common car noises

A car makes a variety of sounds, but do you know what they mean? Take some time to learn about some common sounds your car might make, what they mean, and helpful tips on what to do about them.

Under the hood

If you’re hearing: a squeaking or squealing sound

What’s probably causing it: a loose or worn belt, like a serpentine belt or another type of accessory belt

What to do about it: Your serpentine belt works with a lot of vital pieces of equipment in your car, including the alternator, power steering pump, and air conditioning compressor. If you think the screeching sound is a loose or worn belt, make an appointment with a mechanic to have it looked at.

If you’re hearing: a tapping or clicking sound from your engine

What’s probably causing it: The most common problem, and the easiest one to fix, is that the engine is low on oil.

What to do about it: Check your oil level first. If the level is okay, the problem could be a loss of oil pressure somewhere in the system. This could be caused by a blockage of some sort or an issue with valves, which needs to be looked at by a mechanic.

Underneath your car

If you’re hearing: a chugging or rattling noise

What’s probably causing it: your exhaust system.

What to do about it: A chugging sound could mean there’s a blockage in the exhaust system, whereas a rattling sound might mean you’re out of alignment. Any potential issue with your exhaust system should be looked at by a mechanic.

Your brakes

If you’re hearing: a metallic screech or loud grinding sound when you hit your brakes

What’s probably causing it: Worn out brake pads.

What to do about it: Take your car to a mechanic for new brake pads.

If you’re hearing: Slight squealing from your brakes in the morning

What’s probably causing it: accumulated moisture, which can be normal. Rust can build up on the rotors overnight, which can cause a grinding or squealing sound.

What to do about it: Driving will remove the rust and the noise should go away on its own. However, if you want to decrease rotor rust, try parking your car in a garage (especially when it rains, snows, or is excessively humid outside).

Noisy tires

If you’re hearing: a thudding noise from your tires

What’s probably causing it: low air pressure in your tires or poor alignment.

What to do about it: Check the air pressure in your tires and make sure they’re inflated to meet the tire manufacturer’s recommended levels (this information can be found in your owner’s manual). If that doesn’t take care of the problem, see about getting them aligned.

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