knocking vs noises (engine)

zaffy

Senior Member
Polish
I've noticed you often talk of "noises" in car engines even if the noises resemble knocking at the door. In Polish we call that "knocking". Does it work in Enlgish too? If so, would that be 'knocking' or 'a knocking sound'?

A: I can hear some knocking/knocking sound in my engine. Can you have a listen, please?
B: Oh, I can't hear anything. It must be just you.
 
  • The Newt

    Senior Member
    English - US
    "I hear a knocking sound in my engine / my engine is making a knocking sound" is fine, but it's more specific than just "making noise."
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    "I hear a knocking sound in my engine / my engine is making a knocking sound" is fine, but it's more specific than just "making noise."
    And doesn't "knocking" on its own work?


    Is it just me or can you hear (some) knocking in this engine as well?
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Knocking in engines refers to a specific problem often having to do with octane levels in the fuel used being too low for that engine. There are other possible causes, too.

    What Causes Engine Knocking? | Firestone Complete Auto Care

    "When cylinders have the correct balance of air and fuel, fuel will burn in small, regulated pockets instead of all at once. After each pocket burns, it creates a little shock, igniting the next pocket and continuing the cycle. Engine knocking happens when fuel burns unevenly and those shocks go off at the wrong time. The result? An annoying noise and potential damage to your engine's cylinder walls and pistons."
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    Ill-functioning cars make a variety of noises; knocking is a specific one of them. Here's a list from Car Noises and What They Mean | The Personal:
    1. Screeching or grinding (usually worn brake pads)
    2. Rumbling (exhaust leak).
    3. Droning (may be coming from your tires)
    4. Knocking (using the wrong type of petrol)
    5. Rattling (something is loose).
    6. Hissing (something is leaking or your radiator might be overheating.
    7. High-pitched squeal (could be a worn or cracked belt).
    8. Clicking or humming when you turn the wheel (could be a problem with your wheel bearings)
    9. Wobbling sound (check your tyres).
    10. Flapping (might be a broken fan belt).
    Other sources give other lists, but most agree on knocking.
     

    Delvo

    Senior Member
    American English
    People talking about this kind of sound might call it just "knocking" (using it as a noun) or "a knocking sound" (using "knocking" as an adjective to describe the noun "sound"). Both work, but I think the latter is more common because more people perceive "knocking" as more adjective-like than noun-like.
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    And if a total layman is talking to a mechanic and can't identify the kind of noise listed in #6, would they use 'noise' or 'noises'?

    I guess I can hear some noise/some noises in my engine. Can you have a listen please?
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    And if a total layman is talking to a mechanic and can't identify the kind of noise listed in #6, would they use 'noise' or 'noises'?...

    Noise. But the point about these lists is that a total layman talking to a mechanic can identify the kind of noise. To an English speaker the first seven at least are all common words, and have very distinct meanings.
     
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    Tegs

    Mód ar líne
    English (Ireland)
    These types of noises are hardly technical language. A child could differentiate between knocking and humming etc.
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    Doesn't the second work at all?

    My car engine is making some noise. Something is wrong.
    My car engine is making some noises. Something is wrong.
    It is normal for engines to make some noise, so it would be good to put "unusual" after (or even instead of) "some".
     

    Delvo

    Senior Member
    American English
    You could tell the mechanic that it's making "noise(s)", but then the mechanic's immediate response would be "What kind?". Then the answer would be something more specific to tell the mechanic what kind of noise it was, like knocking/squealing/grinding/pinging.
     
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