Last updated: August 2022

6 Spooky Car Sounds You Probably Shouldn’t Ignore

While October might be our favorite month to be scared, it’s also Fall Car Care Month, and those spooky sounds coming from your car could signal serious problems. Use this helpful guide to help make sure horror movies and little kids dressed as goblins are the only things scaring you this October! Armed with ears and a little background knowledge from the folks at, you can keep your car running more safely for years to come.

#1: Hissing

If your engine sounds like an under-inflated balloon, consider bringing it to the shop. A hissing noise coming from under the hood could be an indication of a leak in your cooling system or vacuum line, both of which could cause performance issues such as a decrease in fuel efficiency or an overheated engine.

#2: Tapping or Hammering

No, there aren't little gnomes mining for gold under your hood. (But wouldn't that be cool?) If you’re hearing a light “tap-tap-tap” sound, you could have a lifter which isn’t pumping properly or an issue with valve clearance. If you’re hearing a deep hammering “thud-thud-thud” sound (like maybe an ogre's doing the mining), the issue could end up being pricey to repair. This noise is typically a symptom of problems related to rod bearings which could require removing the entire powertrain to fix.

#3: Metallic Clacking

If your car sounds like the rock tumbler you got for your sixth birthday, there may be an issue revolving around the base of your car. Worst case, your CV joints, located at the end of the axles, are on their way out. Best case, you have a pebble dancing around the tire spokes. Easy fix!

#4: Flapping

Unless you have a bird hidden in your trunk or a flat tire, this sound could indicate a broken fan belt, which tends to be pretty simple and affordable to fix if taken care of relatively quickly. Leave it, though, and it could lead to more serious problems under the hood and more expensive repairs. There could also be a band disintegrating or something else interfering with the fan. Depending on how loud the noise is, flapping is a sign that something is worn and needs to be replaced in the near future.

#5: Rear Rattling

If your rear window doesn’t read “Just Married” and you still hear a sound like tin cans tumbling from behind, your exhaust system may need a tune up. Your car's exhaust system is made up of five pieces: the exhaust manifold, catalytic converter, resonators, muffler, and pipe. This system extends from the engine area to the back of your car. If certain parts are not securely connected from front to back, you may hear some metal-to-metal rattling as you drive. Listen to the three exhaust system noises on ClingClanger for help identifying the specific issue. If none of these sound quite right to you, talk to your mechanic about worn ball joints.

#6: Click or Grind

When tapping on your brakes creates an irregular noise, you may have a problem. Brakes are handily designed to alert you when they need replacing, which is why they're made with a special metal indicator. When the pads wear down, the indicator comes into contact with another metal piece (the rotor) and creates a screeching-grinding sound. If that noise is more like a click, you may be able to solve the issue by replacing the brake pads. If the noise has progressed to a harsh grinding sound, bring your car to a mechanic. Once the brake pads have completely worn through, other elements of the braking system could be damaged.

Pro Car Care Tip: Paying attention to the noises your car makes now could save you significant time, money, and hassle later. With over 1,800 pieces in the average car, there’s a lot that could go wrong.

Direct Auto Insurance's Roadside Assistance program can bring you peace of mind, even during one of the spookiest seasons! Call 1-877-GO-DIRECT 877-463-4732 to see how a roadside assistance plan pays for itself after just one use. And if one of these sounds is sending a chill down your spine, head to a repair shop you trust to help prevent trouble further down the road.

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