Common Car Noises You Shouldn’t Tune Out

  • Aug 16, 2021
image of a confused man looking at his car engine image of a confused man looking at his car engine

Screeching, sloshing, and knocking — what are all of these strange vehicle sounds, and why are they happening? Discover what your vehicle’s “weird” noises typically mean and whether they are cause for alarm or not! 

Help! My Car is Squeaking

Is your car making high-pitch noises that sound more like a low-budget horror film than the well-oiled machine you know and love? Squeaking, squealing, or screeching are common car noises that can point to various issues with your car’s parts. The most common culprits, however, are the serpentine belt or the braking system.

Possible Causes of Car Squeaking Noises


Loose serpentine belt: The serpentine belt runs through a series of pulleys located under and around your engine. It’s often called the “accessory belt” since its rotations power features such as the A/C and water pump, depending on your vehicle make, model and year.


Your serpentine belt may become loose or off-centered with age or when a collision causes the corresponding pulley to bend. The resulting pulley misalignment can then lead to a failed bearing, producing an angry, cat-like screech!


Worn brake pads: Most cars on the road today have disc brakes, which rely on brake pads to create and sustain the friction required to slow down your vehicle. There are typically two brake pads per wheel. When you push the brake pedal, brake fluid creates hydraulic pressure, which causes the caliper piston(s) to squeeze the pads tightly against the rotor (aka disc).

When you drive with worn brake pads, a wear indicator used on some cars may screech. If they become too thin, the metal backing plate of the pads will eventually make contact with the rotor. When this happens, you run the risk of significant damage, safety concerns, and a lot of screeching! If your car makes a sound like nails on a chalkboard every time you hit the brakes, it may be time for a brake check

Help! My Car is Making Sloshing Sounds

Does it sound like there’s a rogue gallon of water gurgling in your car’s trunk? If you’ve already checked for forgotten water bottles to no avail, some of the components in your car’s A/C system or exterior may be to blame. Here’s the tea!

Possible Causes of “Water Sloshing” Car Sounds


Clog in the A/C system: Your car’s A/C helps control the temperature within the cabin. It cycles high-pressure refrigerant vapor from the compressor through the condenser, drying filter, and evaporator, respectively. 

In the evaporator behind the dashboard, the moisture from humid air can collect. Although there is a built-in drain for this, the drain can sometimes clog with time and mileage. This clogging can create smelly algae, sloshing sounds, foul odors, poor A/C performance, and can even lead to water pooling behind the dashboard or passenger side floors!


Inappropriate weatherproofing: Your car utilizes strategically placed rubber seals and drain holes to keep the cabin watertight and temperature-controlled. When a seal becomes damaged due to regular wear and tear, it can crack and fray, allowing rainwater to come in and “splish-splash” whenever you drive. Likewise, when an exterior-facing drain hole clogs, the water pools around your vehicle’s doors, windows, and sunroof — leading to moldy messes and sloshing sounds! 

Help! My Car is Making Knocking Sounds 

Knock knock! Who’s there? A possibility of car problems with a healthy serving of dad jokes! All kidding aside, if you hear a knocking or tapping sound coming from under the hood, the following vehicle issues may be making themselves known! 

Possible Causes of Car Knocking Sounds 


Engine knocking: Also known as “detonation” or “pinging,” engine knocking happens due to problems in your combustion system — the one that produces the energy to move your vehicle! This system uses spark plugs to ignite the air-fuel mixture within the engine cylinders. The resulting combustion pushes the piston into a power stroke, allowing you to move your car!

When your engine knocks, you may experience one or more unexpected ignitions, which often creates a knocking or tapping sound. “Engine knocking” is often used to describe a car problem, but it is often an outcome or symptom of one (or various) issues. In many cases, engine knocking occurs due to worn or faulty spark plugs. Other times, poor fuel quality or contamination may be to blame. Knocking can also result from issues in your car’s fuel system, air induction system, or even your emission control system.

My Car Keeps Making Weird Sounds. What Should I Do? 

Like dash lights, weird car noises are just one of many signs drivers can utilize to tell when major car issues or mid-road trip breakdowns are on the horizon. Don’t risk it! If your vehicle’s engine sounds “off,” visit your nearest Tires Plus car care center for help diagnosing and repairing the issue — whether that’s screeching, sloshing, or anything else.

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