5 Engine Noises That Require Immediate Attention

No matter what type of vehicle you own, your engine doesn’t operate in complete silence. It purrs when your car is idle and roars when you accelerate. These are normal sounds that shouldn’t be a cause for concern.

However, if your engine isn’t in good shape, it may produce an unusual sound you’ve never heard before. Knowing how to discern different engine noises can help you detect issues early and fix them before they escalate into severe and expensive problems.

Below are five engine sounds that need immediate attention:


Under any circumstances, a squealing sound is never a good thing. You should be alarmed if you hear your engine making a squealing noise. More often than not, this annoying noise may indicate that one of your engine belts is loose or worn out.

If you’re driving an older vehicle, you probably have a bad accessory belt. This belt drives specific engine components, including the alternator and power steering pump. A newer car squeals when its serpentine belt needs to be replaced.

A squealing sound may also result from a faulty timing belt, V-belt, or fan belt. The timing belt keeps the crankshaft and camshaft moving in harmony, while the V-belt and fan belt work with the serpentine belt to transmit engine power to the air-conditioner, charging system, and other accessories. Over time, wear and tear will take its toll on these belts and cause them to squeal. 

When you hear a squealing noise from under the hood, you must address the issue as soon as possible. Replacing an engine belt is usually an easy and inexpensive fix if done promptly. However, if you allow the problem to persist, it can cause damage to other components of your engine, resulting in a costly repair.

Tapping or Clicking

When your vehicle is low on motor oil, your engine will make a distinctive noise similar to a ticking, clicking, or tapping sound. Fortunately, you can quickly diagnose this condition by looking at the dipstick.

If it’s true that you have a low oil level, you may be able to resolve the issue by simply adding more oil. Then again, this is only a short-term fix. You should also try to find out why your engine oil is low in the first place. 

Usually, low engine oil occurs either because of a leak or a condition that causes the oil to burn up. If everything seems fine after you check the oil, you may have a malfunctioning or damaged valve train. This is a significant problem that should be looked at immediately.


If your engine produces a whistling noise that resembles the sound of air passing through a narrow opening, it may be because one of its hoses has cracked. More often than not, the culprit is the hose in the cooling system.

This hose is one of the weakest components of your engine, and it isn’t uncommon for it to crack suddenly or have a broken vacuum seal. The whistling noise you hear may be the result of air escaping through the crack in the hose. 

To find out whether you’re dealing with a cracked hose, look for a safe place to park your car and turn off the engine. If the whistling noise continues, your radiator likely has a bad pressure cap.

This cap is designed to prevent the coolant from escaping, but it won’t be able to do its job if its rubber gasket is worn or damaged. If this is the case, some coolant and air will leak out of the radiator, which causes the whistling sound. 

Regardless of the reason behind the whistling noise, you should have your vehicle professionally inspected right away. If left unattended, a faulty radiator cap or a cracked hose in the cooling system can lead to overheating and potentially cause severe damage to your engine. 


Another type of engine noise you shouldn’t take lightly is a metallic knocking or pinging sound while your vehicle is running. Known as detonation knock, this condition happens when the air-fuel mixture in one of your engine’s cylinders is detonating at multiple locations simultaneously.

It may be because you put fuel with the wrong octane rating into the system. However, a knocking noise can also result from a lean air-fuel mixture, a malfunctioning knock sensor, poor engine timing, or loose or worn rod bearings.

When you notice a knocking sound from your engine, you shouldn’t wait to go to your local service center. Your car is unsafe to drive until the problem is diagnosed and fixed. 


A poorly aligned or damaged camshaft belt may cause your engine to emit a rattling sound. The noise usually gets louder when you’re accelerating.

You may have a bad timing chain if this issue occurs during a cold start. The more your engine rattles on cold starts, the greater the likelihood that your timing chain is worn out. However, note that not all vehicles have a timing chain. 

A camshaft belt and timing chain serve the same function, which is to synchronize the motion of the pistons and valves. However, they’re made of different materials and located in other parts of a vehicle.

Whether you have a camshaft or timing chain, you should still have your car checked if your engine is making a rattling sound.

Connect With Our Cleveland Used Auto Dealer

If you live in Cleveland, Ohio, and you hear any of these sounds coming from under your hood, consider taking your vehicle to North Coast Auto Mall  of Cleveland for an engine diagnostic.

With state-of-the-art automotive diagnostic and repair equipment and a dedicated team of certified technicians, our service center can fix any engine problem your vehicle will experience and get you back on the road safely.

Feel free to contact us if you need more information about our engine repair services.