What's that sound? Diagnosing common car problems

What's that sound? Diagnosing common car problems


Monday, December 02, 2019

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THERE is a popular meme making the rounds on social media illustrating a woman who, having heard a strange sound coming from her car, turned up the volume on her radio and said to herself, “That sounds expensive; not this payday”. A few of us are like this woman, and unfortunately, while the music may drown out the noises it will not cause them to magically disappear.

However, auto mechanic and car enthusiast Roshane Holness said that when you delay taking action there is a possibility that the problem will worsen, and when this happens the repair may be more extensive and expensive.

So if you are not sure what's the reason for the sound coming from your car, Holness shares five common car problems and their identifying sounds.

Hissing or sizzling under the bonnet

This can be caused by several things, but if it happens when you shut the engine off then fluid is likely to be leaking. This can be anything from the coolant to power steering fluid.

“There is also the possibility of the vacuum line leaking when you hear this and especially when accompanied by smoke, it can be a fire hazard. So you want to get it checked out quickly if you can't identify and rectify the problem yourself,” Holness advised.

Low-pitch humming or whirring under the car

Noise coming from under your car could be linked to several things, including that the differential may need lubricant, the transmission may be failing, the universal joints may be worn, or there is a broken wheel bearing.

“Sometimes, unless the noise comes with other issues, you may need a professional to check the exact source because sometimes the echo that comes with the noise can make it difficult to pick up the exact location of the problem,” Holness advised.

Squealing, scraping and grinding when you apply the brake

If you notice that you only hear these sounds when you apply the brake, then the most likely culprit is a brake problem brewing. “You should never ignore a possible brake problem; it is one of the most essential parts of your car's safety system. It doesn't only guarantee your safety but that of other road users as well, so never ignore this noise,” Holness warned. He said usually if the noise is more like a rattle then it's likely a loose exhaust system or loose brake pads.

Noise when accelerating

A noise when accelerating could stem from a variety of problems, for example, if the noise is more like a roaring sound, then there is likely an issue with the exhaust system, or the problem could lie with the transmission.

“If it is more of a squealing or chirping sound, it could be that the drive belts are loose and slipping or that the drive pulley for an accessory such as the water pump has become misaligned,” Holness said. If the sound is more like knocking then it could indicate internal engine problems. A whining noise may mean a bad alternator, growling noise may be linked to a power steering pump, and for a howling noise, chances are it is a worn differential. A clunking noise could mean worn driveshaft joint, or worn engine and transmission mounts.

Click, click sound

If your car won't start but you keep hearing the click, click sound, Holness said that the most likely reason is that your battery is dead. If your battery is still good a jumpstart should resolve the problem, otherwise you may need to replace the battery.

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