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Common Car Noises and What They Mean

If you're not a car expert, every little squeak, rattle, or other noise can bring uncertainty to your drive. Car noises are often signs of your car aging, but they can also be due to bigger issues that need more immediate attention. Caliber Collision is here to help you understand possible causes of the problem. Learn the difference between common car noises before taking your car in for maintenance.

Why is my Car Squeaking?

The answer to this question depends on where it's coming from. Here are the most common sources of car squeaking noises:

  • Brakes
  • Serpentine Belt
  • A/C Compressor
  • Body liner rubbing against wheels


If you hear squeaking or squealing coming from your brakes, the solution could be as simple as getting new brake pads. These are usually an inexpensive, but necessary, fix. Using bad brake pads will eventually damage other brake and wheel components.

If you hear a grinding noise coming from your brakes, your brake pads are likely shot. What’s worse, if your car has disc brakes, this could mean that your rotors need to be replaced as well.

Replacing rotors, pads, and flushing the brake system is very expensive. Make sure you address brake noises before it gets to a “grinding”.

Under the Hood

Most often, squealing from under the hood of your vehicle is an issue with your serpentine belt. Sometimes it’s because the belt is old, stiff, and/or cracked and needs to be replaced. However, your serpentine belt helps power many different engine components including the alternator, A/C compressor, power steering, and water pump. If any of these parts are not working properly, this could be putting extra stress on the serpentine belt causing it to squeal.

Take your vehicle to professionals, like our partners Caliber Auto Care, when you hear squealing from under the hood. If your serpentine belt breaks under the pressure causing it to squeal, your vehicle’s power steering will be inoperable and driving the vehicle will be extremely difficult and not advisable. In the event of a front-end crash, the serpentine belt is vulnerable to damage.

Squealing after a crash or accident? Caliber Collision can help get you back on the road quickly and safely. You can even get an estimate before you schedule an appointment.

What is Engine Knock?

Here are the most common causes of engine knock:
  • Hydrolocked engine after driving through high water
  • Bent piston or rod in engine

Rods and Pistons

While squealing and squeaking can be worrisome, if you hear a pronounced and repetitive “KNOCK” coming from your engine, get it looked at by a professional immediately. We recommend getting a tow and not starting the engine again. There could be an issue with the rods and pistons. These pieces are integral parts that work together to make your engine go.

Hydrolocked Engine

Did you drive through high water recently? If you did and the knocking sound began afterward, it could be that you “hydrolocked” your engine.

Sometimes, a knocking or pinging noise can also mean that your engine is in need of a tune-up. Bad spark plugs or a clogged engine air filter have been known to cause pinging noises, slow starts upon ignition, and more.

Did you hear these noises after an accident? Schedule an appointment with Caliber to get you back on the road today.

Car Noises When Turning

Here are the most common car noises you’ll hear when turning:
  • Damaged axles
  • Bad wheel bearings
  • Bad wheel hub
  • Loose body parts in wheel well


Perhaps you were driving down your street without an issue, but then a loud noise began once you went to make a turn. Popping or clicking when you go to steer around a bend might mean a problem with your front or rear axle. You may need new constant velocity joints, which connect your axle to the transmission and wheels. For all-wheel-drive vehicles you have four joints to worry about and two for front-wheel drive. Get this looked at before you end up having to replace your whole axle.

Wheel Bearings and Wheel Hubs

If you hear more of a whining or howling while turning it could be an issue with your vehicles' bearings. According to Geico, if you hear the noise as "you turn left, right and back again, the issue is likely your front-wheel bearings. A gradually growing, steady howl signals rear-wheel bearings."

If you hear a loud howling noise that increases in volume around 50 MPH and then starts to get quieter at higher speeds, your wheel hub and/or bearings could be bad. If you are noticing this noise and it gets louder when you make turns, it’s very likely that you do have a wheel hub issue.

Depending on your vehicle, a bad bearing or bad wheel hub means an expensive replacement. But don’t shy away from the cost -- bad bearings or wheel hubs can lead to your wheel being severed from the vehicle.

Car Rattling Noises

Here are the most common causes of car rattling noises:

  • Change or other items stuck under carpeting or paneling
  • Loose exhaust components
  • Loose body parts in engine or wheel well

Going crazy trying to find the source of that pesky rattling noise in your vehicle? This sound could be caused by something as simple as loose change under upholstery or something more serious like your exhaust system coming unfixed from your vehicle. For example, your exhaust pipe may be out of alignment.

However, rattling could also mean you have a more serious problem on your hands. Worse-case-scenario could be piston slap which means your pistons aren't moving properly and should be looked at as soon as possible. If you think this might be an issue, get it looked at by a professional before continuing to drive normally.