Most car owners have a special relationship with their car in a similar way that pet owners have a special relationship with their pets. What I mean by this is that car owners usually know every single last one of their car's performance, irregularities, quirks, and tendencies. While most brand new cars almost always start out running in a uniform way to other new cars of the same make and model, after a while, your car begins to development its own personality. This is probably caused by the way you drive, which reinforces the idea that there is a special relationship between a driver and his or her car.
Assuming one knows what to expect from their car, whenever something new or out of the ordinary happens, the driver knows something might be wrong. One of the surest telltale signs that something is wrong with your car is when you hear a noise that you are not familiar with. Cars make all sorts of noises, but a driver should be able to distinguish normal noises from new ones. Automotive technicians do not have the intimate knowledge of your car that you have, so when you come to them describing a new noise, it is up to their expertise to interpret it to locate the real problem.
Learning how to listen to customers describing problems with their cars, especially in terms of new noises, is a part of automotive technician training. The mechanic can't expect the customer to be experts and use real, technical descriptions of the problems. Instead, there are several general noise descriptions that the mechanic should be ready to identify.
- Rattling, Clattering, and Banging: Mostly engine problems due to engine oil deficiencies or engine fuel problems.
- Loud Shots: If this occurs when the car starts, it is probably the engine backfiring due to problems with the ignition.
- Screeching, Wheezing: These sounds could be due to loose or damaged belts in the engine, like the drive belt or the fan belt.
- Whistling, Hissing: Likely the engine is overheating, check the cooling and exhaust systems.
- Popping, Sputtering: This could be from a dirty air filter that needs to be cleaned or replaced.
- Ticking, Rapid Clicking: There is probably a problem with the fuel transfer from the fuel pump to the carburetor and both should be checked.
Some noises indicate more serious problems than others, while other noises are common developments that happen to a car over time. Automotive training schools have many ways to train the mechanic to diagnose problems, using a combination of simulated customer descriptions and real workshop engines. In both cases, learning to listen is an efficient way to begin identifying the problem.
So trust your ears when hearing something new coming from your car, and trust the automotive technician to know what you're talking about. Sound good?