7 Strange Noises That May Diagnose Car Problems – And When to See a Mechanic

Car Problems
Photo: Regina Sober

If you are going to drive it, you need to learn to take care of it.

These are words of wisdom from my dad when I got my first car at 16. He wouldn’t just change my oil for me. I had to be a part of the process from getting the oil out to putting oil in, inspecting my tires and rotating them. This has proved important for the many life experiences I have had with vehicles. Knowing what sounds your car is making may indicate if it’s time to see a mechanic or not. You want your car to keep you on the road, not stranded.

Keeping your car maintained, will (hopefully) keep it from having major issues. Having normal maintenance and oil changes performed as stated by the manufacturer can help your car run smoothly. Listening for changes in noises when it’s on the road, at a stop/idle or in park can also help. You may need to turn down the radio and reduce your volume of singing (occasionally).

Disclaimer: I am not a mechanic, please consult a professional for a diagnosis of your vehicle’s problems.

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A Girls Guide To Cars | 7 Strange Noises That May Diagnose Car Problems - And When To See A Mechanic - When You Need Mechanic Suspension

Springs, bearings and other parts can wear out and make an awful noise. Photo: Regina Sober

Sounds that Mean Your Car Needs Repairs

1. Shimmy/shuddering – If you are feeling a shimmy, it could be the tires are out of balance or a front-end alignment is needed. Be sure to tell the mechanic if you feel the shimmy in the seat or the steering wheel; this might indicate if it’s the front or rear tires.

2. Screeching – High-pitched screeching, like metal on metal, could mean your brakes need to be replaced. You may also be experiencing difficulty stopping.

3. Squealing belts –  This could indicate that the belts are getting worn out (and could break) or possibly something with a pulley bearing. Belts drive just about everything in the car. Your vehicle could eventually overheat, and your electrical components could stop working, leaving you stranded.

Belts Drive Just About Everything On The Car.  Photo: Regina Sober

Belts drive just about everything in the car.  Photo: Regina Sober

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4. Clicks – From the front of your vehicle, clicks could mean there is a problem with the battery (won’t turn over, no power in the vehicle), or the alternator (which will usually try to turn over). A ticking/clicking could also indicate an issue with oil pressure.

5. Hissing – If your vehicle is making a hissing noise, chances are it is on the verge of overheating or has overheated. Do you see steam? This could mean you are low on coolant or something more serious. Another reason your vehicle could be hissing is because you have a serious leak in a tire. You will need to change your tire if you cannot make it to a service station or call for help.

6. Knocking – This could be an indication that the fuel/air mix is not right. Make sure you are using the correct fuel octane for your vehicle. Knocking can also be caused by spark plugs or fuel injectors.

7. Rattling when accelerating – Something could be loose on the vehicle. It can also mean something is going on with the engine. It could also be your exhaust. Try to determine which part of the car the noise is coming from.

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How to Tell the Mechanic What You’re Concerned About – and Not Be Embarrassed

You’re not the mechanic! It’s the mechanic’s job to figure out the issue. Still, the more information you can give them, the better the problem can be diagnosed. Plus, you decrease the chances of being bamboozled with false issues.

  • Tell them the sound the vehicle is making without mimicking the sound
  • Try to determine what part of the car the sound is coming from (engine, tires, exhaust, rear of the car)
  • Explain when the vehicle makes the sound (at an idle, driving on the highway, when on a dirt road, in park, at a light, when braking or turning)
  • Whether the noise happens when the vehicle is first started or after it has been driven for a while
  • If the problem happens all the time or intermittently
  • Any changes you have done to the vehicle (change in type of gas, other services recently done)

7 Strange Noises That Indicate Your Car Needs A Mechanic

Regina makes excuses just to get in her van and drive. One of her happy places is driving on... More about Regina Sober