Almost every driver has had to deal with car noises, those sometimes annoying, sometimes alarming signals from you vehicle that something unusual might be going on. Whether it’s a bang, a clunk or a rattle, anytime your automobile talks out of turn is cause for you to pay a little closer attention to what it might be trying to tell you.
While you should always check out any suspicious noise, the handy guide below lays out the sounds that warrant the most attention.
Most of the time when you hear car noises that sound like grinding it’s an indication that one of your vehicle’s components has worn out. If the grinding gets worse when you hit the brake pedal — or if you can feel it through the pedal itself — it’s not something you should ignore. The same can be said for a grinding sound that emanates from a specific wheel while the vehicle is rolling, even if it’s in neutral. This can be a sign that a wheel bearing needs to be replaced, which is not the kind of repair you can delay.
Typically, most car noises that involve a rubbing sound mean just that — some part of your automobile is touching another part when it really shouldn’t. This can be as simple as a piece of loose trim rubbing on a tire, or a tire touching the inside of a wheel well during a turn, but don’t ignore it! Two parts rubbing together often leads to at least one of them failing over time.
Clunking car noises usually indicate that something is loose or worn out, either in your vehicle’s drive train or its suspension system. If you hear a clunk when going over a speed bump or hitting a pothole — and if that clunk is accompanied by a more metallic sound — that usually points to a suspension issue, which could mean a bushing, control arm or shock absorber needs to be replaced. If the clunk happens when you hit the gas pedal or shift gears, then you are most likely looking at a U-joint or CV joint that is on its way out.
If you hear a distinct ping coming from your engine when you accelerate, especially uphill, then you might not be using the right type of gasoline in your car. Every vehicle requires a certain octane level to resist “knock,” which is a term used to describe the fuel in each cylinder igniting before the spark plug has fired. Knock can damage your engine, and it robs you of both power and fuel mileage. Check your owner’s manual to find out what the minimum octane rating should be for your car, and if filling up with that type of gasoline doesn’t fix the issue, you should stop in at your local NAPA AutoCare Center to find out what might be wrong with your motor.
For more information on unusual car noises and what they might mean, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Having been bitten by the car bug at a young age, I spent my formative years surrounded by Studebakers at car shows across Quebec and the northeastern United States. Over ten years of racing, restoring, and obsessing over automobiles lead me to balance science writing and automotive journalism full time. I currently contribute as an editor to several online and print automotive publications, and I also write and consult for the pharmaceutical and medical device industry.