Automobiles are good communicators. They give off audible clues to help you understand when they are having a problem. All you need to do is listen. If you were a mechanic, there wouldn't be a problem. The confusion arises when you are faced with describing that sound your car or its engine is making to the mechanic so he can make the necessary repairs. You can improve your communication with your mechanic by learning to speak his language when describing that "funny noise" in your car.
Taps, Knocks and Pings
Although they may sound similar to you, these sounds are not the same. To a mechanic they all describe a specific sound and give clues to the underlying problem. Here's how to tell the difference.
- Taps: Imagine the sound of hitting a wooden table with a piece of wood. Taps are usually light and repetitive.
- Knocks: A knock is typically louder than a tap and sounds like someone knocking on your front door. It is important to note when you hear the knock and when it goes away.
- Pings: A ping is the sound a marble makes when you drop it in a can. It has a short, light ring and sounds like metal.
Squeaks, Squeals and Screeches
These sounds are similar, but vary in intensity and duration. Listen carefully so you can describe the sound accurately to your mechanic.
- Squeaks: Think of the sound of a squeaky door or the cry of a kitten. Squeaks range from barely audible to short repetitive sounds.
- Squeals: Squeals are high-pitched, prolonged sounds that are typically associated with a defective belt. Think of a baby pig squeal.
- Screeches: A screech is the sound tires make on the pavement when you stop quickly.
Clicks, Clacks and Clunks
These terms may sound like a verse from a Dr. Seuss book to you, but to mechanic they are technical terms.
- Clicks: A click sounds like someone snapping a picture with a camera. It is quick and light, but may be repetitive. A click is similar to the sound of your car doors locking.
- Clacks: Clacks are louder and heavier than clicks. Think of the sound made when two clacker balls connect. A clack will sound like it has more weight behind it than a click.
- Clunks: A clunk is a dull, heavy thump that does not reverberate. It sounds like something heavy dropping into place. Think of the sound your washer makes when it finishes the final spin cycle and the drum settles into place.
Rattles and Rumbles
Rattles and rumbles in your car can indicate anything from loose items in the trunk to a loose muffler. Knowing how to describe the sound makes it easier for your mechanic to pinpoint the cause.
- Rattles: Rattles sound as if something is being shaken or rolled and may get louder when you go over a bump or drive on rough roads.
- Rumbles: Rumbles are deeper sounds that appear muffled. Think of driving on the rumble strip on the highway.
Cars make many other warning sounds that you may have to describe in your own words. Don't be afraid to mimic the sound if you have to. Be ready to answer questions about what you were doing, such as braking, accelerating or using cruise control. Note the weather conditions and time of day, as the problem may be related to moisture or the temperature outside. Giving your mechanic detailed information about the "funny sound" in your car allows him to find the problem sooner, help you learn more about this topic, and get you safely back on the road.