Source of annoying noises can be difficult to find

There was a group of engineers that designed your vehicle that worked on its NVH (Noise, Vibration and Harshness) characteristics. Their goal was making your vehicle pleasing to drive while minimizing noises, vibrations, and how smoothly it would absorb bumps. Of course they had a budget to stay within.

There was a group of engineers that designed your vehicle that worked on its NVH (Noise, Vibration and Harshness) characteristics.  Their goal was making your vehicle pleasing to drive while minimizing noises, vibrations, and how smoothly it would absorb bumps.  Of course they had a budget to stay within.

The day you drive a new car off the lot you may start to recognize the limitations that that budget had on your vehicle.  Noises begin to develop.

In the dealership service department there will likely be a mechanic that specializes in finding the cause of  noise complaints and repairing them.  It can be a very challenging job.  When a car is new, the tolerance level of any abnormal or perceived abnormal noise is very low.  Especially if said vehicle is under warranty.

As vehicles age the owners begin to accept  a little noise here and a little noise there, particularly when they know they will have to pay to stop the noise.

In the mechanics’ trade finding the cause and fixing a noise complaint is a regular job.  Sometimes I think it can be a lot more difficult working with older vehicles than new vehicles.

Many older vehicles present a cacophony of noises and it is sometimes impossible to determine what noise the customer is concerned with.  A mechanic will be listening for a noise that sounds like serious mechanical failure is on it’s way while the owner will be stuck on a little brake squeal that embarrasses him when he drives home through his neighborhood.

I know that many times I have fixed the wrong noise but it was an important noise to fix.  Customer satisfaction suffers though in those situations.

A road test with the customer is the best way to get on the same page when it comes to noise solutions.  Many times the owner will have to drive the vehicle in the correct manner to reproduce the noise.

Many times the presence of a mechanic automatically quells the noise similar to a trip to the doctor.  “Where does it hurt?  Nowhere now.”

Do not forget to be very logical about that disappearing noise.  Two people being in the car instead of the typical one may be the difference between noise or no noise.  The extra weight of an extra passenger can change vehicle dynamics.

Your mechanic will have a small arsenal of noise diagnostic tools.  Some will be seemingly archaic (yet indispensable)  like a long screwdriver for listening  through.  He/she will also maybe have a stethoscope (makes me feel like a real doctor).  There are now also ultrasonic listening devices for air leaks and multi channel listening devices with electronic pickups to attach to the part suspected of producing the noise.  They will typically have headphones for listening to determine which electronic pickup is closest or connected to the source of the noise.

Sometimes the noise must be analyzed for frequency in order to get to the source.  Engine noises can be tricky that way.  Many shafts and bearings on the engine turn at different speeds.  Frequency analysis can help to determine which shaft or bearing is the culprit.

So what if you cannot find the source?  Time may tell.  The noise could get worse and the source more evident.

Don’t forget the obvious though!  Loose wheels,  loose wheel covers, low oil levels, and loose items in the trunk are much more common than people think.

Turning up the stereo is not necessarily the best solution.

Trail’s Ron Nutini is a licensed automotive technician and graduate of mechanical engineering from UBC. He will write every other Thursday. E-mail:

Just Posted

Area A Director Ali Grieve (right), Village of Fruitvale Mayor Steve Morissette (front), and Village of Montrose Mayor Mike Walsh (left) held a congratulatory ceremony for Beaver Valley students who are part of the Class of 2021 graduates of J. L. Crowe Secondary at Beaver Creek Park on Thursday. Photo: Jim Bailey
Beaver Valley Grads of 2021

Beaver Valley mayors, RDKB Area A director celebrate their 2021 graduates with gift ceremony

Adrian Moyls is the Selkirk College Class of 2021 valedictorian and graduate of the School of Health and Human Services. Photo: Submitted
Selkirk College valedictorian proves mettle in accomplishment

Adrian Moyls is a graduate of the School of Health and Human Services

A volunteer delivers food to families as part of a West Kootenay EcoSociety program. Photo: Submitted
Farms to Friends delivers 2,500th bag of food to families in need

The program services communities in the Nelson, Trail and Castlegar areas

Selkirk College has begun its search in earnest for a leader to replace president Angus Graeme who is set to retire from his position in May 2022. Photo: Submitted
Selkirk College seeks community input for president search

Current president Angus Graeme retires next year

A report shows nine West Kootenay communities are have more low-income persons than the provincial average. File photo
Study casts new light on poverty in the West Kootenay

Nine communities in region have more low-income residents than provincial average

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Patrick O’Brien, a 75-year-old fisherman, went missing near Port Angeles Thursday evening. (Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)
Search for lost fisherman near Victoria suspended, U.S. Coast Guard says

The 75-year-old man was reported missing Thursday evening

Most Read