6 Reasons Why Your Car Makes A High-Pitched Squeal When It Moves

Experiencing noises from a car is normal, but a high-pitched squeal from a car when moving can worry any driver, depending on the severity of the issue.

Car Makes A High Pitched Squeal When It Moves 1 6 Reasons Why Your Car Makes A High-Pitched Squeal When It Moves

Why does my car make a high-pitch noise when it moves?

The high-pitched squeal from a car when moving is caused by a worn-out fan belt, failing alternator pulley, idler pulley slippage, misaligned suspension, bad v-belt, or worn-out wheel bearings. Driving with a high-pitched squeal is unsafe because it could result in a lack of vehicle control.   

When a car is moving, the engine turns over at a high rate of speed. This means many parts are moving, and a high-pitched squeal can happen when something is out of place. We have years of experience fixing these issues, and we explain them better below. 

High-Pitched Squeal From Car When Moving: What Is It?

When a car makes a high-pitched squeal while moving, the instant feeling is to get nervous and worried something is wrong. While sometimes this can be true, it’s not always the case and might be a quick fix. 

It’s easy to notice that many potential causes for this noise involve a belt or a pulley. The car won’t run the same when slipping or off-track, and this high-pitched squeal disrupts the riding experience. 

Some of the most common reasons why this sound is present when driving include a worn-out fan belt, failing alternator pulley, idler pulley slippage, misaligned suspension, bad V-belt, or worn-out wheel bearings. 

Worn Out Fanbelt

The most common reason a car makes a high-pitched squeal when moving is when the fan belt wears out. 

This is also known as the serpentine belt, and when this goes bad, there are many issues to worry about with the car. 

The serpentine belt assists with power steering, making it harder to maneuver a vehicle when it’s not working properly. This is an issue that should be addressed right away, and we recommend starting here during inspections. 

The belt may be worn-out, cracked, or misaligned, but many cars also have a timing belt or timing chain too. It’s also a possibility the belt pulleys are failing, which can lead to the same issues. 

Failing Alternator Pulley

The alternator pulley can also fail, causing a high-pitched squeal coming from the car while moving. This pulley also has bearings that can wear out and cause a distinct sound like this. 

When the pulley goes bad, it must either be realigned or completely replaced so the belt can run straight. This is a mild concern and shouldn’t impact vehicle performance much. 

Idler Pulley Slippage

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Another concern is idler pulley slippage. The idler pulley is installed on the engine to provide tension while guiding the engine drive belt for proper power steering and water pump functions. 

When this slips, it can wobble and cause this loud noise. It’s not comfortable to drive a car with a slipping idler pulley. 

Misaligned Suspension 

A misaligned suspension can lead to a high pitch squeal noise from the car while moving. 

This can be caused by damage to the suspension system or overuse of the suspension, which causes it to wear out and become loose. 

Typically the springs or shock absorbers are worn out, causing bad alignment. When this happens, the system loses lubrication, resulting in loud, high-pitched squeals when moving.

Bad V-Belt

The v-belt also helps with drive system tension, so when the belt is bad or misaligned, it can cause a high-pitched squeal. 

This belt coming off alignment is the most common issue and is also easy to fix. Regular checks help spot any tensile failure. 

Worn Wheel Bearings

Worn-out wheel bearings can also lead to a high pitch squeal noise from the car while moving. This is a common problem with many cars, and it can be solved by replacing the wheel bearing or wheels. 

The sound can also vary based on the speed. This is sometimes harder to spot and is primarily why this is overlooked as the potential cause. 

However, wheel bearings are critical for long journeys like road trips and necessary for vehicle durability. 

Other areas of the vehicle also use bearings like the alternator pulley. The noise is similar when any of the wheel bearings near the pulleys or belts go bad too. 

How Do You Fix A Car Making A High-Pitched Squeal?

There are many causes of a high-pitched squeal, which makes it more difficult to fix the problem. We recommend using these tips to best handle the situation. 

Diagnose The Issue

The first step is to diagnose the issue and locate where the high-pitched squeal sound is coming from. For example, the sound happening right when the car starts is a different issue than when accelerating. 

Try to listen first while driving to get an idea. After that, park the car somewhere safe and take a look under the hood. 

Replace The Serpentine Belt

As we’ve mentioned, the issue with the serpentine belt is the most common cause of this problem. We recommend replacing it when it has worn out. 

It’s held in place by a retaining belt, and most modern cars only use a single belt which is much easier to remove and replace. 

Lubricate The Belts

Try to apply additional lubricant to the belts and pulleys to see if this helps with the problem. This can be done on the alternator pulley, idler pulley, and v-belt.

If possible, checking the belt tension can help pinpoint the issue too. Not all drivers know how to do this, which leads us to our next recommendation. 

Visit A Professional

For more serious issues, visiting a professional with more experience and tools available to address the high-pitched squeal is a good strategy. This tends to be a cheaper repair, and it shouldn’t take long for them to locate the cause. 

Is It Safe To Drive A Car Making A High-Pitched Squeal? 

No, it is not safe to drive a car making a high-pitched squeal. Several things can cause the sound of the squeal. 

A high-pitched squeal comes from the engine or somewhere in the car. Not knowing the issue is the scary part.

It’s not uncommon for a car to make this noise when it’s just starting up, but if it persists after the engine has warmed up, there may be an issue with the serpentine belt, alternator pulley, or idler pulley, as mentioned. 

We don’t like to drive when this happens because the vehicle could become difficult to control if it gets bad. This is dangerous for many people to try and drive because these belts also provide power to the steering pump. 

The problem with high-pitched squeals is that they are difficult to detect without consulting an expert or looking closely. We recommend anybody experiencing this difficulty take the vehicle in for maintenance as soon as possible.

Key Takeaways

  • The most common reasons why drivers hear a high-pitched squeal from the car when moving include a worn-out fan belt, failing alternator pulley, idler pulley slippage, misaligned suspension, bad v-belt, or worn-out wheel bearings. 
  • To fix this problem, listen for the noise and locate where it’s coming from. Try to replace the serpentine belt or add lubricant to the belts and pulleys. If this isn’t possible, visit a professional mechanic. 
  • We don’t recommend driving when hearing this sound because anything wrong with the belts and pulleys can lead to less control over the car. 

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2 Comments

  1. My issue is that the squealing is intermittent. I can go for miles without any sound, then it’ll start up. When I tap the brakes or turn the steering wheel the squealing stops. So, understanding what’s causing it is confusing because it stops when turning or using the brakes.

    Any advice would be appreciated.

    1. If it stops when turning, you may have a bad wheel bearing. I would start there. If you have squeeling until breaking, that might be the brake pad indicator letting you know your brake pads are worn out. Check those two items and report back to us. Hope you get it resolved.