Often, the noises that bother us most are those unusual and too expensive-to-fix clangs, bangs and thuds coming from our vehicles. It's those common noises that raise dollar signs in our eyes. Manufacturers dedicate a lot of R&D to NVH (Noise Vibration Harshness) but when it comes time to repair the nuanced sounds, shops find it challenging to amend the sound the first time. Here's what you can do to keep the bangs, clangs, rattles, drones, grinds, hums, and sputters at bay for a reasonable price.
Never again act out your cars quirky sound at the mechanic's shop again. Few times will they know from your performance what you're talking about. Instead, familiarize yourself with an auto noise audio database, like www.mycarmakesnoise.com and narrow down the sound from there. Also, most repair shops respond to terms, like clunk, rattle, grinding, squeaking, squealing, moaning, groaning, pinging and chirping. Try to use those in your description.
Remove all other potential noice-makers from the car to rule those out as the culprit. Those empty bottles you wanted to take to the dump or your golf clubs could very well be the noise source you're looking for. If this did the trick and the noise is gone, you just saved a meaningless $120/hour visit to the shop.
Take a few minutes to help find the area of the vehicle involved. Does the noise come from the front or rear? Does it occur only over bumps, in reverse or when parking? One trick is to drive by a large wall or barrier with the windows down and listen as the sound is bounced back at you. Record the sound with your smartphone if you can.
Feel around the trim and body items in the car, then do the same around the engine and the underbody. Do you feel anything loose or broken that could be causing the sound? Roof racks as well can cause some funky noises when they catch the wind just right. Cut down on that sound by moving the rack's cross-bars as far back as possible when out of use.