The three most expensive words you can say at the service counter are, “there’s a noise.” Fortunately, that phrase will elicit a multitude of questions from a good advisor before a tech’s time clock starts ticking, but when the staff are in a rush, things that aren’t discussed during your initial visit can bite you in the wallet, regardless of whether or not your vehicle is still under the factory warranty. So, if you’re interested in getting something fixed right the first time without spending a fortune — or anything, your vehicle is still covered under a warranty — you have to do a little leg work yourself.
Describe the noise
Take the time to listen, and then describe the noise. To a tech, there’s a world of difference between a rattle, clunk, snap, or grinding. Some automakers, such as Infiniti, have produced easy-to-use worksheets for consumers to help translate what you’re hearing into terms that’ll help pinpoint the problem as quickly as possible. They provide simple definitions of the most common noise terms, along with vehicle diagrams to point out roughly where the sound is coming from. Then there’s a series of check boxes to let your tech know when and under what conditions the symptom is present, such as speed, road and weather conditions, etc.
What’s the difference between a noise and a vibration?
Believe it or not, the most common miscommunication from drivers stems from confusion between a noise and a vibration. This causes more fruitless wild goose chases than any other concern. Always remember — and forgive me for stating the obvious — a noise is something you hear, while a vibration is something you feel.
Figure out where it’s coming from
If pinpointing where the noise is coming from is difficult, don’t be embarrassed. Vehicles are rolling sound chambers and full of materials and shapes that can distort noises and make them sound like they’re coming from somewhere other than their origin, like the best ventriloquist on the planet. You can always try to locate the source with your smartphone; simply recording a video will allow you to collect the noise from different vantage points inside your vehicle. Another easy way to pinpoint where the noise is coming from, especially if it’s on the outside, is by slowly driving along a solid wall with the windows rolled down — this lets you hear the noise as it bounces off that structure.
Clean out any loose items
If you’re bringing your vehicle in for an interior rattle, make sure you empty it first of all loose materials that could cause a noise. For example, if you ask a tech to diagnose a rattle from the rear of a vehicle and they find the trunk loaded with empty cans and bottles, they may stop right there.
Copyright PostMedia Network, 2020