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Maintenance Monday: Is Your Car Trying to Tell You Something?

Your driving routine likely goes something like this: jump in the car, turn up the music, and get to your destination as quickly and safely possible. But when you are tuned into your favorite radio (or Pandora/Songza/Spotify) station, you might be oblivious to the sounds your car is making. Whether it’s a squeak or a clunk, some noises may lead to larger repairs if they are not dealt with accordingly. Here are a few examples of common noises and the systems that could be affected by them.

car maintenance monday

Does your car squeak when you apply the brakes?

Most vehicles are fitted with disk brakes, which use brake pads that squeeze against the brake rotors when you apply the brakes. There is a small metal warning tab affixed to the brake pad that is designed to squeak when the brake pads are getting low. The noise is very high-pitched and hard to miss. When you hear squeaking, the brakes will need to be inspected and possibly changed. No need to panic and call a tow truck, but head to your mechanic as soon as you can.

Does your car clunk or make a crunching noise when you go over bumps?

These noises indicate that something in your suspension needs attention. Suspension components are typically made out of metal and need to pivot so that the vehicle can go over bumps. The pivot point, or bushing, is typically made out of rubber and can dry out, crack, or tear over time. Once this happens, there will be a crunching noise when the suspension component articulates. Worn out suspension components will affect alignment, causing your car to feel unstable and tires to wear prematurely.

Does your car make a groaning sound that gets louder the faster you drive?

Anything that spins in a circular motion will have a bearing that makes it turn. Bearings require lubrication and are often factory-sealed and not serviceable. Over time, these bearings can dry out and fail, causing all sorts of problems. Typically, a worn bearing will start making a groaning noise around 15 mph and get progressively louder and higher-pitched as the vehicle moves faster. The noise may come and go as the vehicle is turned from left to right because the load is being transferred on and off of the failing bearing. If you hear this noise, it’s time to see your mechanic ASAP as a failing bearing can cause all sorts of other components to be damaged.