Troubleshooting Engine Noises: 5 Common Sounds and What They Mean

Everyone dreads the day that they start up their car and an unknown noise coming from under the hood fills them with dread. We’re all pretty familiar with how our car sounds on a day-to-day basis, so when unusual engine noises crop up, it can be cause for concern. 

But are all noises, whether they alarming or not, something to worry about? Most of the time, yes. It’s never a good idea to ignore a new or unfamiliar noise coming from your engine hub. 

Here are some of the most common you might hear and what they could mean. 

  1. A Piston Ring

This usually sounds like an unusual clicking coming from your engine, especially during the acceleration of your car. Never fear though, this is not a very severe or unfixable issue, i.e. you won’t need major auto repair

This noise is the result of low ring tension, broken rings, or worn cylinder walls inside your engine. You can assess the issue yourself by checking out your engine cylinders, removing the spark plugs, and adding some engine oil to each cylinder. 

When you crank your car engine the oil should then settle below the engine rings. If you start your car and the noise is less obvious, this shows you could, indeed, have an issue with the rings. 

  1. A Piston Slap

This sounds most similar to a hollow, muffled noise or type of vibration coming from your engine. It’s also a sign that your engine could have too much piston-to-wall clearance, low oil, or worn-down cylinders. 

If this sound continues without settling, it’s a sign that your engine could need a simple service. This sound is most common when a car engine is cold and might disappear when it’s warmed up, so it’s nothing serious to worry about. But still, you want to get your engine checked out and serviced sooner rather than later. 

  1. Crankshaft Knocking

You want to look out for a heavy, dull knocking sound, almost like metal knocking on metal under your hood. One of the most common causes of this sound is worn-down bearings. 

A good way to check if this is the issue is to inspect your oil with a dipstick and look for any signs of metal shavings. If you find metal reflections in your oil, this shows that your main bearing material might need replacing. 

  1. Valve Train Clicking

You might notice a persistent and regular type of clicking sound coming from your engine, especially when you’re driving at half speed. Most of the time, this issue stems from the valves in your engine, such as excessive valve clearance or an issue with your valve lifter. 

If you’re not well-versed in engine parts or car maintenance in general, you might want to take your car into an auto repair shop to help you troubleshoot the issue! 

  1. Detonation Pinging 

Contrary to what the name suggests, this has nothing to do with your engine detonating! Instead, you want to look out for a high-pitched, pinging noise that sounds like metal on metal. 

The issue could stem from irregular engine timing, an imbalance of air-to-fuel ratio, or the wrong type of octane. If you want to keep this problem at bay, a simple solution is to increase the octane level of the fuel you use. Otherwise, you could also lower your manifold pressure or enrich your mixture of air and fuel. 

Ramp Up Your Day-to-Day General Knowledge 

At the end of the day, unknown engine noises that crop up out of the blue can be worrisome. If you just don’t have the expertise or experience in handling cars and their engines, it’s best to take your car to a professional so they can put your mind at ease! 

If you found this blog useful and you’re looking to bolster your daily general knowledge, be sure to explore the rest of this site. We offer a wealth of knowledge on all things business, health, auto and repair and so much more.

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