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Why Is My Car Making A Noise?

My car is making a noise… What is it and what can I do about it?

Due to there being many different mechanisms, moving parts, and components in a car, it is very worrying when they fail. But before they even get to that stage it can also be quite worrying to hear them making dodgy noises. This article will tell you what those different noises and sounds are that your car is making, and what this could mean. Understanding this can be a great indicator of any issues – and hopefully make it slightly less daunting for you to have fixed before it becomes a serious problem and cost a lot more money.

Why Is My Car Making A Noise When I Start It?

Engine Not Starting & There Is A Clicking Noise

If you are turning your engine on and hear a clicking noise, there could be an issue with your vehicle’s electrics, most likely your battery. It is typically a sign that your battery doesn’t have enough power to fire up the engine, or that it has a parasitic draw somewhere within the system.

A common time of year for batteries to fail is in the winter. This is because the battery is at a temperature close to freezing point, and struggles to turn your engine over.

You are able to get a free battery health check from the majority of garages and service centres, so it is wise to get your battery checked on a regular basis.

Starting Your Car To A Squealing Noise

If you are starting your vehicle and are hearing a squeaking noise, it is more common than not for it to be an issue with the auxiliary belt (sometimes referred to as the fan or serpentine belt). Its job is to drive the ancillary components of the vehicle such as the car’s alternator, AC pump, and sometimes the water pump.

As these are components that draw rotational power from the engine, they are under huge amounts of stress when starting the car. During cold weather, the belts (which are made from rubber) become harder and have less grip, which can cause them to slip and make a squealing sound.

Is This A Serious Issue?

It can be a noise that usually disappears after it first develops, but it will get worse if the issues aren’t fixed. Sometimes all that is needed to fix the problem is a simple tightening of the belt. If tightening isn’t done or the belt isn’t replaced, then it can become glazed, giving it a shiny appearance. This significantly reduces the grip and can cause the belt to slip even further.

If left unattended for long enough, the belt can eventually snap. Having a snapped belt will mean your car battery isn’t charging and can also cause your car to overheat, potentially causing hugely expensive engine damage.

Tapping Sound When Starting Engine

If you hear a loud metallic, high-frequency tapping when starting your engine, which fades away after a few seconds, your engine oil may be low and in need of a top-up.

Some cars have a device that allows your engine to run with less risk of damage, called a camshaft. They are hydraulic devices that require oil to operate. When your car is low on oil it can take a few seconds for the oil to reach the device, which is located on top of the engine, causing the tapping noise on start up.

Is This A Serious Issue?

It can be normal to hear this sound in some cars, even when it has the correct amount of oil. You will be more likely to hear it on colder days, and /or when the car hasn’t been started for a period of time, such as overnight or over the weekend. That said, if it is making the tapping noise each and every time the engine is started, then it is wise to take it to a garage to get checked out.


Related Reading: Common Causes of Engine Overheating for Car Owners


My Car Makes A Noise When I Turn The Wheel

There can be many different reasons why you hear a noise when making a turn with your vehicle. To narrow down the issues you should differentiate what the noise is from any other noises such as when you are turning a corner, turning the wheel, or if the car is stationary.

If the noise happens when you are turning the wheel, this typically indicates that there is an issue with your vehicle’s power steering unit. 

If the noise happens when you are turning your vehicle, then it could be an issue with the tracking, suspension, or wheel bearings. It could also be due to a worn constant-velocity (CV) joint. A CV is what links the transmission to the wheels, allowing the vehicle to move. The noise this type of issue will make is a clicking sound, which happens more often when you increase your speed.

Regardless of what type of noise it is, you should go and get it checked out as it indicates there is an issue with the wheels, steering or tracking.


Related Reading: How Often Should You Service Your Car For Optimal Performance?


My Car Makes A Noise When I Accelerate Or Brake

Any issues with the engine will be more obvious when you are setting off or accelerating, as opposed to cruising. Any brake issues will more often get louder the harder you apply the brakes. 

When you hear a loud ‘roaring’ sound when accelerating this can typically be heard from the top of the engine bay, and sounds like there is air leaking from the engine itself. If you hear the noise from the front of the vehicle and there is a loss of power and smoke coming from the exhaust, then this can indicate that the turbo pipe is leaking.

If the noise is coming from the opposite end of the car, the sound gets louder when accelerating, and there is an exhaust-like smell in the cabin of the car, then this indicates there is an issue with the exhaust leaking.

It will be easier to hear these noises from outside your vehicle, as opposed to from the inside. If you can get a partner to rev the engine whilst out of gear you will be able to listen from the outside and distinguish what location the sound is coming from.


Related Reading: How To Keep Your Brand New Cars Tyres In The Best Condition


My Car Makes A Strange Noise 

If your car is making noises when driving you should try and identify the triggers, as well as the type of noise that it is making. These details will massively help your mechanic and will result in a speedy fix for your vehicle.

My Car Makes A Noise When Going Over A Bump

The suspension systems in cars are made up of multiple links and joints, and over time these can wear out, become loose, and cause noises that occur when going over speed bumps or driving through a pothole. An issue with your exhaust system can also cause your car to make a noise, especially if you are hearing the noise from beneath the vehicle.

The exhaust system is suspended from rubber hangers, which over time can wear away. This allows the exhaust pipe to hang lower, making it bounce about and hit the underside of your car or the road.

My Car Makes A Loud Bang When Driving

If you hear a noise that is deeper in tone and sounds like it may be coming from either the front or back of the vehicle, then it could be an issue with the suspension.

Common issues are the wishbone bushes, drop links and the track rod ends. If the noise sounds like it is coming from beneath the vehicle, and is metallic and hollow in tone, it is likely to be an issue with the exhaust.

My Car Makes A Whining Or Whirring Noise  

These noises can be caused by a number of faults. For example, if there is a power steering issue, possibly a leak, then you may hear the noise when turning your wheel, especially when it is a full rotation. This issue should be addressed as soon as possible by visiting a mechanic.

Other common issues include water pumps, AC pumps, a worn-out clutch, and alternator issues – essentially any part that spins. A worn water pump can cause issues with the pump pulley, causing it to wobble as they rotate. This not only causes a noise when you drive but can also cause your engine to overheat if not addressed promptly.

My Car Makes A Humming Noise

These types of noises can mean a lot of different things as it is dependent on the location of the noise and when it is happening. If the noise occurs when the car is stationary then it could mean there is a leak from a part that is operational and moving regardless of the car moving, such as the exhaust system.

If the noise only happens when you are driving then it has the potential to be a serious issue, such as worn wheel bearings. Wheel bearings allow your car wheels to rotate with no friction or excess heat. Over time they become worn and need replacing. Their typical life span is somewhere between 80,000 and 120,000 miles.

When trying to identify if the issue is down to the wheel bearings you should listen to see if the noise gets faster/louder when you increase your speed, or whether there is a change in the noise when you are turning at speed. If you are hearing any of the two issues above then you should immediately visit a mechanic as healthy wheel bearings are a crucial factor to your safety when driving. 

My Car Makes A Whistling Noise

If you are hearing a whistling noise then the most likely cause is a leak somewhere within your engine. It could, for example, be a result of a cracked or faulty hose within the turbo or vacuum system. Failure to resolve this issue quickly will result in your engine not performing as it should, as well as affecting the efficiency and economy of your commute.

It is typically fairly cheap to repair, so if you hear this sound you should get it fixed sooner rather than later. It will not ‘fix itself’ and will only get worse, so act on it before it becomes a more costly issue.


Related Reading: When & How To Replace Your Car Battery