Why is my car clicking? The 5 most likely causes

You’re probably more attuned to our cars than you may give yourself credit for, especially if it’s a used, seized or salvage car from one of our own online vehicle auctions here at RAW2K. Used cars can come with their fair share of advisories, but even the newest cars aren’t immune to problems. Case in point - hearing clicking in your car is a relatively common issue. It may not be a reason to panic immediately, but it’s certainly not something to ignore. Here’s a short list of what might be causing it.

1. Issues with the oil

One of the single most common causes of clicking sounds in cars is the lack of lubrication between key components. Low engine oil can often cause this problem, especially since it’s something that drivers often neglect. The RAC says its patrols check the oil levels of every vehicle they come out to, and they find that almost a third are dangerously low on oil. Unless you keep a close eye on your engine oil, a leak can go undetected for a long time, which can ultimately play havoc with your oil levels and your engine. 

It’s also possible that your engine oil is dirty, or the incorrect grade. Using the wrong oil can sometimes be almost as harmful as not using any oil at all. If it’s not at the right grade (or it’s otherwise not sufficient to power the engine), that clicking noise is one possible consequence. Another is a noticeable hissing noise. It’s important not to ignore either!

Whether your oil is dirty, the incorrect grade, or there’s simply not enough of it, they can all have slightly different but similarly disastrous effects. The most likely outcome is that it results in damage to your engine’s valve filter, or the actual engine bearings. This can cause permanent damage to your car, any in some cases will be enough for it to be classified as a complete write-off. 

2. and 3. Your CV axles or joints

If you only notice the clicking noise when you’re turning, there’s a good chance that it’s a problem with your CV axle. If the CV axle shaft boot gets torn, for example it will leak grease. It’s a similar issue to the lubrication problem we’ve just been discussing - without this grease, the components will dry and this is what makes that distinctive clicking noise. If you’re able to catch it early on, it’s a happily easy solution - mostly just a case of topping up the grease and replacing the shaft boot. (If you’re not a professional mechanic yourself, you may need to employ the services of one for this particular task.) If the issue’s left long enough on the other hand, you may well find the the entire CV axle needs replacing, which incurs very unwelcome hassle and cost. 

If the noise only happens when you’re driving slowly on the other hand, it may well mean that your CV joints are failing. These joints are located at either end of the driver axles. In a nutshell, their job is to drive power to the wheels, and help you to steer. The sound could also be caused by loose brake pads. If they’re not secured properly to the calliper, they may be moving around slightly at lower speeds. For obvious reasons, don’t neglect this issue! 

4. and 5. Problems with the battery or alternator

If you’ve noticed a particularly rapid clicking noise, it’s likely to be a problem with your car’s electrical system. This can obviously cover quite a large range of issues, but the most common root cause is a dead battery, or an alternator that’s struggling to charge it up. Enlisting the help of a friend or family member to help jump start your car can sometimes solve this problem, but otherwise you may well need the knowledge and specialist tools of a professional mechanic. 

If it’s a single click on the other hand, it’s almost certainly a faulty starter. Your starter motor is basically powered by your car battery, and as the name suggests it’s the thing that gives your car the kick to get moving. They can last anything from 30,000 miles to 200,000. You’ll note that’s quite a broad margin of error, so that makes it a reasonably likely culprit for any clicking noises! If the noise is accompanied by your engine cranking noticeably slower, or even a plume of smoke rising from your bonnet, that will often prove to be the starter motor almost beyond all doubt! 

It goes without saying that whatever the case, don’t ignore a clicking noise from your engine. It might be harmless, and something easily fixed - or it might result in you spending a long few hours at the side of the road, waiting for rescue. Here at RAW2K, we’ve recently listed a few of the key checks you can do to guard yourself against these sorts of breakdowns. 

Alternatively, if you’re looking to save money on a new car entirely, look no further! Here at RAW2K we’ve got a huge range of seized and salvage cars to choose from, with makes and models from a range of manufacturers including Audi, Vauxhall and Mercedes. Why not take a look around our site, and see what you can find?