Most Common Car Noises & How To Fix Them (Ultimate Guide)
Over time, some unpleasant sounds are bound to emerge from your car. Sometimes noises occur because something is wrong, and others because your car’s original sound “deadening” is of poor quality or stopped working overtime. Your car might work perfectly fine, but you will still hear the annoying noise, which may become distracting or even harmful to your health.
Some car sounds point to more terminal issues than others, but the important thing is that you notice when new sounds emerge. Not only noticing — but being proactive and doing something about it rather than just turning up the tunes and hoping the nuisance goes away on its own. It can make all the difference between a quick fix and an expensive repair/tuning bill.
In this post, we’re going to take a look at some common car noises so you know what they might mean, and what you need to do to fix them.
Dividing common car noises into groups
Those ever-present vehicle noises can be divided into the following three groups:
This group refers to noise that spears through the air. The noise enters through the glass, doorways, and other openings in the body of the car.
The vibration is caused by different materials that have the ability to resonate. The main source of vibrations comes from large metal surfaces like the floor, hood, etc.Structural
Structural noises come from a combination of the first two.
Altogether, these noises form a constant sound background in your car, including the sound of your tires on the road, other environmental factors like traffic and wind, the car shaking, and other sounds that can make life on the road unpleasant for both the driver and passengers.
External vs. internal noises
External noise is coming from the outside of the vehicle. This may include road and city noise, car horns, wind, other car stereos, etc.
Meanwhile, internal noise includes the rattles and vibrations that come from within the car. These sounds may be caused by worn out or faulty parts, natural aging, or signal that serious maintenance is required. However, other internal noises may be part of the normal functioning of your vehicle.
In either case, sound deadening materials can provide a buffer to make life on the road quieter and more enjoyable.
To start, let’s get into some specific instances that you can either fix yourself or with the help of insulation materials.
Car noises you can fix yourself
If your tires seem to thud or squeak a bit more than usual, it might just be a case of low air pressure and improper alignment. This is an easy fix you can do on your own.
- Simply refer to your car’s driver manual and/or the recommended air pressure from your manufacturer, which should be provided in the panel on one of your doors.
- Inflate every tire to the recommended levels and see if it takes care of the problem. If not, take them in to get them aligned properly. Poor alignment can wear out of tires faster, cause a bumpy ride, and even result in poor gas mileage.
Scraping or squeaking windshield wipers
This is perhaps the easiest of all the sounds on this list to fix yourself. If you have worn out wipers, they may squeak, poorly clean your windshield, or if worn down further, begin to scratch your windshield.
Since a scratched windshield can be expensive to fix you’ll want to replace a bad wiper as soon as you notice it’s no longer cleaning your windshield properly.
Beyond causing scratches, if your wipers don’t clean your windshield or clear the visibility when it’s raining, you could be looking at a dangerous situation. Simply go into an auto parts store, find the right size wipers for your car, and replace the old ones. Luckily for us, most wipers pop on and off quite easily.
Ticking when idling
This likely means you’re low on oil. Add the appropriate oil to the proper level and see if it takes care of the problem.
Also, make sure you review when was the last time your car had an oil change, and if you’re due, bring your car in. This is one of the easiest routine maintenance treatments which helps you avoid costly issues down the line. Don’t put the oil change off until later!
Noises That Can Be Fixed With Sound Deadening Materials
Some sounds can be fixed with special sound-deadening materials that you can either install yourself or get help from a professional. View the chart below for common types of vehicle sounds and the specific materials that may help keep things quiet and comfortable.
How does car sound deadening work?
In fact, soundproofing can help reduce both internal and external noise. This sound barrier is created through a “sandwich” of insulation layers, including vibration isolation, sound-reflecting materials, and noise absorption.
- Vibration isolation makes the main surfaces of the car (including the floor, ceiling doors, hood, trunk, and wheel arches) heavier and thereby prevents vibrations. This is always the first layer of soundproofing for all surfaces of the car.
- Sound-reflecting materials reflect the sound without letting it into the interior of the car. These materials are mounted on various surfaces and protect the driver and passengers from outside noise.
- The final layer, noise absorption, consists of materials that convert the energy of a soundwave into heat. The sound is scattered instead of reflected, which removes side noises and resonance. This material is often used in finishing car doors where speakers are mounted. They help to purify the sound, making it clearer and more pleasant.
