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Whats that noise? Is your car trying to tell you something?

By January 9, 2013December 13th, 2019News

Troubleshoot Your Vehicle With This Vehicle Sounds Chart

Now it’s time to listen up, and hear what your car may be saying to you. There is generally only one correct interpretation of the sounds your vehicle emits, and getting it correct can save you time and money. Identifying mechanical sounds takes training and practice. It’s not always easy to hear the difference between, say, a failing wheel bearing and an irregularly worn tire, or normal intermittent brake noise versus worn pads going metal-to-metal.

Which noises are potentially dangerous, and which could wait until you can set up an appointment with David Wray Auto? And, just how can you pinpoint the location of a particular sound, anyway?

As you drive your vehicle be aware of its operating characteristics and normal sounds from the engine, transmission, driveline, exhaust system and tires.  Excessively loud or abnormal sounds fall into the category of €œnoises.€  They can be very helpful to service technicians when diagnosing the cause of a problem.

The following definitions of common noises are provided to assist you in communicating the problem when making an appointment:

  • Boom:  Rhythms sound like a drum roll or distant thunder.  May cause pressure on ear drum.
  • Buzz: Low pitched sound, something like a bee.  Usually associated with vibrations.
  • Chatter:  Rapidly repeating metallic sound.
  • Chuckle: Rapid noise that sounds like a stick against spokes of a spinning bicycle wheel.
  • Chirp: High-pitched rapidly repeating sound like chirping birds.
  • Click: Light sound like a ball point pen being clicked.When it is in the front end during a turn, this sound may be traced to an  CV joint or axle.
  • Clunk/Thump: Heavy metal-to-metal sound, like a hammer striking steel.A heavy bumping sound, softer than a clang, usually indicates you should look at suspension bushings, including shock or strut mounts.
  • Grind: Abrasive sound, like a grinding wheel or sandpaper rubbing against wood.If it occurs when the brakes are applied, either the linings are gone or you’ve got one of those unpleasantly-aggressive friction material formulas that tend to eat rotors.
  • Groan/Moan: Continuous, low-pitched humming sound. Has the powersteering fluids been checked lately?
  • Growl/Howl: Low, guttural sound like an angry dog.
  • Hiss: Continuous sound like air escaping from a balloon. Time to check hoses for leaks
  • Hum: Continuous sound of varying frequencies like a humming in the wind.
  • Knock:  heavy, loud, repeating sound like a knock on the door. Often it’s a warning that something important (and expensive) is about to let go.
  • Ping:  Similar to knock except at a higher frequency.
  • Rattle: A sound suggesting looseness, such as marbles rolling around in a can.
  • Roar: Deep, long, prolonged sound like an animal or winds and ocean waves.
  • Rumble:  Low, heavy continuous sound like that made by wagons or thunder.
  • Squeak:  High-pitched sound like rubbing a clean window.
  • Scraping:  Something like “jeet-jeet-jeet-jeet” that speeds up as the car gathers speed probably means an object of one sort or another is contacting the driveshaft, possibly an exhaust shield or hanger or the parking brake cable. Your brake system, especially drum hardware, is also a distinct possibility.
  • Squeal:  Continuous, high pitched sound like running finger nails across a chalkboard.  Adjusting the belts may be in order.
  • Tap: Light, hammering sound like tapping pencil on the edge of a table.  May be rhythmic or intermittent.
  • Whir/Whine: high-pitched buzzing sound like an electric motor or drill.  Not what an impatient 3-year old does but just as annoying. This is a hard one to pin down, but it’s apt to come from worn ball or roller bearings, mismatched gears, too light a lube in a manual gearbox (ATF, maybe?) or alternator bushings getting ready to go.
  • Whistle:  Sharp, shrill sound like wind passing through a small opening.

Author David Wray Automotive

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