Car Noise Descriptions

  • BANG: A brief sharp sound, like from a gun. An engine backfire is an example.
  • BOOM: A hollow, low-frequency sound or sensation as from a bass drum or tympani, sometimes like a rolling bowling ball or thunder.
  • BUZZ: A constant sound in the low- to mid-range that may be felt through the steering wheel or floor vibrating like an electric shaver.
  • CHIRP: A bird-like sound that is often repetitive. Worn or misaligned accessory belts often chirp.
  • CLANG: A metallic ringing sound like a bell that reverberates briefly. Like the sound of dropping a wrench on the floor.
  • CLANK: A metallic striking sound that does not reverberate. Like a hammer striking an anvil.
  • CLICK: A light, high-frequency tapping sound. Like someone taking a picture or tapping a pencil on a desk. Often used to describe bad hydraulic lifters. (See also: tapping)
  • CLACK: More harsh than a click, but similar. Like the sound of billiard table balls striking one another.
  • CLUNK: A heavy thumping or bumping sound that does not reverberate and may even seem to be muted. Often comes from worn shock absorber or strut mounts when driving over a speed bump.
  • FLAPPING: A repetitious noise like a bird’s wings or a flag in a strong breeze. Often heard when the front lower plastic engine covers break loose.
  • GRINDING: The sound a pepper mill makes, although on a car it may be more metallic. The sound that brakes make when the lining is completely worn away. Often used to describe gear clash when the transmission is improperly shifted.
  • HISS: The sound of air or steam escaping from a small hole. Often caused by a leak in the cooling system or a punctured tire.
  • HOWL: A midrange noise like a strong wind.
  • KNOCK: The sound of someone knocking on a door. Usually used to describe a connecting rod knock in an engine that is about to fail.
  • MOAN or DRONE: A low-frequency tone like the sound make by blowing across the top of a large pop bottle. Often caused by worn rubber engine mounts or the exhaust system contacting the underbody.
  • PING: The sound of dropping marbles into a can. Usually used to describe the sound from an engine suffering from detonation or pre-ignition.
  • POP: A sharp, explosive sound like a cork being removed from a bottle. A small engine backfire makes a pop.
  • RATTLE: The sound of those marbles in that can being shaken. Often used to describe the sound of an exhaust system that is loose and lightly contacting another part of the car.
  • ROAR: Like the roar of a large cat or the fans at a football game. Often used to describe road noise or a large displacement engine being accelerated hard.
  • RUMBLE: Sort of a staccato, muffled roar. Often used to describe the sound of a car rolling over warning strips in the road such as those approaching toll booths. Also used to describe the sound of a loud, but mellow, muffler.
  • SCRAPING: A relatively high-pitched jeet-jeet-jeet sound. It often speeds up as the car gains speed. Commonly used to describe the sound of loose brake hardware, but also produced by the warning reed on some disc brakes.
  • SCREECH: A drawn out squeak. Usually used to describe the sound of tires sliding on the pavement with the brakes locked up.
  • SQUEAL: A shrill, high-pitched, long-lasting sound. Often used to describe defective accessory belts or some brake noises. Also the sound tires make as the car corners in movies.
  • TAP: Like a click, but heavier like that made by lightly striking a table top with the broad side of a ruler. Often used to describe the sound of failed hydraulic engine valve lifters or valves that are out of adjustment.
  • WHINE: A very high-pitched steady sound like that of a jet engine or vacuum cleaner, but not as loud. Often used to describe transmission gear noise or worn bearings in a generator.
  • WHISTLE: A shrill, clear, high-pitched sound. Often used to describe wind noise or a leak in a rubber door gasket.
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