Communicating Car Noises

What’s That Noise?

If you expect the best from your repair shop and have some weird car noises, you’re going to have to do your part. It’s just like any other relationship in that regard. Here are some thoughts from the front lines.

Communication is critical – and often difficult when a problem with your car is intermittent, difficult to duplicate, if more than one symptom is present, if it involves a sound or noise that’s tough to describe, etcetera. At DOC Auto ® of Fredericksburg, VA we have some checklists and a “Funky Noise Naming Sheet” that we use, and that we’ve listed here, that are helpful. Sometimes, we’ll get a night-drop envelope that mentions car noises, and when the technician drives the car, he listens for a different noise. The danger is that we might then repair the cause of the wrong noise. Not necessarily a bad thing, except that we haven’t addressed our client’s concern! This is where your relationship with your service adviser is critical. His responsibility (and yours!) is to fill in the blanks, using things like our checklists and your answers to questions both from his experience and from the technician. Good communication can be a huge time saver.

Speaking of communication, it’s very frustrating when we have a client’s car in the shop and can’t get him or her on the phone. One of the most helpful things you can do, and usually one of the easiest, is to make sure that we have a good phone number for you and to have your phone on and with you. Auto repair shops usually don’t have enough service bays to allow putting a car on the lift, partially disassembling it, and leaving it there for a few hours while the service adviser tries to track the car’s owner down. That means they have to take it apart, put it back together, find the problem, pull it out of the bay, and then repeat the whole wretched exercise when the owner calls back – or worse, shows up thinking the car is ready!

Don’t forget that diagnostic trouble codes (or DTCs) do not tell you what’s wrong with the car. I discuss this in the Check Engine Light section, but it bears repeating because it’s such a common misconception. Each DTC has a unique diagnostic procedure, or set of tests, associated with it. When a good technician retrieves a code, he then goes to his computer information system and prints out the diagnostic procedure and tests he needs to perform to correctly fix the car. With so many parts stores offering free “diagnostics”, when in fact, they’re only retrieving codes, most shops get flooded with calls asking for a price to replace such-and-such a part. The problem is that often the part just happens to be mentioned in the name of the code, but is in fact fine, and the problem persists after the part is replaced. We often have cars at DOC Auto ® that have had part “X” replaced by its owner or his “mechanic” friend, but the same code comes back. Sometimes, part “X” has been replaced more than once! It’s a tremendous waste of time and money.

If there’s a problem, realize that a good shop and its employees want it resolved, and for you to be happy, just as much as, or more than, you do! In a perfect world, we would never get a defective part, and no one would ever mess up, but then, in a perfect world, you wouldn’t need a repair shop would you! All good shops will bend over backwards to take care of any problem. Keep in mind that no one wants to cause problems, but everyone is capable of a mistake. Work with, not against, your shop in resolving the situation.

You and your repair shop are in partnership together to make your auto repair and maintenance as easy and worry-free as possible. If both parties do their part, you’ll save time and money, and your car will deliver the best possible service for the longest possible time – and when it’s time to sell it, it’ll bring you the most possible dollars!

Use this list to help identify the problem sounds:

Boom – Like a bass drum, or a distant thunder clap.

Buzz – Like a bumble bee.

Click – Like a ball-point pen.

Clunk – A heavy, metallic sound, like a hammer on an anvil.

Creak – Like walking on an old wood floor.

Grind – An abrasive sound, like a grinding stone.

Growl – A low sound, like an angry dog.

Hiss – Like the sound of a leaking tire.

Hum – A low, steady sound, like the note of an organ.

Knock – Like the knock on the door.

Pop – Like the sound of a Champagne cork coming out of the bottle.

Rattle – Like gravel in a can, or a baby rattle.

Rumble – Low, heavy, constant sound, like thunder, except continuous.

Squeak – Like tennis shoes on a clean floor.

Tap – A crisp sound like tapping your fingers on a table.

Thump – Heavy, muffled noise like slapping your hand down on a bed.

Tick – Like a clock’s second hand, but louder.

Whine – A high-pitched sound, like an electric motor or drill.

Whistle – Like a note on a flute, or, oddly enough, someone – guess what – whistling!

Chatham Heights
175 Chatham Heights Road
Fredericksburg, VA 22405
(540) 899-3732

Courthouse Road
10734 Courthouse Road
Fredericksburg, VA 22408
(540) 710-0173

Monday – Friday:
8am to 6pm

8am to 2pm

Closed on Sunday