Weird Noises Your Vehicle Makes (& How to Address them)

by Max Johnston - Gearhead

You might not notice them over the road noise or your road trip playlist, but the noises your car makes can tell you a lot about its condition. If you’re not paying attention to those sounds already, you might want to start—because some of them can indicate problems that need to be fixed as soon as possible. But how can you tell which noises are harmless and which ones are urgent?

Learning how to identify noises that could spell trouble for your vehicle can save you money and prevent breakdowns at dangerous or inconvenient times, and ordering high-quality aftermarket auto parts online can make repairs more affordable. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common sounds vehicles make when something’s wrong—and what you should do if you hear them.

Tire that is bald on one side

Bald Tires

What it Sounds Like

A low drone that doesn’t change while turning, but gets louder as your speed increases.

How to Get It Fixed

Bald tires should be switched out for new ones as soon as possible. They don’t just produce an unpleasant sound—they’re also a safety hazard, since they give your vehicle less traction on the road.

Aftermarket wheel bearings to replace worn out bearings

Worn-Out Wheel Bearing(s)

What it Sounds Like

A low humming noise that gets louder when turning in one direction but disappears when turning in the other.

How to Get It Fixed

The noise produced by a bad bearing can sound a lot like an engine issue. Make sure it’s not by maintaining your speed for a while, then taking your foot off the gas. If the noise continues after your RPM has dropped significantly, it’s almost definitely a bearing problem rather than an engine issue.

Replace the bearing in question immediately, before it puts strain on your transmission. Buy high-quality aftermarket wheel bearings here.

Worn Suspension

What it Sounds Like

A rattling or clunking sound—more frequently noticed when going over uneven surfaces, railroad tracks, or speed bumps.

How to Get It Fixed

Suspension systems are complicated, so the component that needs replacing could be one of several things: a coil spring, ball joint, or stabilizer link. Have your suspension inspected by your mechanic as soon as possible.

Diagram showing belt system in car
Via 
cars.com

Cracked Belt

What it Sounds Like

A higher pitched whining noise, either while driving or while running the air conditioner.

How to Get It Fixed

Identify which belt is worn out so that you know which one to deal with. Do this by turning the air conditioner in your vehicle off and seeing if the noise stops. If it doesn’t, it’s more likely an issue with your timing belt. You may not need to replace the entire belt—it might simply need to have its tension adjusted. A belt that isn’t tight enough will slip, causing a sound similar to tires squealing on asphalt.

Diagram showing power steering pump
Via 
cars.com

Damaged Power Steering Pump

What it Sounds Like

A high-pitched whining noise that occurs when you turn the wheel as far as possible in either direction.

How to Get It Fixed

Turning your wheel all the way in either direction strains the power steering pump and can eventually cause permanent damage. Prevent this problem by never turning your wheels to within an inch of the lock position—if you’re still hearing the noise once you’ve adjusted, the damage is already done and the pump might need to be replaced.


Diagram showing location of CV axle shaft bootVia 
motor-works.com

Torn CV Axle Shaft Boot

What it Sounds Like

A clicking sound while turning that speeds up as your vehicle accelerates and slows down when your speed decreases.

How to Get It Fixed

When your CV axle shaft boot is torn, grease leaks from the axle—the lack of lubrication is what causes the clicking sound. Replacing the boot and topping up the grease should be enough to correct this problem, unless the CV axle has become damaged as a result. If that’s the case, you’ll need to replace the whole thing.

Diagram showing brake anatomy in car
Via 
autoanything.com

Worn Out Brake Pads or Rotors

What it Sounds Like

A squealing or whining noise when you pump the brakes in your vehicle.

How to Get It Fixed

Your pads will wear out before your rotors, and they’re much cheaper to replace. Replace your pads as soon as you start hearing this noise to avoid damaging the rotors and needing to replace them as well.

Diagram showing parts of car exhaust system
Via 
researchgate.net

Exhaust Leaks

What it Sounds Like

A rumble that gets louder as your vehicle accelerates, eventually drowning out music, conversation, and road noise.

How to Get It Fixed

Most drivers think of the exhaust in their vehicles as one long pipe, but it’s actually made from various components: gaskets, a flexpipe, a resonator, a muffler, and more. Small holes in a pipe can be temporarily patched or solved by replacing the damaged section. If the leak is coming from a broken seal, the corresponding gasket will need to be replaced. And of course, any damaged components (like mufflers or catalytic converters) will need to be replaced as well.

Loose wheel nuts on Ford vehicle
Via 
fordowner.b-cdn.net

Loose Wheel Nuts

What it Sounds Like

A banging noise (perhaps similar to a clothes dryer with shoes in it).

How to Get It Fixed

Loose wheel nuts can result in your vehicle’s wheels detaching, so if you hear this sound, you should pull over to the side of the road immediately. However, you can often solve this problem yourself if you have a jack and a lug wrench—just jack the car off the ground and use the wrench to tighten the wheel nuts. If you’re not confident in your ability to do that, call for roadside assistance or a tow to your nearest mechanic.


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man filling tire with air
man cleaning a wheel bearing
man holding part of a wheel bearing trying to solve problems