Clank, ping, knock…diagnosing strange engine noises

Let’s face it…when your vehicle suddenly starts making a strange noise, it can induce some stress. It’s understandable; no one wants to be stranded or face repair bills. Educating yourself on the different kinds of noise you hear can help you have a better understanding of what might be happening so you can get your vehicle to the SVG Service Department before your problem gets worse. Listed below are some of the most common engine noises you might hear your vehicle make (Please note, these noises are far more common in older, high-mileage vehicles.)


1.)  Clicking noise during acceleration. This is usually the sound of piston rings. Your rings may have lost their tension (they are not solid; they work somewhat like a single coil spring), the rings could be broken into multiple pieces, or your cylinder walls may be worn down.

572 × 381 piston rings.

2.)  Constant muffled metallic slapping sound while engine is running. If you hear a somewhat hollow sounding slap, it could be that you’re low on oil. It could also be a sign that your cylinders are worn.

539 × 404 Engine cylinders in an inline 6-cylinder motor.


3.)  Ticking or clicking when maintaining an even speed. A ticking sound is usually caused by defective or worn lifters.

350 × 341 Lifters for a small block Chevy engine

4.)  High pitched pings. A ping noise usually indicates that there is a problem with fuel detonation in your engine. Most of the time, this is caused by using gasoline that is a lower grade than what your vehicle needs (for example, you’ve filled up with 87 octane instead of 93 octane).

572 × 381 A spark plug.

5.)  Metallic knocking noise that happens when your vehicle is idling. If caused by worn or loose piston rings, worn bushings, or low oil, this noise will happen in “twos”. In other words, you’ll hear a double knocking sound at idle.

6.)   Pounding. A pounding sound is different than a knock. A knock sound is more “crisp” and metallic whereas a pounding is more like someone bouncing a ball on a wooden table. If you hear this sound, it could mean you have a worn bearing or crankpin.

 350 × 350 Bearings for a small block Chevy engine.


7.)  Heavy knocking. This is the sound that usually strikes the most fear in the hearts of those who experience it. A heavy, dull, metallic knock that gets worse under acceleration or when you’re towing or hauling usually means worn bearings. It could also mean that your engine rods are about to give out or that any other number of catastrophic engine failures are pending. If you hear a heavy knocking sound, pull over safely and call a tow truck. If you continue to drive, you’re risking a blown engine and/or being stranded. Pulling over at the first sign of this sound could also potentially save you a lot in repair bills; if you continue driving under these circumstances, a complete engine failure can occur. If you stop reasonably soon after hearing it, you may only need some internal components replaced instead of needing an entirely new engine.
350 × 350 Rods for a V8 engine.


No matter what strange new sounds you hear, it is always best to take your vehicle to the SVG Service Department right away. Making an appointment with our technicians can help keep you from being stranded.



Categories: Tech Tips, Service