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Sounds Like Trouble?

Published Nov 17th 2006, 4:44pm by Jody DeVere in Featured Articles

Car_noise_2_1 Squeaks, squeals, rattles, rumbles, and other sounds provide valuable clues about problems and maintenance needs. Here are some common noises and what they mean:

Squeal - A shrill, sharp noise:

•    Loose or worn power steering, fan or air conditioning belt.

Catscreech_1 If this happens every morning it isn’t the neighbor’s cat, but is usually a loose or worn accessory drive belt will cause this kind of noise. With regular maintenance and vehicle inspections this noise can usually be avoided.

Click - A slight sharp noise, related to either engine speed or vehicle speed:

•    Loose wheel cover.
•    Loose or bent fan blade.
•    Stuck valve lifter or low engine oil.

With regular maintenance and vehicle inspections this noise can usually be avoided.

Screech - A high-pitched, piercing metallic sound; usually occurs while the vehicle is in motion:

•    Caused by brake wear indicators to let you know it's time for maintenance.

There are sensors on most all vehicles front and rear disc brake pads and when the brake pad wears down to a certain point this sensor makes contact with the brake rotor and creates a squeal when the vehicle is moving. This squeal will usually get either louder or go away when the brake pedal is pressed, if left unattended this could cause damage to other brake system components. 

If you are hearing a grinding noise and the squealing noise is gone, further damage to your brake drums may be starting. Take your vehicle in for a brake inspection.

Whomping or thumping - Noise coming from the rear of the car:

Car_noise_3 Unless you have one of those huge custom sound systems installed in your trunk...

•    Tire, suspension or alignment

When at highway speeds (45 to 70 mph) there is a fast paced whopping or thumping noise from the rear of the car. This could be caused by the rear tires cupping or chopping due to a lack of proper tire rotation or weak shock and or struts. If you run your hand across the tread area of the tires and find them bumpy like a wash board or cheese grater they will require replacement and your vehicles suspension and alignment should be checked.

Ping - A high-pitched metallic tapping sound, related to engine speed:

•    Usually caused by using gas with a lower octane rating than recommended. Check your owner's manual for the proper octane rating. If the problem persists, engine ignition timing could be at fault.

This is commonly called spark knock and is caused by high temperatures in the combustion chambers of your engine and the fuel igniting before the spark plug fires. If a higher grade of gasoline does not correct this it might be time for a fuel injection service or tune up on your engine.

Finding a good auto repair facility is always a concern, especially when the unexpected happens. One important thing to remember is to look for ASE Certification.

Aseonly_4 ASE-certified automotive technicians and other service professionals can be identified in several ways. The most obvious is to look for the ASE sign on the facility. Once inside, most establishments proudly display the ASE certificates earned by their technicians in their office or waiting room. Finally, the technicians may be wearing an ASE patch on the shoulder of their uniform. All ASE-certified professionals are proud of their achievement and are more than willing to show you their credentials.

ASE has years of experience helping the automotive industry verify the skills and knowledge of the technicians working at dealerships, independent repair shops, collision shops, franchises, fleets, and more. Car owners and the service and repair industry regard ASE certification as the standard measure of competency and a guide to quality auto repairs.

ASE has taken this responsibility one step further by offering a recognition opportunity for highly qualified repair facilities, which allows them to showcase their technicians and their commitment to excellence. It is called the Blue Seal of Excellence Recognition Program. The program’s emphasis is to identify establishments with a large percentage of ASE-certified professionals. It is a recognition program for businesses striving to be the best, and willing to prove their commitment.

Choosing a Repair Shop Checklist

Here are some tips from the nonprofit National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence on finding a good repair establishment:

•    Start shopping for a repair facility before you need one.
•    Ask friends and associates for recommendations; consult local consumer organizations.
•    Arrange for alternate transportation in advance so you will not feel forced to choose a shop based solely on location.
•    Look for a neat, well-organized facility, with vehicles in the parking lot equal in value to your own and modern equipment in the service bays.
•    Look for a courteous staff, with a service writer willing to answer all of your questions.
•    Look for policies regarding labor rates, diagnostic fees, guarantees, acceptable methods of payment, etc.
•    Ask if the repair facility specializes or if it usually handles your type of repair work.
•    Look for signs of professionalism in the customer service area such as civic, community, or customer service awards.
•    Look for evidence of qualified technicians: trade school diplomas, certificates of advanced course work, and certification by ASE.
•    Reward good service with repeat business and customer loyalty.
To locate an ASE Blue Seal Service and repair center go to:

Jody DeVere
Ask Patty – Automotive Advice for Women

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