Driving Home for Christmas

Ellie Dyer-Brown, 4 months ago

3 min read

  • Creative
  • Seasonal
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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, 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 from under their bonnet, indicating that a trip to the garage could be on the horizon.

A car broken down on a snowy road with a red warning triangle.

This guide covers five noises you don’t want to hear when you’re driving home for Christmas (apart from another Michael Buble song), their potential causes, how to prevent them, and how to fix them. It also contains some handy advice to help you reach your destination quickly and safely.

Contents:

Five noises you don't want to hear

How to get home safely

Worst times to drive 2023


Five noises you don't want to hear

1. 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 familiarising yourself with all possible causes is worthwhile. 

If the noise happens 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 a winter health check.

Other likely culprits are your fan belt and your brake pads and discs. Unfortunately, both of these problems require the attention of a mechanic. The best way to extend the lifespan of these components is to follow a regular car servicing schedule.

Find out more about why your car might be squeaking here.

2. Whistling

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

There are three likely causes: dirty fuel injectors, a worn serpentine belt or a vacuum leak. Putting an additive into your car's fuel system may clean the injectors and solve the whistling noise, but the other two problems are likely to require a professional repair.

Catching these issues early could save you money by preventing more damage, so if you hear an unusual whistling noise, never ignore it. This guide covers other reasons your car might be whistling and what you can do about it.

3. Hissing

If you can hear hissing, the first thing to check is whether the festive warmth you're feeling might be the result of your engine overheating. Even if the temperature warning light doesn’t appear on your dashboard, it’s 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 be that your coolant needs topping up before continuing your journey (though you should 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, check all the fluids in your car and top them up as required. A winter health check will give you extra peace of mind that you’ll make it home for Christmas.

Learn more about why your car might be hissing.

4. Scraping

If you hear a scraping or grinding sound from one of your wheels, it is likely caused by a worn wheel bearing. The bad news is that when wheel bearings go entirely - 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 the problem. 

Wheel bearings usually last between 85,000-100,000 miles.

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

This guide explains all the possible reasons for a scraping noise coming from your car.

5. 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 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, your CV axle may have a torn shaft boot, causing grease to leak. Without any lubrication, the parts will start to click when they come into contact. Fixing this is a job for a trained mechanic.

There are other explanations for why your car might be clicking, as we discuss here.

How to get home safely

Now we’ve covered five noises you don’t want to hear when you’re driving home for Christmas; you’re probably wondering how to ensure your excellent festive playlist isn’t interrupted by any of them. 

A man in a Santa hat driving his car with presents on the passenger seat.

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 filled with the right amount of liquid. If your car is due to be serviced soon, why not book it 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 the tread and pressure of your tyres.

Book a winter health check - one way to ensure your car is roadworthy is to book a health check where an expert will conduct several inspections. Find out more here.

Worst times to drive 2023

According to Inrix, a leading transportation analytics company, the worst times to travel over the festive period are two days before Christmas and two days after.

In 2023, that means it's best to avoid long journeys on Saturday the 23rd and Wednesday the 27th of December.

Children in Christmas hats leaning out of the windows of a car in snow.

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