Common Car Noises | What Do They Mean and What Should You Do?

For some of us, our vehicles are our beloved property, for some it's just a means to get places, and for some it an experience or an excuse to get out and have an adrenaline rush. But to everyone, taking care of the vehicle, 4-wheeler or 2-wheeler, is one of the top priorities. After all, no one is fond of getting stuck in the middle of nowhere, with clouds of smoke exiting the bonnet. Or even, some common car noises, pricking the ears, while taking a turn, pushing or pedal or more. Yes. common car noises, besides the thumping, cracks, and pops coming out of your aggressive car, can be a warning sign. An OBD-II device can also be used to read diagnostic codes of your car generates if there is an issue. Any vehicle post-manufactured 1996 will have the required OBD-II port to work with the diagnostic tool. These common car noises often require instant attention and a sprint to a mechanic. But how do you recognize some of these common car noises or sounds?


An exemplary owner knows and looks after his vehicle, and makes frequent visits to a maintenance shop. But often, these hunches don’t work out well, and you regret paying green bucks to your mechanic friend. To educate you with the coming shortcomings or signs of warning, here’s a list of common car noises and their diagnosis to smell the trouble before it transforms to hefty repair bills.



Sharp squeal or unknown noise when turning around a corner

Sharp squeal or unknown noise when turning around a corner

Diagnosis- steering linkage issue

Diagnostic Code - P0637


The sharp squeal is the easiest decoding to steering related problems, and the issue can be easily overcome by lubricating. In case the squealing continues, the steering linkage is particularly damaged and needs immediate replacement. Driving with a damaged steering link, or damaged constant velocity joints on your front axle may need steering or axle failure, in either case, the vehicle has a risk of a crash.


Knocking-in the engine bay


engine bay

Diagnosis- engine compression issues

Diagnostic code- P0300-P0312


In layman's terms, knocking refers to incomplete combustion of fuel, due to poor or rich air-fuel mixture. In most cases, the engine starts knocking when low-quality fuel is put in. This leads to the poor air-fuel mixture, leading to noticeable knocking sounds. Continuous use of poor quality oil can lead to severe damage to engine components like a piston, head gasket, and more, which translates to heavy engine repair bills. Thus, minimalist efforts like following the owner’s manual requirements like oil, gasoline quality, and tire air pressure should be maintained.


Grinding noise in transmission when shifting

Worn Out Clutch

Diagnosis- worn-out clutch or transmission issues

Diagnostic code-P0903


This one ranks amongst the top ‘ common car noises’ often searched on google. The grinding noise when shifting and majorly in the case of a manual transmission, indicates clutch being worn out, or requiring adjustment. In either case, it is suggested to have a visit to a mechanic, as these may result in expensive transmission problems.


Rumbling noise from the exhaust or rattling beneath the vehicle

Rusty Exhaust

Diagnosis- loose exhaust pipes/brake pads or cracks in exhaust muffler


The exhaust pipe directs the burnt air/fuel mixture out of the engine to the atmosphere. Often driving through uneven, rough roads with speed loosens the exhaust system, which results in rumbling noises. But it is advised to check for a small peel or leak in the exhaust muffler, which could also result in rumbling noise. The exhaust muffler tones down the excessive engine noises and a small crack might result in a rumbling noise. This issue can be fixed by repairing or replacing the exhaust manifold.


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Chirping noise under the bonnet or while accelerating

Lose Belt Engine


Diagnosis-loose or worn-out belts


There are various belts used in the engine compartments, in components like alternator, water pump, power steering pump, compressor, and more. In many scenarios, these belts can get worn out and loose, or even slip off, thus causing those chirping sounds. In either case, we don’t recommend taking out your shiny tool collection and get the work by yourself. These tasks are meant to be done by experienced hands, as there are chances of getting injured.



Brake squeal or grinding noise

worn-out brake pads


Diagnosis- worn-out brake pads or scraping


This also counts as one of the ‘common car noises’ issues and the concerned area or components are brake pads. The squealing noise is often the indicator of worn-out brake pads or sometimes dirt on brake rotors. In either case, one can visit a workshop, get the brake shoes and rotors clean, or replaces them as per convenience. When the squeal sounds turn to scrape noises, this might indicate complete worn-out brake pads, which means bare metal rubbing against bare metal. Ignoring the issue might result in brake rotors damages, which in turn leads to hefty repair bills.


Rattling noise at low speeds

lose lug nuts


Diagnosis- loose lug nuts


This common car noises specimen is the easiest to address and is often caused by loose or misaligned lug nuts. If you hear these rattling noises, pick a wrench, and tighten your nuts, inside the wheel hubs, and even look for misaligned or damaged lugnuts. If you fail to locate any of these, head to your mechanic friend to get the vehicle diagnosis for any other major issue.



Clunking while braking

misaligned brake caliper


Diagnosis-damaged or misaligned brake caliper.


This common car noises instance translates to a damaged or misaligned brake rotors or even missing or improperly mounted ones. The issue can be easily solved and might need brake caliper replacement in case the current mounted one is damaged.


Hiss or sizzles under the hood 

Coolant Leak


Diagnosis-oil or coolant leak


Various fluids are running in the engine bay, like blood running through our veins. These fluids are significant for lubrication and cooling purpose, but often overheating causes the pipes to leak. And when these fluids on hot components of a heated engine, like the exhaust manifold, these fluids cause sizzling or hissing sounds. In these cases check for vacuum lines or other leaks, and also if the engine is overheating. These issues need immediate attention or might result in bigger issues and expenses.


Loud bangs

Engine Backfire




The engine churns out properly by sipping in fuel and bombarding the air-fuel mixture in the cylinders. Often, due to various reasons, the air-fuel mixture supplied to the cylinder is too rich, and these cause pops and bursts of sounds. It is advised to visit a mechanic and even check for a faulty catalytic converter.


Low-Humming or whirring under the car


Diagnosis- worn-out joints/ shot wheel bearing/ transmission failing


There are hundreds of joints and other moving parts in a vehicle, and most of these require lubrication to work properly. Common car noises like low humming or whirring can indicate various plausible issues in either of these joints or moving parts. In this case, check if the differential needs lubrication, head to a mechanic for possible transmission failure, universal joint worn out, or wheel bearing being shot. Often these noises are difficult to translate and diagnose, as this category of common car noise, tends to echo, and is impossible to determine the source.


Engine rumbling while accelerating


Diagnosis- transmission issue

Diagnostic code- P0750- P0770


In case the engine is roaring or rumbling while accelerating, the first thing to check is the exhaust system. This type of common car noise also indicates transmission issues slipping or clutch in the manual. In case of the automatic transmission, failure to advance to next gear. In either condition, the mechanic is the only person to come to aid.


Tapping or clicking from the engine compartment


Diagnosis- low oil levels

Diagnostic code-P250F


The easiest remedy is to check if the engine is low on oil. If so, then there is the possibility of a loss of oil pressure or indication of blockage in the crud system. These issues need to be addressed by the mechanic.



Popping sounds in the engine


Diagnosis-worn out spark plugs or clogged fuel filter

Diagnostic code- P0301


If the engine is making pop or cracking sounds, this might mean that it needs to be serviced. These issues may indicate worn out or damaged spark plugs causing a misfire, or clogged fuel filter.

These were some of the common car noises and their diagnosis which can assist you to interpret the issue and take actions accordingly. In case we missed one of these common car noises’ feels free to educate us, or even contact us for more info.

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