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Driving home for Christmas

Ellie Dyer-Brown, 2 months ago

3 min read

  • Advice
  • News
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WhoCanFixMyCar reveals the five noises you definitely don't want to hear from your car over the festive period.

The car is packed, the festive playlist downloaded (packed with songs from Chris Rea, Wham!, even Mariah Carey) and everyone has their favourite treats close at hand ready for the drive home for Christmas. It’ll take some time, but you’ll get there...or will you? What was that weird noise?

The last thing anyone wants at this time of the year is an unusual noise coming from under their bonnet, indicating that a trip to the garage could be on the horizon. In this guide, we’re going to cover five noises you definitely don’t want to hear when you’re driving home for Christmas (apart from another Michael Buble song of course), their potential causes, how to prevent them, and how to fix them. 

Contents:

Squeaking

Whistling

Hissing

Scraping

Clicking

How to get home safely


Squeaking

Squeaking is one of the most common noises reported by anxious car drivers. Sometimes, it indicates a problem that doesn't require immediate attention, but it’s worthwhile familiarising yourself with all possible causes. 

If the noise happens mainly when you turn your car, your power steering fluid might be running low. Locate the reservoir (your owner’s manual will be able to direct you) and top up the fluid if necessary. To prevent this from happening during your journey, check all fluid levels before you set off. Or, better still, book your car in for a winter health check.

Other likely culprits are your fan belt and your brake pads and discs. Both of these problems will require the attention of a mechanic, but keeping up to date with your car’s servicing will help to extend the life of its parts.


Whistling

Sometimes, whistling is pleasant; for example, as a jolly addition to an upbeat Christmas song. But when it’s coming from your car? Not so much. 

There are three causes that might be at play: dirty fuel injectors, a worn serpentine belt or a vacuum leak. Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to prevent these problems from occurring, but by paying close attention to your car, you can catch and repair them before they become more serious.


Hissing

If you can hear hissing, the first thing to check is whether the festive warmth you're feeling might actually be the result of your engine overheating. Even if the temperature warning light doesn’t appear on your dashboard, it’s definitely a good idea to pull over and investigate. 

Let your engine cool down for at least fifteen minutes before poking around under the bonnet. It might simply be that your coolant needs topping up before you continue your journey (though you should definitely check for a leak as soon as you arrive at your destination). If you can see steam, it’s probably a job best left to a professional. 

Before you set off, we’d recommend checking all the fluids in your car and topping up any as required. A winter health check will give you extra peace of mind that you’ll make it home for Christmas.


Scraping

If you hear a scraping or grinding sound coming from one of your wheels, this is likely to be caused by a worn wheel bearing. The bad news is that when wheel bearings go completely - especially if you’re driving at high speeds - it can be very dangerous, so get your car to a garage as soon as possible if you suspect this is what’s wrong. 

Other possible causes include a deteriorating transmission or timing belt, worn brake pads, and generally rusted or corroded parts. You’ll need to visit a mechanic to work out exactly what’s wrong.


Clicking

Often, clicking noises happen when your engine oil is either low or dirty. Due to a lack of lubrication, the many moving parts in your engine might start to hit against each other, resulting in unusual noises. The good news is that this is pretty easy to fix yourself. Open the bonnet and check your oil level using the dipstick, then top up as necessary. Alternatively, if the oil is dirty and needs replacing, it’s possible to do this yourself, or you could get a mechanic to do it for you.

If the clicking usually happens when you turn the car, there could be another possible cause. Your CV axle may have a torn shaft boot, causing it to leak grease. Without any lubrication, the parts will start to click when they come into contact. Fixing this is, needless to say, a job for a trained mechanic.


How to get home safely

Now that we’ve covered five noises you don’t want to hear when you’re driving home for Christmas, you’re probably wondering about the best way to make sure your amazing festive playlist isn’t interrupted by any of them. 

Here are three tips to help you get home safely:

Top up before you set off - make sure your engine oil, coolant and screenwash reservoirs are all filled up with the right amount of liquid. If your car is due to be serviced soon, why not book it in before you travel?

Perform visual checks - open the bonnet and see if you can spot anything that doesn’t look right like a worn or loose fan belt or a leaking component. It’s also worth checking your tyres.

Book a winter health check - one way to make sure your car is roadworthy is to book a health check where an expert will carry out a number of inspections. Find out more here.

Before you go, why not check out our other Christmas related content?