How do you diagnose a car making noise when driving? Our guide lists all the noises in each area of the car, what could be causing them and how to fix them.
Rattling noises from the engine and chassis area are annoying, sometimes dangerous – and eliminating them is often workshop work. But troublemakers in the interior can be located. First of all, before you diagnose a car making noise when driving, it is advisable to tidy and clean up thoroughly. Simple principle: all loose objects are thrown out. Often forgotten stool spaces are the areas under the rear bench or the front seats, side door racks, the compartments in the trunk and the spare wheel well.
Everything is sorted out in the car, but you can still hear the rattle? No problem. The overview in the following text provides further orientation in the jungle of unusual vehicle noises to diagnose a car making noise when driving. It is structured according to the respective components of the car.
Lists to diagnose a car making noise when driving
Car noise from the drive train
Metallic clacking: only shortly after starting • Possible cause: hydraulic valve tappets with too little oil pressure • Remedy: not necessary, provided the noise disappears after a few seconds. If the clicking continues, a tappet is defective; off to the workshop.
Grinding clutch noises : Audible when the pedal is pressed • Possible cause: defective release bearing • Remedy: Exchange ( workshop job, unfortunately).
Clattering or rattling clutch : Can only be heard when idling • Possible cause: Torsion springs of the drive plate broken • Remedy: immediate replacement of the clutch (workshop work).
Rattling gearbox : Noticeable noise when idling, difficult to distinguish from clutch rattling • Possible cause: Large tooth flank play of the gear wheels, axial play of the shift sleeve • Remedy: Noises depend on the tolerance of the components and are usually harmless.
Knocking noises : Can be heard and felt during load changes • Possible cause: Motor bearings loose or worn • Remedy: Retighten or replace the broken bearing.
Howling and singing : only noticeable when driving • Possible cause: worn bearings in gearbox or differential • Remedy: Exchange. The diagnosis, however, is a workshop matter, as is the repair.
Ticking : Can only be heard when the bonnet is open. • Possible cause: Noise from the injectors. Make sure that your fuel injectors are clean. Here on TheDrive you can find a useful guide on how to choose the perfect fuel injector cleaners for your car.
Humming : Immediately after switching on the ignition • Possible cause: Noise from the fuel pump working • Remedy: not necessary.
Car noise from the suspension, wheels and brakes
Humming and roaring : This is noticeable when cornering • Possible cause: Wheel bearing defective on one side • Remedy: First isolate the defect. If it hums in left turns, a wheel bearing on the right is probably affected; if it booms on the right, the damage on the left is suspected . Exact diagnosis: jack up the car and turn the wheel. Take hold of the wishbone or shock absorber with the other hand. If vibrations can be felt there, the culprit has been found. Exchange is a workshop matter!
Rattling in curves : Only audible when driving fast, especially when the load changes and the road surface is wet. • Possible cause: Noises come from the control process of the ESP (simultaneous illumination of the corresponding warning lamp). • Remedy: Avoid the limit area.
Cracking and rumbling : Is noticeable when cornering • Possible cause: The wheel-side joints on the drive shafts are defective • Remedy: Replace the affected axle shaft; Diagnosis and repair is a workshop matter!
Grinding: Only audible when braking • Possible cause: Carrier plate of worn brake pads rubs against the brake disc • Remedy: Immediate replacement of the brake pads, never continue driving! A new brake disc is often required.
Rumbling : constant companion on bad roads • Possible cause: Mostly defective rubbers on stabilizers, strut bearings or axle suspensions, shock absorbers themselves may also be affected. Diagnosis is a workshop matter! • Remedy: replace the affected components.
Important: If you hear unusual and loud noises from the chassis and brakes, go to the workshop immediately!
Noises in the interior of a car
Rattling in the rear area : Audible with every pothole • Possible cause: Tools, wheel nuts or other objects roll around in the spare wheel well; the trough is a large resonance body, acts like an amplifier • Remedy: Remove all loose objects; alternatively, wheel bolts or tools can also be wrapped in rags or foam.
Creaking : Can be heard when coupling • Possible cause: Pedal joints run dry • Remedy: Lubricate joints with silicone spray. Under no circumstances use oil or grease as this will damage the plastic pedals.
Rattling in the dashboard : Usually only audible when driving, especially on jogging tracks • Possible cause: Cable strands hit ventilation ducts or other components • Remedy: Wrap the cables with soft foam or fix them with cable ties. Today’s cars with their complex electronics and built-in dashboards are mostly a job for the workshop.
Cracking noises : often occur in the area of plastic cladding (doors, A, B, C-pillars) • Possible cause: Plastic cladding rubs on the paint • Remedy: Place felt strips under the contact points of the plastic parts. • Alternative: Lubricate with silicone spray or wax, then the surfaces slide more easily on each other.
Squeaky seats : regardless of the weight of the passengers • Possible cause: backrest adjustment or other connecting parts without lubrication • Remedy: lubricate the backrest adjustment. Sometimes only total disassembly with subsequent lubrication of all connection points helps (workshop work!).
Roaring door panels : Especially with bass-heavy music • Possible cause: The door loudspeakers make the panels vibrate • Remedy: Remove the door panels and check the loudspeaker fastenings. Uncouple the cladding with foam mats (available from hobbyists) and mount with new retaining clips.
Crackling noises : The instrument panel and center console are mainly affected. • Possible cause: Plastic panels rub against each other • Remedy: Put felt strips underneath to prevent rubbing noises.
Is the car making noise when driving from the exhaust / underbody?
Clinking / rattling from below : Especially when the load changes and when driving over potholes • Possible cause: Rubber bracket of the exhaust system torn • Remedy: attach new rubber bracket; possible on your own (pit / lifting platform required).
Rattling and rattling from the middle of the car : Audible both when accelerating and when pushing, often depending on the speed • Possible cause: defective catalytic converter (broken ceramic core) or cracked heat shielding plate. • Also common: chambers of the front or rear silencer have shaken loose • Remedy: Knock off the exhaust from front to back with punches. This makes it easy to expose the source of noise (pit or lifting platform required). Replace the defective part.
Clinking or clinking : With the engine running, often audible even when the vehicle is stationary • Possible cause: Loose or broken clamps • Remedy: Visual inspection or knocking; Retighten loose clamp, replace broken parts.
Hissing, blowing noises : mostly from the area of the engine compartment • Possible cause: Hairline cracks in the exhaust manifold • Remedy: replace the manifold (workshop).
Car body noises
Loud cracking : Especially when driving over potholes • Possible cause: dry door latches • Remedy: Adhesive lubricant on the door latch and locking mechanism eliminates the cracking.
Booming : Usually only heard at higher speeds • Possible cause: Plastic panels on bumpers or underbody panels have loosened and are fluttering in the airstream • Remedy: Check that the relevant components are firmly seated and, if necessary, re-fix them correctly.
Whistling or hissing : Above all audible in the area of the A and B-pillars • Possible cause: Wind noise, caused by doors hanging at an angle that no longer close properly, or damaged door seals • Remedy: Align the hinge plates of the doors with the A-pillar ( a lot of experience required). • For professionals only: Bend the window frame gently inwards when the window is down so that the seals are tighter against the body and thus seal better.
Constant creaking and squeaking : Noise usually reaches the ear from around the doors and sunroof • Possible cause: dry and brittle seals on doors and sunroof. Doors and roof cladding act like large resonance bodies that amplify the noise and make localization difficult. • Remedy: regularly lubricate all seals with a silicone-based care product and keep them supple.
Chattering windshield wipers : Occurs especially in light rain • Possible cause: Hardened wiper rubbers • Remedy: Replace the wiper blades.