If there's one thing that will make any car owner take notice, it's a new, strange sound coming from somewhere in their vehicle. Whether it's a recurring squeak, a grinding noise when you turn, or just some weird intermittent humming, it can drive you to distraction. The question is—what is that noise and what could your vehicle be trying to tell you?
There are some noises that are very easy to diagnose. For example, if you hear a clicking sound coming from your tires when you turn, that's likely a CV joint going bad and should be looked at by a mechanic as soon as possible.
If you hear a high pitched squeal coming from under the hood, that's one of two issues. If it stops when you turn off the car, that's a belt going bad and needing to be replaced. If the noise doesn't stop when you turn off the car and slowly tapers off, that's probably a faulty gasket on your radiator cap (at best), or a leak in the coolant system (worst case).
A clicking sound coming from under the hood that persists after the car is turned off is usually because of low oil. If there's enough oil, it may be a valve issue.
Of course, there are sounds that aren't so easily diagnosed. In those cases, you should identify where the noise is coming from and the type of sound. A grinding sound coming from the wheel area when you brake is probably your brakes. If it's a light sound, it's usually not serious; a loud grinding sound indicates that your brakes need to be changed immediately.
Buzzing sounds when you start your car or turn something on (wipers, turn signal) can indicate an electrical short. You might hear this through the speakers as a power surge makes them crackle. You should have this looked at in an auto repair shop like H & S Tire & Auto Center as soon as possible as well.
If you have a rear wheel drive, beware of a loud howl coming from the back of your car. This may be your rear differential failing. If your tires make a weird, uneven rhythmic sound when you drive, they may be out of alignment or need balancing. Check to be sure they're properly inflated.
Your car is going to make noises during its normal operation. If your car starts to make noises that are out of the norm or one of the regular noises changes, you should track down the cause. While some aren't bad, some noises are indicators of major problems and need attention right away.