Step by step guide on how to troubleshoot and repair an automotive howling noise, this information pertains to all cars.

Difficulty Scale: 4 of 10

Tools and Supplies Needed

  • Flashlight
  • Wrench Set
  • Screwdriver set
  • Protective eyewear and gloves

Begin with the vehicle on level ground, engine off with the parking brake set.

Step 1
- As the tires of the vehicle contact the ground the tire surface must be smooth for a quite ride. If the tires become cupped or scalloped due to improper balance or alignment they can produce a howling sound at various speeds.

Tire Tread Scallop

Step 2 - An axle bearing is designed to support the vehicle while in motion, when these bearings fail they can cause a howling sound which is sometimes more noticeable when the car is turning.

Failed Axle Bearing

Step 3 - The power steering system will produce a howling noise when the fluid level has dropped and the pump is savaging for fluid, remove the cap and check the fluid level.

Power Steering Fluid Level

Step 4 - The car differential is designed to transfer power from the engine to the wheels, when this unit starts to fail it can cause a howling noise when in operation. This is due to excessive wear in the bearings or gear set which will produce metal shavings that are gathered on the internal magnet.

Differential Metal Shavings

Step 5 - Automobiles equipped with a fan clutch (rear wheel drive) can experience a howling noise when the fan clutch has locked, to check for this problem start with the engine off, gently check the fan by pushing it in rotation, the fan should move freely, if not replacement is required.

Move Fan Clutch


Written by
Co-Founder and CEO of
35 years in the automotive repair field, ASE Master Technician, Advanced Electrical and Mechanical Theory.


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Article first published (Updated 2014-02-24)