Should You Worry if Your Car Squeaks While Driving?

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If your car is making an annoying squeaking sound while you drive, you’re going to want to get to the bottom of it.

We’ll help you figure out its possible cause and how to fix it.

Is it Safe to Drive a Squeaky Car?

While some causes of squeaking sounds can be minor, others are serious and indicate it’s time to get your car serviced immediately.

It’s important to pay attention to what part of your car the squeaking sound is coming from and act fast on finding a solution.

Learn about the most common causes and solutions for a squeaking noise below.

When in doubt, it’s always best to have any issues with your vehicle inspected and diagnosed by a qualified mechanic.

Top 9 Causes for a Squeaking Noises in Your Car

Below are the most common reasons you may be hearing abnormal noises from your car and how to fix them.

1. Faulty Brake Pads

This is the most common cause of odd noises, as brake pads are designed to squeak when they are worn down and ready to be replaced.

If you are noticing the noise while you press your brakes, this is most likely your brake pads.

IMPORTANT: Act quickly to avoid damage to your brakes disks, which would be a much more pricey repair than the pads.

If your brakes are squeaking before it is time to replace them, this can caused by debris lodged between the pad and disc.

If this is the case, the mechanic can remove the debris. 

2. Malfunctioning Alternator

If the squeaking noise sounds like it is coming from your car’s engine, it could be the alternator.

Other signs of a faulty alternator include a burning smell or a warning light on your car’s dashboard.

The alternator charges your car’s battery as well as the electronics that keep your car running.

The average lifespan of an alternator is about 7 years, or 80,000 to 150,000 miles.

3. Tire Problems

The screeching or squeaking noise could be from your tires if they are deflated or unevenly treaded.

This is an important issue to fix quickly.

First, driving on bald or badly worn tires is extremely dangerous.

Additionally, the minimum legal tire tread depth is 1/32″ to 2/32″ depending on where you’re driving. Driving with bald tires can not only be dangerous and cause squeaking, but can also result in a traffic ticket.

If this is where the squeaking sound is coming from, it is time to get them checked out and likely replaced. Tires should be fully replaced after every 5 to 10 years.

4. Worn Out Timing Belt 

If the squeaking noise happens when you accelerate your car, your timing belt may be the likely suspect.

The timing belt is an important piece of your car functioning properly because it determines the timing of the combustion cycle for your engine.

If it is loose or worn out, it may be causing your squeaking.

If this part of your car has never been replaced and your vehicle is a few years old, it’s important to take it in to get checked out.

Failing to do this could lead to much more expensive required fixes down the line.

Find out how much it may cost to replace a timing belt.

5. Worn Down Serpentine

The serpentine belt is another potential cause of your car’s squeaking.

In this case, you will either hear a high-pitched squeal when you accelerate or right after you start the engine.

This can be fixed by replacing the belt and should be checked out in tandem with the timing belt, as getting them replaced at the same time rather than in two separate instances will save you labor fees. 

6. Defective Steering or Suspension System

If the squeaking is happening when you turn, there’s probably an issue with the steering system.

Problems can range from your power steering fluid to worn out ball joints to lack of lubrication.

If your power steering fluid is low, you can fix this on your own by learning how to measure the existing fluid in your car using the dipstick, buying more fluid at a local car store, and refilling it.

However, if your steering system needs extra lubrication, your power steering fluid is contaminated, or your ball joints are run down, you’ll need a mechanic to diagnose and remedy the problem.

Issues with your car’s suspension or struts can also cause a squeak.

Learn more about replacing a bad strut here.

7. Problem With Your Engine

If you are hearing knocking or pinging while you accelerate, this may indicate a serious engine problem.

Engine problems can range from bad fuel, faulty engine timing, or a carbon buildup.

It’s important to take your car to the mechanic for an inspection right away so they can run a diagnostic to learn if a minor or major adjustment is needed. 

Find out how much an engine replacement or repair may cost.

8. Vacuum Leak

If your squeaking sounds like a whistle coming from under the hood of your car, this typically stems from vacuum leaks.

A leak may be occurring in one of the hoses surrounding the air intake system.

It is best to contact an experienced mechanic in this situation, as they can be hard to find.

The good news is, once found, it’s usually an easy repair. Sometimes, hose fittings and connects can come lose or crack, but these a typically quick and cheap to fix.

9. Fluid Leak

A snakelike hissing or sizzling noise likely indicates a fluid leak.

If this is the case, the noise is coming from fluid falling into your car’s hot engine, specifically into the manifold or engine block.

A mechanic can find and fix the leak.

10. AC Problems

A problem with your car’s AC system can also cause squeaking noises.

If the noise occurs when you’re running the AC, that’s the likely culprit.

Find out what may be wrong with your car’s AC and how much it will cost to fix it.

How To Prevent Your Car from Squeaking

As you’ve learned, that pesky squeaking sound can be caused by many different car problems.

The best way to prevent it is regular maintenance checks. Follow these steps to stay on top of your car’s maintenance:

  • Routinely check and top up your gas, oil, coolant, tire pressure.
  • Follow the suggested servicing schedule for your car. Generally, it’s best to get your car serviced at least once or twice per year.
  • Drive on smooth surfaces as much as possible, avoiding potholes.
  • Pay attention to any warning lights that appear on your dashboard.