Driving with your windows closed and the audio system cranked up can be fun. It might be a bit distracting, but it has its advantages. At least, as long as you like to play ostrich with your head buried in the sand. In that case, the isolation of your passenger compartment and the beat from your speakers are perfect to drown out noises that your car might be making, signals that your car is having a problem. But turn down the radio, or open up the windows, and you just might find that your car is trying to tell you something.
Really, whether you prefer loud music, quiet solitude, or the roar of your engine when you are driving, sometimes noises occur that are not normal. When vehicle components wear out or become damaged they often make telltale sounds that can point to a problem.
Here are six sounds your car is not supposed to make and some possible reasons it makes them anyways.
1. High-pitched squealing when you start your car
f your car makes a screeching or squealing sound when you fire up the engine, it is probably due to a worn serpentine belt. Also known as a drive belt or alternator belt, the serpentine belt spins, or “drives”, peripheral engine components such as the alternator, air conditioning compressor, and the power steering pump. If the belt is significantly worn or glazed, or if one of its pulleys is seized, it can cause a squealing noise. This can also happen when you turn the steering wheel and engage the power steering pump.
2. High-pitched squealing when you hit the brakes
If, on the other hand, your car makes a squealing sound when you step on the brake pedal, your brake pads are most likely worn down and in need of replacement. When you activate the brakes, hydraulic pressure squeezes the brake pads (that contain special friction materials) against the brake rotors to slow and stop the car. When the pads wear down, they need to be replaced. Now, this sound is not entirely abnormal. Devices called “wear indicators” are in place to rub against the rotors and create the noise to alert you that it is time for maintenance.
3. Grinding noises when you hit the brakes – or even when you don’t
If you are experiencing this sound, you probably ignored the last one, or you kept your stereo cranked. Grinding noises usually mean that your brake pads have worn down completely – the friction material is gone – and they are making metal-on-metal contact with the brake rotors. When this happens, not only is braking efficiency compromised, but damage is occurring to the rotors. Now, it is past time for maintenance and it is likely that more parts than just the brake pads need to be replaced. Severely worn pads can also cause the noise to happen even when the brakes are not applied. This is when it helps to roll the windows up so it is not so embarrassing at a stop light.
4. Clunking , clanking, or clicking sounds
Any one of these noises can point to worn or damaged suspension components. The ball joints, control arms, tie rod ends, and struts all have joints or bushings that can wear out with time and use, and each tends to make one of these sounds when it does. Suspension problems generally show up when there is a transfer of vehicle weight from one part of the car to another, such as happens when you brake and the weight surges forward, or when you are turning and the weight shifts to one side or one corner of the car. So, if there is a worn suspension component, you will typically hear a clunking sound when you hit a bump, when you make a turn, or when you brake. Sometimes the sound can be replicated when the vehicle is standing still by pressing down and up on the corner of the car to make it “bounce”. A technician may take the vehicle for a test drive to listen for the sound before lifting it up on a hoist and performing a series of tests to locate the problem.
5. Growling when your car gets up to a certain speed
In order for your car’s tires to spin, a set of ball bearings is in place inside the wheel hub (where the wheel is connected). These are called “wheel bearings” and they are housed together in grease-filled assemblies. Over time, the wheel bearings can wear out and develop flat spots. When this happens, a growling or rumbling sound can be heard. The noise tends to get louder the faster you drive. If you hear the sound, it may take a while for the bearings to wear out severely. But a severely worn wheel bearing can cause the wheel to fall off, so it is better to have them replaced sooner than later.
6. Creaking sound when you go over bumps or make a turn
So, your car is not making a clunking noise, but it is creaking. You obviously enjoy peace and quiet or you are paying attention because this sound is usually somewhat faint. Creaking noises are not always easy to pinpoint, but they can be annoying. These are usually caused by a worn rubber bushing somewhere in the suspension. Control arms, lateral arms, trailing arms, and even upper strut mounts can all cause a creaking sound when you encounter a bumpy road or when weight transfers in a turn. This sound is less of a problem than it is an annoyance. If a bushing wears out severely, it will make a sound like number 4 above. Then, anyone can hear it.
There are days when it feels too cool for the A/C and too warm for the windows up. And there comes a time when everyone needs to turn off the music. Those are the days when you might ask yourself, “Where did that noise come from?” Whether the noise has just begun or has been happening for a while, take these six sounds as indications that it is time to take your car, truck, or SUV to a qualified technician for proper diagnosis and repairs.
Columbia Auto Care & Car Wash | Author: Mike Ales | Copyright
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