There’s nothing more embarrassing than trying to mimic that awful sound emanating from your car to your mechanic. But you can’t ignore it indefinitely because the drama of a breakdown is even more inconvenient. ‘Your car will generally make sounds from one of three areas: the engine, the gears or the brakes,’ says Gerald Mbovu, a mechanic in Pretoria. ‘And though some noises aren’t as serious as others, it’s important to make sure.’
The worst thing you can do is pretend nothing’s wrong and hope the problem will go away. It won’t. So learn to decipher ‘car speak’ and tune in to these warning sounds.
If It Clacks
Engine noises (particularly a ‘clacking’ sound) that get more rapid the faster your drive should never be ignored. ‘The problem could be fuel injectors not working properly, and the longer you ignore it, the more damage will be done,’ says Mbovu.
Another noise to listen out for is a ‘popping’ sound originating from the engine. ‘This often means that the spark plugs are dirty or that they’re no longer operational. The air filter could be dirty or the fuel filter might be clogged up,’ says Mbovu. And if you hear a hiss, there’s a good chance you’ll be parked on the side of the road soon. ‘It usually indicates the engine is overheating or that the vacuum device in your car needs adjusting.’ Make sure you get your car to a mechanic – pronto!
If It Grinds
A grinding noise when you change gears is a serious warning sign. ‘Get the clutch checked right away,’ says Mbovu. ‘Many people ignore the clutch but without it you can’t get the car into gear. If it’s not the clutch, there could be some internal damage to the gearbox, which is usually quite serious.’
If It Squeals (and then grinds)
Squealing brakes are one of the most common car sounds reported. ‘The squeal could mean the brake pads are overheating or worn. It could also mean that the disc calipers (the place where the break pads and pistons are located) have loosened,’ says Mbovu. ‘If you recently changed the brake pads and are certain that you don’t need new ones, take your car in to be analysed by a professional.
When you hear a grinding sound, as though two pieces of metal are rubbing against each other, it means you’ve ignored the squealing for so long that the brake pads are completely worn out – not a good scenario. ‘The brake discs are grinding against each other, which can lead to costly repairs because they may need to be replaced,’ says Mbovu. So the second you hear a squealing sound, you should have your brakes checked out.