What sounds to shrug off and when to sit up and pay attention when your car ‘talks back’
A car, like any other modern machine that is an extension of the body – iPhones and laptops being the slightly more discrete kinds – still has a life of their own beyond the driver.
The faint, gentle rumble of your car in 5th gear going along the motorway is a reassuring sign that everything is happening just fine and dandy; if you’ve ever been in one of the extremely new models of almost soundless (or electric) cars, it even feels disturbing to not hear it– so accustomed are we to the ‘natural background noise’ of the running engine.
However, there are noises emanated by a vehicle which spell bad news. Allianz Your Cover (www.yourcoverinsurance.co.uk) provides you with a few sounds your vehicle might make, distinguishing between the ‘no need to worry’ and ‘please go straight to the garage’:
Squealing when accelerating and/or starting the car
That will probably be your fan belt – it’s exhausted. You probably won’t mistake this sound either: it’s a high-pitched squealing that is pretty hard to ignore. The fan belt has loosened and so is beginning to drag.
Immediate action: get in there and check; it may be the belt simply needs tightening, but it could possibly mean it’s worn so low you need a new one.
A dull knocking
‘Rod knocking’ is what you’re experiencing here. This usually means that the rod bearings within the engine have failed.
Immediate action: get to the mechanic!
Thump, thump, thump (sometimes with varying accent/loudness)
It’s a flat-spotted tire – this is common on the nylon-rigged tires; often you’ll get little spots that get pulled flat and this is the thump you can hear, pat patting on the road. Not to be confused with a flat tire, which you can feel…
Immediate action: you can usually wait for it to even out as long as you don’t mind the noise. If it has in fact worn low then you may need the tire replaced.
Tick, tick, tick (usually at the centre back of car, felt most when going at speed)
The rod-bearing and the U-joint are stablemates – this tick tick sound which will vary with your changes in speed, means Mr U has run out of grease and is about to fail. Accidents happen like this – at high speed.
Immediate action: get to a mechanic straight away.
A hissing or fffffffft sound, rapidly at short intervals (usually when not moving)
If your car is going fffft FFFFFT ffft when you stop then please beware; it might sound like a soft hissing but this is far from an innocuous problem. It usually means that an exhaust manifold gasket has failed which now means it’s releasing its exhaust gases within the car.
Immediate action: get to the garage as soon as you can. There might be a carbon monoxide leak and, either way, that gasket needs replacing.