Train your ears to be on the look out.
These days, you can depend on your car to get you from A to B. Thanks to advances in technology, things go wrong less frequently. Still, even when your car needs maintenance, you might not know ahead of time. Luckily, you've been driving your car long enough to know what it's supposed to sound like. If you hear something strange coming from your car, then it could be one of the following seven problems.
Squealing When You Brake What could be wrong? Your brake pads are worn down, or your rotors need to be resurfaced or replaced.
This can happen when a brake pad releases incorrectly. Heat and noise are produced as a result. Some auto manufacturers actually design a system to make the brakes squeal on purpose, just so you know the pads need replacing. A brake pad replacement can cost anywhere between $150 and $400 for each axle. If you have worn rotors, however, the price will be significantly higher. The rotor is connected to your wheel, and it's what the brake pad presses on to stop your car. If it gets worn, warped or damaged, it must be replaced immediately.
Grinding When You Brake What could be wrong: Your brake pads are worn down or you need new calipers or rotors. Remember the rotors we were just talking about? If one of the brake pads is connecting with them in the wrong way, it can cause a grinding noise.
If that's not the case, it could be a more pressing issue — your calipers or pistons could be grinding against the rotor. Don't ignore this problem for long. The calipers and brake hydraulics can be damaged by the worn brake pads. If your pads have absolutely no "pad" part left on them, they can grind all the way through the rotor and get you into an accident. Of course, prices will vary greatly depending on your vehicle, but expect to pay anywhere between $300 to $1,000 per axle.
Sputtering and Rattling Exhaust Noises Underneath Your Car What could be wrong: The exhaust system or one of its components needs to be replaced.
If you can barely hear your own thoughts above your car's undercarriage noise, there might be a gap in your exhaust system. You can fix it easily be reattaching or replacing a pipe or getting a new muffler. More involved repairs are needed if the noise sounds like a bunch of rocks shaking around in a tin can. This means the catalytic converter, which reduces vehicle emissions, is bad. For simple fixes, you can pay under $100, but replacing the catalytic converter will cost you from $150 to $600.
Hissing Under the Hood What could be wrong: Your coolants are dangerously low or leaking.
There's only one solution for this — you have to find the leak. If it's not a leak, check your coolant levels. Look for evidence of a leak from the engine and radiator. If there is steam or a noticeable odor, it's an antifreeze leak. The cost of fixing a coolant leak can set you back $700 to $800. It's a pretty serious problem that can render your car undriveable unless it's fixed.
Chirping/Squealing Under the Hood What could be wrong: The drive belt needs to be replaced.
Your engine powers all the accessories in your car. It does this by way of the drive belt, which transfers the engine's power to the power steering, alternator and air conditioner. When the belt wears down, it makes a squealing noise, especially when you start up the car or rev it. If you catch this problem early, replacing it can cost as little as a bottle of fluid. Let it go for too long, and the belt could break. This means your car could overheat and lose its power steering. You'll also have to pay upwards of $200.
Growling/Roaring Noise When Driving What could be wrong: You need new wheel bearings or tires.
There's an easy way to tell whether your tires or bearings need replacing. When you're on a highway or a place where you can change lanes, listen for noises. If the growling noise changes pitch only when your car changes lanes, that means you have a bad wheel bearing. This issue requires immediate attention — if a bearing breaks, your wheel won't be able to move and you'll be stranded for quite a while. The growling noise can also mean your tires are nearing the end of their life. While tire prices vary depending on the style you prefer, a bearing can cost anywhere between $150 to $700.
Rattling Near the Back of the Car What could be wrong: Your muffler's heat shield is loose.
This can also sound like a can full of rocks, which is really irritating to listen to. Luckily all you need to do is get under the car and tighten one bolt. After your car has cooled off for a while, you can raise your car on jackstands and crawl underneath to find the bolt. It's located at the exhaust pipe, right where the pipe meets the floor of the car. The thin metal sheet between the pipe and the floor is the loose heat shield. All you need to do is tighten the bolts that secure it. Once you fix your ride, you’re good to go! Just remember to keep your ears at the ready for signs of trouble in the future