Listen to Your Car—Unusual Sounds and Likely Causes

An automobile is a very complex machine with many moving parts that keep it running and driving down the road. We've all heard various strange noises coming from our vehicles at some point. Sometimes, it's not a big deal. In most cases, however, an odd sound is a sign that something is wrong. Here are some of the most common noises your car might make, along with the most likely causes for the problems:

Clicking When Trying to Start the Car

If you only hear clicking when you are trying to start the car—or if it does this while taking a long time to start—it's the clear sign of a problem. It may be a dead battery, failing alternator, failing spark plugs or an issue with the starter/ignition system itself. 

Squealing from Under the Hood

You may hear a squealing or screeching sound coming from the engine area under the hood. This is most likely a loose or damaged belt (alternator, fan or timing belt). This may also happen if the belt is wet or slipping for any other reason.

Squealing or Screeching Brakes

The brake system is often a source of unpleasant automotive noises. You may hear your brakes screeching or squealing while driving, braking or turning. It may just be a worn brake pad or it could be something more significant like a worn/damaged rotor. It's best to get a professional brake inspection before it gets worse.

Rattling, Chugging or Vibrating

These sounds are often attributed to exhaust system problems. There may be something wrong with your catalytic converter or muffler. It could be the sign of an exhaust leak, which can be very hazardous.


This could be caused by any number of automotive problems, such as a lubrication issue or damaged U-joint. It is often heard when you have a failing wheel bearing. If it is most pronounced when making a turn, then there's a good chance it's a wheel bearing. Of course, drivers of hybrid vehicles may notice a low hum when driving at lower speeds. This is no big deal because the vehicle is in electric mode and that sound is supposed to be there.

Grinding Gears

This is a pretty obvious sign of a transmission issue. You may just be overdue for a transmission service to replace the transmission fluid, or you could have problems with critical transmission components like the torque converter, gear box or clutch.

Squeaking or Thuds

Brand new tires can sometimes be a bit squeaky as the rubber breaks in, but this sound can also come from tires which are too worn. Squeaking or thud noises could also be caused by improper tire air pressure, so check your PSI levels.

Ticking Noise While Idling

You may be able to start the car fine, but you may hear a ticking noise while the vehicle is idling. This is a sign you should get an oil change soon as possible. Engine components may be lacking proper lubrication and it could lead to serious damage if left ignored.

Other Strange Noises

The sounds listed above are some of the most common issues, but any strange noise you hear coming from your car should be cause for concern—especially if the sound is happening every time you drive the vehicle. Don't wait to get your car inspected by a professional mechanic. Unusual sounds can often provide an early warning that enables you to find and address the issue before it causes more trouble.

If you are experiencing automotive issues like strange noises, call Fox Run Auto today at (302) 597-9205 or schedule your service appointment online.



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