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Your car makes a humming noise when accelerating

Your car makes a humming noise when accelerating
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While driving, you hear a low-pitched hum. As you accelerate, the noise gets louder – maybe it sounds like an aeroplane taking off – but after a certain speed the volume is consistent. When you make a turn, the noise gets louder; but if you turn the other way, it disappears.

What it could mean: This is most likely a wheel bearing noise. It’s often mistaken as an engine noise and one way you can tell is to watch your RPM gauge. As you accelerate, the RPM and speed gauges rise. Coast at a set speed, let off the accelerator and watch the RPM gauge drop. If the noise is still there, it’s definitely not coming from the engine.

Your car makes a droning noise

Your car makes a droning noise
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This droning noise doesn’t change pitch or volume while turning, but it’s louder as you accelerate.

What it could mean: This noise may be coming from your tyres – particularly if they’re old or poor quality. It could also be a sign that you have “feathered” tyres – a term that once described tyres with treads that are wearing unevenly. In turn, feathered tyres could be a symptom of a worn suspension component, causing tyres to hop up and down as you drive rather than rolling smoothly down the road.

Your car makes high-pitched squealing noise

Your car makes high-pitched squealing noise
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Do you hear a high-pitched squeal, or perhaps even what sounds like a bird chirping when you first start the engine?

What it could mean: Your car’s serpentine belt is likely worn or cracked. Some vehicles have multiple belts including a separate one for your air conditioning. If you hear this noise only when you turn on the air conditioning, you’ll know there’s an issue with that belt. It’s also possible that the belt doesn’t have enough tension (either the tension needs to be adjusted or the belt tensioner is worn). If there’s not enough tension, the belt is slipping. Ever hear tyres squeal on asphalt when someone does a burnout? It’s the same idea.

Your car whines while you’re making a turn

Your car whines while you’re making a turn
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Your car whines while you’re making a turn.

What it could mean: You’ll hear a high-pitched whine if your vehicle has hydraulic power steering and you “lock” the steering wheel by turning it to the point at which it doesn’t turn anymore. This strains the power steering pump, and if you hold this position for more than a few seconds, you risk damaging the pump. Back off a couple of centimetres from the lock position to ease the increase in pump pressure, and the noise should disappear. If you hear a constant whine, your pump is probably already damaged.

Your car makes a clicking noise while turning

Your car makes a clicking noise while turning
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When you turn one way, you hear a clicking noise. It’s cyclical, so the noise speeds up as your wheels go faster or slows down if you’re reducing your speed during the turn. The noise isn’t necessarily there when you turn the other way.

What it could mean: This noise is likely coming from your CV axle. This happens when the CV axle shaft boot is torn and leaks grease. Without grease, the components become dry and start making a clicking sound. If there’s no damage, your technician could replenish the grease and replace the boot. Otherwise, the CV axle should be replaced.

Your car makes low-pitched clunks and rattles

Your car makes low-pitched clunks and rattles
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You may hear low-pitched clunks or rattles as you drive, especially over bumps.

What it could mean: These noises aren’t usually cyclical, so you can rule out the wheel and tyre system. There are numerous components in your suspension system including ball joints, stabiliser links, and coil springs. One thing’s for sure, if you have a suspension noise that suddenly disappears there’s a good chance the component is broken and disconnected from the rest of your car.

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Your car makes light grinding or squeaking noises

Your car makes light grinding or squeaking noises
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Your car makes light grinding or squeaking noises.

What it could mean: A light grinding or squeaking whenever you brake is almost always because of poor or worn braking materials. If caught early enough, your technician will be able to service your brakes – a process that might involve cleaning, lubricating and adjusting the materials. Some brake pads have “squealers” – a piece of metal that rubs against the brake rotor once the pad material gets low. If you hear this cyclical noise even while driving, your brakes may need replacing.

Your car makes a rumbling noise

Your car makes a rumbling noise
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At idle, you hear a rumbling noise. As you accelerate, the noise gets louder and pretty soon you can’t even hear the radio or your passenger talking.

What it could mean: The exhaust system in your vehicle is made up of multiple pieces attached together, as opposed to one long pipe. You may have an exhaust leak at a gasket or in one of the exhaust components, such as the flex pipe, resonator or muffler. Depending on where it’s leaking, the exhaust may be repaired. If that’s not feasible, you’ll need to replace the leaking component.

Your car sounds like an unbalanced washing machine

Your car sounds like an unbalanced washing machine
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While driving, you hear a wobbling noise – like an unbalanced washing machine on the high spin cycle.

What it could mean: If you hear this sound, pull over right away, and check your wheels and tyres. You may have loosened wheel nuts, which could result in the wheel falling off, or low tyre pressure, which puts you at risk for a tyre blowout. If your wheel nuts are loose, jack up your car slightly to take some of the weight off and use the lug wrench to tighten the wheel nuts. If the tyre pressure is low, either fill it to the proper specification or swap it out with the spare tyre.

This article first appeared on Reader’s Digest.

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