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Fixing Rattles and Squeaks in Your Vehicle

Updated on January 28, 2014
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Kate is a research enthusiast with a Bachelor of Science degree from Sonoma State University. Kate has a passion for the automotive field.

Have a rattle? Got a squeak? One of the most annoying - and potentially dangerous - sounds while driving your car can be a persistent noise of mysterious origin. It can be confusing, and if important, it can cause damage or an accident. It is important to isolate the cause of the sound because although it may not be a threat to life and limb, it can just be very irritating. It may be a good idea to just find out what it is as soon as possible. Once you find out what it is, fixing it is usually a simple operation.

Isolate the Sound: Without extensive experience and a lot of luck, isolating a sound will often require the help of a friend. Unless the sound exists when the car in standing still, you'll need someone to drive while you search, or vice-versa. By the way, if the noise is being made while the car is standing still, it is probably related to the moving parts of the heating or cooling system inside the passenger area, or under the hood. Pop the hood and listen closely. Be careful not to get near moving parts. The cooling fan will turn on and off in cycles, so don't get too near it because it may surprise you and start spinning. It may also be the source of the noise.

If it isn't an internal engine noise or other part that is noisy while the engine is running but the car is standing still, it may be time to go for a ride. While one person drives the car at the right speed to cause the noise, the other can move about the vehicle and try to seek the origin. Common places to look include upholstery against a metal object, something on or inside the dashboard, a seam in the car parts and especially something like a lug wrench in the trunk that isn't fastened down.

Stop the Noise: The tools for the job are simple if the remedy does not require an auto shop and trained mechanic. Sometimes a wrench or pliers to bend or to tighten a loose component or tape and single-sided foam tape can work wonders. Bear in mind that heavy objects don't respond well to tape and foam. They require being moved or bolted or even a towel to separate them from the object they are hitting or rubbing.

Here’s a word of warning. Safety and caution are important, here. Seasoned pilots have crashed airplanes when distracted by a broken warning light or other simple disturbance. Poking your head under the hood with the engine running can also be dangerous if you have belts or straps or something hanging that can get caught in a moving part.

Finally, fixing rattles and squeaks in your vehicle is not a difficult task if you have some help and exercise patience. Once you classify the problem, you can take the car to a mechanic for professional help or diagnose and fix the problem yourself. Most rattles and squeaks end up being a toy under the seat or plastic car parts rubbing together. Exercise caution while you take action, and you'll soon forget you ever had that annoying squeak or rattle in the first place.


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