessary, every 30,000 miles. 

10. Loud Bang

A loud bang, also known as a backfire, could be a bold air-fuel mixture or a malfunctioning catalytic converter. Typically a poisoned or clogged converter is the reason for the failure. If fuel additives are used more than usual it can shorten the lifespan of the converter. Bad exhaust valves and fouled plugs that allow unburned fuel to overheat in the converter are also reasons this problem can arise. The catalytic converter has an average lifespan of about 100,000 miles and you may want to consider professional help at the first sign of trouble. 

Don't let those noises intimidate you.  When you understand what they mean, getting your vehicle getting your vehicle serviced will be that much easier. Safe driving!