Your Trusted Auto Repair Shop for 40+ Years
Shop Talk Logo

What Does That Noise Mean? Identifying Unusual Sounds In Your Car

When your car makes noises, it should not, it is time to take it into the professionals. You might be concerned over anything that sounds out of the ordinary, but different sounds correlate to different problems. Some sounds may seem awful but may be insignificant, while others may mean it is time to undergo some extensive repairs. Be more informed about your vehicle so you can make better decisions concerning maintenance.


Whirring most often comes from under the hood. You are most likely to notice it whenever you accelerate. Most of the time, your car’s radiator fan is the culprit. Chances are one of the fan’s blades is a little damaged and vibrating.


Whining or screeching sounds can be heard throughout the entire neighborhood. They are usually a result of your car’s transmission experiencing an issue. While transmission issues can entail a lot, whining typically comes from a lack of fluids. Refilling them should remedy the situation.

Squeaking and Screeching

Screeching and squeaking generally come from the brakes, and any issues with your braking system need to be addressed immediately. You may be able to just get your brake rotor resurfaced, but a majority of the time, it will be more prudent to get your brake pads or rotors completely replaced.


A high-pitched, shrill whistle can really get annoying, especially if it occurs frequently while you drive. There are generally two possible explanations for the whistle. The first is that your vehicle is running low on transmission fluid. The second is that your car’s fuel injectors have gotten too dirty. Cleaning them should resolve the issue.

Sputtering, Rattling and Rumbling

You need to get your vehicle’s engine checked right away if you notice any of these sounds. However, first you want to check your car’s fuel levels. Sputtering can be heard when you are running dangerously low on gas. If that is not the case, then something much more severe is at play. Many times, sputtering comes from having a hole somewhere in your car’s exhaust system. It could also indicate a problem with your car’s catalytic converter if it has one.


Grinding is another sound that indicates a problem with your vehicle’s brakes. Grinding comes from the brake pads rubbing up against metal or rubbing against something the wrong way. You will need to get new brake pads installed, but if you delay getting a replacement, then over time, you may also need to replace the rotors and calipers.


With a flapping sound, you may first assume there is just a bird somewhere in the vicinity. Flapping actually indicates a problem with the belt or fan in your car’s engine. Chances are it is beginning to disintegrate, so you will need to completely replace the component.

Sizzling and Hissing

You will most likely hear hissing or sizzling immediately after turning off your vehicle. It will come from under the hood, and it tells you that something is leaking. It could be oil or coolant, but you want to address it right away because it could lead to your engine overheating.

Clicking and Tapping

This is a very subtle noise, but it is telling you something important. Clicking means your car is low on oil, so you need to get fluids replaced.

Although it may be possible to diagnose a problem based on the sound, the only way you can be 100 percent certain of what is going wrong is to take it to a professional shop. An auto expert will be able to examine every aspect of your vehicle and find the underlying issue and recommend the appropriate service.