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Six spooky car noises

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Above: A Porsche 911 GT1 race car backfires. Lead image via YouTube

Porsches can be scary, as we’ve noted in a previous article, but what about the spooky noises that they can make? The ones that sound like impending doom and a whole lot of money. Here we’ll cover some of those noises that send a chill down your spine and might indicate that your car needs some TLC. (Happy Halloween!)

Power steering pump squeal

That horrid noise when the worn-out and dented 1990s economy car makes a turn can happen to your Porsche, too — if it’s equipped with hydraulic power steering and thus requires a pump and a serpentine belt, as most post-1980s Porsches do. Not only will you wake your neighbors with a less-than-flattering, ear-splitting noise upon startup, but you’re putting yourself in danger, as well, if the noise is left unchecked. The pump’s fluid might be low, but the high-pitched squeal is likely due to a worn pump belt. Replace it to quell the noise and make sure you suddenly don’t lose power-steering at an inopportune time.

Wheel bearing growl

Your Porsche’s wheel bearings are what allow the wheels to spin as smoothly and freely as they do, and they shouldn’t make any noise. If they do, it’s usually a low-pitched rumble that that intensifies as vehicle speed increases. Driving along the highway, it’s a constant, annoying reminder that something isn’t right. Replacing the worn wheel bearing will fix the problem, but left unchecked the sound will continue to get worse until the bearing breaks. As this writer found out in a classic car, a blown wheel bearing can suddenly affect vehicle handling, and, if you’re not lucky, lead to an accident. (Fortunately that didn’t happen in the car I was driving.)

Spun connecting rod bearing

The sound of a spun rod bearing is one of those things that’ll make your stomach churn. There is no good time for this to happen, and it’ll likely happen when you’re away from home, perhaps on track where cars without dry-sump oil systems are more susceptible to such a problem in high-g corners. When a rod bearing breaks, it’ll make the engine sound rough — a click-clacking noise that intensifies with increased engine speed. The pit in your stomach will only get larger when you receive a frightening repair bill.

Worn synchro

A worn manual gearbox synchronizer isn’t the end of the world — a transmission can still be shifted with deft rev-matching — but the grinding sound of an imperfect shift is one of the worst. It grates on your ears and is loud enough for every person in the vicinity to crane their neck in your direction and stare. Worse is the cost to fix the synchro, at which point, maybe it’s time for a full transmission rebuild.


Have you ever been walking down the street, minding your business, when out of nowhere you think you hear a gunshot? You’re on high alert, ready for anything, but then realize the “gunshot” was actually a backfire that came from an old beater that drove by. What you heard was unburnt fuel or hydrocarbons igniting in the exhaust system and making a loud bang. It’s not uncommon for race cars to backfire, often with flames spitting out the tailpipe, but if you hear one out on the street, you’d be forgiven for entering fight-or-flight mode.

Chain tensioner failure

When a timing chain tensioner fails on a Porsche, it’s never good news, and it doesn’t sound good, either — like “a set of car keys in a dryer,” related one PCA staffer. When it fails, a chain tensioner emits a loud rattle as you can hear in the video above. No longer anchored as it should be, a loose timing chain has the potential to skip a tooth on the sprocket to which it’s attached, which can lead to major engine problems.

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