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What does a clicking sound under the hood and other noises mean?

What does a clicking sound under the hood and other noises mean?

As you drive your car, you do not expect the entire experience to be soundless. A bit of noise is to be expected. If the noise gets out of hand or sounds unusual, it is usually a sign of a bigger problem.

Beware of any unusual noises as you drive your car.  Do not ignore the sounds, they could be signs of a much bigger problem or even a safety hazard.

If you cannot describe or define the noises plus their source, find a good mechanic who can help you figure it out and make a diagnosis.

Let us run down a few of these noises so that you know what to listen for and what they could potentially mean.

Clicking and tapping noises from the car

If you hear the clicking noises as you turn your car, then your CV joints probably have a problem. The CV joints are found within the inner and outside parts of the axel. They are designed to ensure that power is moved directly from the car wheel as they continue to move freely.

The universal joints that are found on the drive shaft can also cause clicking noises if they are damaged.

If the engine is low on oil, then you will also hear tapping and clicking from within. If there are tapping sounds from the engine, it can also mean that the oil pressure within is low.

The clicking could also come from inside the cabin. Sometimes the clicking sound can be made by the steering wheel as you turn.

The sounds from the steering wheel are caused mainly by low power steering fluid. If any of the components within the steering column is damaged, then it can also cause clicking sounds.

If you hear clicking noises as you steer, then check it out before it progresses. The issue could cause the problem to become hard to manoeuvre.

Knocking, popping and banging beneath the hood

Knocking usually comes from the engine. The biggest cause of this sound is using the wrong amount of octane gasoline.

If the car uses high octane gasoline and you use high octane gasoline instead, then you will hear the knocking sounds.

The wrong gasoline will cause improper vehicle performance. However, a popping sound could indicate other problems as well. For example, it could mean the spark plugs are worn or dirty, the fuel filter is dirty and clogged and the air filter is dirty.

If the distributor cap or the rotor has a problem, then they might also lead to popping sounds from the engine.

If the popping is loud or there is a very loud bang, the catalytic converter could be having a problem.

Sometimes the popping noises are from the wheels at the front end of the car. The popping from the wheels is usually caused by how you drive. Most of the time it stops when you are driving your car in a straight line again.

The popping noise from the wheel is mainly a sign of a damaged CV joint in the axle at the front.

If you do not repair your CV joint in time, you will have it hard to handle the car and it could continue to endure damage beyond repair. You may need to repair it.

Squealing and squeaking noises from the car

Typically, you will hear squealing sounds when you press onto the accelerator. This signifies that you might have loose engine belts. If your engine belt is loose and slipping, it could lead to squealing noises.

Squeaking from the engine might sound like you have a bird trapped within. Listen to the squeaks and if they are going on intermittently, then you have engine trouble. The squeaks continue to change in loudness according to how you are driving.

The belts in the engine that cause the noises when they are worn can be replaced. Sometimes the belts only require that they be adjusted. Take your car to the mechanic to make the necessary fittings.

If the belts have been worn excessively they could break while you drive and even cause irreversible damage to your engine. Make the necessary repairs before it is too late.

A dysfunctional water pump can also lead to squealing sounds from the car. You might also notice squealing when you apply the brakes. In this case, the brake pads, brake shoes or brake rotors might have a problem.

Rattling sounds from your car

Rattling means that your car equipment is failing. Your car should not rattle. Mostly rattling is caused by damage to the body of your car and if any of the bolts on your car are loose or have gone missing.

 If the rattling you hear is coming from underneath the car, then the problem could be with the exhaust system.

Exhaust system damages could include issues with the heat shield like looseness, corrosion to the exhaust pipe. Sometimes the rattle could be caused by a faulty catalytic converter.

You might also notice that the rattling is coming from your engine. If it is from the engine, then it could mean that your water pump is failing.

Rattling from the engine might also mean that the pulley bearing on the timing belt has a problem. Make sure that a thorough diagnosis is made to identify the real cause.

