Don't Ignore Your Car After Hearing These 7 Engine Noises

Published on
November 26, 2021

‏Whether you're a car enthusiast or someone who just needs four wheels to roll in unison to get you from point A to point B, there is still some basic knowledge you should have about the noises you hear coming from your car. Do you know the tell-tale sound that means you've worn your brake pads completely out? Or how about that high-pitched squealing noise you can't quite place but know shouldn't be happening every time you turn the car on? Never fear. We're going to discuss the 7 most common noises coming from your engine that shouldn't be and what you should do about them. ‏

‏Now, there are a few things you can do on your own to assess the damage. And yes, there are some best practices you can employ to lessen the wear and tear on your vehicle. But most of these sounds mean there is overdue maintenance that's best left up to the professionals. So pay attention, and don't delay bringing your car into the shop if you hear any of the following noises. ‏

1. ‏Knocking

‏Engine knocking might not sound like you'd expect it to if you're unfamiliar with a car's engine. It sounds more like a 'ting ting ting' that shaking something metallic in a metal conation might sound like. You might notice this happen when you go uphill or accelerate your speed and are putting more pressure on your engine. Knocking can be the result of not using the right type of gas. Specifically, an issue with the octane quality. But more serious a problem than that, the knocking you hear can be caused by an issue with the spacing of your spark plugs.

2. ‏Squealing

‏It doesn't matter if you're accelerating from 15 to 25mph or are gearing up to hit the highway, hearing squealing sounds from your engine means there is likely a problem with a belt. It's either become loose or misaligned all together. In terms of safety, it's alright to drive with this annoying noise in your ear for a few days, but make sure you don't wait too long to bring it in and get it changed out. Without a properly functioning belt, you run the risk of having issues with the alternator and power steering.

3. ‏Screeching

‏While squealing and screeching can seem like almost the same sound, screeching might have more to do with your breaks. While this is different than your engine issue, we're still including it here because it's an equally important part of your car running at its smoothest and safest. Whether you're a hard stopper or just have worn through your brake pads, hearing a screeching noise from your car when you're accelerating, turning, or stopping, isn't something that should be happening. If you can't quite tell whether it's your engine or your breaks, it's a good time to bring your car in and get it serviced.

‏4. Grinding When Changing Gears

‏If you're hearing an awful grinding noise while you're changing gears, it might be more than just a user error (in a manual transmission). Just to clarify, the transmission isn't the same thing as your engine, but they do work together. The transmission converts power into torque, which is what gets your car on the road and going. Basically, if the transmission goes, you're in deep car trouble. So, if you hear grinding when switching gears, it might be an indication of an even more complex issue with the transmission that causes your engine to overheat. And you absolutely need to take it in and have a professional look at it.

5. ‏Ticking

‏This most often happens when your engine is idling. More often than not, this has to do with being low on oil or something causing low oil pressure. Turn the engine off and wait for the oil to cool, and see if it's something as simple as needed a change. If it's not, it could be a worn valve or other problem that you need a professional to check on.

6. ‏Loud Bang or Mild Popping

‏Backfiring isn't always as dramatic in real life as it is in the movies. Regardless, if your engine makes a loud popping noise or something more like a bang, it could be your engine backfiring. Backfiring is caused by an air/fuel mix that's combusting somewhere it shouldn't.‏

‏While this can do more damage to your exhaust than your engine, it indicates that your engine isn't functioning as it should. It's likely your engine isn't making as much power as it should. This could be because the valves are damaged, the fuel injector is broken, or the engine air filter is clogged. With so many potential issues causing your engine to backfire, it's crucial you bring your car in as soon as you can.

7. ‏Hissing

‏Hissing is probably the most worrisome noise on this list you could hear coming from your car. You might notice it after you've turned the car off, but if you detect this noise while you're driving, you absolutely should stop and turn it off until it can be towed to the shop. A hissing noise is an indication that your radiator hose (part of the cooling system) has a leak. This means the car's coolant will be low, resulting in your engine overheating and doing permanent, or at best extensive, damage to your vehicle. ‏

‏While every car or truck has its unique quirks, any of the above noises shouldn't be ignored. This isn't an all-inclusive list, and some examples deal with worst-case scenarios, however, it's always better to err on the side of caution. The recommendation for any of these noises, whether they be merely annoying or truly concerning, is to take your car into the shop. By continuing to drive your vehicle knowing it isn't operating at full capacity will likely lead to bigger, more expensive fixes down the road. Save yourself the money, the headache, and get more peace of mind by having a professional take a look at what's going on under your hood. ‏

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