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5 Worrying Car Noises and What They Mean for Your Car


Your car has a life. It gets thirsty, it needs cleaning and regular maintenance, and most of the time that’s enough. But what about the times it isn’t feeling so good?  

When cars aren’t feeling great, like cats and children, they talk back.  But unlike children our cars can’t tell us what’s wrong.  Here’s a few tips to help you distinguish between ‘it’ll be OK’ and ‘do something, nowww!’

1. High pitched squealing 

If your car sounds like it’s just run over a cat when accelerating and/or starting that is probably your fan belt – totally exhausted. And when the fan belt is tired out it loosens and begins to drag.

What to do: This is something you should check. It may be the belt just needs tightening, but it could mean it’s worn down to the point that you need a new one.

2. Light knocking or pounding

No, not someone trapped in the boot. ‘Rod knocking’ is the technical term for it.  This sound is most evident when the engine is at an even speed – not decelerating or accelerating. The knocking is generally caused by a misaligned connecting rod, worn bearing or crankpin, or lack of oil.

What to do: Unless you are a mechanic and can do clever testing and fixing, get to a mechanic who can.

3. Thump, thump, thump 

This is likely to be a flat-spotted tire, not to be confused with a flat tire which you can feel immediately! Some tires develop little spots that get squashed flat causing the thump or pat patting you can hear while the car is on the road.

What to do: Tires are meant to be round, so obviously flat spots damage performance.  If the tire has worn low you’ll want to replace it as a sudden blow out can lead to disastrous crashes.

4. Tick, tick, ticking 

Your car’s rod-bearing and U-joint work together. If this tick ticking sound originates at the center back of car and is most noticeable when going at speed, it may be an indication that your U-Joint has run out of grease and is about to fail. Accidents happen quickly like this – and at high speed.

What to do: Please get to a mechanic immediately.

5. A fffffffft or hissing sound, in short, rapid bursts (usually when not moving)

If your car is making a soft hissing sound at intervals - like fffft FFFFFT ffft - when you are not moving, please be aware. This is far from a mild problem. It usually signifies that an exhaust manifold gasket has failed and is releasing exhaust gases within the car.

What to do: Call a mechanic as soon as possible. There may be a carbon monoxide leak and, in any case, the gasket needs replacing as a matter of urgency.

Keeping You Safe

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photo from the photostream of Paul Townsend (https://www.flickr.com/photos/brizzlebornandbred/14018997659/in/photostream/)