What’s That Noise? An Imperfect Audible Guide To Car Problems

So, you go to turn on your car in the morning and as you turn the key and the engine roars to life you detect a foreign sound amongst the generally normal hum of the engine. Is it a slight knocking? Perhaps a high-pitched squeal or whine? Wait, is that Jay-Z? Oops. It’s just the radio on low.

(photo by JSmith Photo via Flickr)

But, all jokes aside, it can be a bit alarming to turn on your car and hear an unidentified noise. If you aren’t an expert in car repair (which is probably a safe bet if you’re reading this blog), this can be even more nerve-wracking because you need to decide whether that sound is just a simple vacuum leak that won’t make your car blow up, or whether it is a really urgent matter that needs to be looked at by an auto technician at your local auto shop right away.

Well, here’s the short answer. Yes, it needs to be looked at. Bring it in to the shop as soon as you can. If you can’t idenfity the noise, you need someone who is qualified to figure out what the problem is and whether there are any safety concerns that go with it. The only person qualified to do that is an auto technician, so make sure your bring it to us at Fort Collins Foreign Car Service, or your closest local auto shop.

We could try to provide you an audible guide to understand what is going on under your hood, but it is certainly not something that you should live and die by. We’ll say it again. If it’s a sound you’re unfamiliar with, bring it in. Especially if the check engine light is on, or you feel a vibration or other foreign sensation and change in your engine’s power or responsiveness.

But, at the risk of providing borderline useless information, here is a beginner’s guide to some of the most common unknown engine noises:

  • Ssssssss (hissing noise): This is likely a vacuum leak, which means that the vacuum line in your engine could be split or is broken.

  • EEeeeyy (whining noise in your wheels): This is probably just your brake pads rubbing the discs slightly. It isn’t an urgent problem and happens quite commonly. Most people naturally learn to adjust when they brake and braking pressure to avoid it.

  • Yeeeeaaaap (LOUD screeching noise right when you start the car): This one is usually a loose or misaligned belt. It can be very loud and annoying, but isn’t a difficult fix so bring it in.

Again, we have to note the disclaimer that these aren’t the best way to diagnose any auto problems. But, they might give you some idea of what you’re up against. If you want to know for sure, bring your car into your local auto shop at Fort Collins Foreign Car Service so that an auto technician can diagnose it. Don’t worry, it won’t cost you anything to have someone look at it (in most cases).