Why is My Car Making a Rattling Noise?

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If your car is rattling, it could be an issue with the drive belt, catalytic converter, exhaust system, or another problem, depending on where the rattling is located.
Rattling is a common symptom of a car part that has come loose, broken, or disintegrated. If your car has recently added rattling to its vocabulary, it’s time to take your vehicle to a mechanic or diagnose the problem and fix it yourself. 
It can be hard to pinpoint the source of rattling. That’s why the car insurance super app Jerry has compiled everything you need to know about why your car is rattling, diagnosing it, and how much it might cost to fix. 

Interior rattling

As a rule of thumb, it’s usually best to check the inside of the car first. This is because here, solutions will usually be the simplest and cheapest. To begin this process, leave your car on idle in a safe location and carefully examine each area of your car’s interior. 

What could it be? 

Because modern car interiors are a lot less likely—than the old ones—to rattle on their own, you should be looking for things that seem out of place. 
Particular hotspots for interior rattling:
  • Doors 
  • Windows
  • Cargo area 
  • Center console
You should be on the lookout for what's wiggling and what’s not, then go from there. Maybe a screw came loose on your glovebox? Or you’ve managed to lodge a coin stuck between your vents and the dashboard? In any case, rattling from these areas should be easy to diagnose.
Other things to be mindful of are general loose items. Objects that are both small and heavy. Think nails, washers, and loose change. Having too many of these items rolling around in your car isn’t just bad for rattling, but it can also negatively impact your car’s weight and fuel economy.

How expensive is it to fix?

Fixing an interior car rattle shouldn’t take much more than a screwdriver and a pair of steady hands, but if the sound comes from your doors or windows, these areas may require small replacements. 
Here are some commonly replaceable parts that could be causing your rattle:
  • Window channels, $10-$25
  • Door washers, $5-$10
  • Cup holder rims, $20-$45

Rattling under your car 

So you’ve checked the interior of your car and found nothing? The next logical step is to look underneath your car. Here, rattling often occurs during high speeds or on particularly bumpy roads.

What could it be?

Rattling underneath your car is caused by parts that have loosened or rusted over time.
The most common causes of rattling from the undercarriage are as follows:
  • Exhaust system—a series of pipes and mechanisms running across the car that can bounce against the road or undercarriage when loose. To diagnose, check if your tailpipe is significantly lower to the ground or if your exhaust is making more noise than usual.
  • Catalytic converter—controls your car’s emissions and is filled with small metal structures that can be damaged by excessive heat or impact. Damage to the catalytic converter is difficult to hear while driving but, in severe cases, will sound like a pair of scrap-filled maracas banging against the road.
  • Heat shielding—thin strips of metal that protect the underbelly of your car from serious heat. Heat shielding surrounds important areas like your exhaust and can be damaged by large debris and rust.

How expensive is it to fix?

To fix these issues, you’ll need to visit a mechanic—someone who will either quickly tighten whatever is loose or recommend that you order replacements.
Replacements can vary in price and cost to install:
  • Exhaust system—between $300-$1200, for larger damage.
  • Catalytic converter—anywhere from $900-$2,500 to replace, with the covert itself making up the bulk of the cost.
  • Heat shielding—between $150-$300 for a full replacement. If rust isn’t the source, you could fix this issue yourself by getting underneath your car and manually tightening the loose panels.
The most expensive replacement will be the catalytic converter, whose average cost ranges anywhere from $800-$1,200. You may even be able to fix heat shielding rattling yourself by getting under your car to tighten non-rusted panels.
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Rattling from the engine compartment

Rattling from the engine compartment is where things can get complicated and, sadly, more expensive. We recommend getting this type of rattling looked at in a shop.

What could it be?

The most straightforward fixes are those related to small parts of your engine—or parts attached to it—-that can be damaged by wear and temperature changes over time:
  • Drive belt—a rubber belt running along the outside of the engine.
  • Timing chain/belt—a chain or belt wrapping around a car’s crankshaft.
  • Water pump—metal chamber between radiator and engine.
  • Harmonic balancer—vibration damper located at the end of the crankshaft.
Some larger problems are associated with:
  • Valvetrain—results in a pinging or clicking sound like a sewing machine, which flutters when pulling off the gas.
  • Pistons— a clack-clack, or “slapping” noise that can happen after cold starting high-mileage vehicles.

How expensive is it to fix?

Rattling from your engine will require a trip to the mechanic. Smaller parts—like the drive belt, water pump, and harmonic balancer—will only need a small replacement. 
However, getting more integral pieces of engine repaired will cost you a pretty penny. Replacing your pistons will cost you around $300 an hour in labor alone. While getting your hands on and installing, a valve train can cost anywhere from $900-$1,800. 
Depending on the severity of your car rattle, though, we recommend these one-time fixes over the further engine damage that could happen if left unattended. 

Rattling from the wheel well

Rattling from the wheel well is a lot more common than you might think. This area is commonly at risk of coming into contact with kicked-up debris and uneven roads.

What could it be?

Likely causes are:
  • Suspension system
  • Brakes
  • Wheels/hubcap
Damage to the suspension system is likely the result of worn shock absorbers or loose bushings—without a lift, though, these will be difficult to identify. 
Brake pads, on the other hand, can be worn down over time and produce a screeching noise as opposed to a rattle.
Rattling coming directly from your wheels is usually the result of a loose lug nut connecting your wheel and hubcap. This can be diagnosed by gently pulling on your wheel—checking for any give—and requires immediate action!

How expensive is it to fix?

In any case, fixing a wheel well rattle usually requires a trip to the mechanic, with the cost of brake pads ranging from $150-300 per wheel and shock absorbers going for as high as $500 depending on your model.
A loose lug nut can be fixed using a bit of grit and a lug wrench. To fix this rattle, simply tighten any loose nuts on your wheel’s hubcap, ensuring it can’t shake while driving.

Finding car insurance without the rattle

When you first discover a rattle in your vehicle, it’s important not to panic, and the same goes for car insurance. 
It’s this simple: download the Jerry app or go to getjerry.com. In less than 45 seconds, Jerry collects all of your information from your existing insurer. Choose from competitive quotes from 50+ top insurance companies and Jerry takes care of the rest—securing your new policy and helping you cancel your old one. 
No long forms. No calling around. No hard work. Just savings. So you can get back to cruising without the rattle or the hassle.
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FAQs

First, you’ll have to find where the rattle is coming from. From there, you can decide whether the solution needs a trip to the mechanic or just a little elbow grease.
Likely, this will be caused by a loose or damaged part of your engine. The cost of this fix varies greatly depending on the part, with most likely suspects being loose belts/chains, piston problems, and faulty water pumps.

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