Sound is a key indicator that something could be wrong with a car – in some cases, even more so than a visual inspection. Any noise that you’re not used to in your car could indicate there’s something wrong. If you’re concerned, get your car checked by a qualified mechanic for peace of mind.
Eight common car noises that could cost you £2,000 if ignored
If you can’t identify the source, you could record the sound if you’re able to do so safely and play it to your mechanic to get an accurate quote.
1. Squeaking under the bonnet could cost you upwards of £290
A water pump fault causes a high-pitched squeaking noise alerting you to the issue. The water pump circulates engine coolant around the cooling system, helping to stop your vehicle from overheating.
A water pump is a costly fault, setting you back £296 on average. The cost of the pump can depend on manufacturers, and what is recommended for your model. Putting off a repair can lead to more serious engine faults so you should get the issue looked at as soon as possible.
Another sign of a faulty water pump is fluid leaking from your car onto the road while you’re parked or liquid around the water pump. To prolong the lifetime and efficiency of your car’s pump, make sure to use only manufacturer-approved sealants and coolants – improper materials or maintenance can actually make the situation worse.
2. Screeching wheels could cost you an average of £405 in repairs and a £2,500 fine
One of the easiest and most common sounds of a car in need of repair is a squeaking noise when you brake. The noise comes from your brake pads thanks to the indicators fitted by most manufacturers – alerting drivers that their pads are wearing down. The noise usually means you’ll need to replace your brake pads and perhaps even discs.
Although dependent on engine size, new front and back brake pads and discs for up to a 1.6 litre engine will set you back around £405. Which increases, if your engine is bigger. This may seem expensive, but it’s worth the money rather than driving around with ineffective brakes. Which could set you back even more if you’re charged with ‘using a vehicle in a dangerous condition’ according to the Highway Code. Which is a £2,500 fine, and three points on your licence.
Brake pads usually last around 50,000 on the majority of cars but bad driving habits can affect their lifespan. It’s also best to get your brake pads repaired in sets, as they should wear at similar times. Braking when going down a hill and stopping at the last minute can cause much faster wear and tear.
3. Clunking when driving over bumps could set you back £210
A clunking by your wheels, especially when driving over speed bumps and on rough roads, could likely mean an issue with your anti-roll bar.
Anti-roll bars connect your suspension and help to reduce body movement when going around corners, keeping your car level and stable. As the name suggests, they essentially help stop rolling in your car. Anti-roll bars and installation costs around £210. Unfortunately, they usually can’t be repaired and will instead need to be replaced.
4. A tyre rumbling or grinding noise can set you back over £230
If you hear a rumbling coming from the bottom of the car, particularly when travelling at speed on a long straight road, this signifies an issue with your tyre or wheel bearing. The bearing is essential in keeping your wheel moving smoothly and with as little friction as possible.
Usually, a visual inspection will show if anything’s wrong with the tyre - just look for excessive wear, bulging or a puncture. If these aren’t visible, chances are it’ll be the wheel bearing which you’ll usually need to visit a mechanic for.
If it is a wheel bearing, the average replacement cost in the UK is £231 per bearing. If it is the tyre, you’ll save yourself some money and will only need to repair or replace it. To help cut down on the chance of your wheel bearings being faulty, try to avoid curbing your car as impact really affects their lifespan.
5. Clicking when turning could cost up to £260 to repair
A clear sign of an issue with a CV (constant velocity) joint is a clicking sound when turning. Typically, this will be around the front wheels but on some cars, it can be in the back as well.
CV joints connect the front axle with the wheels for turning. They’re covered by a rubber boot which is where issues often occur. When these are damaged, dirt and moisture can get in and affect the joint – grease will also be able to leak out, affecting the joint’s lubrication.
If you discover this issue early, it could be repaired but the cost of a full replacement can be between £130- £260. A broken CV joint may also cause shaking when going round corners so watch out for this, too, especially if you hear the clicking sound.
6. Squealing from near your engine could cost around £160
Squealing from under your bonnet likely means an issue with your alternator belt, also referred to as the drive belt. The belt transfers power from the engine to other parts of your vehicle including the alternator, air con, steering and others. A noise from the belt suggests it needs to be realigned or could need replacing. The belt will wear down from friction and heat from the engine, causing visible damage.
Even with a snapped belt, you can still drive the car but some components won’t work. It’s recommended that you pull over if you hear the noise to prevent further damage. Replacing the alternator belt costs on average £160, depending on the make and model of your car.
7. A rattling exhaust could cost you £130
If you hear a rattling or buzzing from underneath your car while driving, it will likely be an issue with the exhaust bracket. The exhaust has several important functions, chiefly to reduce the CO2 produced by your vehicle.
In some cases, you may be able to resolve the issue yourself. Look under your vehicle and try shaking the exhaust when it hasn’t been running for a while – make sure it’s cool beforehand to avoid burns. If there’s a particular area that rattles, see if you can tighten any fittings to help resolve the issue. For more serious issues, you’ll likely need a mechanic to change your exhaust. This typically costs around £130.
8. Groaning when turning could cost you £300
If you hear a loud groaning noise when turning your steering wheel from under the bonnet, you’ll likely be low on power steering fluid. Power steering fluid makes it easier to turn your wheel thanks to pressure building up around the rack-mounted piston. Other signs are that it could be hard to turn the steering wheel.
Topping up the power steering fluid by yourself will only cost you between £10 and £15 but if you need a flush and replacement, the average UK cost is around £115 - if the fluid is black or brown, you’ll probably need a flush.
Ignoring the issue could result in damage to the power steering pump itself, which could set you back as much as £300, so make sure you have your car checked if you’re concerned.
Simon Naylor, Director at Wessex Fleet, advises getting familiar with the normal operation of your car and having unusual sounds diagnosed straight away: “While the upkeep of a car can be expensive, whether you are leasing or you own the car, it’s important you listen out for any concerning noises your vehicle may start to make. Getting these sorted sooner rather than later could save subsequent faults and rising repair bills.”