9 Car Noises that May Mean Expensive Repairs

Toco Joe from Toco Warranty checking on different car noises coming from a vehicle

Listen to what your car is telling you by learning about the possible causes of common car noises.

Cars produce an array of noises.

From the sound of your tires gripping the pavement to the revving of your engine when you accelerate (unless you drive an electric car), most of these noises indicate a perfectly functioning vehicle. In fact, because they’re so common, you probably don’t even notice most of the noises your car makes. But like an off-key note at a piano recital, a dissonant sound can make you sit up and take notice.

Whether your car is screeching, clunking, squealing, squeaking, clicking, humming, hissing, rattling, knocking or popping, it pays to listen closely to what your car is trying to tell you. By recognizing and addressing potential car problems early, you may be able to avoid more costly repairs down the road.

Here are nine car noises that may indicate larger problems:

Brake Noises

Like nails on a chalkboard, brake noise can range from annoying to downright maddening. And since your brakes are arguably the most important safety mechanism on your vehicle, it’s hard to ignore these noises for very long.

Here are three of the most common types of brake noises:

  • If you hear a high-pitched squealing noise that happens when you’re driving and it goes away when you hit the brakes, you may be hearing the brake manufacturer’s built in indicator that it’s time to have your brakes serviced.
  • If you hear a grinding or growling noise from your brakes, it usually means that your brake pads have worn all the way down and are grinding into the rotor.
  • If you’re experiencing a squeaking noise when you brake, you may be hearing your brake pads and shoes moving – which can be caused by poor installation of your brake pads.

For your safety (and sanity), if you’re hearing any of these noises, it’s a good idea to get your brakes checked by a trained and licensed mechanic.

Engine Noise

As the heart of your vehicle, it’s important to pay attention to any unexpected noises that your engine is making. Here are a few common engine noises:

  • If you hear a ticking or tapping noise in your engine, the most likely culprit is the valvetrain. This could be due to a low oil level or the need for an oil change, or it could indicate more serious mechanical issues – such as the need for an oil pump replacement.
  • If you hear a ping or knocking noise in your engine, you may be experiencing improper combustion. This can be caused by a few different things, including an incorrect air-to-fuel mixture, using the wrong octane gasoline, or carbon deposits on your cylinder walls.
  • If you hear a clicking noise in your engine when you turn the ignition and your car doesn’t start, you most likely either have a dead battery or the wiring of the starter is loose.

Accelerating and Turning Noise

Some car noises only appear when you’re accelerating or turning. Here are a few possible explanations for these types of noises:

  • If you experience a squealing noise when accelerating, there’s a good chance it has to do with your drive belt. This may be fixed by replacing your belt, or it may be a much more serious issue.
  • If the noise you hear is a roaring that increases as you accelerate, it may be an issue with your exhaust system or transmission.
  • If your car makes a creaking, whining or squealing noise when turning, you may have an issue with your steering and suspension – however, as one of the more complex parts of your car, there’s a lot of different things that could be wrong.


Unexpected car noises can mean a lot of different things. Some of them may be relatively benign, while others may require more costly repairs. Just like your body will let you know when you’re sick, your car has ways of letting you know that something isn’t quite right.

Regardless of the source of the noise, it’s important to address it as soon as possible. For some issues, the longer you let it go, the more expensive it’ll be to fix in the long run. Your car, and your ears, will thank you.

The advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for having your car inspected by a trained and licensed mechanic.