What Is That Noise? How to Describe Common Car Sounds to Your Mechanic

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.