These Are the 5 Sources of the Noises You Don't Want Your Car to Make

The noises our cars make tell us how healthy they are. But how do we translate them into English?
Written by Andrew Koole
Our cars make sounds that we like—a muscle car revving its V8 engine, the blast of air conditioning on a hot day—but there are others we’d rather avoid.
Squealing, screeching, grinding, ticking, tapping, rattling, and hissing noises never make a driver happy. But what do each of them mean? Knowing what your car is telling you will allow you to deal with the issue quickly and potentially
you thousands of dollars in
car repair
Lucky for us,
compiled all these audible omens into five categories.

High-pitched noises from your engine

Whining, squealing, and screeching from your engine is like coming from one of three places—your driving belt, your power steering system, or your transmission.
Repairsmith says the driving belt is usually the culprit. Often, it will make unpleasant noises when you start the car and then stop once the engine warms up. But don’t assume the problem is fixed if you don’t hear it anymore. If it makes a noise at all, you should have it checked.
If the driving belt is fine, you likely have a problem with your power steering (the fluid level is low or the pump is broken) or your transmission (again, its fluid and pump would be the issue). Either way, have a mechanic take a look.

Ticking, tapping, or rattling from your engine

A lot of issues can cause ticking or tapping sounds in your engine, but one of the most common sources is low oil pressure. The best thing to do is check your levels right away and top them up if needed. Running out of oil can kill your car for good.
If your oil levels are fine, it could be any number of things, from a leaky exhaust manifold to a broken camshaft lobe. Best to bring the car to a trusted mechanic and let them find the source and fix it.

Grinding or scraping brakes

Most drivers have heard their brakes make a noise that puts the hair on the back of their neck stand. In most cases, this is the result of moisture (usually from wet weather) and the sound goes away once the brake pads dry.
But if the sound persists, it could be that your brake pads have worn out. If this is the case, you should have them replaced ASAP to ensure your brakes continue to work when you need them.

Grinding gears

If your vehicle makes unpleasant noises while changing gears, you likely have problems with one of two parts: your clutch or your transmission. A worn-out clutch is likely the issue, but not necessarily.
Depending on the type of transmission you have, you could be dealing with two different problems. If it’s a manual, it could be your synchronizers. If it’s an automatic, it could be a damaged planetary gear set.
Whether your clutch or your transmission is causing the noise, you should get a pro to find the ultimate source and fix it before you continue using the car.


Hissing is never a good sound, no matter where it comes from. Would you shrug off a snake or a person if they hissed at you? Then don’t shrug off a hiss from your car.
Hissing sounds are almost certainly caused by leaking coolant. If you hear this sound, turn your car off and let the engine cool off before topping your coolant up. If you try to do it too quickly, the hot, pressurized coolant could end up spurting out on you. Ouch!
After waiting and then adding coolant to the radiator, call your mechanic and have your car towed to the repair shop to get that leak addressed. 

Does car insurance cover these types of repairs?

car insurance
does not cover repairs. But mechanical breakdown insurance, an optional type of coverage, might take care of these types of repairs, depending on the details of the policy.
To decide whether or not to buy mechanical breakdown insurance, you need to balance the value of your vehicle to the cost of the coverage. You also need to know if you have an extended warranty on your car and what it covers.
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