Mechanics

Chirping

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Step by step guide on how to troubleshoot and repair automotive chirping noises. This article pertains to all non-electric vehicles.

Difficulty Scale: 4 of 10

Tool and Supplies Needed

  • Flashlight
  • Socket set
  • Wrench set
  • Protective gloves and eyewear
  • Appropriate replacement parts
 

Begin with the vehicle on level ground, engine "OFF" with the parking brake on, while the transmission is in park.

Step 1 - Many brake pads are equipped with a "screamer" which indicates the brake pad has worn down below the minimum brake material thickness. This noise indicator produces a chirping noise, either as the brakes are applied or while the brakes are in idle position (not being used). A chirping noise is produced as the wear sensor contacts the brake rotor while rotating. If this condition exists the noise will change as the brakes are depressed. Visit - Brake replacement.

Step 2 - A serpentine belt is used to supply engine power throughout the engine accessories. When the belt wears it can produce a chirping sound while the engine is running. The chipping will follow the engine RPM (engine speed). Inspect the belt for glazing, which is a shinning condition inside the belt grooves. Visit - Serpentine belt replacement.

Step 3 - A bearing is designed to provide rolling support to a shaft which is used in such things as an alternator, starter, water pump, power steering pump, air conditioner and air pump. If a chirping noise is produced after a belt replacement, remove the belt and rotate each accessory to make sure there is no grinding or rough spots in the accessory idler bearing operation.

Step 4 - An axle bearing is designed to support the weight of the vehicle by allowing the wheels to rotate. These bearings are manufactured with high grade steel that resists wear under extreme conditions. When an axle bearing fails it allows metal to contact metal under pressure with a linear motion creating a chirping noise.

Step 5 - A drive shaft U joint is designed to act as a rotating junction that can be flexible while still transferring energy from the engine to the rear differential. Visit - Universal joint explanation. On some universal joints a zirk fitting is used for lubrication on the joint while others are manufactured with a proper amount of grease and do not need service. If a universal joint fails it can make a chirping noise that follows the speed of the car which is more noticeable at slow speeds, and fades at higher speeds.. Visit - Universal joint replacement.

Step 6 - Vehicles equipped with a standard transmission utilize a clutch to act as a controllable coupler. When a clutch wears the throwout or pilot bearing can fail causing a chirping noise. Visit - Clutch replacement.


Helpful Information

When a chirping noise is detected locate the area of the car its being generated from. If the noise is being generated while the car is driven, have a helper ride along in the rear seat to give a new perspective on the origin of the chirping noise. A chirping noises can be generated by many things from a brake pad to a CAS (cam angle sensor). It is common for a chirping noise to come and go depending on car conditions such as hot or cold weather.

Best Practices

  • Always investigate chirping noises before they lead to more serious repairs.
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AUTHOR


Written by
Co-Founder and CEO of 2CarPros.com
35 years in the automotive repair field, ASE Master Technician, Advanced Electrical and Mechanical Theory.


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Article first published (Updated 2013-09-18)