(BPT) – “What is that rattling? Is it serious?” We all can get a little paranoid about a new sound our car is making. Those sounds can certainly be annoying, but what people don’t realize is sometimes those sounds may be linked to something more serious.

About 7 percent of car crashes are caused by some kind of vehicle failure, with tire degradation and brake system failures topping the list, according to the National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. But tire and brake failure aren’t the only types of vehicle problems that can lead to accidents – engine, steering system and suspension failures also cause crashes.

“Getting your oil changed, tires rotated and brake pads checked regularly not only helps keep your car running smoothly, but it also helps keep you and your family safe,” says Matt Myers, senior vice president of claims with Erie Insurance. “It’s also important to check your car’s transmission fluids and get the 50,000-mile and 100,000-mile checks. It might sound like a lot, but regular preventative maintenance is the best way to keep those strange car noises – and accidents – to a minimum.”

Here are six common car noises people hear and what they could mean:

Humming or groaning

When you hear humming while driving at faster speeds, it’s a sign there probably is some wear on your tires, which can lead to serious issues. It could be located on the insides of your tires, which is hard to diagnose on your own, but not having it checked is a risk, because the steel belts in the tire might be coming apart.

Growling

This noise could change or even go away when you turn the wheel, but it is usually caused by a defective front wheel bearing. The change in noise could be a result of the shift in the weight of the car as you turn.

Whining and creaking

You might hear these noises backing up or turning. It could be the result of a ball joint or tie rod seizing up.

Squeaking

This can be a high-pitched, steady annoyance that lets you know it’s time to get your brake pads checked or replaced. A high-pitched noise, coming from the front of your car when you’re not breaking, could be a sign of a worn out or cracked serpentine belt. This is a vital but inexpensive fix.

Grinding

This is never good. This sound means two pieces of metal are touching when they shouldn’t be. This sound could be a multitude of things: brakes, powertrain, suspension or something else. Whatever the case, a grinding sound means you need to get your car checked out as soon as possible.

Hissing

A hissing sound might occur after you turn off your ignition and can sometimes be followed by smoke from under your hood. Hissing could be a sign of low engine coolant. Check your hoses, and be sure to monitor your temperature gauge regularly. If it gets high, stop driving immediately.

The next time you hear strange noises coming from your car, don’t just turn up the radio to drown them out – get them checked by a mechanic. Ignoring those noises today could lead to a dangerous and expensive situation tomorrow.

About The Author

John Guilfoil is the editor-in-chief of Blast: Boston's Online Magazine and the Blast Magazine Network. He can be reached at guilfoil.j@blastmagazine.com. Tweet @johnguilfoil.

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