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You’re driving down the road and you hear a noise in your vehicle. What do you do? For starters, don’t ignore it. Noises can be a precursor to bigger, more serious things. I hope the tips in this article will help you find the source of that noise before it becomes a real issue.

First, let’s start with the simple solutions. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve solved noise complaints simply by removing items from the trunk or under a seat. I understand, sometimes we forget about that bowling ball in the trunk, but trust me, a bowling ball in the trunk will make a lot of noise. If you remove the bowling ball and the noise goes away, pat yourself on the back for being such an awesome detective.

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I know that seems obvious, but when diagnosing problems with your vehicle, never rule out the obvious. Check the trunk, the area under the seats, the door pockets, the glovebox, that cubby in the center console, and even check your oil.

If your engine oil is low, your engine may be making the noise. If your engine oil is low, and you find that to be the cause of the noise, it’s probably a good idea to take it to a mechanic to check things out. Prolonged low engine oil levels can cause damage to the engine.

Once we’ve eliminated the obvious, it’s time to dive deeper into our diagnosis.

We’ll start by using basic observation. Does it only happen when the engine is running? Does it only happen in a particular gear? Does it only happen when it rains? Does it happen when you start the vehicle? Does it happen when you go over bumps in the road? Does it only happen when you turn the AC on?

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Answering these questions gets you one step closer to solving where the noise is coming from. There are many different systems on your vehicle, and to diagnose where a noise is coming from, you need to narrow down from which system the noise is originating.

Be observant. Some noises are harder to to track down than others. It may take some time, but it will be sweet victory if you’re able to solve the mystery of the annoying noise that wouldn’t go away.

To that end, you might enlist the help of a friend. Say for instance, the noise only occurs while driving down a certain stretch of road, and it seems to be coming from the back seat. If that’s the case, have a friend ride in the back seat while you drive over that road to listen for the noise, or have them drive while you listen. You might be surprised at how effective this can be. An extra set of ears can be invaluable in finding that pesky noise.

If you’re not of a mind to find and fix a noise in your vehicle yourself, you still want to document as much as you can about the noise when it occurs. This can make it easier for your mechanic to find and identify the source of the noise. Helping your mechanic save time finding the noise might save you some money on labor.

I’ve even had customers bring me recordings of noises they hear in their vehicles. This can make diagnosis more efficient. In fact, there are times when noises are normal and not a concern. Your mechanic may be able to tell that form a simple recording you provide.

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The take away here is, don’t ignore noises in your vehicle. Turning the radio up is not a fix. That noise may mean there is a very expensive repair, or even worse, a catastrophic failure on the horizon. Catching noises early can save you from an expensive repair, or far worse.

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