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Is Your Car Making a Squeaking Noise When Driving? Car Sounds & Diagnostics

Is your car making a squeaking noise when driving? Whether it’s a squeal, click, hiss, rattle, or pop, any noise your car makes can be unsettling. Believe it or not, some sounds are intended to get your attention as a warning that it’s time for service. Brakes, for example, are designed to make a squeaking noise when it’s time for new brake pads. If your car is making a squeaking noise when driving slowly or you hear any other unusual sound, it’s time to seek out a professional for an inspection.

Here are some of the most common sounds cars make and their cause:

diesel engine timing belt

1. High-Pitched Squeal

You may hear this sound while accelerating or right after starting when the engine is cold. A loose or worn fan belt, also known as the serpentine belt, is usually the cause. Replacing this belt or belt pulley should eliminate the sound. Consider having the timing belt checked as well. This is a good idea as both are rubber components that become brittle with age and replacing them together, rather than separately, is more cost-effective and saves in labor fees.

2. Thumping

If you notice a thumping sound and a bumpier ride while you drive on smooth roads, check the air pressure in your tires. Driving with low tire pressure can be dangerous. Be sure to have your alignment checked as well. Vehicles that are out of alignment reduce fuel economy and cause premature tire wear.

3. Knocking

The dreaded knocking or pinging sound while accelerating could indicate a serious problem with your engine. Engine knocking is most commonly caused by poor fuel quality or incorrect fuel, poor timing of the engine, or a buildup of carbon. Take your vehicle to a professional for an inspection right away. A technician will tell you whether the engine knocking is an internal problem or if a minor adjustment is needed.

4. Whistling

Your engine should not whistle while it works. In fact, a whistling sound that stems from under the hood typically indicates a vacuum leak is present in one of the hoses around the air intake system. These leaks are difficult to find but are easily repaired once identified.

5. Popping or Sputtering

These sounds are usually heard coming from the front area of the car and may suggest that the emissions system, fuel system, or ignition system is struggling to operate properly. These issues are often due to a blocked fuel filter, faulty catalytic converter, or worn spark plugs.

6. Hissing

Don’t worry, a hissing sound that comes from under the hood is probably not a snake hitching a ride with you. It’s more likely a fluid leak that is falling down onto a hot area of the engine. This hissing is really more of a sizzle, as it may indicate radiator fluid has leaked onto the exhaust manifold or the engine block. If the hissing occurs during acceleration, it’s likely there’s a leak from one of the hoses near the air intake.

7. Groaning

The power steering system is a hydraulic system that aids in turning. However, when you hear a groaning sound when turning the steering wheel, often associated with a more difficult turning experience, the power steering fluid may be low due to a leak. Power steering trouble is a serious issue and should be addressed right away. Trouble with the power steering system makes controlling your vehicle difficult and could compromise your safety.

8. Squeaking Noise rusty front brake of car

The most common reason your vehicle may make a squeaking noise when driving is due to worn brake pads. Brake pads will indicate its time for their replacement by emitting a high-pitched squeak when you brake as a gentle reminder that it’s time to have your brakes checked. Sometimes, squealing or squeaking brakes can be attributed to a buildup of brake dust on the rotors. As your pads clamp down on the rotors, the bits of dust caught between them can cause the brakes to produce a high-pitched hum. Washing your car and spraying the wheel wells should silence them.

new and old drum brakes side-by-side

9. Clunking

This sound could be caused by several different things depending on where the noise is coming from. If the clunking occurs while braking, it could mean that your brakes are severely worn. An inspection from a technician will confirm whether the rotors, calipers, or pads require replacement to resolve the sound. If the clunk occurs while going over bumps, it may be due to poor suspension. If the clunking happens while going around corners, this could indicate a problem with the steering system, tires, or a faulty wheel bearing.

Do your knees pop when you walk? Do you make a groaning sound when you get up? Similar to humans, as cars age, they start to make noises. While somewhat inconvenient, these noises are the ideal way for your car to communicate that a certain area needs attention. Minor repairs, maintenance, or major repairs may be required depending on where the sound is coming from, how long it’s been making noise, and the age or mileage of the vehicle.

If your car is making a clunking, groaning, whistling, or squeaking noise when driving, our ASE-certified technicians are here to help. They’ll lend an ear and perform diagnostics to determine the cause of your vehicle’s unlikeable soundtrack and repair the issue. Then the only sound you’ll hear while you drive is the wind whipping through your hair as your favorite song plays on the radio.