5 Common but Abnormal Car Noises and What They Mean

ASE Technician checking for abnormal car noises

Despite all the modern vehicle diagnostics built into vehicles, there’s still no substitute for listening to your car while you drive. Cars make all sorts of noises when things are amiss, and these sounds often reveal what’s wrong. If you hear any of these five common but abnormal noises emanating from your car, this is likely what’s going on.

1. Squealing While Braking

A high-pitched squealing sound that occurs only while you’re breaking indicates that your brakes are wearing out. Specifically, the pad — which rub against the rotors — is thin. The squeal comes from an indicator in the pad that also rubs against the rotor once the pad needs to be replaced.

Once you hear this squealing sound, make an appointment to have your brakes serviced soon. You don’t need to head immediately to a service center, but you also don’t want to delay too long. If you have the brakes serviced promptly, you’ll only need to replace the pads. If you delay too long, you’ll also need to replace the rotors. Replacing both costs more.

2. Grinding While Braking

If you hear a loud grinding sound when you brake, the pads and indicator have worn out. Now the metal backing that held the pad is pressing against the metal rotor. What you hear is the metal-on-metal friction.

Grinding brakes need to be replaced immediately. With the pad’s breaking material fully gone, the brakes are compromised and not nearly as effective as they should be.

3. Clunking While Braking

A clunking sound that’s noticeable primarily when you brake is suggestive of a broken brake caliper. This is a small piece of hardware in the brake, and it’s sometimes easily broken because it is so small. Depending on the caliper’s precise place and issue, the sound might continue for a few moments after you release the brakes.

You won’t be able to ignore a broken caliper as it will likely lock up the affected wheel. If you suspect a broken caliper, do not drive your car until you have a technician repair the problem.

4. Hissing Sounds After Getting Out

A hissing sound that continues after you turn off your car and get out means that some fluid in the engine compartment is leaking. The fluid spills out of its hose or container onto a hot component, and the sound is the fluid boiling off the component.

This could be as simple as a small leak in a power steering hose, or it could be a major problem with your transmission. Unfortunately, this sound isn’t more precise.

Because your car may have a severe problem, you should check a couple of items before driving. First, look at the temperature gauge on the car’s dash to make sure the car isn’t overheating. Second, check all of the fluids in the engine compartment to make sure they’re at appropriate levels. If either is amiss, have your car towed to a service center or refill the fluid.

As long as the temperature and fluid levels are alright, you can drive your car to a service center. You don’t need a tow, but you also should go directly to a service center in case the problem quickly gets worse.

5. Knocking While Driving

Knocking sounds in the engine compartment are often caused by using improper fuel. You likely filled up with a lower-rated fuel than your car needs. Check your owner’s manual to see what octane rating is recommended and use that. This should eliminate the noise, and you should have your car checked by a mechanic if it doesn’t.

If you hear any of these noises, don’t ignore them. Contact Tire Works Total Car Care to schedule an auto service appointment.

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