Sometimes the rattling will come from within the car. If you are hearing rattles in the interior of your car, then it could indicate that some screws are missing from the trim pieces. Interior rattling could also be from worn window channels or the tracks on the doors and the windows might be with issues. Seek expert help if your car is making rattling noises. Most of the time they will be coupled with other worrying signs.

Rattling sometimes comes from the wheels. This means that there is a problem in regards to how the wheels are attached to the car. Have your mechanic inspect them immediately.

Grinding and humming sounds from the car

If your car is producing grinding noises or it’s humming, then you need to do a thorough inspection. Grinding and low humming usually mean worn out parts or parts that are starting to fail.

Listen to hear if the grinding comes as you are shifting a manual transmission. If that is the case, then your clutch should be inspected. The transmission or synchronizer could also be the problem if the grinding comes during the manual transmission shift.

Grinding noises while you are applying your brakes mean that your brake pads are possibly worn. Check because you might need new brake pads and rotors. Your brakes should always be quiet as you bring your car to a stop.

If your brakes are making any noises, have a professional look at them. Any problems with brakes are a potential hazard to your health. You should not drive your car if the brakes are failing.

Grinding sounds from the brakes as they come to a halt means that parts that make up the brake are directly touching. This is what leads to damages to the rotor.

If the damage to the brakes has come to this point, then their performance cannot be predicted and they are unsafe.

If you notice humming with a low pitch from beneath your car, check your transmission system. It usually means that your transmission is failing.

Low pitched humming might also be from old and worn out differential, a faulty wheel bearing and bad universal joints.

Hissing noises from beneath the car hood

In most cases, if there is a hissing sound under the hood of the car, then there exists a leak. Usually, the leak is from the engine cooling system or the vacuum system.

If you hear the hissing sound as you turn off your car, then the sound is most probably from oil or coolant leaking onto the exhaust manifold. The liquids might also be falling onto another part of the engine that is heated thus producing a hissing sound.

If you hear the hissing sounds while you drive, then it is most probably from a leak within the vacuum line, the hose or the fitting. You will mostly hear the hissing sound as you accelerate.

Fluids in the engine mainly serve to lubricate the components and to keep it cool. If there is fluid leakage, then overheating is bound to follow. It could cause your engine to fail. Do not ignore the hissing sound even after you turn off your car.

Whining and whirring sounds from the car

The whining and whirring noises vary in loudness depending on how fast the engine is running. These noises are a sign of many different issues.

This sound coming from your engine might mean that there is a component that is worn out. Schedule a service appointment immediately.

Any problem with the engine is better handled earlier than later when more damage could have happened.

The driver belt moves other components and it wears out with time. It can cause whining and possible alternator damage. Replace the belt if it is bad.

The whining could be because the water pump has a problem and is failing or the steering pump has a problem.

If the steering fluid is low, the air conditioner is failing or the alternator is faulty, then you will hear the whirring and whining noises.

Whining can also be caused by too much wear within the transmission plus issues with the differential gear train.

Screeching noises from the brakes

Screeching sounds from the brakes should be attended to immediately. You might notice that your brakes make screeching noises whenever you tap them initially. However, the condition could grow with time.

If you are hearing the noises every time that you use your brakes, then it is a cause for alarm and should be checked out immediately.

The screeching sound usually develops right before the grinding noises from the brakes start. Work on it before further damages occur. It is a sign that your brake padding is worn. Therefore, you do not have enough to ensure that the metal parts do not touch.

If you discover the problem early, then you will only need to switch the pads. If the problem is not stopped early, then you might have complete brake failure.

You will incur bigger costs if you do not have the issue checked in time, not to mention the safety risk. Failing brakes put your life at risk on the road.


Do not ignore any noises from your car especially those that sound unusual. If they mean a problem with your car, it is always better to discover it before it is too late. Take your car to your mechanic for a diagnosis immediately.


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June 2024