Sound insulation is a great option to help optimize your driving experience and comfort, but it cannot fix your car. We only recommend sound deadening to reduce or eliminate common noises that either occur externally or are regular sounds from a healthy, but noisy car. For anything else, bring your car to a mechanic.
Common car noises that require fixing the car
You know your car better than anyone, so pay attention. Once in a while, turn down the radio and roll down the window to take a listen, and look for the possible signs of trouble that you’ll see below.
The following common car noises point to serious problems. If you hear any of these, take your car to your mechanic immediately.
The coin in the dryer
This happens when you hear something rattling around inside a wheel at low speeds. The sound, which resembles that of a loose coin in the dryer, will go away when you speed up then return as you slow down.
This likely signals a loose lug nut inside of a hub cap. Unfortunately, this means your wheel likely wasn’t tightened properly the last time it was removed and replaced.
Brakes grinding, growling, or squealing
This is a tell-tale sign that your brake pads or shoes are nearing the end of their service life. It’s time to take them in to get replaced! A grind or growl means that your brake pads are so worn down that metal is touching metal.
This is a serious issue that is likely affecting the efficiency of your brakes. Without optimal brake performance, your car won’t be able to stop as quickly. Of course, this grinding or growling can be a precursor to total brake failure. Simply put: Sounds coming from your brakes are cause for great alarm, as your car is not safe.
Low-pitched humming under the car
A humming noise that comes from under the car could point to a number of issues. For example, it might mean your differential needs lubricant, the transmission could be failing, or the universal joints or wheel bearings are worn out.
The low hum may be more difficult to pick out than the other more jarring sounds, so make sure you stay in-tune to your car’s natural happy-running sounds so you can pick up on any differences. Your mechanic and a professional inspection will be able to decipher the problem and help you find a solution.
A popping, clicking, or finger-snapping sound when you turn
This problem mainly pertains to front- or all-wheel-drive vehicles. If you hear a strange popping or snapping sound when you make a turn, but the noise goes away when you’re driving straight, it could mean that one or both of the constant velocity (CV) joints on your front axle need replacing.
A squeak that accelerates with your car
Here’s one for drivers of rear- and four-wheel-drive cars. If you hear a rhythmic squeak that speeds up as you accelerate, it may point to a faulty universal joint (U-joint). These joints are found in pairs and are components of the driveshaft.
Howling or whining sounds
These could point to several potential different issues, but most commonly, it is a sign that your bearings — the tiny metal balls that help certain car parts rotate smoothly — have failed and are no longer doing their job. The next step here is to figure out which ones are causing the problem.
Here are a couple of different scenarios.
If you have a front-wheel-drive car and the sound changes as you turn left, right, and back again, then it is most likely an issue with your front wheel bearings. A gradual, steady howl likely means the rear-wheel bearings have failed.
For those with rear-wheel drive vehicles, if the whine grows louder as you accelerate, then it might be your differential leaking fluid. The differential enables your wheels to spin at different rates when needed, and if the bearings fail, they will lose this ability.
Clunking, banging, or any sound coming from under the hood
If you hear anything abnormal occurring under your car’s hood, it’s cause for immediate concern. It could be a problem with the valves, connecting rods, or pistons, all of which could be terminal issues for your engine if ignored. Get your car to a mechanic immediately.
Squealing under the hood when accelerating or at start-up
An alarming and highly-noticeable squeal (both for you and anyone nearby) could mean a worn or loose accessory belt. These belts control vital components like your power steering pump, air radiator fan, conditioner compressor, and even your alternator.
In newer cars, these functions are powered by the serpentine belt, which controls multiple components at once. Thankfully, the serpentine belt is fairly cheap and easy to fix.
Bring your car to your mechanic if you suspect you have a loose or worn belt and they will tell you how serious it is and if/when you need to replace it. Make sure you bring it in before it fails, as your car simply won’t run without it.
Chugging or rattling noises
This likely points to a damaged exhaust system. This can produce many different sounds. A rattle may mean the exhaust is out of alignment while a hiss could mean it is cracked. Regardless, take your car in for a check.
With sound insulation materials, car noise can be reduced by three times. The main goal of soundproofing your car is to deaden noise that comes both from inside and outside of the bar.
But not to worry — it doesn’t completely eliminate all noise, so if your car has a real issue, you should still be able to hear the problem pointing to fixes that need to be performed by a professional.