As an automotive journalist, I am constantly bombarded with questions about cars. One of the most common is to solve rattles. While it’s easy to scoff and tell them to turn on the stereo, rattles are a big deal. Why spend your hard-earned cash on a new set of wheels if it looks like a bag of bolts?
Few things are more annoying than hitting a big bump in the road that triggers a new rattle in your vehicle. Of course, in an hour, it looks like your car is going to crash. Before you take your interior apart bit by bit and make the problem worse, try some of these solutions first.
Location, location, location
Locating a rattle tends to be quite difficult. If it were easy to find them, this article would not exist. Luckily, once you track them down, they’re often quite easy to fix.
Start in the front seat by pressing some of the panels in your vehicle. Try to make them creak as they bend and twist. You can also give your dash a few light taps with your fist to try and find areas that might be loose, though you may have done this before during a rattling fit of rage. If they let out any noise, that’s probably an area that needs to be looked at by a professional.
That’s a good start, but the best thing to do is grab a buddy and let them drive while you search for sources of noise. Start in the passenger seat and work around the vehicle. Once you find the rattle, you can narrow down what you need to work on. Make sure the noise is not caused by loose objects in the car. We found rattles that turned out to be a socket set in a steel box, other assorted tools, a loose fire extinguisher, pens, water bottles, and more.
Simple things first
Speaking of bulk cargo, a good place to start is with your keys. Are they attached to a big boring climbing carabiner like mine? You’ll probably be aware – or maybe not – that they’ll bob around like a set of wind chimes when you hit the slightest bump.
Troubleshooting here is super easy. Begin by removing everything from the key fob except the car key itself. I will then find a bit of road to use as a witness for a quick before-and-after experience. Did this eliminate the noise you were hearing? If so, congratulations, you made it. Now you have to find a way to silence the keys because, well… you can’t leave them at home.
A good place to start is these rubber key covers that cut metal-to-metal contact. I find them absolutely hideous, but they are cheap and they work. A key organizer is a much better, and more aesthetic solution, which is still relatively affordable; Keybar makes a great version while Orbitkey makes a more affordable alternative.
Once you’ve silenced your keys, it’s time to check the safe. Are the jack, pin wrench and spare correctly attached? This issue can be especially noticeable if you drive an SUV, pickup truck, or sedan, where the trunk takes up the same air space as the cabin. It might take a while to figure out what that diagram inside the socket compartment cover is trying to tell you to do, but it’s worth looking at to make sure there’s a place for everything. and everything is in its place.
Cleanliness is silence
Automakers all have noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) departments of various sizes that spend millions to design quiet interiors. In our modern age, car manufacturers can actually predict noise sources using computer simulations. Our previous article on Bentley’s Flying Spur Hybrid shows how far some automakers are going with NVH testing. However, no matter how much these automakers spend on testing, the simulations don’t provide for a whole lot of loose crap crawling around in your car.
Take out all your non-essentials and you’d be amazed at how much quieter your car’s interior becomes. I do a big spring cleaning inside my GTI and I always feel better about it. Last year, I found about three dollars worth of change in my center console, which made, um, quite a racket.
All Velcro All
Another source of noise can be loose cargo sliding around in the back of your vehicle. In addition to being dangerous in the event of a collision, these objects tend to rattle and catch on other objects in the trunk. The solution? Velcro.
You’ll see here that my Michael Pro Click Through torque wrench has a slippery bottom, which means it would hit the sides of the trunk every time I took a turn. Not great. However, all it took was a few strips of Velcro to keep it secured to the carpeted floor. For bonus points, I’ve also isolated the pockets inside the case where all the individual parts reside – yes, I’m meticulous about those things.
The softer “loop” side of the Velcro is also useful for isolating rattles. I used two small strips of it to insulate the sunglasses holder of my Volkswagen GTI. PS, if you are another GTI owner, it works great. Rattle-loving fighters will know there’s a specific material for it – and you’ll probably also know it’s prohibitively expensive. Don’t listen to YouTube tutorials. Just use Velcro.
If all else fails…
Unfortunately, if none of these steps solve your problem, it’s time to schedule an appointment with your local dealer or mechanic. Any company worth it will be happy to take your vehicle with open arms to work on soundproofing the interior. That said, having a full warranty and a local dealership with people you trust is very helpful. Anyway, happy rattle finding.