You are driving down the road and you hear a funny clicking sound from your car. Sounds like it could be coming from the front where the engine is, or maybe it’s that right front wheel. You’re not really sure. But the one thing you are sure of is when you turn the radio up a little, the noise magically disappears. Problem solved – for the moment.
While that is a fine solution for temporarily eliminating the annoying clicking sound, it doesn’t address the real problem.
The noise means something, small or big, is wrong.
Unfortunately, a lot of us do our best to ignore car issues when they arise. But let’s face it, hoping the latest sound or symptom will fix itself isn’t realistic. So the real question is: how critical is the problem? The car is still driving down the road. Should the next stop be a visit to your mechanic? Or is this a problem that will provide some flexibility on timing the trip to the auto repair shop?
Here are some basic guidelines to consider when determining if the auto repair shop is the next stop, or next week’s destination.
The car starts, but it struggles firing up. Probably a battery or starter issue. Don’t want to get stranded in the mall parking lot? Then don’t delay in getting to the shop. This is a problem that could persist for a while, or completely call it quits the next time you hope to start your car.
The car makes rattling sounds, especially in the front, and steering may be difficult or unusual. This is a sign that the auto repair shop is your very next destination. You may even want to consider calling for a tow truck. Broken parts in the front suspension can be dangerous, especially when steering is affected.
Gauges, lights or the radio randomly turn off or flicker. As long as the car is still operating this isn’t a crisis level problem, but of course don’t drive at night if the lights are going out. This is likely a wiring issue and the culprit could be rodents. It isn’t unusual for mice or other small animals to take up warm residence in the engine compartment, or using the electrical system for nesting materials.
There is a loud squeal from the engine when you start the car. It may stop after a few seconds, or continue on for longer periods of time. This is potentially a loose belt on the engine, or potentially a pulley that has seized. Or it could be that your starter is getting ready to fail. This is another situation where heading to the garage for a visit with your mechanic is high on the to-do list. This is a problem that will quickly affect other components of the engine, so don’t wait and go in right away for the needed repair.
The brakes squeal or grind when stopping. While squealing brakes are annoying (and potentially embarrassing), it isn’t necessarily a sign of problems. New brakes will often make noise as they are broken in, plus cold temperatures, moisture, and dust can also affect the sounds. If the noise persists, have them checked out at your convenience. Grinding brakes on the other hand are bad news. This is a good sign your brake pads have reached the end of their life and need to be replaced … pronto!
This short list is by no means an all-inclusive list of the rattles, knocks and squeals that can suddenly come out of your car. In general, if the noise is accompanied by a change in the way the car drives, your next stop should be to your trusted car mechanic. Plus, be sure to get your car in for regular maintenance which should always include an oil change. Here at Golden Triangle Auto Care (conveniently located near downtown Denver, CO), every oil change includes a full 30-point safety and operations check.