A guide to unusual car noises

My car is making a strange noise

An unusual noise coming from your car can be a warning that something's not right.

We recommend you get your car checked by a garage even if you're not sure where the sound is coming from or how serious it is.

Meanwhile, we offer some help to discover where the problem might lie so you can point the garage in the right direction.

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Common car noises

If you ignore a strange noise and continue driving, you run the risk of making a small issue much worse, which could lead to a hefty repair bill later on. Or you might even end up breaking down.

Here are some common car noises:

  • Grinding gears – This might be due to a worn clutch, but can also indicate an issue with the gear linkage or transmission.

  • Scraping brake noise – Your brake pads could be worn and may need replacing, but it can also be caused by just a stone stuck next to the brake disc.

  • Clunking or rattling – Clunks and rattles can indicate a variety of problems. For example, rattles when driving over speedbumps or potholes might be due to the exhaust pipe or suspension.

  • Rumbling – A rumbling noise can be an issue with your wheel bearings.

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My car is making a noise when accelerating

A squeaking or squealing sound when you're accelerating or cruising can mean there's a problem with a drive belt on the engine. You should get this checked as soon as possible.

Slapping noises when accelerating usually mean a tyre is flat or under-inflated. Check the tyre pressure is correct or if you have a slow puncture. If the noise continues, book in at a tyre depot or contact your breakdown provider if you don't think it's safe to drive further.

A roaring noise when you accelerate might indicate a break in the exhaust system.

A loud hissing or whooshing noise could be an air leak on turbocharged vehicles. This is usually accompanied by a slight loss of power on acceleration. Have the problem checked by a garage, or if it's really bad contact your breakdown provider.

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My car is making a noise when braking

Grinding, squeaking or squealing noises can mean there's a problem with your brake pads, and they may need replacing.

A repetitive clicking noise could be a problem with your braking component system or else there may be a stone stuck next to the brake disc.

In both situations, we recommend a visit to the garage to get your brakes checked.

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My car is making a noise when turning

If you experience a grinding noise when turning your steering wheel, the power steering fluid might be low.

You can top this up yourself using the correct fluid for your vehicle. But it's a good idea to get the steering checked as low fluid suggests there may be a leak.

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My car is making a noise when the engine is off

A clicking noise after you turn the engine off is not uncommon – in most cases it's just the sound of the engine cooling down and this is nothing to worry about.

Hissing or sizzling, on the other hand, can indicate a leak. Don't investigate a leak yourself as you could hurt yourself. Instead, take your car to a garage as a mechanic will have the safety gear to do an inspection.

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My car is making a noise when reversing

A clicking noise when reversing is caused by the brake pads shifting into position for the new direction of travel. This can usually be fixed by adding some calliper grease to the brakes – ask a garage to help with this one.

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My car is making a noise when idling

Clicking sounds coming from the engine when you first start and turn off your car are normal and are just the the engine warming up and cooling down.

If a clicking or tapping noise persists after your engine has been on for a while, this could be due to a low oil level. Check the type of oil for your car and then top up the oil to the correct level on the dipstick.

If the clicking or tapping persists, take your car to a garage.

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What car maintenance can I do myself?

Doing regular checks on key parts of your vehicle can help to keep it in good working order, and prevent expensive repairs later on.

In particular, regularly check your oil and coolant levels, topping up when necessary.

Our top car maintenance tips will also keep your vehicle in good shape.

Book a vehicle check

If you hear a noise from your car but you're not sure what's causing it, book it in for a vehicle check. If you book through Smart Care you'll get:

  • Free vehicle collection and return, subject to availability.
  • Servicing at AA approved garages.
  • Quick and easy online booking and payment.
  • Parts and labour guaranteed for 1 year or up to 12,000 miles.
  • Fair, transparent pricing, no hidden extras.

We thoroughly inspect each garage to ensure it fully meets our quality, service and training standards. We then carry out annual audits, as well as spot checks.

Author: The AA

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