Car noise:

Learn about troubleshooting car noises with Advance Auto Parts.

Troubleshooting car noises: why you should diagnose an odd car noise – and how to do it yourself!

An automobile is one of the most complex consumer products on the planet. Hundreds of different things are set into motion every time you turn the key. Every one of those things makes its own unique noise.

Certain car noises are indeed warnings, while others are normal. For instance, many brake pads have a warning built in that makes a loud screech when pads are thin. This car noise is telling you it’s time to replace your brake pads.

But, a small amount of squeaking from your brakes in the morning is normal. Ask an Advance Auto Parts Team Member or a qualified mechanic if the sound you’re hearing is good or bad, and get a car noise diagnosis.

Why you should listen to your own car engine noise – and other unusual sounds, too:

Howls. Clicks. Squeals. Whooshes. Hisses. Wah-wah-wah’s. Whirrs.

Vehicles can make a variety of noises, but the majority of sounds coming from your vehicle are completely normal. Some car noises, however, are bad news. Troubleshooting car noises is a skill that can save you money and trouble down the road.

What you will need to interpret car engine noise – and other sounds:

  • Your ears
  • Auto stethoscope

Do-it-yourself difficulty guide to troubleshooting car noises


Estimated time required - 1 - 5 Minutes

How to perform a car noise diagnosis: do it yourself & save!

  1. A squeal that varies pitch with engine speed may be a belt squeal. Belt squeals indicate a loose belt or impending belt-driven accessory failure*. Belt squeals are bad noises.
  2. Ever wonder what those faint click-clicking sounds are after turning off your vehicle? That’s your manifold cooling off. This is a normal noise.
  3. If you hear a loud catlike howl when you turn your steering wheel while parking, you may be low on power steering fluid.
  4. A loud click-click-click while turning the wheels is the sound of a CV joint wearing out. This is a bad noise. See the Advance Auto Parts replacement axle shaft article.
  5. Whooshing on start-up is normal. Behind the radiator is a large fan that moves a lot of air. Electric fans switch on when engines get hot.
  6. A very loud squeal or scraping sound when you hit the brakes is a bad noise. Worn brake pads squeal loudly before they fail, and scrape when it’s too late. Check your brakes every 6 months to stay safe.
  7. A loud ticking or chuffing that varies with engine speed may be an exhaust leak. Exhaust leaks must be fixed immediately. Carbon monoxide gases in exhaust can be deadly.

* Check the belt for frayed edges or burn spots, and replace car belts if necessary.

For high quality auto parts for all your vehicle maintenance needs, go to Advance Auto Parts!