Why is Your Car Squealing? Consider These 5 Common Reasons

Things that Cause a Squealing Sound in Your Car's Engine

Whether you're just running errands around Salt Lake City or headed out for a weekend away from it all, the last thing you want to hear from your car is a squeal or other high-pitched sound. It's a sure way to turn everyone's head and draw attention to something that's very wrong with your car. So, what in the world could be making such a loud and hideous sound?

The highly experienced technicians in our authorized dealership service center at Nate Wade Subaru have seen just about everything, and we want everyone to be informed about their rides. That's why we've put together the following five most common reasons for squealing and high-pitched noises from your vehicle. No matter why your car is screaming at the neighbors and traffic, don't take chances with some random mechanic. Instead, bring it by our shop for the very best in automotive care in Salt Lake City.

5. The Whistle Of Overheating

Did you know that an overheating engine will often let out something of a sad whistling noise? This is because the engine coolant has reached its boiling temperature, and that whistle is from the excess pressure escaping. It's kind of like a kettle letting you know it's time for tea. Except, your car is letting you know that it's time to call a tow truck and turn the whole matter over to the experts.

If this is the high-pitched sound you're hearing, it's important that you're very careful under the hood. Touching the radiator cap can leave you with burns and releasing the cap when this pressure is in the system can result in an eruption of boiling coolant. This issue is also typically accompanied by a bit of steam and an engine temperature warning light.

The Whistle Of Overheating
When Was The Last Time You Had The Brakes Checked?

4. When Was The Last Time You Had The Brakes Checked?

For those who keep up with recommended maintenance at an authorized dealership service center like ours, there's rarely a surprise when the brake pads wear out. That's because an important part of maintaining your car is keeping an eye on wear parts like brake pads. However, we still see a lot of cars come through our service center with brake pads that have worn down to the point of squealing. This one is typically easy to diagnose. If you hear the squealing sound every time you hit the brakes, it's probably time for new pads. Don't hesitate after hearing this squeal, or you're likely to destroy the brake rotors too.

3. It Might Be The Power Steering System

New Subaru models are starting to come equipped with electric power steering. That means you won't need to worry about power steering fluid or any other part of a hydraulic system. However, most cars still on the road today are equipped with a hydraulic power steering system that requires a special fluid. When this fluid is low, or when the pump is beginning to fail, you're likely to hear a squealing sound. This sound is usually at its worst when the steering wheel is turned all the way to one side.

2. Bad Bearing On An Engine Accessory Pulley

While the reasons so far are usually intermittent and associated with specific aspects of driving, this is a squeal you're more likely to hear when the engine is running. Most modern cars are equipped with a serpentine belt that's routed around a variety of pulleys, at least one tensioner, and likely an idler pulley or two. This belt turns the pulleys of important accessories like the AC compressor, power steering pump, the engine's water pump, and others. All the pulleys in this system have bearings that can go bad after many miles. When these bearings go bad, it's common for them to squeal whenever the engine is running.

Bad Bearing On An Engine Accessory Pulley

1. Belt Slipping

There was a day when cars had a few belts to run different accessories. For these classic cars, each belt needs to be manually tightened just right -- not too tight as to ruin the pulley bearing and not too loose as to slip. As you might imagine, noise from these belts was much more common. Fortunately, most cars on the road today are equipped with a single serpentine belt that's routed around pulleys for all the accessories.

Serpentine belts are usually equipped with an automatic tensioner, which is essentially a spring-loaded arm with a pulley at the end to keep the belt at just the right tension. When a serpentine belt is squealing because it's slipping, you'll likely need a new belt, but you also need to have an expert determine that the rest of the pulleys and bearings are in good shape. A bad tensioner could cause the serpentine belt to slip, there could be a loose pulley, or the belt has just reached the end of its life. The important thing to remember here is that the longer a belt squeal is allowed to persist, the more likely it is that costlier damage is done. And, a broken belt can wreak havoc under the hood if it breaks while the engine is running.

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