Your Toyota Is Speaking: What Is It Saying

Toyota Rav4

If your Toyota is making an abnormal noise, listen to it. Don’t ignore it, it’s your vehicle’s attempt at telling you something’s just not right.

Use this guide to help troubleshoot the source(s) of the noise(s) coming from your Toyota.
  • Bang: An abrupt sound, like a gun has been shot, this is probably your Toyota backfiring. This could be a result of something causing a rich air/fuel mixture. The timing could also be a possible cause.
  • Boom: Not the sound from something exploding. A loud, deep, hollow resonate sound that could be the result of your driveshaft spinning out of true due to its universal joints. When this happens, waves are created which push up on your vehicle’s floorboard.
  • Buzz: Loose interior trim pieces can make it seem like there’s a fly buzzing around the cabin of your Toyota.
  • Chirp: If it sounds like a bird is taking shelter somewhere in your Toyota, a belt or idler pulley could be to blame.
  • Clank: A sound emitted from within the heavier components of your vehicle, like a bad rear pinion bearing when shifting from reverse to drive.
  • Click: If occurring during a turn, check your outer CV joints. If the sound is coming from your engine, there may be dirty oil deposits, a rocker arm may need adjustment, a lifter could be stuck, or there’s a bent pushrod.
  • Clunk: A heavy bump sound that’s emitted when going over a less than a smooth surface. Check your suspension bushings and strut/shock mounts.
  • Flapping: Inspect your fans to ensure nothing is interfering with the fan blades.
  • Grinding: If emitted during braking, check brake pads and rotors, or rear drums and shoes if applicable.
  • Groan: More than likely a dry suspension component. If it’s rubber, apply silicone lubricant. If its metal, look into a replacement.
  • Hiss: Check the cooling system for any leaks. If it gets louder while driving, especially when accelerating, it may be a belt.
  • Hum: If it responds to acceleration and deceleration, investigate your differential. Wheel bearings could also be a suspect. Have a passenger ride with you to increase the likeliness of determining which side the noise is emitting from.
  • Knock: Typically a warning that something can’t hold on any longer. It could be a loose wrist pin, or it could be a rod bearing. Begin with checking the oil pressure. If the pressure is low, you can lean more towards a bearing. Rod bearings make more noise at the oil plan more so than anywhere else, so you’ll want to listen for audible changes in that area. Hold the throttle steadily at 2,500 RPMs, then press the throttle open and let it close. If it were a bearing, the noise will become more prominent. If needed, check the oil pan. If the bearings are okay, then it’s likely there is a wrist pin issue.
  • Ping: Similar to sprinkling nails on a piece of sheet metal, this sound is caused by an air and fuel charge exploding instead of burning smoothly. The EGR valve could be clogged or your ignition timing could be advanced.
  • Pop: Typically the sound of your engine coughing back through the intake path. There could be a leaking or stuck valve, or timing could have jumped. There could also be an issue with the distributor or rotor button or the position sensor.
  • Rattle: Check the exhaust and its hangers, and your brake calipers and pads to ensure they’re tight.
  • Roar: If your vehicle has an automatic transmission, it may not be shifting correctly. If your transmission is a manual, the clutch may be slipping. It could also be a result of your tires and their tread.
  • Scraping: Investigate anything that could get in the way of the driveshaft, like an exhaust shield.
  • Sizzling: Oil or coolant could be leaking on top of hot components.
  • Squeal: More than likely the brakes, but it could be a belt, as well. Check your pad levels and see if your rotors are coming in contact with the pad wear indicators. If the brakes are okay, examine your belts to see if they’re loose or worn out.
  • Tick: A very small, distinct sound. Something isn’t operating correctly within the valve train. Maybe a lifter is stuck or there’s too much lash.
  • Whine: This could be the result of a bearing on the verge giving out, an alternator bushing, mismatched gears, or insufficient lubrication in the gearbox.
  • Whistle: More than likely wind noise. Check your Toyota’s weather stripping.