Training Your Ear For Safer Driving

As the owner of an older car, one of the things that you often become an inadvertent expert at doing, is identifying the sounds that your baby makes when you get it out on the open road (or even when you’re just starting the engine and pulling it out of the parking lot). The ability to listen for ailing audibles can prevent larger problems from developing, thus extending the life of your vehicle and saving you money on car payments and insurance.

While each car is different, there are some commonly occurring noises that can tell you immediately what the issue at hand is. When you hear them, don’t wait. Get your car to the shop immediately, even if you have to tow it.


Under The Hood Squeaking

You don’t have to be a mechanic to pinpoint the noise of a squeak from within the vitals under your hood. If you should hear a loud one coming from under the hood, this is usually due to slippage of a worn or damaged accessory belt, explains Tech-Cor Research in a recent blog post for Allstate.

“The squeaking is caused by aging belts becoming loose and losing traction. Sometimes you can even see that the sides of old belts have become shiny or ‘glazed’ — the mechanics’ term for this issue. Squeaky belts may need to be replaced, so if this noise is coming from under the hood of your car, you may need to visit a mechanic,” the company cautions.


Hissing Under the Hood

Replace that squeaky noise with a loud hiss, especially while idling, and you may be dealing with a vacuum leak, which occurs when a vacuum line is damaged, states Popular Mechanics. “This problem may also cause your ‘Check Engine’ light to go on. Hearing a hissing noise from under your car’s hood may be an indication that it’s time to take it to a mechanic. The solution may be as simple as having lines reattached, or you may need new ones,” the website explains.

Vacuum lines are pretty cheap, running $10 or a little more. With an hour of labor, it could end up being a $100 repair depending on the shop doing the work.

If you can do the work yourself, great. YouTube has a plethora of videos to fit your make and model at the following link.


Screeching Wheels

The most common ailment associated with screeching wheels is a brake pad issue, according to Tech-Cor. These wear down after extended usage, with modern pads being designed with a band of metal that becomes exposed at the end of a pad’s life cycle.

“When these metal tabs come into contact with your rotors, you hear that squealing noise — which is a high-pitched reminder that it’s time to get your brake pads inspected, and likely replaced, by a professional,” the company explains. “If you don’t heed this noise, the rotors can be damaged — which may mean a larger repair bill as it can lead to …


Brake Grinding

A worn brake pad generally gives way completely, and you’re left with the unpleasant noise of metal on metal. At this point, you may have to replace or repair your brake rotors.

“Hopefully, you’ll never hear this sound coming from your wheels. But if you do, it’s time to make sure your brakes are inspected by a professional,” Tech-Cor advises.


In Summary

A sound may not be able to save you from needing to take your car to the shop for costly repairs, but it can limit the size of your bill and may even save your life depending on how far along the problem is. The list presented above only represents a small sampling of what can (and eventually will) go wrong with your car. Remember: no one knows your car better than you do. If you suspect something is “off” about how it sounds and rides, then you’re probably right.

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