Don’t Fear These 8 Spooky Car Noises (Just Fix Them)
This Halloween, we reveal the sources of some common car sounds—and what you can do about them.
Is a persistent car noise leaving you wondering whether a ghost has decided to hitch a ride in your car? Or whether a werewolf has taken up residence under the hood?
With Halloween just around the corner, it’s easy to imagine that your car might simply be haunted. But rest assured, there are more down-to-earth explanations for those spooky sounds.
When your car begins making roars, squeaks or rattles, it means something’s wrong. You’ll need to take steps before the problem gets worse and you find yourself stranded on the road somewhere with a looming repair bill that’s more expensive than it needed to be.
Read about these eight common car noises to better understand the mechanical problems behind them—and what you need to do about them.
“Rurring” noises or clicking noises when you start your car
If your car struggles to start and makes a repetitive rurring noise when you crank the engine, you may have a battery in need of a charge. If you hear a rapid clicking noise when you turn the key, the battery is already dead. Using jumper cables may be a short-term solution, but if your battery fails to hold a charge, it may be time for a replacement.
Clicking or popping when you’re turning
Issues with constant velocity (CV) joints—which are drivetrain components—often cause this problem. They’re instrumental in transferring power from the engine to the wheels and are involved in the car’s steering as well. Worn CV joints become loose and produce a clicking sound when you’re turning.
Squeaking noise when you’re turning
If you experience a squeaking sound when you turn, you may have an issue with your steering system. Causes may include low power steering fluid or a problem with your steering pump and rack—the parts that relay the steering wheel rotation to the wheels. Stiff steering often accompanies this sound.
Squealing when you brake
It’s normal for brakes to squeak a little when wet. But a shrill squealing during braking usually means the pads are wearing down (a wear indicator makes this noise). A harsh grinding sound, meanwhile, could mean there’s debris in the brakes or that the brake pads have worn out completely and metal is now hitting metal—a serious problem that impacts braking effectiveness. If you hear this sound, get your brakes inspected as soon as possible.
Knocking under the hood
Car noises like this are never a good sign. Engine knocking often means the engine isn’t getting enough oil. Check oil levels with a dipstick to make sure they’re sufficient and check the oil pressure gauge. If you have enough oil but the engine’s still knocking, you may have serious trouble. The best way to fix the problem: Head to a trusted mechanic.
Rattling whenever you’re moving
This is among the most common car noises, one that could either require a simple fix or a more involved repair. Often, it’s a sign that a part’s loose, such as an exhaust pipe or a heat shield (which protects both the underside of the car and surfaces beneath the car from exhaust system heat). A rattling sound inside the car could be as simple as a cup vibrating in a drink holder or loose change in a door pocket. When you hear such a sound, listen closely to pinpoint where it’s coming from—and seek help from a pro if needed.
Squeaking under the hood
The culprit could be the belts in the engine. The squeaking sound may be noticeable when you start your car—especially when it’s cold—or you may hear it (or hear it intensify) when you accelerate. Possible causes: a belt that’s worn or simply loose and slipping on its pulleys. Belts need the correct tension, and a maintenance inspection can reveal whether a belt should be replaced.
Vrooming sound when you accelerate
In addition to removing harmful gases and fumes from your vehicle, the exhaust system also reduces engine noise by containing it. If you’re experiencing a roaring sound as you pick up speed, a leak or crack somewhere in the exhaust system might just be the source. Another possible culprit: the transmission, if you’re also having trouble shifting gears when the roaring sound occurs. Have a mechanic diagnose the problem.