Is that car rattle in your car driving you insane?

Author: JT Hughes

Car rattle noise inspection tips.

car rattle

In the 1990s, an infamous advert for VW graced the screens of our televisions, featuring an annoying old man and an equally annoying squeaky sign. When such irritations are limited to 30 seconds, and you always have the option to mute the volume or escape to the kitchen to brew up, squeaks and rattles are of little importance. When they’re plaguing you every time you set off in your car, however, it’s a different matter.

In fact, there’s little comfort in setting off on a long journey to hear a squeak or rattle of an unknown origin that you realise with a sinking heart simply won’t go away until you reach your destination. In this situation three options exist: to grit your teeth and bare it (in all likelihood only those with the patience of a saint can achieve this); to turn up the radio to drown out the noise (which means that you’ll be denied those precious moments of silence that all long journeys need); or to find the source of the noise and cure it.

Check for loose objects.

With the vehicle parked, open the boot and check that all luggage is stowed securely, remembering to look under the rear seats for discarded toys, cans or other objects. You’re unlikely to be able to spot a moving object while the vehicle is stationary, but equally you cannot expect to crawl around the back of your car while it’s in motion, so an eagle eye is crucial.

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Turn on the engine but remain stationary.

With the engine idling and the vehicle in neutral, sit in the driver’s seat and listen carefully. If the rattle can’t be heard, try accelerating gently to see if it becomes apparent. Repeat this several times until you are able to establish a pattern.

This is an important step to help you identify the location and source of the noise. A rattle that is evident when the car isn’t moving might be indicative of a loose bolt in the engine, a low oil level or an insecure exhaust mounting. While you may need to seek professional advice to identify the exact cause of the problem, you’ll be able to provide important information about the nature of the sound and the frequency with which you hear it.

Listen for a rattle from within the cabin.

As you listen for the rattle while the vehicle is stationary, it may become evident that the source of the noise is much closer to home, coming from within the cabin of the car. For example, a loose supporting component within the dashboard or one of the doors could cause excessive vibration leading to the rattle; it may help to place your hand firmly on different parts of the car’s interior and apply pressure, to see if this causes the sound to disappear momentarily.

Drive the car.

If you are still unsure about the source of the rattle, or don’t hear it when your car is stationary, you should take the car for a gentle drive, initially on local roads. Try to establish if a pattern exists, for example if you only hear the sound at a certain speed.

A rattle that occurs only when the car is moving suggests that it may be produced by a suspension component. As this is likely to indicate that a repair is needed, you should arrange to have your vehicle inspected as soon as possible.

Seek professional advice.

It’s worth remembering that, like many unusual sounds, a rattle can be a symptom of a significant mechanical defect affecting your car, so it’s important not to dismiss it but to seek expert advice as soon as possible. This will enable the exact source of the noise to be identified and any necessary repairs to be undertaken before the problem becomes more complex and costly.

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