What’s That Sound? Common Car Noises and Their Causes

Common car noises

These days, affordable, mass-market cars are coming equipped with hi-fi stereos. Bang & Olufsen, Bose, and B&O Play systems are all available straight from the factory. Combined with advanced noise cancellation technology, you can hear some pretty sweet sounds in your vehicle. But today we’re not talking about listening to The Beatles’ white album while cruising the highway. We’re talking about the sounds you don’t want to hear in your car – screeching, squealing, groaning, and hissing. Here are some common mechanical sounds and what they might mean. 

Screeching

Let’s start with one of the most obvious car noises. When you press the brake pedal, the friction material on your brake pad is pushed down against the brake rotor. The friction slows your wheels and brings your vehicle to a stop. But over time, the friction material on your brakes wears away.

Fortunately, most brake pads have a wear indicator (a spring and metal pad) that creates a squeal or screeching sound when you need to replace them. If you only hear the screech for the first few stops on a cold morning, that’s probably just the rust (it’s normal and can accumulate overnight when damp or cold) being worn away and you shouldn’t worry. But if you hear the screech every time you brake in all conditions, you probably need to replace your pads.

Grinding

If, instead of a screech, you hear a harsh grinding sound when you apply the brakes, chances are you’ve already allowed the brake pads to wear completely. Now, there’s nothing to separate the metal caliper from the the steel rotors. Metal on metal contact is obviously bad for your rotors. If you drive that way for a while, your rotors may require replacement which is far more costly than a simple set of pads. You may also hear brake grinding if your brakes were installed improperly.

Engine Knocking

If you hear a knocking or pinging sound coming from your engine, usually at acceleration, there is one primary culprit. Knocking usually occurs when the fuel/air mixture in your combustion chamber is burning unevenly. This can damage the cylinder wall and the piston. If you hear this sound make sure you’re using fuel with the amount of octane recommended in your owner’s manual. If that doesn’t solve the problem, visit Capital GMC Service to check for:

  • Faulty ignition timing
  • Defective or incorrect spark plugs
  • Carbon deposits

Squealing

Have you noticed a squealing sound coming from your engine bay? Is it more common on cold mornings, and does it subside as your engine warms? Rubber belts are used to connect a number of components in your car. The serpentine or drive belt is connected to a number of systems like the alternator and power steering pump. The timing belt is more important. It synchronizes the rotation of the crankshaft and camshaft. In the simplest terms, if the timing belt breaks, your car won’t run.

If any of the belts in your car are poorly connected or simply get old and crack, they may start to squeal. The sound is pretty hard to misconstrue. Bring your vehicle to Capital GMC Service for inspection immediately, and we’ll assess them problem. Belt replacement is relatively inexpensive, and having it done before a belt breaks or slips off can save you from being stranded.

Diagnosis

These are just a few diagnoses to common car noises. However, even the most experienced ear has its limits. Sometimes the subtle difference between a squeal and a squeak can separate very different problems with your car. My point is, if your car is making an unusual or unpleasant sound, you should have it inspected immediately. Just book an appointment at Capital GMC Service, and we’ll get to the bottom of the mechanical issue so you can get back to enjoying your Bose audio system.

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