Catch These 6 Car Noises Before They Cost You

Nov 22, 2023 3 min read

If your car is making a weird noise, don’t ignore it. Even if your check engine light doesn’t come on and you don’t notice any other problems, that noise might be telling you something is wrong. Taking care of it right away can help avoid more expensive and dangerous problems down the road.

These are some of the most common sounds you might hear when your engine is running or you are driving.

  1. Screeching Under the Hood

What It Could Be: The serpentine belt. This belt powers your car’s alternator, air conditioning compressor, power steering pump and water pump. If it’s wearing out or slipping, you may hear a screeching sound when your engine is running. 

If you hear this car noise when driving, get it checked right away. If the belt fails, your power steering and AC won’t work, and your engine may overheat. You need to replace the serpentine belt every 60,000 to 100,000 miles, depending on your car.

  1. Squealing or Grinding

What It Could Be: Worn brake pads. This noise might sound like it’s coming from one or more of your tires. Many types of brake pads are designed to squeal when they get low, so you know it’s time to replace them. 

You can also hear grinding when they get low because metal is scraping against metal. You might also notice that your car doesn’t stop as quickly, the brake pedal pulsates or your car pulls to one side.

Brake pads generally last for 20,000 to 40,000 miles. If your brake pads are worn, replace them promptly. It’s not safe to drive with worn brake pads. And if you drive for too long without replacing them, you might also need to replace your rotors. 

  1. Thumping or an Unnatural Sound From the Tires 

What It Could Be: Balding tires. You’ll almost always hear some noise from your tires when you’re driving. But if this sound changes, it’s time to check your tires. Humming can be a sign that your tires are getting bald. Thumping can indicate your tires aren’t balanced properly.

Even if you leave most of your car care to your mechanic, you can easily check your tire tread yourself. Put a penny into the tread headfirst. If you can see the top of Abraham Lincoln’s head, your treads are getting too low. 

Most tires last around 60,000 miles. If you’re noticing your car making noise when driving, it might be time for new tires or an alignment. 

  1. Rattling 

What It Could Be: A problem with the exhaust system. Your car’s exhaust system has different components that are attached to each other and to the bottom of your car. If these components get loose or corroded or start to leak, they could rattle.

Sometimes, you just need to have part of your exhaust system tightened. In other cases, you may need to replace components. Have a rattle looked at quickly — even if something is just loose, the vibration can cause bigger problems if you don’t take care of it.

  1. A Scraping Sound When It’s Raining

What It Could Be: Worn-down wiper blades. When your wiper blades get dried out or damaged, they can start to squeak or scrape as they pass across your windshield. The sound can be annoying, and the blades might not clear rain and snow as well as they should, so you might not be able to see clearly. Plus, they could scratch and damage your windshield.

Wiper blades generally need replacement every six to 12 months. It’s a job many people can tackle on their own. If you don’t want to do it yourself, you can have your mechanic replace your wiper blades.

  1. Clicking While Making Turns 

What It Could Be: A bad CV joint. Constant velocity (CV) joints connect your wheels to the axles and transmission. A protective boot covers them, and dirt and moisture can damage your CV joint if the boot leaks. When this happens, you may hear a clicking sound. You may also notice your car is making noise when accelerating, which could sound like clunking rather than clicking.

CV joints last about 100,000 miles. But have this sound checked out right away, no matter how long you’ve had your CV joints. If a joint fails completely while you’re driving, you could lose control of your car.

Find a Repair Shop You Can Depend On

Your mechanic is a key partner in caring for your car, and you want one you can trust. These tips for finding a good auto repair shop can make sure you and your car are getting quality care you can depend on. And to ensure that your car is protected even when it’s running great, talk to your FBFS agent.

Want to learn more?

Contact a local FBFS agent or advisor for answers personalized to you.