26 January 2021
WHAT’S THAT NOISE: Funny sounds your car might make, and what they mean

Kok-kok; klunk-klunk; squeeee – these are just some of the odd noises you might hear when something’s gone wrong with your car. But what do these noises indicate, and are they expensive to fix?

Noises. They’re all part and parcel of operating a mechanical contraption such as a car. You’ll hear a low hum from your engine when it’s running, tyre noise as you drive along the expressway, and little squeaks as the plastic interior trim rub against each other.

After driving for years, our brains tend to subconsciously filter out these harmless sounds as white noise. We’ll get in and drive, and completely fail to notice these sounds that occur on every journey. But — do you know what noises you should pay attention to, and what noises signify that something’s gone wrong?

Occasionally, you’ll hear sinister-sounding thumping, banging, clicking, or squealing sounds. It might happen during normal driving, or when you take specific actions such as applying the brakes or making a turn.

What should you do? ‘Ignore it and it’ll go away’ is the worst course of action you could take, as this can give the issue time to worsen (and get more expensive). Although getting it checked out by a mechanic is the best option, here’s a handy list of common car noises to give you an idea of what to expect.

Don’t put off getting funny car noises checked out just because you’re busy! AutoApp’s team of Service Ambassadors are here to help you get the problem sorted while you’re busy with something else. Enjoy a waiver of our Collection & Delivery service charge (worth S$68) if you’re new to AutoApp!

Abnormality: Disquiet from under the bonnet

Sounds scary enough? Unfortunately, noises from your car’s engine compartment are usually the scariest — because they cost the most to fix.

Knocking or ticking noise when accelerating

Sounds like: ‘tick-tick-tick’ or ‘tap-tap-tap’    

There are several factors that could cause knocking or ticking noises when you accelerate.

It might be as simple as the wrong grade of petrol used — try filling up with petrol that matches your car manufacturer’s recommended octane rating, and see if it persists.

Apart from petrol, these noises might indicate a faulty sensor, clogged fuel injectors, or even a failing fuel pump. Get it checked out as soon as possible!

Hissing or sizzling noise after a drive

Sounds like: meat on a barbecue grill

Hissing or sizzling in the kitchen usually means a tasty treat is nearly done. Hissing or sizzling in your engine compartment, however, usually means that something is leaking.

It’s likely that a fluid of some sort is leaking onto hot engine components, such as your exhaust manifold, causing it to sizzle and evaporate. This could possibly be engine coolant, or worse, engine oil.

If you don’t notice any fluids or residue, it could be caused by a leaking vacuum line. Worse still, it could be a sign of an overheating engine.

Humming or whirring while driving or accelerating

Sounds like: ‘wong-wong-wong’, or like a mini jet engine

A humming or whirring noise while driving could have several causes, depending on which region or the car they emanate from.

Typically, if the noise or pitch changes with speed, it might be related to your transmission or a failing wheel bearing. If it occurs even while revving when stationary, it’s possible that it’s due to a failing alternator, air-conditioning compressor, or engine water pump.

Squealing when accelerating

Sounds like: a high-pitched ‘squeeee’

Squealing from your engine bay, especially when accelerating, is a fairly telling sign that a belt (or two) is slipping during operation.

However, in certain cases, this could also signify a misaligned or seized pulley for an accessory component.

Deviance: Disturbance from beneath the floorpan

Though not quite as scary as noises from within the engine compartment, unusual noises that come from other parts of the car should be treated with equal importance.

Clunking or clicking when coming to a stop

Sounds like: ‘klok-klok-klok’ or ‘click-click-click’

As a noise that happens usually after you apply the brakes and are coming to a stop, these clunking or clicking noises typically indicate that a brake caliper or brake pad is damaged and/or improperly installed.

Clunking or rattling while driving

Sounds like: ‘kok-kok, kok-kok’           

This is typically the most annoying noise to come from the undercarriage, especially when it happens intermittently rather than constantly. Usually, this means that a component in your suspension system is worn, causing noise as it goes over uneven surfaces.

Rattling while driving

Sounds like: tapping your fingers on a wooden table

A rattling noise that happens while driving always usually means that something has bent, or gotten loose. This noise could be due to a loose exhaust system, or improperly installed brake pads.

Clicking while making turns

Sounds like: ‘click-click-click-click-click’

It’s infuriating — there’s a constant clicking when you turn your wheels. This gets faster as you speed up, and gets slower when you slow down.

This is a clear sign that your CV joint requires attention. A tear in the boot has most likely allowed the grease to leak out, drying out the components within which causes the clicking noise.

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