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5 Common Engine Noises (and What They Mean)

If your car starts making weird engine noises and they are sounds which you are not accustomed to, it can be confusing. All cars will emit some sort of noise, which is the general nature of a vehicle. It develops what some people refer to as a “personality,” and these noises become part of the performance of the car. These noises do not necessarily mean anything is wrong with the vehicle, but we all get to know our cars, until one day it makes a noise that stands out from the usual tones. That’s when we tend to tune in and get worried. Here’s a list of what some of these noises might indicate.

1. Clicking and Tapping Sounds

An audible tapping or engine clicking noise coming from the front of your car will definitely draw your attention. Your ears will perk up and you will tune in to the noise, open a window and try to figure out what is going on. The tapping or clicking will increase as you accelerate and become faster. This could be what is known as a ‘tappet,’ or the upper valve train. The causes could be a number of issues starting with a worn part. It could also indicate that the oil pressure is low. Check your oil pressure gauge when you hear this sound and follow guidelines to determine the exact problem. Take the dip stick out and make sure you have enough oil in there.

2. Deep Knocking Noises

These are usually a sign of deep trouble and yes, you should be worried. ‘Rod knocking’ sounds could mean that one part deep inside the engine has worn out. If your rod bearings have worn completely out or become too loose, it is only a matter time before the bearings fail. In this case, you should not use the car until the knocking engine noise has been fully and properly tested, diagnosed and repaired.

3. Rattling and Whining Sounds

If you hear a whining or rattling engine noise from your car when you accelerate it could possibly be that your cam shaft belt is badly aligned or slipping. Have your cam shaft belt checked or look it over yourself if you have the right knowledge. It should really be fixed by a good mechanic, otherwise you could have more trouble further down the road.

4. Squealing When Accelerating

This is an unmistakable sound and it is quite ear splitting. This is your fan belt telling you it is in pain. The fan belt can loosen over time and when you start your engine and the fan belt (often called the serpentine belt) can squeal when the rubber teeth underneath it start to drag. If the fan belt is loose it will not be able to move at the same tempo as the pulleys which control it, hence the squealing noise. If this happens with your vehicle you should look in the manual for repair procedures and tighten it correctly. It may have worn enough to need replacing.

5. Grinding Engine Noise

If you hear a deep grinding engine noise, this may not be your engine, but your brakes. Check your front brake pads for signs of complete wear. If the metal is grinding against the cylinders, replace your brakes. If the noise does continue, check with a good mechanic for correct diagnosis.


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