Diagnosing Auto Noises: Different Car Noises and What They Mean

When you hear an out-of-the-ordinary sound while starting or driving your car, it can catch you off guard, make your heart race, and have you thinking about how much is in your checking account. Most of the time you can get a pretty good idea of what is happening by diagnosing auto noises. What do they mean? Here are some of the most common noises and what they could be.

Of course, keep in mind that some noises might be common to more than one problem, and no guide is foolproof. The only way to know for sure what you are facing is by taking your vehicle to a specialist like Advanced Transmission Center if it appears to be transmission or drivetrain-related, or to your mechanic if it’s something we wouldn’t fix.

Noise When Backing Up

Several different noises can occur when backing up—grinding, whining, howling, clunking. Sometimes a grinding noise is misdiagnosed as a transmission problem when it is really associated with low brake pads and a seized brake caliper. A whining noise indicates a transmission problem—most likely a clogged fluid line—while howling could be from a bad differential and clunking is probably a worn driveshaft u-joint or worn engine or transmission mounts.  Wheel bearings can also cause an odd whine.

Grinding While in Drive

A grinding noise from the transmission while driving might be one of the worst sounds you can experience, mainly because it could mean a serious problem with the planetary gear system within the transmission. If it fails, significant damage and cost can follow as this type of failure adversely impacts other components within the transmission as well.

Gurgling Noise While Driving

An odd gurgling noise while driving is an indication of low transmission fluid and the noise is caused by air in the transmission line. This noise happens when the gears in the transmission slip. If this occurs, the fluid level may be low enough to cause damage to internal parts of the transmission because not only does it supply fluid for the hydraulics in the transmission, but it also lubricates and protects internal components.

High-Pitched Squeal Under the Hood

This often happens when starting the engine and the likely culprit is your serpentine belt going bad or slipping. This belt drives all essential engine parts. If this fails entirely, you will be stuck on the side of the road.

Wheel Squealing That Stops When You Brake

This is the warning system that tells you your brake pads need replacing. Don’t ignore it. Sometimes it doesn’t take long to go from needing to be done, to no brake pad material left at all. If that occurs, you may have to get new rotors as well instead of just resurfacing the existing ones.  In Colorado, this is extraordinarily dangerous.  Can you image going down steep grade during a drive in the mountains only to have your brakes go out?  This is terrible for your vehicle but more importantly extremely dangerous.

Noise When Turning the Steering Wheel

This can sound like a whine, or growling, and means you are low on power steering fluid. If it gets too low, you will find it is hard to turn the wheel, much like older cars that had no power steering, and you will damage the power steering pump. Not only will you need to fill it, but also figure out where the leak is.

Clicking When Making a Turn

There are a few possibilities when you hear this noise. It could be the CV joint, a bad axle, or a loose tie rod end. None of these are good problems to have, and you can’t wait to fix them, or you could be risking an accident.

Banging When Going Over a Bump

A banging or clunking noise when going over a bump could indicate bad sway bar links or bushings. If these are bad, other major components can get damaged.  In some cases, an engine or transmission mount may be damaged which is an easy fixed if addressed immediately.  Your mechanic can tell you exactly what the source is.

Come in For an Inspection

At Advanced Transmission Center, we want to see you out on the road, free of any troubling noises or problems. Come in for a quick and free TrueTest Inspection to diagnose any issues or noises you are experiencing. Don’t forget, regular maintenance of your transmission is just as important as an oil change and will help prevent damage from occurring. Call our Westminster (Northwest Denver) location at 303-647-5257, our Lakewood (Southwest Denver) location at 303-816-3856 or contact us online to get started today!

Written by Advanced Transmission Center