Even for people extremely knowledgeable about cars and mechanical problems, it can often be quite daunting to recognize and diagnose either current or potentially serious issues during your daily driving routine.
Therefore, let us point out five noises your car might make, any of which could very well signal immediate or imminent problems if you continue to operate the vehicle without repair.
Squeaking or Grinding Brakes
Although squeaky brakes might occur when cold, they should normally be totally quiet when you first apply them. Squeaky brakes may indicate that the pads could soon need replacement, as this is the most common and obvious sign of wear. In fact, this type of sound might be coming from the wear indicator to inform the driver that it’s time to change pads.
However, if you hear a scraping or grinding noise, it is advisable to not continue driving, but rather take the car to a service station right away. This could mean totally worn out pads, which would more than likely result in imminent brake failure.
Loud or Even Roaring Exhaust
Before we go there, it’s helpful to answer these two simple questions:
Does the exhaust system of your car sound loud as you step on the accelerator?
As you continue to accelerate hard, does it sometimes even induce an extremely loud roaring noise?
The car's muffler (or silencer) will normally need to be looked at initially, as it is the part of the exhaust most likely to deteriorate first. Other noises could be hissing, normally caused by a crack in the manifold or exhaust pipe, or perhaps a leaky gasket.
A rattling sound could result from a misaligned exhaust. A loud metallic whine may occur if a clamp or bracket is loose. Loud exhaust sounds by themselves should not cause problems, but could be a sign that the car is leaking carbon monoxide.
This leakage could induce dizziness, nausea, and after a while even the inability of the car's occupants to function normally, resulting in serious long-term health situations. Therefore, as with brake issues, you need to have your exhaust system repaired or replaced as soon as possible.
Hissing Engine Sound
A hissing sound coming from the engine could mean two different things. Either your engine is overheating, or you have a leak somewhere in the cooling system. Check your dashboard's temperature gauge or indicator to see if it shows abnormally high. If you see steam rising from the hood, do not continue to drive.
After shutting off the engine, you might also check underneath the engine for coolant leakage. But before opening the hood to assess any possible overheating damage, wait until steam coming from the engine has totally subsided. You won't accomplish anything by adding additional coolant at this point, so the best idea is to take the car to a repair shop right away. If the problem is coolant leakage, the cause is probably a broken hose.
Tapping or Clicking
The most obvious and easiest moment to fix the cause of this problem is if the car is low on oil. Check the engine oil level, and if that is fine, the problem would likely be either low oil pressure somewhere in the system, or blockage caused by heavy dirt.
If not an oil related issue, the problem is probably being caused by the valves, which most likely need to be adjusted. Other possible causes could be a failing water pump or alternator. Any of these situations could cause the car either to break down on the road or be unable to start, so please check-out the car at your mechanic’s as soon as possible.
Squealing or Popping Engine Sound
If your car's engine seems to be making a squealing sound, there could be a problem with the serpentine belt or one of the smaller belts. Perhaps the belt's rubber has become old and brittle, or the tension could be faulty. The belt not having the proper level of tension applied could ultimately result in breakage.
If the engine makes a popping sound on acceleration, combined with a delay in moving, severe hesitation, and lack of power, you could have a dirty air filter, bad ignition wire or distributor cap. These should all be easy and relatively inexpensive problems to fix though.
Just about every automotive mechanic and technical expert will agree that 'preventive' car maintenance is the best way to keep your vehicle consistently running smoothly and safe, so always follow the schedule of your car's maintenance book, and if you don't have one, visit your mechanic on a regular basis for a thorough check of all important safety and wear items.
It is also vitally important to be aware of sounds such as the ones described above, which should serve as warnings to every aware driver that action is needed, in many cases immediately. Developing such habits could save the driver a lot of future nervousness and inconvenience, especially if one of these problems occur late at night or on a lonely country road.