Engine Squeaks? What Parts to Diagnose and How

If you hear your engine squeaks when running your car, there could be a problem with the belts or the water pump. We show you how to check the belts and how to check the water pump if the problem is not with the belts.

Parts to Check If the Engine Squeaks

1A Auto mechanic reviewing why an engine could make squeaks and how to diagnose it

You might start your car up and hear a squealing sound under the hood. If you’ve inspected the belts and you know it’s not causing this sound, take a look at the water pump. We’ll let you know what to look for with these steps.

Steps to take to check and engine that squeaks

  1. Turn the Engine Off and Inspect the Belts

    Turn the engine off.

    Grab and give the serpentine belt a pull. You want to feel a little flex in the belt, especially on vehicle that has an automatic tensioner with a spring inside that’s supposed to remain tension on belt.

    Check the backing of the belt and make sure it’s not shiny and glossy. That could mean you have a contaminant on it causing a squealing sound. Turn the belt over and look at the inside of the belt grooves. Make sure you don’t see a lot of cracks. You’ll see some dry-rotted cracks if the belt is damaged. Any cracks means you’ll need to replace the serpentine belt, and it’s not quite a part that needs to be fixed right away, but it’s something you’ll want to fix.

    More on how to inspect the serpentine belt

  2. Run the Engine and Listen for Squeaks

    Open the hood and run engine. Listen for a squealing noise. A stethoscope can help, and the problem could be a pulley. Listen close to the pulley bearing area, but without touching any parts. You might hear a light howl, which is normal, but listen for a squeaking or noise where the closer you get, the worse it sounds. Watch out for the cooling fan when doing this.

  3. Inspect the Water Pump Pulley for Movement

    Inspect the water pump pulley. Wiggle the pulley and see if there’s movement coming from the water pump pulley. If it’s loose, you’ll hear a clunking noise and could see movement.

  4. Remove the Serpentine Belt to Relieve Tension

    The serpentine belt goes around the pulleys. Look at the belt for dry rotting or cracks. The belt could be damaged or glossiness on the belt could mean it’s contaminated, which will cause squealing.

  5. Check the Alternator Pulley

    Wiggle the alternator pulley in and out and up and down and feel if the shaft has movement. Spin and listen for noise and look for movement from the alternator. You’re not spinning it as fast as the engine or putting much pressure on the pulley, but if there’s an issue without those you know you have a problem.

  6. Check the Idler Pulley

    A tiny bit of movement coming from the bearings located inside the idler pulley is common. If it feels loose like it will pop off and wobble, it means the bearings inside are no good. Spin the pulley and listen for a growl, indicating the bearings are worn.

    More on how to check the idler pulley

  7. Check the Remaining Pulleys

    Check other pulleys that you may have, like a power steering pump pulley, tensioner pulley, etc. Spin the pulley and look for movement and listen for a growl that could indicate the pulley is loose or worn. If it’s wobbling around, it’s defective.

  8. Check the Water Pump

    Symptoms of a Bad Water Pump
    Symptoms of a bad water pump include:

    – Overheating
    – No heat from vent in car
    – Coolant leaking
    – Grinding noise inside engine
    – Coolant clogging
    – Metal fragments in the coolant

    If the water pump is damaged from something defective or worn belt won’t turn the pulley all the way, it will lead to an engine overheating issue or no heat from the vents. Typically it could be because there’s an issue with a restriction in the flow of coolant. That could be from the water pump not working properly, or you could have issue with thermostat.

    You might find a leak along the bottom where the pulley comes out of the housing. You’ll see a drip. When that happens, it means there’s an issue with the seal on the water pump. You don’t want to just replace the seal, but also replace the entire pump.

    When replacing the water pump, you’ll be draining out all of the coolant. Use manufactured specified coolant, and drain the coolant and then flush water through system and drain that.

    If your engine had an internal issue with water pump, like if impeller was rubbing against something like the housing and you found you had grinding inside engine, more than likely you’ll have metal fragments flowing around inside coolant system, which is not good. It might not fully clog, but it can restrict the flow of coolant.

    You might find a clog, maybe from metal flowing around if there was a problem with the water pump. Tight clearances in the coolant system like the inside of radiator where coolant is flowing or the heater core or thermostat could clog. If the thermostat hasn’t ben replaced, replace it at the same time as the water pump. They generally last between 50,000 – 100,000 miles.

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Engine Squeaks? What Parts to Diagnose and How - Expert Tips - 1A Auto
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Engine Squeaks? What Parts to Diagnose and How - Expert Tips - 1A Auto
If your engine squeaks when running, you might have a problem with the belts or the water pump. Find out how to diagnose this problem yourself with these tips from experienced auto mechanics
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1A Auto
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