Today’s cars have complex systems with many components, many of which can cause a clicking, clunking or hissing noise when they start to fail. Classic Collision wants you to know the most common sounds, what might be the cause and what to do next.  Some of the sounds are simple warnings, while others may sound the alarm of imminent engine failure. The best way to prevent that from happening is to be mindful of the sound, make note of when it is happening and find a trusted auto mechanic to help you diagnose and fix the problem.  

Young man calling for help about his stalled car.

CLUNK

Usually this sound comes from the wheel area.  When your vehicle hits a hole or large bump in the road it can cause damage to this area. The most common areas around the wheel that incur damage are the shock absorbers, struts and bearings. Heed to the clunk and have your mechanic look at the wheel and take it for a test drive to see if something is damaged, or you could run the risk of the wheel or suspension parts breaking while you are driving. This would obviously be unsafe and put you and your passengers at risk.

SQUEAL

We’re not talking about squealing tires here.  If you are going at or under the speed limit your tires will not be squealing.   So what does make the annoying squealing sound? Good question. Usually it is one of the belts in the engine that is wearing out.  It will slip instead of grip which causes the squeal. Consider this a warning sign, a cry for help. Make an appointment right away and have it looked at.  Your ears will thank you and you will be driving around without the concern of a belt breaking in half and stopping the engine from operating.

Car radiator over heated.

HISSING

A car’s hissing sound is similar to a tea kettle hissing when it is hot enough to make tea.  You need to respond and turn the burner off or the kettle will start to make a very loud hissing sound.  Your car has a few areas of liquid that need monitoring  (the radiator and the windshield washer tank) but only one will hiss when the liquid heats up. That is the radiator, and when the radiator fluid gets too low, the engine signals you with a loud hissing/whistling sound. When you hear this sound, pull over and let the engine cool down.  While you are waiting find the closest service station, collision repair shop or, if your mechanic is close by, go have it looked at.  Most likely more fluid will be all you need, unless you ignore the hissing. IMPORTANTdo not try to remove the radiator cap when your engine is overheating!. Pressure will have built up and make it hazardous to open the cap, exposing you to the possibility of getting burned. Wait for the engine to cool down.

KNOCKING

Basically fuel mixes with the air inside the engine cylinder, then the mixture is given a little jolt from a spark plug and it lets out a pop (or little shocks) that signal the next cylinder to work.  Erratic engine pops happen when the mixture of fuel and air isn’t correct and the fuel burns unevenly which causes the pop to go off at different times. This may not sound like it could cause much harm but it can to your cylinder walls.  Have your mechanic check the spark plugs and the cylinders to see if there is carbon build. Even though the fuel in the U.S. is required to have carbon cleaning detergents, it still happens. Both of these are easy fixes yet very necessary for smooth engine operation.  

CLICKING

The last sound is perhaps the trickiest because it can be coming from a few areas, such as the CV (constant velocity) joints, car battery or the heating and air conditioning system.  Damaged CV joints make a clicking sound when making sharp turns or accelerating quickly. The battery is part of the electrical system. It will click when it has low voltage and the driver tries to start the car.  The alternator can also be the culprit because it supplies the electrical charge to the battery. The air conditioner compressor makes a clicking sound when its refrigerant supply runs low. Because this sound can come from a variety of places under the hood, the best thing to do is see your mechanic right away.  And if your car has been in an accident, be sure to rule out damage to these areas during an estimate while meeting with one of the certified technicians at Classic Collision (we have 25+ locations!).

Car dashboard with alarm lights.

Remember – car sounds can be simple warnings or sound alarm of imminent car failure.

We hope that being aware of these warning sounds will prevent you from being in an accident, and we hope you will be driving safely for many years to come.  However, if an accident happens, especially in the GA, SC and AL area, Classic Collision is here to help you and your car.