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My Car Makes a Whining Noise When Accelerating: 7 Causes (With Pictures)

man checking car engine

A strange sound coming from your car’s engine is never a good thing, and it can often lead to an expensive repair bill. Learning to identify the sounds that your car makes can help you know how serious a problem is, and it will also help you understand your car better. Here, we look at what can cause a car to emit a whining sound when it accelerates. We discuss each possible cause and solutions that you might be able to use.

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The 7 Causes of an Engine Whining Noise

1. Transmission

mechanic fixing car transmission
Image By: Jannarong, Shutterstock

A transmission that is low on fluid or needs repairs can cause several strange noises, including a whining sound as you accelerate. Transmission problems are easy to identify because you will often notice other related problems, like difficulty shifting from one gear to the next and a transmission that stays too long in one gear.

2. Power-Steering System

power steering pump hold by mechanic
Image Credit: Palitsyn Evgenii, Shutterstock

The power steering system on your car creates a noticeable whining sound when it starts to go bad. The sound is similar to what you might hear from a remote-controlled car, and it could be the result of low fluid in your pump. However, it can also be a sign that expensive repairs are required, so it’s best to take it to a mechanic for a professional evaluation. One of the telltale signs of a worn-out power-steering system is the whining sound getting louder as you turn the wheel.

3. Engine Problems

mechanic removing car engine
Image Credit: Waranya Sawasdee, Shutterstock

Many engine problems can create a whining sound when you are accelerating. For example, low oil or a loose belt can be the problem. One way to check that the noise that you are hearing is in the engine and not the transmission is to put the car into neutral as you rev the engine. If the noise disappears, it likely has to do with the transmission, but if it still makes noise, it’s likely in the engine.

4. Worn Clutch

mechanic holding Clutch disc
Image Credit: wellphoto, Shutterstock

If you drive a vehicle with a manual clutch, it can make a whining sound as it begins to wear out. Usually, the release bearing is damaged, which causes the whining sound to start as you press the clutch to switch gears. If the whining sound occurs as you release the clutch, you are likely looking at a bad pilot bearing. You will need to have your mechanic look over the car for a professional opinion, but if it’s a clutch bearing, you’ll need to replace the entire clutch to fix the problem.

5. Torque Converter

Close-up of automotive torque converter
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The automatic transmission alternative to the clutch is the torque converter, and it can create a whining sound if it’s developing a problem.

6. Low Engine Oil

mechanic checking engine oil level
Image Credit: CC7, Shutterstock

Not having enough oil in your engine can quickly lead to premature engine damage. Low oil often results in a telltale knocking sound that is especially loud when idling, but it can also result in a whining sound that increases as you accelerate.

7. Alternator

man holding the alternator of the car
Image Credit: kanemme6, Shutterstock

A malfunctioning alternator can often send strange signals through your car’s audio system that increase as you accelerate, creating a whining sound that can be quite loud, overpowering the other sounds coming from your radio. Luckily, it’s easy to diagnose because the sound is coming through your speaker system. However, alternators are expensive and not something that you want to replace frequently.

car and road divider


The most likely cause of a whining sound as your vehicle accelerates is a bad power steering pump or system. A malfunctioning steering pump makes a noticeable whining sound that can increase as you accelerate, and it will be especially noticeable when you turn the car. Another common cause of the whining sound is a malfunctioning alternator, which sends the sound through the car stereo system. In both cases, you will need to visit your mechanic to accurately diagnose the problem and make the proper repairs.

Featured Image Credit: Me dia, Shutterstock


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