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9 Strange Car Sounds—And What They Mean

As stated by licensed auto service technician, Emily Chung, if you happen to hear strange car sound almost like a low-pitched hum as you accelerate, and the noise gets loud and after a certain speed the sound gets consistent. And when you make a turn, the noise gets louder; but if you turn the other way, it disappears, It could mean theres likely a wheel bearing noise. It’s often mistaken as an engine noise and one way you can tell is to watch your RPM gauge. As you accelerate, the RPM and speed gauges rise. Coast at a set speed, let off the gas pedal and watch the RPM gauge drop. If the noise is still there, it’s definitely not coming from the engine.

Strange car sound: A droning noise
This droning noise doesn’t change pitch or volume while taking a turn, however, it gets louder as you accelerate.
What it could mean: This noise may be coming from your tires—particularly if they’re old or of poor quality. It could also be a sign that you have “feathered” tires—a term used to describe tires with treads that are wearing unevenly. In turn, feathered tires could be a symptom of a worn suspension component, causing tires to hop up and down as you drive rather than rolling smoothly down the road.

Strange car sound: A high-pitched squeal
What it could mean: Your car’s serpentine belt is likely worn or cracked. Some vehicles have multiple belts including a separate one for your air conditioning. If you hear this noise only when you turn on the a/c, you’ll know there’s an issue with that belt. It’s also possible that the belt doesn’t have enough tension (either the tension needs to be adjusted or the belt tensioner is worn). If there’s not enough tension, the belt is slipping.

Strange car sound: A whine while you’re making a turn
What it could mean: You might hear a high-pitched whine if your vehicle has hydraulic power steering and you “lock” the steering wheel by turning it to the point at which it doesn’t turn anymore. This strains the power steering pump, and if you hold this position for more than a few seconds, you risk damaging the pump. Back off about an inch from the lock position to ease the increase in pump pressure, and the noise should disappear. If you hear a constant whine, your pump is probably already damaged.

Strange car sound: Clicking while turning
The noise speeds up as your wheels go faster or slow down if you’re reducing your speed during the turn. The noise isn’t necessarily there when you turn the other way.
What it could mean: This noise is likely coming from your CV axle. This happens when the CV axle shaft boot is torn and leaks grease. Without the grease, the components become dry and start making a clicking sound. If there’s no damage, your technician could replenish the grease and replace the boot. Or the CV axle can be replaced.

Strange car sound: Low-pitched clunks and rattles
You may hear this as you drive, especially over bumps.
What it could mean: These noises aren’t usually cyclical, so you can rule out the wheel and tire system. There are numerous components in your suspension system including ball joints, stabilizer links, and coil springs. One thing’s for sure if you have a suspension noise that suddenly disappears there’s a good chance the component is broken and disconnected from the rest of your car.

Strange car sound: Light grinding or squeaking
What it could mean: A light grinding or squeaking whenever you brake is almost always because of poor or worn braking materials. If caught early enough, your technician will be able to service your brakes—a process that might involve cleaning, lubricating, and adjusting the materials. Some brake pads have “squealers”—a piece of metal that rubs against the brake rotor once the pad material gets low. If you hear this cyclical noise even while driving, your brakes may need replacing.

Strange car sound: Rumbling
At idle, you hear a rumbling noise. As you accelerate, the noise gets louder and pretty soon you can’t even hear the radio or your passenger talking.
What it could mean: The exhaust system in your vehicle is made up of multiple pieces attached together, as opposed to one long pipe. You may have an exhaust leak at a gasket or in one of the exhaust components, such as the flex pipe, resonator, or muffler. Depending on where it’s leaking, the exhaust may be repaired. If that’s not feasible, you’ll need to replace the leaking component.

Strange car sound: “Wobbling” noise
While driving, you hear a wobbling noise—like an unbalanced laundry machine.
What it could mean: If you hear this sound, pull over right away, and check your wheels and tires. You may have loosened wheel nuts, which could result in the wheel falling off, or low tire pressure, which puts you at risk for a tire blowout. If your wheel nuts are loose, jack up your car slightly to take some of the weight off and use the lug wrench to tighten the wheel nuts. If the tire pressure is low, fill it to the proper specification.