What Does This Sound Mean? – A Short Guide to Understanding Your Car

Santa Fe auto repair experts share how to know what noise means what

The sudden car noises arising out of the blue can be very nerve wracking for car owners. You should never ignore the sounds your car makes since they could very well indicate something is wrong.

Knowing what the sound means and where it is coming from can help you identify the cause and work out a solution with ease. So, the following is a short list of different sounds your car can make and what they mean.

Clicking or Tapping

If this sound appears from the hood of the car, it is an indicator the engine oil needs to be topped off. You can easily check and fix it yourself. However, if the car engine is older, this can be an indicator the valve train requires some maintenance.

In some instances, it can also indicate your engine is worn out, particularly if you have not been getting it serviced regularly.


This sound can point to different problems, based on when you hear it. If you’re braking and hear the sound, it could be an indicator the brake calipers, pads or the disc are damaged or worn out. If you’re turning a corner and then you hear a clunk, this can mean there is a problem in your wheel bearing or the steering of the car.

Additionally, clunking sounds can be heard when you’re driving over a bump. This can mean your car’s suspenders or a component of the exhaust is loose.

Whirring or Grinding

When this sound is coming out of your gear box, it is an indicator the clutch bearing, thrust or the clutch itself is experiencing a problem. Similarly, it could also point to problems in the transmission, gears and the shaft.

If the sound is coming from under the car, it could be due to low oil in the gearbox or from a wheel bearing. Hearing the sound when you brake can indicate the brake pads are worn out and are damaging the discs.

Spluttering, Popping and Banging

If you hear these sounds from the back of the car, particularly the exhaust, this can be the sound of a backfire. This can also indicate problems in the catalytic converter or have a leak in the exhaust.

For older cars, this sound can mean the engine needs to be tuned. If this sound is coming from the front of the car, it could point to problems in ignition or fuel system. It can have a number of different causes from old spark plugs to a blocked filter for fuel and more.


Anytime you hear rattling, it can mean a certain part of the car is loose. In some cases, it can also be a sign something is stuck in the car. However, it can also mean the suspensions or the exhaust system have come loose.

In any scenario, if you are hearing odd sounds coming for your car, it’s a good idea to take it to your mechanic and have it checked out. If you need any help figuring it out, let us know!