By: JT Ripton, guest blogger
Teaching your teen to drive and releasing him or her to the open road is a monumental moment for every parent. Perhaps you’ve chipped in so your teen could buy his or her first car, too. Although you’ve done your best to inspect it and make sure it’s safe for your teen to drive for years to come, there’s a strong possibility the car will eventually emit a sound or two that will beg for your attention. With more experience under your belt, you should teach your teen driver what to look for when they hear those sounds. Here are five sounds that parents and teens should pay special attention to:
Thunk in the corners
If your teen starts hearing a repetitive ‘thunk, thunk, thunk’ sound starting from one (or both) of the vehicle’s front corners when driving around slow, sharp turns using light throttle, it’s time to get into a repair shop.
The CV joint that lets your front wheels turn while powered has come loose. Since the boot failed, it released all the joint’s grease and wore out. This repair is pretty urgent – when the joint completely fails, your car will just stop. You need to replace the off ending half axle.
Hiss from the engine
When there’s a hiss sound coming from your engine, whether or not it’s running well, your teen could have a problem on his or her hands. The engine could be in the process of overheating. If that’s the case, your teen will need to check and fix the cooling system.
On the other hand, the exhaust system or catalytic converter might be the problem. Either will need to be replaced. Finally, a disconnected or leaking vacuum line or device might be the problem. You could just reconnect the line, though you’ll need to replace it if it’s broken.
Clunk in the front
Clunks are bad in trunks, but they’re not great in the front of the car either. Your teen may start to hear this sound while parking, but over time, it persists over small bumps as well. This indicates that the ball joint connecting the upright and suspension arm’s lubrication has disappeared.
In turn, the contact of metal against metal is wearing it out. You should make an appointment to get this fixed, and steer clear of curbs, potholes, and bumpy streets in the meantime. Your teen will probably need to replace the ball joint.
Whir in the engine
The engine’s often trouble. If your teen hears a whir, and it gets worse as your teen drives faster, a few things could be causing it. The first is a low level of power steering fluid. For this, your teen just need to fill it up. If it’s the alternator bearings or water pump, though, one or both will need to be replaced.
Likewise, if the problem is in the power steering pump, it must be replaced. And if the air conditioning compressor is making the noise, it needs to be replaced as well. That’s probably not something your teen will be able to do on his or her own.
Yee-awp sound under the hood
If your teen starts hearing something like “yee-awp” coming from under the hood, make an appointment, quick! Your teen will hear this right after starting the car and until your teen revs the throttle a few times to get the rubber warmed up. It’s a belt squeak, coming from a belt that’s glazed or loose, a misaligned pulley, or a bad belt tensioner. It’s pretty urgent — it won’t fix itself.
Your teen will need to have the pulley alignment and belt tension checked, and your teen may have to replace the belt. And if all else fails, your teen may need to find a new – or used – car.
If your son or daughter asks for advice when he or she hears a strange sound, be the good parent you know you are and help your teen diagnose the problem by providing the aforementioned information. It could be the difference between being safe or sorry.
• JT is a freelance writer and a former auto technician of 10 years for Chrysler. He originally is from Detroit but currently lives in Tampa. Now he just works on cars for friends and family in his spare time (aka whenever they need him).