What sounds does a car engine make when starting?

This blog post will answer the question, ‘What sounds does a car engine make when starting?’, and cover topics like reasons behind a car engine making these sounds, contributing factors behind car engine making these sounds, and what each car engine sound indicates.

What sounds does a car engine make when starting?

A car engine when started by pressing the foot on the gas pedal makes a characteristic ‘vroom’ sound. Although there are a number of sounds that accompany it in case of certain issues with the car components.

The sounds that can be made after starting an engine are as follows:

  • A rattling sound
  • A whirring sound
  • A whistling sound
  • A ticking sound
  • A sputtering sound
  • A grinding noise
  • A rumbling sound
  • A sound while the car is idling

Reasons behind a car engine making these sounds

These are the following reasons behind a car engine making these sounds while startup.

Muffler problems

A defective muffler should be checked or replaced immediately as per the requirements as it can make the engine run louder than usual. A muffler defect is usually identified by the formation of more fumes than usual and a sudden drop in car mileage.

Leakage in the exhaust manifold

A leakage in the exhaust manifold needs to be repaired with immediate effect and is indicated by the check engine light turning on. Leakage of the exhaust manifold can be very dangerous as the exhaust gases discharged from the cylinder are extremely hot and can damage parts made of plastic.

The exhaust gases can also be a potential threat to the car passengers as leakage in the exhaust manifold can cause the seepage of dangerous carbon monoxide and nitrous oxide waste into the car cabin and poison the passengers, they can also be fatal at times.

Defective engine bearings

This is another important issue that needs an immediate fix if it arises. Faulty engine bearings are easily identified by a significant knocking sound that can be heard coming from the hood. 

If these defective engine bearings are not taken care of soon, they might cause excessive knocking and finally end up seizing the engine. This issue needs to be consulted with a professional technician and the bearings need to be replaced immediately.

Low engine oil

A problem of low engine oil in the car is indicated by a rigorous grinding sound from the engine. In case the oil in the car is indicated by a modern oil indicator sensor and it still shows the oil level is sufficient, there might be something wrong with the sensor.

However, in the case of an old car, the oil level needs to be checked manually and it is advisable to check and refill the tank on a regular basis or conduct an engine tuneup process in case of emergency.

Torque converter turned old

This is a problem only observed in cars with automatic transmissions and is indicated by a grinding sound coming from the engine. The main reason behind this is insufficient transmission fluid or faults in bearings. This problem needs to be consulted with a professional immediately.

Contributing factors behind a car engine making these sounds

These are the following factors that influence the car engine to make these sounds while startup.

  • Low car engine oil
  • Damaged or broken tailpipe
  • Defective bearings
  • Leakage in the exhaust manifold
  • Defective catalytic converter
  • Defective spark plugs
  • Damaged or old seals
  • Old torque converter
  • Unclean mass airflow sensor
  • Defective oxygen sensor

What each car sound indicates

These are some characteristic sounds that are produced in cars and their underlying meaning.

A whistling sound

These whistling sounds generally can be heard from under the hood. There is an almost continuous flow of air and coolant within the engine, and sometimes this continuous flow can form holes in the transport hoses. When air escapes through these holes, they create a whistling sound.

A ticking sound

Ticks and clicks inside the engine are a sign to check the engine oil tank or the dipstick meter to check the oil level. The pistons are the ones that can cause the ticking sound as they get noisy when the engine oil level drops.

A sputtering sound

This issue is often referred to as dieseling, this generally happens when the car makes a sputtering sound even after the ignition key has been turned off. 

This usually means that there is still some residual air-fuel mixture undergoing combustion and being ignited without a spark inside the combustion chamber. However, this is more prominent in older vehicles.

A whirring sound

If there are whirring sounds coming from the car engine, it is highly probable that the car has defective or worn-out belts. There are several belts in the car that run at high operating speeds over a linkage of pulleys.

With use over time, they can stretch out or crack, needing immediate replacement.

A loud sound while turning

If the car experiences a loud sound only while turning, there is a high probability that the car is facing problems with the tires. The main reason can be as simple as low tire pressure or inadequate inflation.

However, in more serious circumstances, the issue can also be caused by incorrect wheel alignment or defective wheel bearings.

A loud idling sound

If a car engine sounds louder than it normally does, the problem can be caused due to compression difficulties inside the engine cylinder. Compression issues may arise from the burning of an uneven air-fuel mixture inside the combustion chamber.

A rumbling sound

If a car experiences a rumbling sound, the problem can be caused due to holes in the car muffler. They do not drastically affect the car’s performance but can pose a huge threat to the passengers inside.

This is because a leak can cause hot and harmful exhaust gases like carbon monoxide and other nitrous oxide wastes to seep through and enter the cabin, which can potentially fatally poison passengers.

Research has shown a Kia Optima engine that was running louder than normal and its consequent inspection.


This blog post addressed the question, ‘What sounds does a car engine make when starting?’. We understood the reasons behind a car engine making noises during startup and the contributing factors behind the same. Furthermore, an in-depth analysis of the different sounds a car engine makes has also been provided. Please feel free to comment on the content or ask any questions in the comments section below.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): What sounds does a car engine make when starting?

Why is my engine so loud when I accelerate?

If the car is experiencing a loud squeaking sound, the problem might lie in worn-out or loose belts that might have been stretched out or cracked. They must be replaced with immediate effect.

Why is my engine fan so loud?

This problem can be caused by defective bearings or damaged fan blades that result in a screeching sound from the fan.

Why does my car sound like it’s overheating?

This sound is indicated by a hissing sound coming from the engine. This can be caused by an overheated engine or a potential leak in the engine coolant. 



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