Car noises: What do they mean and should you worry?

Mar 29, 2020 | Same topic: Handy Maintenance Tips
Let's find out the meaning of different car noises and if it should be a cause of concern.

Car noises are more than just frustrating sounds coming from your vehicle. They can actually be something serious therefore would need your immediate attention.

They can even come from out of the blue. There might be times when you're driving then you start to hear strange noises such as clank, clunk, and squeal. Don't just put your headphones on and disregard these weird noises. More often, this is your car's way of telling you that something is wrong.

As a car owner, you must always pay attention to everything in your car, including the strange noises it creates. If you’re not familiar with the sounds your vehicle is making will help you. This article will tackle different car noises and what they mean.

A squealing sound when braking

When you start hearing a high-pitched squealing from the wheels when stepping on the brake pedal, it means the brake pad indicator is brushing against the rotor.

When this happens, it’s not usually a major concern. The purpose of the brake pad indicator is to inform the driver if it's already time to replace the brake pads because it has worn down.

Brake pedal

A high-pitched squealing from the tires when stepping the brake pedal means the brake pad indicator brushing against the rotor

Although this noise might not seem an emergency, it would still be helpful if you prepare to replace your worn-down brake pads sooner or later.

We recommend making a scheduled visit for a brake inspection and service when it is convenient for you. You should do this before this squeal transforms into a scream.

>>> Related: 7 steps to deal with the car brake noise

A squealing noise from under the hood

If you start hearing a loud squealing sound from the car's bonnet, it is a clear indication of a worn or loose serpentine belt.

This type of car noise is a major cause of concern. It is because the job of the serpentine belt is to power all the major systems of the vehicle. If the serpentine belt starts to produce a squealing noise, it indicates that it is on the verge of breaking.

Man checking the engine

A loud squealing sound from the car's underhood is a clear indication of a worn or loose serpentine belt

If the old serpentine belt of your car snaps, it will lose the drive torque that keeps the accessories of the engine running. As a result, you will be left with a dead car. If this happens, you don’t have a choice but to call for a towing service and throw in some cash.

The best thing to do to prevent this is to schedule a visit to the auto repair shop as soon as you start the squealing noise from under the hood. The mechanic will tell you the amount of life left for this vital engine component.

>>> Related: Car maintenance tips: How to inspect and replace serpentine belts

A car noise similar to a purring cat

If you hear a car noise similar to the sound created by a grumpy cat or the “rur rur” sound when starting the engine, it means the fluid levels in the car battery are low, and it's struggling to provide power to the engine.

In this case, safety is not the primary concern but rather convenience. It is because you might have trouble starting your car tomorrow or the next few days. It isn't very easy to predict when exactly it will happen.

Man starting the engine

A “rur rur” sound when starting the engine means the fluid levels in the car battery are low

If you hear this noise at the same time, there's also a slow engine crack; it is a clear indication that the battery of your vehicle is on the verge of giving up.

There are possible causes as to why it happens. It can either be because the battery is past its time, needs a jump, or it's low in the fluid. The best thing to do is to consult your mechanic and have the battery inspected and tested.

A roar of rumble coming from the underneath of your seat

When you hear a loud rumbling or roaring noise from underneath the driver's seat, it can mean a possible crack or leak in the manifold of the exhaust system.

The roaring sound you hear is the excess noise of the engine, which, with the help of the muffler, gets silenced. If the exhaust system of your car fails, all the vibrations and sound waves of the engine will be directed into the vehicle.

Man sitting in the driver's seat

A loud rumbling noise from underneath the driver's seat can mean a possible crack or leak in the manifold of the exhaust system

If you’re thinking that it’s okay to disregard this noise because the vibration under the driver’s seat is like sitting in a massage chair, then you’re wrong.

If the exhaust system of a car is malfunctioning, there's a possibility that a poisonous carbon dioxide is lingering in the cabin. If you hear this sound, you should get it checked as soon as possible. Don’t ever try to delay it.

A flapping sound

A slapping or flapping sound you hear when running the blowers or air-conditioning unit of the car can be because of a misaligned, worn out, or loose ventilation flap.

This car noise is not a big deal though it might affect the airflow. Plus, the sound it will create is a bit irritating while driving. But all in all, it will not affect your safety at all.

You can tune up the car stereo and roll down the windows to ease this noise. Or, you can stop this annoying sound by scheduling a car to an air-con performance check.

A groaning or whining noise when turning the steering wheel

More often when you hear this car noise, it is accompanied by an unresponsive or stiff steering wheel. The groaning or whining noise when turning the steering wheel can be the result of something that causes friction in the power steering system.

It can also be an indication that the power steering pump is bidding farewell.

Man driving

The groaning or whining noise when turning the steering wheel can be caused by friction in the power steering system

>>> Related: Hush driving: 4 tips to erase your car noises immediately

Note that it is a serious problem. So, if you start hearing this noise in your car, you need to consult a mechanic to check your car's power steering system.

If you don’t address the issue immediately, it can further damage the other components of the power-steering system, affecting the overall safety of the car.

The best thing to do when you notice this noise in your vehicle is to schedule a maintenance checkup at the nearest car repair shop or with your trusted professional mechanic.


Hanna Sanchez

Hanna is one of the most competitive swimmers in the country during her day. It was not long before she discovered her passion for the automotive industry as well. Nowadays, she balances her passion through writing as well as coaching.