The Ultimate Guide to Debunking Your Car's Spookiest Sounds

October 24, 2017

Screech! Hiss! Clunk, clunk! Nope, those sounds aren’t coming from the neighbor's creepy Halloween display – they’re coming from your car! Anytime you hear an unusual noise from your car and begin thinking it might be possessed, it’s time to consider a mechanic exorcism.

A smooth running vehicle does not clunk, hiss, clank, or ghoulishly moan into the night. If you aren't sure on the source of the sound, it can make you uneasy. Is my car safe to drive? Is this issue repairable? How much will this repair cost?

The first step in understanding the issue is taking note of when the sound occurs. Certain sounds are specific to direct actions such as braking or turning the steering wheel. For instance, if you hear squealing, grinding, or clunking when you are bringing your car to a stop, it is very likely that you are having brake system troubles. Having a general idea of where the sound is coming from is the second step in getting your car back to safe, efficient operating condition. 

Here are some common spooky sounds that could mean trouble ahead:

1. An all-consuming rattle of possible bones (?)

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Loud isn't the right word for this sound; it's more like the growling of a monster's belly. If you're just driving along and suddenly you hear this noise, rest assured there isn't really a monster waiting under your car to eat you. No, it's possibly your catalytic converter

Issues with the catalytic converter develop over time, so odds are that there have already been some rattling noises especially when the engine is warming up, and in some severe cases there can be a noticeable decline in acceleration power. Learn more about pricing on a catalytic converter fix by clicking here.

2. What is that unbearable screeching?!

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You were pulling up to a stop sign when you first noticed it; all alone, in the middle of nowhere, there was a screeching sound. Terrified to wait around and find out where it could be coming from, you drove off only find that when you got to the next stop sign – it had followed you!

If this is you, fear not. Those shrieks that you thought could only belong to something as terrifying as a banshee probably belong to your worn out brake pads and/or rotors. When they get old, worn, or rusty, you'll know it's time to have them checked by the screeching sound they make. Get an estimate on a brake pads/rotors replacement by click here.

If the sound is more of an inconsistent squeak, it could be related to your ball joints, shocks, or bushings. Either way, don't let these problems go unfixed or the little monster could pay you a visit on your way to work, ending in with a very scary towing bill.

3. Something's clunking under the hood…

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Clunking under the front of the car when going over bumps (or running over zombies) causes an uneasy feeling in its occupants. Is something (or someone) under there? While it might cause a bit of a scare, clunking often indicates an issue with either the ball joints or the tie rods.

Both of these parts are integral to suspension and affect the vehicle's steering. When one, the other, or both are worn, it's common to hear clunking and imperative to have your vehicle inspected and repaired.

4. The sounds of death follow the turning of your key!

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Uh oh, the dreaded moment when your car won't start! Does it sound like someone is clawing their way out from under your hood following silence? Maybe a ticking sound? Or, just nothingness? It might be time for a new battery, starter, spark plug, or fuse

Don't fret mere mortal: a trip to this diagnosis page and then to the garage will help you get back up and running!

5. But what about the spookiest of all… the mysterious noise that makes no sense!

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Are you superstitious when you notice your car doesn't sound its normal perky self? Here are a few ideas of different parts under the hood and the sounds they conjure:

  • Belt assembly components can make a constant loud high-pitched screeching noise.
  • Exhaust problems can make your car sound loud and like a tractor, especially if you have a leak.
  • Fuel system problems can cause your car to spit and sputter, making it sound abnormal.
  • Transmission problems can sound grinding as your car tries to shift gears during acceleration.

When you take your car to the auto repair shop, it will be very helpful to the shop manager or service writer if you know some specifics like when and how it happens. The best scenario is to take the mechanic for a ride and have them experience the noise. If they can hear the noise they can find the issue and fix it. It's scary thinking about safety and the potential cost of the repair; however, ignoring the issues can lead to even scarier problems.

About the Author

Kimberlea Buczeke is an automotive expert at RepairPal, the leading online source of auto repair resources and estimates. With many ASE Master certified mechanics on staff who have decades of experience, RepairPal knows all the fine points of car repair.

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