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3 Abnormal Automotive Sounds and What They Mean

Engine of a car
Cars play a central role in most people's lives, providing a reliable means of transportation to and from home. For this reason, breakdowns and mechanical problems can cause interruptions to your daily rhythm. Worse still, repair costs may put a serious strain on your home's economics.

Fortunately, you can often avoid expensive problems by learning to recognize the signs of trouble. Even a car owner with relatively little mechanical experience can identify certain problems based on the sounds they produce. If you would like to boost your auto troubleshooting skills, read on. This article outlines three abnormal sounds and what they mean.

1. Ticking Beneath the Hood

One of the most commonly reported automotive sounds involves a mysterious ticking beneath the hood. Unfortunately, this noise also has one of the widest ranges of potential causes. The simplest explanation involves low oil pressure — an issue often caused by an insufficient supply of oil. Monitor oil levels regularly by checking your dipstick.

Other factors that may also lead to low oil pressure, and hence to unusual ticking, include incorrect oil weight, damaged oil pumps, and clogged oil filters. Engine ticking may also stem from issues such as loose spark plugs, leaking exhaust manifolds, damaged cooling fans, and maladjusted ignition timing.

All of these issues mentioned warrant a professional inspection as soon as possible. Yet car owners should know that, in some cases, engine ticking may stem from harmless sources. Purge valves, positive crankcase ventilation valves, and fuel injectors all can produce ticking sounds as part of their normal operation.

2. Squealing When You Turn

If you have noticed that your car only produces odd sounds while turning, the fault usually lies with your power steering system. Squeaks and squeals most commonly occur as the result of low power steering fluid. Because your power steering system remains idle while traveling in a straight direction, such sounds only manifest when you actively turn your wheel.

Have your fluid supply checked and topped off on a regular basis. If your fluid levels remain adequate yet the sound still occurs, you may have excessive amounts of debris in your fluid. In that case, a mechanic can usually resolve the issue by flushing your system and stocking it with fresh fluid.

In other cases, the squeal may occur as the result of a faulty power steering pump. If your pump does not work properly, your power steering system won't receive adequate lubrication, even with a full fluid tank. Installing a new pump should resolve the issue.

3. Grinding During Gear Changes

A grinding sound that occurs when your car changes gears usually indicates a problem with your transmission. Both manual and automatic transmissions can make these noises. If you have a vehicle with a manual transmissions, you might experience grinding while depressing your clutch to change gears.

This sound may mean that your clutch has become excessively worn and reached the end of its lifespan. In other cases, the grinding may simply mean that your clutch needs to be adjusted. Likewise, the sound could stem from problems with your transmission synchronizers. Take your car to a transmission expert for a more detailed diagnosis.

Manual and automatic transmissions can both produce grinding sounds if the transmission fluid level drops too low. This sound indicates that the internal gears lack the necessary lubrication for smooth operation. Failing to deal with the issue in a timely manner can cause your transmission to fail entirely.

An automatic transmission may also produce grinding sounds if any of its internal gears become cracked or chipped. Unfortunately, this issue necessitates more serious repair work. For more information about how to keep your automobile running as quietly and smoothly as possible, contact the auto pros at Broadway Motors Inc.