Troubleshooting Car Problems
How to troubleshoot your car problems. There is nothing more aggravating than listening to an unidentifiable noise coming from your car. Learn to identify the noise and fix it!
There is absolutely nothing more aggravating than to be forced to listen to an unidentifiable noise coming from your car while driving down the road. The minute you hear the noise you will automatically begin trying to figure out what it is while all means of horrifying thoughts run through your mind. Squeals, metallic rattles, whines, roaring, clinking and the like leave you feeling extremely insecure about your transportation. These tips will help you to identify many of the noises and rattles that your vehicle can produce from time to time. Although most car noises are just irritants, there are many that signal serious trouble and should be checked out immediately.
Rattles and noises made by your car are very hard to trace since most noises travel along the body. But with careful observation you can isolate most noises and quickly learn what they are coming from. For instance, when your car is stopped and the engine is running any noise you hear will most likely be coming from the engine. It may be the belt driven accessories or the exhaust system making the noise in this case, but simply knowing the area where the noise is coming from will help you find the source. When a noise occurs only when the car is moving it can usually be traced to the suspension, transmission, rear axle, tires or the exhaust system.
The most common noises made by a car can be traced to loose or glazed belts. This will create a squealing sound that will come from under your hood. To test and see if your belts are causing a squealing noise you can spray them with an aerosol belt dressing. But remember that this is only to test the belt and will not fix the problem. If the noise stops or becomes weaker after you have sprayed the belt, you will still need to tighten them if they are loose and replace them if they are glazed. If this does not solve the problem you will need to check your accessory bearings to see if they are worn. To test the bearings you need to temporarily remove the accessory belt. If the noise decreases or goes away you should refit the belt and adjust it. While the engine is still running, probe the accessory bearing area with a mechanic's stethoscope. When your car makes a clunking sound when you give it gas or release the gas pedal this usually indicates that the universal joints in the drive shaft are worn. If the universal joints are in good shape you will need to check the rear axle for excessive wear. If you still find no wear have the front drive-final drive unit checked.
When you accelerate your car a loud under body roaring is quite likely caused by the exhaust system. You will need to patch all holes including pin holes in the muffler. If there are no holes in the muffler check the pipes to see if they have holes and patch them. Most auto supply stores will carry a good patching product made just for this. While you're checking this area be sure to look for loose or broken clamps and fix or replace them. Otherwise this will allow a separation of the pipe joints, which will create an exhaust noise.
When you hear a squealing noise when you apply the brakes this usually indicates that your brake shoes are worn. A clunking noise when you brake could well be caused by loose brake calipers, worn tires, loose suspension components or even defective shock absorbers.
An occasional ping coming from your engine is normal but when this metallic rattling can be heard frequently, try using a higher octane gas. If this does not work have a mechanic check the ignition timing advance controls and the ERG or exhaust gas recirculation valve. Much like the ping, a clicking noise when the engine starts is normal. This is caused by the lapse of time it takes for the oil to flow to the hydraulic lifters. If the noise continues when you begin to drive you need to check your oil level to see if it is low. If the oil level is correct, your hydraulic lifters may need servicing. When this does not solve the problem or when your car has non-hydraulic lifters you might need a mechanical adjustment to compensate for the wear. Most non-hydraulic lifters allow a clicking sound as the engine gains milage. A hissing noise when you engage your air conditioner or heater is normal. But a continuous hissing could indicate an air or vacuum leak most often caused by a split hose, bad hose connection or a damaged vacuum reservoir. When you hear a hissing always check under the hood of your car first. You can usually trace the noise to the hose creating the sound and reattach or replace it. If you can't find a loose or split hose, remove the cover bevel that surrounds the air conditioning controls. In some case you may have to remove the panel as well. Carefully look for any vacuum hose connection that has come loose and replace it.
Anytime the seats and floor of your car vibrate when you are traveling over 35 miles per hour have the transmission mounts, front drive axle shafts and drive shaft checked. This can even be caused by a faulty vibration damper. If nothing can be found that would cause the vibrations check to see if the exhaust system is making contact with the chassis. Also, check for broken or loose clamps. When your car vibrates only when you are traveling at high speeds this is usually a sign that your tires are out of balance. Although some amount of vibration is normal in the dash and especially on transverse engine front drive cars, if the vibration becomes a rattle you will need to check your panels and brackets. Press your hand over the area on the dash where the noise is coming from. If the noise is eliminated or reduced you will need to tighten the retaining screws. If this still doesn't stop the noise, loosen the panel and slip a sheet of rubber under the panel before tightening the screws. Wind noises can usually be traced to bad weather stripping. Tape the window shut and if the noise stops, have the weather stripping replaced. If the noise does not stop check the grille to see if you have a broken section. You can test this by taping the section and driving the car. If the noise stops you will need to have the grille or grille section replaced. Do not leave the tape on the grille since this could cause your car to over heat. A whine under the body of your car could indicate that the rear axle or front drive final drive unit is faulty. Have them checked and serviced by a professional mechanic.