True story: A woman packed up her Subaru Forester for the five-hour drive to visit family. When she pulled onto the main road and accelerated, she was startled to hear an unusual but faint screeching engine noise coming from the rear of the vehicle. It wasn’t loud, and it lasted only about 10 seconds. When it continued to happen every time she braked or accelerated or took a sharp turn, she decided to pause her trip and stop at her Subaru dealer.
She and the mechanic took a ride, and he, too, heard the sound. He had her pull over and together they unloaded the back of the car. There, under a couple of layers of boxes, bags and packages was a racetrack game she was taking to her nephew. Sure enough, every time the toy shifted, the battery-operated sound system blasted 10 seconds of squealing tires and revving engines.
So, what noises does your car, truck or SUV make when you drive it? If you hear something out of the ordinary, do you turn up the radio to block it out? Drive immediately to a mechanic to have it checked? Tell yourself you’ll look into it when you get to your destination – and then forget as soon as you turn off the motor?
Here are seven sounds your vehicle might make that you should not ignore:
This is the one everyone thinks of first: brakes squealing as you apply them. They might squeal even if you aren’t touching the pedal. Either way, it’s a sign that all is not well in Brake-Pad Land. Recommendation: Get them checked now, before the squeal turns into a grinding or scraping sound – which is when a small repair (new brake pads) becomes a much larger repair (new rotors).
Thunks & clunks
If you’re driving and you hear this – or even feel it, especially going over bumps – these sounds could be telling you that a shock absorber has gone bad. Recommendation: Get it checked now, since bad shocks impact braking and steering.
If you hear a chirping or squealing when you accelerate, it usually means a belt is loose and slipping or the drive pulley for an accessory has become misaligned. Recommendation: Get it checked.
A ticking or metallic tapping noise coming from the engine can mean you are low on oil or that you aren’t maintaining normal oil pressure. Recommendation: Stop the vehicle and let it sit for a few minutes, then check the oil level. If it’s low, add as needed. If this doesn’t cause the sound to go away or if your gauge indicates low oil pressure, you shouldn’t drive or you could seriously damage your engine.
This one is coming from the wipers, and it isn’t good. The rubber is wearing down, and if it scratches your windshield you can be out a few hundred bucks to replace it. Recommendation: Spring for new wiper blades now and save a lot.
If you hear this when you’re turning, it’s a good bet it’s a worn out CV joint. When this happens, the joint loses the grease that lubricates the axles. Recommendation: Have the CV joint replaced.
If you notice that the engine compartment is hissing, either while driving or after turning off the engine, it might mean the engine is overheating and possibly leaking coolant. Check the temperature gauge and look for steam coming from under the hood. Recommendation: If the engine is overheating and especially if you see steam, don’t continue driving.
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