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My Car's Making an Odd Noise: What Does it Mean?

The sounds our cars make are part of the reason why we love them so much; the hum of your engine when it starts up, the roar as you build up the revs, and even the whistling of the wind through an open window. But if your car’s making a noise that sounds unusual, there’s a good chance it’s trying to tell you something isn’t quite right. Read on for some ideas on what those odd noises you’re hearing behind the wheel could mean, and what you can do to sort them out.

Squealing or screeching when you brake

Lots of modern cars have sensors on the brakes which indicate when you need to replace the brake pads. Others need to be checked manually, but when they wear down, pads can lose the ability to release properly from the brake disc. This is when you’ll hear a squealing sound, and it’s important to take your car to a garage where they can check and replace any pads before they damage the discs.

Grinding when you brake

If you hear a grinding noise that can sound like something’s crunching when you brake, it’s likely that one of your brake pads has completely worn out. This can easily happen if you don’t replace them in time, meaning you now have metal on metal. You’ll need to sort this as soon as you can, otherwise you’re likely to damage your callipers and brake discs, which are much more expensive to replace.

Grinding when you change gear

If you drive a manual car and hear a grinding sound when you shift between gears, there’s a good chance you have a clutch issue. It may be the case that an adjustment fixes the problem, but the clutch may be worn and need replacing. If your mechanic can’t see any issues with the clutch, then there may be a more serious problem with the transmission.

Rumbling or car sounds louder

Should your car suddenly start sounding significantly louder than before, both when the engine’s idling and when you hit the accelerator, this is usually a sign of an exhaust issue. More specifically, there’s a good chance you have a hole in your exhaust, which any mechanic will be able to spot easily. However, it may be the case that a pipe has become loose, in which case it’s a simple fix to reattach it. Meanwhile, if you hear a rattling noise coming from underneath your car, you might have a loose exhaust bracket which again is an easy thing to sort out. 

Squealing or chirping under your bonnet

Most noticeable when you first start your engine and under acceleration, issues with your car’s drive belt will usually make a squealing or chirping sound. As things like your alternator, power steering and air conditioning rely on power transferred from this belt, it’s important that it doesn’t wear out or slip, which will cause the sound you’re hearing. If you ignore it, it’s likely that the belt will go on to break, which can cause a lot of damage, including the loss of engine cooling. It’s much better to replace the belt while it’s still a relatively cheap job to have done. 

Humming when driving

If you hear a humming, roaring or growling sound when you’re cruising along, this could be because your tires are completely worn out. It could also indicate a more serious problem though, as this is a similar sound to when there’s an issue with a wheel bearing. When you take your car to a garage, you should ask your mechanic to check the bearings if your tyres are deemed to be in decent condition. 

The best advice we can give you if you think something sounds wrong with your car, is to take it to a reputable garage or dealership for a professional to take a look for you. It’s almost always the case that the earlier you deal with any problems with your car, the cheaper it’s going to be in the long run. 

At Inchcape, we’ll be able to find the source of any unusual or concerning noises when you book a service with us.