When your car develops a problem, the first sign that something is wrong is often an unfamiliar sound. The older your vehicle gets and the more mileage you put on it, the more sounds it will inevitably make. Some noises indicate more serious issues than others, so listening and knowing the difference is essential. Here are some of the most common.
Squealing or a high pitch squeaking when you brake
A squeal is usually your car trying to tell you the brake pads are starting to wear down. Some brake pads’ material is just noisier than others, meaning it could be nothing, so note if the sound is getting louder. It’s essential to get this checked early. According to The Pricer, the cost of brake pads themselves is only in the range of $30-$80. After labor, your out-the-door price is usually between $200 and $300 for most cars. If you wait too long, you could start to hear a metallic screech or grinding. That isn’t good. That’s metal-to-metal contact and likely means damage to your rotors. So how much does it cost to replace rotors?
That jacks the cost north of $500-$600.
An ounce of prevention is definitely worth a pound of cure in this case.
Grinding when turning the wheel
If your car grinds when you turn, it could be as simple as low power steering fluid. If that’s the case, use your owner’s manual to find the power steering fluid reservoir cap, check the level, and top it off if necessary. A more severe issue could be if air gets in where it shouldn’t. You can run your vehicle with the cap off. If you see bubbles form, get your car to a trusted professional to prevent serious damage.
A chirping or squealing sound from under the hood
Do you hear a chirping sound coming from the engine? It could be a consistent sound or may be more pronounced when first starting your car. That could be a bad belt. Belts become loose and worn down over time. They drive everything from your alternator to your AC compressor to your power steering pump. The good news is that belts are one of the easier things to replace on your car, often costing under $200, including labor.
Thumping when going over bumps
We’re not talking about hitting potholes or going over speed bumps here. Those thumps are normal, but thumps or clunking can indicate worn shock absorbers when going over more minor bumps. Here’s a simple test. When parked, push down the hood or trunk repeatedly to see if the noise can be replicated. The vehicle should bounce no more than twice; more than two bounces can mean worn shocks.
A low rumble at high speeds
When you accelerate and travel at a higher speed, do you hear a low rumble? It could indicate an issue with your tires or wheel bearings. Tire issues can often be diagnosed with a visual inspection. If they’re worn, bulging, or otherwise damaged, you can often see the problem. On the other hand, wheel bearings aren’t something you can see. If you’ve ruled out an obvious issue with the tires, get your vehicle to the mechanic to have your bearings professionally inspected. It’s essential to take care of bad bearings before they cause bigger, more expensive issues like damage to the wheel hub.
If your car is generally louder than normal
You could have an exhaust leak. Exhaust is designed to pass through the system into your muffler to do precisely that. Muffle the sound. If you have a hole somewhere in your exhaust system before reaching the muffler, your car could sound like a hot rod. The most common cause of exhaust leaks is a hole in your pipes or muffler caused by rust. You can check out a few great ways to prevent rust here. (ç add link to rust blog once posted)
A regular click every couple of seconds when the AC is running
Your refrigerant is probably low. Low refrigerant can be accompanied by poor AC performance, such as blowing cold only when the vehicle is in motion. If this is your only issue, you’re getting off pretty easy. Recharging your air conditioning system is not time-consuming or expensive by your trusted professional.
Ratcheting sound from front end
Are you hearing a ratcheting sound? It could indicate failing CV joints. CV joints on front-wheel-drive vehicles transfer power to the wheels and could make a rhythmic clicking or ratcheting sound if something is wrong.
How do you know if your CV joints are bad? A straightforward test is finding a parking lot and driving in a circle with the wheel turned to one side. Turn the wheel in the other direction and see if the noise gets louder on one side versus the other. If it does, you definitely might have a bad joint.
An unfamiliar sound can be a nerve-wracking experience for any car, truck, or SUV owner. You can take the anxiety out of the equation with a protection plan from Protect My Car. We have Selective and Comprehensive plans. The right plan for you depends on the age and mileage of your vehicle. Check out our coverage plans here.