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common car problems

Updated on April 8, 2017

Car noises are inevitable; even new cars have noises that need to be fixed. All vehicles will make noises but are the noises normal? Keep in mind, vehicle that comes out of the manufacturers/dealerships are not made 100% perfect or exact. No matter if the vehicle is worth $15,000 or over $100,000, there will still be a potential possibility that there will be some sort of squeak, rattle or creak; that is why purchasing a new vehicle comes with manufacturer warranty for the first 3 to 5 years.

Most car noises come from either engine, belts, pulleys, brakes, tires, exhaust, suspension, steering, or aerodynamic interference. In short, any moving parts or air flow. However, some noises should not be taken lightly as it can be a safety related issue or potentially cause severe damage to the vehicle if continue driving as is. An abnormal noise may be an early signal of an auto system or component failure. As a daily driver, you should be the first one to notice something is out of the ordinary. Learn to listen to your vehicle and address the sound early by having a mechanic inspect it which will save you a lot of money from costly repairs.

Steps to identifying the problem

Step one is to identify that there is a problem my listening closely to the noise when its signaling you there is something out of the ordinary.

Step two is try to pinpoint where the noise is coming from. If its from the inside or outside; from the left or right; from the front or back of the vehicle.

Step three is try to note down when does the noise occur. Answer these questions: road condition, weather condition, speed, and action (accelerating, decelerating, cruising, braking, turning, shifting, idling).

Step four, if required because the problem is intermittent, is to record the noise.

Step five is to have a trusted mechanic diagnose and repair the problem.

All these notes will help the mechanic reduce time in isolating and diagnosing the problem which will in turn save you money!

Here are some examples of common car noises:

Squeak, squeal, or chirp noise with engine on

Condition: During cold start up, idle, hard acceleration, full turns (with conventional power steering), and/or air conditioning on

Common cause: Worn, cracked, glazed, or brittle belt. Or possibly a seized or dry pulley system (includes alternator, air conditioning, water pump, idlers, etc)

Repair: replace belt and/or faulty pulley system


Squeak, squeal, or chirp noise when braking

Condition: noise during braking

Cause: worn brake pads hitting squealer, brake system needs to be serviced due to edges on pads/shoes and/or rotors/drums, faulty rotors (glazed, pitted, rust), old/dry pads due to not being driven enough or parked outside in the cold (surface rust).

Repair: replace pads/shoes and machine/replace rotors/drums

Scraping, grinding or metallic noise during braking

Condition: noise during braking

Cause: brake pads/shoes worn down to backing plate grinding the rotors/drums - metal to metal. Or possibly normal operation from the ABS (antilock braking system) due to slippery conditions

Repair: Replace brake pads/shoes and rotors/drums

Tinging/metallic/rattling noise when driving

Condition: noise during idle and acceleration - louder/faster during acceleration

Cause: exhaust heat shield on exhaust system loose

Repair: resecure, replace, or remove exhaust heat shield.

Fluttering noise or engine sounds a lot louder than before

Condition: vehicle sounds like a race car, even during idle

Cause: leaking exhaust or faulty muffler system

Repair: repair exhaust system or replace muffler

Clunking or clanking noise when driving over bumpy or rough roads

Condition: Clunking clanking noise when driving over bumpy or rough roads

Cause: Worn bushings, joints or suspension components such as sway bar bushings, steering tie rod ends, ball joints, struts/shocks, etc.

Repair: replace worn component

Ticking noise that goes along with the vehicle speed

Condition: ticking noise that goes along with the vehicle speed

Cause: rock or nail stuck in the tire

Repair: remove rock or nail from tire

Swiss swooshing water noise from inside the vehicle

Condition: water noise from inside the vehicle when driving and turning

Cause: Air conditioning drain plugged, so water is not draining from evaporator core and tray

Repair: unplug drain

Preventative maintenance

Preventative maintenance will reduce the possibility of you or your passenger ever saying " my car make noises" or "what is that awful noise" or "is it safe to continue driving?" The best maintenance habit for your vehicle is to have the vehicle inspected annually or every 16,000kms/10,000miles and by making sure you treat your car well by having the vehicle's engine oil and other fluids replaced/serviced during the recommended intervals. Note, fluid replacement/service recommendations may be different from each manufacturer but more frequent servicing will be healthier for the vehicle depending on the driver's driving habits and usage.

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