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What Is That Sound? Decoding The Noises Your Car Makes

What Is That Sound? Decoding The Noises Your Car Makes

Did you know that back in 2017, the average car repair bill range was between $500 and $600?


That’s right.

Unfortunately, one-third of US motorists couldn’t pay it unless they took on debt.

Then, 2018 came, and along with it was a 10% drop in the average “check engine” repair rates from the year before. Still, the mean cost to fix these check engine issues amounted to $357. That’s a lot of money, especially for the 40% of Americans who don’t have $400 saved up for emergencies.

This is why you should always pay attention to car noises, as many of them are early signs of engine issues. Once you hear these odd car engine sounds, have a mechanic look under the hood. This can help prevent your engine from developing permanent damage.

Your ride’s engine isn’t the only possible source of these weird noises though. Many other parts, like the wheels and brakes, can also produce these sounds. We’ll explain these in more detail below, so be sure to keep reading!

Hissing Sound From Under the Hood

If your car makes a hissing noise, that’s a solid sign of an overheating engine. This can occur while the vehicle is in operation or right after turning the engine off.

Being almost out of engine coolant, which can happen if there’s a leak, is a common culprit. You’ll know that there’s a leak if you smell something sweet after popping the hood open. Steam from under the hood also indicates a coolant leak.

Another possible overheating cause is a low supply of or dirty motor oil. In both cases, the motor oil can no longer do its job of reducing the heat, friction, and wear within the engine. This can then make your engine go hotter than usual, and at a faster rate.

Metallic Clicking or Tapping Sounds From the Engine

These engine sounds can be coming from the valvetrain, which may mean you’re low on oil. It can also be a sign that your engine is having trouble stabilizing the oil pressure. Both issues can result in an increased valve lash, which is what causes the odd sounds you hear.

Sometimes, a quick engine oil top-up resolves these problems. If the noise is still there even after adding oil, then you may have leaks in the gaskets or crankshaft end seals.

You should get these leaks sealed up ASAP, especially if the warning light for low oil pressure turns on. Prolonged oil pressure loss can result in severe engine damage.

Clicking or Popping Noises Whenever You Make a Turn

Constant Velocity (CV) joints are ball and socket joints that act as connectors. Although small, these are crucial components found in all front-wheel drives.

There are two main types of CV joints: the inner and the outer CV joints. The inner ones hold together the drive shafts and transmission. Whereas the outer ones secure the drive shafts to the wheels.

Each CV joint contains a special lubricating grease. The rubber or plastic “CV joint boot” secures and seals this grease to keep it from leaking.

Over time, however, this protective boot will wear out and develop cracks. Moisture and dirt can enter this protective layer, while the special grease seeps out. The longer this goes on, the greater the damage to the CV joint itself.

Those clicking or popping sounds often result from a damaged CV joint or CV joint boot. These car sounds may mean that the metals in the joint are already coming into contact with each other.

Grinding Noises Whenever You Step on the Brakes

One of the most common types of car noise is a grinding sound whenever you put on the brakes. These sounds may take the form of squeals, squeaks, scrapes, creaks, or even groans. These sounds are usually due to the wear caused by friction.

Worn out brake pads are the main cause of grinding or scraping sounds from the brake system. Don’t ignore these noises, as extreme pad wear puts the brake rotor and caliper at risk. If you keep braking with worn pads, the rotor and caliper will also get damaged.

When damage to the brake rotor discs occurs, louder squeaking sounds are sure to follow. These often result from the discs developing grooves, scoring, or cracks. Worn-out rotor discs, on the other hand, will generate scraping or metal-to-metal sounds.

In these cases, you should already get new brake pads or a brake rotor replacement.

Any worn-out component of a brake system could reduce its effectiveness or even make it fail. This could then compromise your — and your passengers’ — safety.

In fact, a study found that 15.4% of all crashes had something to do with brake-related issues. Moreover, bad brake systems were some of the top risk factors of rear-enders.

Chirping or Squealing Car Noises From One of Your Wheels

This is a common sign that you already need a wheel bearing replacement. These sounds may occur whenever you change speeds or only at certain speeds. They may also get louder when you make turns, or they may go away at some speeds.

Either way, don’t ignore this cyclic car noise as it can result in the complete failure of the bearing. If this happens, the affected wheel can lockup, or worse, detach from your car.

Listen and Pay Attention to Your Car’s Cry for Help

There you have it, your ultimate guide on the different car noises and what they can mean. As you can see, many of them are early signs of bigger car troubles you should never ignore. Otherwise, they will only worsen and become more expensive to repair.

The good news is, many of these car parts are not that expensive to replace. You can even junk the old ones for cash. What’s important is to replace the worn-out ones ASAP, before they put you and other people in danger.

Ready to get those worn out parts removed and sold for cash? Then make sure to follow our handy guide on parting out your car!