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Identifying Weird Car Noises

by Autotropolis Contributors
August 20, 2010
3 min. Reading Time

Clicking, clunking and squealing. Where is it coming from? Is it dangerous? Should I get out and take a look, or ignore it and hope it goes away? Cars, like people, communicate when something is not right. Often, a worn or unbalanced car part will make a sound. Here are some common causes of those unsettling sounds.

Clunking noise during braking:

  • Worn steering system components
  • Disc brake caliper is not mounted properly
  • Brake hardware is damaged or missing

The brakes squeal when they are applied:

  • Dirt on the brake rotors, drums, pads, and/or shoes
  • Brake pads and/or shoes are worn
  • Brake pads were overheated and are now glazed
  • Disc brake calipers were mounted incorrectly or have come loose
  • Wear indicator on the pads are contacting the rotor

The transmission grinds while shifting gears:

  • Clutch needs to be adjusted
  • Clutch is worn
  • Internal damage to the transmission
  • Shift linkage needs to be adjusted

Squealing from engine while accelerating:

  • Drive belts are slipping
  • Drive pulleys for some engine accessories are misaligned
  • You have turned the steering wheel to the limits
  • Drive belts are loose

Scraping from the rear of the car while moving:

  • Tree branch or some other thing is caught under your car and is dragging or rubbing against your tires
  • Parking brake is on
  • Brakes are dragging
  • Brake drum backing plates are rubbing against the brake drum

Scraping from the rear of the car that is heard when braking:

  • Brake shoes are severely worn
  • Brakes are not applying evenly
  • Brake drum is out-of-round or distorted

Brakes make a rhythmic scraping noise at low speeds:

  • Brake rotor is badly warped
  • Brake drums are badly out-of-round and need to be replaced

Alternator makes a squealing noise:

  • Loose or damaged alternator drive belt
  • Alternator's internal bearings are worn
  • Alternator's drive pulley is loose or damaged

Engine hesitates and a popping is heard from the engine:

  • Dirty air filter
  • Spark plugs may be dirty or worn
  • Spark wires may be bad
  • Ignition problem
  • Fuel filter may be clogged
  • Water in the gasoline
  • Carburetor may have a bad accelerator pump or power circuit
  • Catalytic converter may be clogged

Clicking from the front while turning a corner:

  • Brake pads are loose in their mounting:
  • CV-joints are worn
  • A hard object is caught between the brake pads and the rotor


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