Q: Recently I have been hearing an unusual noise coming from my car while I drive. My boyfriend says to ignore it as long as the car is still running OK, and that if I take it somewhere to check it out, I’ll probably get charged a lot of money to figure it out. Is this sound advice? Shouldn’t I at least have a professional check it out to make sure my car is safe to drive?
A: Turning up the radio and ignoring the noise is not the best response when cars are making sounds they did not make when they left the factory. So, yes, the least you should do is have a professional take a look and determine what is causing the noise. It’s important for you to know if your car needs immediate attention or if it is something you can take care of at a later date.
Noises can be symptomatic of many different problems with your car. If not addressed, the problem can lead to an inconvenience, such as the car stops running while you’re driving or does not start, or something more serious, like a mechanical failure while driving that could cause the loss of steering control or the inability to stop the car.
Different noises indicate different problems. Squeaking, scraping and rubbing noises while the engine is running and/or the vehicle is being driven can result from something as serious as worn-out brakes, a failing engine water pump or failing wheel bearings to something as simple as a shield that has come loose and is rubbing against a tire.
Clunking and knocking noises while driving can be caused by worn-out suspension control-arm bushings, shock absorbers or broken engine mounts, which secure the engine and drivetrain to the vehicle. If they remain unfixed, such problems will have a negative effect on your ability to control your car.
A failing driveshaft or drive axle flexible joints can cause whining, ticking or clicking noises while the engine is running and the car is immobile or while driving. The noises could also indicate internal engine wear, that the engine is low on oil or that the power steering is low on fluid.
Ultimately, unusual noises left unattended will lead to more expensive repairs down the road, more inconvenience and possibly dangerous situations for you and your passengers.