5 Common Car Noises and What They Mean

If you’ve ever tuned into an episode of “Car Talk,” you know your family car is capable of a wide range of noises, from the boom of a backfire to the squeak of a loose belt. Here are a few common noises and what they mean for your car (and your wallet).


Rattling and rumbling noises from under your car may indicate a hole or loose joint somewhere in your exhaust system.  Exhaust problems can be minor, and many can go a long time without being repaired, but it’s better to have them looked at early on.

If you ignore the problem for too long, you may lose part of your exhaust system. This may cause you to lose control of the car if it happens while the car is in motion. Leaking exhaust fumes may also enter the cabin of your car, exposing you and your passengers to chemicals that can cause:

  • drowsiness
  • slowed response time
  • brain damage

Simple exhaust repairs, such as replacing a pipe or patching a hole, may cost as little as $100. More complex repairs, like installing a new catalytic converter, may run anywhere from $150 to $1500 depending on the make, model, and year of your car.


Hissing noises under your hood while your engine is idling may indicate a cracked or loose hose. Depending on which hoses are affected, this can be a minor problem that does not need to be addressed immediately. However, if the hissing is accompanied by rising engine temperature or steam or smoke coming from under your hood, take your car in to the shop immediately.

Replacing a radiator or coolant hose can run anywhere from $75 to $200 (if you have to replace both at the same time). For some heavy-duty SUVs or off-roading vehicles, pieces of the engine may need to be removed to access the hoses. This will increase the labor costs of the repair.


Squealing brakes usually means your brake hardware is worn out. The squealing is caused by your brake pads scraping the discs. Have a service professional take a look. Minor wear may not require replacing your braking components. You can also try using adhesive to hold the pads closer to the pistons.

However, if you want to get rid of the squeal or if your brake pads are worn to the point that they cause excess heat or no longer brake effectively, you will need to have them replaced. You can expect to pay about $150 per axle, but the repair could cost $400 or more per axle if your rotors are warped or need to be resurfaced.


A thumping noise from your tires may be telling you that there is flat-spotting on your tire tread. Permanent flat-spotting can be caused by locking your wheels, grinding down the rubber in places. If the noise continues, check your tire pressure and tread. You may either need to live with the thumping or replace your tires with new, steel-belted tires.

However, if the thumping is loudest in the morning and goes away as you drive throughout the day, there’s no need to take your car to the mechanic. Overnight, especially in cold weather, your tires may develop minor flat-spots which will thump when you drive the car. This thumping will go away as the tires warm up.

Speedy Apollo Auto Service Centres, which provide vehicle diagnostic services in Calgary, recommend having any noise that is accompanied with the appearance of any maintenance light checked out as soon as possible. Before you take your car in for maintenance, you can use your owner’s manual to identify why the light turned on—it might be a quick fix you feel comfortable taking care of yourself.

Some noises won’t have a quick solution (or won’t need to be fixed), but you should listen for any changes in the noises your car makes as they may indicate serious problems.

Carsurfer Admin

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