When it comes to car clunks and bangs, ignorance isn’t bliss.
Here's a multiple choice question. What do you do when you hear a funny noise from your vehicle?
- Ignore it
- Convince yourself that it's coming from the car next to you
- Turn up your stereo so you can't hear it
- None of the above
The answer should be D. When your ride is making odd sounds—whether they're squeals, scrapes, pings or pows—it's telling you that something might be wrong. Try these ways to diagnose sounds of particular concern.
- Squealing: The most common squeals come from your brakes, and they mean you might be due for a new set. If you're not tapping the brakes but you still hear the squeal, don't think that everything is OK. "Some brakes have sensors that squeal on their own," says vehicle expert Lauren Fix, the "Car Coach" and Time Warner's national automotive correspondent. "If you wait on this, it could become much more dangerous—and turn into a much larger repair as you wear down your brake rotors."
- Scrape: This is a classic wiper noise, and not a benign one. "It means your wiper is wearing down," says Fix. "If it scratches your windshield, it will cost hundreds of dollars to replace. Plus, a bad wiper reduces visibility when it's raining—and 80 percent of your driving decisions are based on visibility."
- Clunking: If this happens while you're driving, it might be a bad shock absorber, which has an impact on handling, steering and even braking. Get it checked out.
- Loud clicking: If this happens while you're turning, the CV joint, which lubes the front axles, is the likely culprit. "It wears out and loses the grease that keeps axles lubricated," Fix says. It's best to replace the CV joint rather than waiting until you need costly axle replacements.
- Ticking: Typically, you'll hear this while you're stopped—if you're low on oil. Get an oil change as soon as you can. "You could do serious harm to your engine and might even need to replace it," Fix says.