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Old 06-16-2006, 01:40 PM
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Join Date: May 2000
Posts: 2,595
Another car repair question: Chirping / squeaking engine?

Thanks to the first tropical storm of the season, I was forced to sit in traffic with my engine running for about 10 minutes. When traffic started moving again. I put my foot on the gas & started to move, a lot of white smoke came out of the tailpipe. (I know the car has an oil-leak, fwiw.) Then I was directed to drive through a pretty deep puddle. Nothing that washed the car away, mind you, but the water was up to the floor-boards.

Anyway, the engine did not squeak before this. But now, if the car is idling, it makes a kind of chirping squeaking sound. It's not terribly loud, but it *is* noticeable. The sound disappears if you give the engine the slightest amount of gas. When you actually turn the car off, the engine kinds of squeals to a halt. When started first thing in the morning, the chirp doesn't show up for a good while - say, 20 miles worth of driving.

The traffic or water obviously had something to do with it, as the car developed the squeak during that drive home. My question is: Can you tell me what's squeaking, based on the info above? Am I going to have to replace a belt, or an engine, or just buy a new car?

Thanks as always!
Old 06-16-2006, 02:25 PM
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Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: Wisconsin, Untied States
Posts: 7,341
An audible sqeak is almost always going to be a belt. It may be a pulley bearing, but the most common problem is the belt. To do a quick check, spray some water on the belt and if it goes away for a moment then you know it's the belt. Time for an adjustment or a new belt (depending on the car).
The white smoke could have been steam from the water hitting the exhaust pipes.
Old 06-16-2006, 02:44 PM
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Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: South Bay
Posts: 83,559
The belts are the first thing I'd check. Usually chirp = belt.
Old 06-16-2006, 03:18 PM
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Join Date: May 1999
Location: NAC: 8104J PWQ7X
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And you can get rid of a minor belt chirp by holding a bar of soap against the side of the belt that contacts the pulleys for a few seconds while the engine is running. Assuming, of course, you don't need a new belt and the tension on it isn't too far out of spec.

And for the kids at home, as always, be very careful when you stick your hands into the belt space. Make sure you've got no loose clothing or jewelry that's gonna get caught up in the belts or pulleys.
Old 06-16-2006, 03:23 PM
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Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: The great PNW.
Posts: 3,636
The "chirp" does sound like a belt slipping. There are products sold in a "stick" form that can be applied, in the old days we rubbed a bar of soap on the belt. Best is to replace them and/or be sure they're properly tightened.
Don't know what kind of car, but the white smoke after a long idle could be gas due to choke problems, or more likely oil, since you said it had an oil problem. It could be bad valve guides.
Rick, or another of the mechs. may have some more ideas.
Old 06-16-2006, 04:19 PM
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Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 58
Dust seals on bearings are not water tight. Chirping sounds like a bearing, squeaking sounds like rubber on metal....Continuous squeeling or sqeaking could be a belt or isolation mount, intermittent chirping could be a bearing going bad.
Old 06-16-2006, 04:40 PM
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Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: SW Washington State
Posts: 62
re: soap

I was always under the impression that the purpose of the belt was to transmit energy via friction. Soap reduces friction, so...
I'd adjust or replace the belt.
Old 06-16-2006, 04:47 PM
Charter Member
Join Date: Aug 1999
Posts: 16,451
Fan belts can squeek or chirp depending on the design and what zactly is wrong with them.
Yes belts transfer energy by friction, but they also have to slide in the pully grooves or they make noise. Soap or lube stick reduces the friction, it does not eliminate it.
Idler pullys also can make chirping noises when the bearings inside go bad.

I am not a fan of using soap, or lube sticks. It gets your fingers way too close to things that can hurt you greatly. I have had students lose fingers doing this. (Not in class thank OG)
I suggest that you try a can of WD-40 with the extension nozzle. Spray the belt with the engine running. If the belt is the cause of the noise it will get quiet. If the noise is from somewhere else, it won't.
The WD-40 is not a perment fix, it will make noise again very soon, but it works great as a diagnostic tool.

Be very very careful around a running engine!
Old 06-16-2006, 04:49 PM
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Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 58
When water gets on a hot belt and pully it galds the rubber (makes it smooth) and lubricates the pully (polishes it) some old soaps can make a belt rough reducing noise. It is a troubleshooting technique to add soap, to figure out a noise. Won't fix it just narrow down what is wrong.
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