Most of us drive our cars so much that they become an extension of ourselves — and when they start making a weird noise, we notice almost immediately. The trick with these weird noises is that they can be difficult to locate, especially if you’re trying to figure out where they’re coming from while you’re behind the wheel.
It can also end up being really expensive to take your Bimmer to the shop to have the mechanics there troubleshoot it. Here are some tips and tricks to help you figure out where those weird noises are coming from and fix them without emptying your wallet in the process.
1. Locate the Sound
Between engine noise, road noise, etc., you’re going to hear a variety of sounds when your car is running. Since some engine noises are fairly unavoidable, you may not have a problem at all. If this becomes a nuisance, using heat-resistant barriers for engines is an option for soundproofing those persistent noises.
However, you can usually tell immediately when a sound is not just routine. When that happens, the first thing you need to do is figure out where the sound is coming from.
One tool that can be helpful for locating strange sounds under the hood is a mechanic’s stethoscope. It looks like a doctor’s tool of the same name, only instead of having a flat plate at the end for hearing heartbeats, it has a long thin piece of metal that can easily be threaded into tight spaces to help you identify sounds.
Once you determine what exactly the noise is, take a look online. You can find resources to help you locate and identify it.
Once you’ve located the sound, now it’s time to troubleshoot!
2. Figure out What the Problem Is
There are so many moving parts in your car that nearly any one of them could start making strange noises when it starts to fail. The trick is figuring out what is causing the sound before the part quits completely. Knowing where the sound is coming from helps you narrow down the possible causes. Let’s take a look at some of the most common sounds and their causes.
- Clunking or Thumping When you Turn the Wheel – This could be a sign that your CV axle, which transfers the drive train power from the transmission to your wheels, is starting to fail. This is an expensive fix – new CVs are pricey – but is a fairly simple one. Simply jack up the car, pull out the old axle and install a new one.
- Whining Under the Hood – This is usually a sign that a bearing is going bad. Use that mechanic’s stethoscope to locate the whine and replace the offending bearing.
- Whirring That Changes with Engine RPM – This could be a number of different things. Start by checking your power steering fluid levels and making sure they’re correct. If you’ve got enough fluid, you may need to replace the power steering pump. It could, depending on where the sound is coming from, be a sign of a bad compressor which you will need to take to a mechanic if you don’t have the right tools.
- Popping from Under the Hood – This is another sound that could indicate a number of problems. It could be as simple as a dirty air filter, or as complicated as an internal engine problem. Start by changing your air filter, and checking your car’s ignition system – plugs, wires, ignition module or distributor depending on how old your Bimmer is.
There are some noises you might hear under the hood that mean you should stop driving your car until it is repaired. Knocking or pinging sounds mean there are moving parts in your engine hitting each other that shouldn’t be, and continuing to drive the car could damage the inner workings of the engine.
3. Repair the Problem
This step is hard to outline without knowing exactly what sounds your car is making, but we do have one tip to offer. Purchase a Haynes manual for your vehicle. These repair manuals will walk you, step by step, through everything you need to do to complete most repairs on your own. They’re available for most cars, regardless of the age of the car, and they cost about $25.
There may be some things you can’t fix on your own, either because you don’t have the knowledge or the tools necessary to complete the job. For these problems, you should definitely take your car to your favorite mechanic. It might be more expensive, but you’ll be sure the job is done right.
You don’t have to run to the shop every time your Bimmer starts making strange noises, though. A couple of troubleshooting steps might point you to a very easy-to-fix problem you can handle in the comfort of your own garage.