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Why was my car screaming?

Jenny in Florida

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I really thought my car and I had an agreement: I committed to regular oil changes, basic maintenance and abundant gratitude in exchange for it giving me another 50,000 miles or so of relatively reliable travel over the next two years.


However, in the last several weeks, it has begun threatening to break that contract. First, it required two trips to the mechanic to resolve what turned out to be a minor and inexpensive issue with one of the battery cables. Then, I took it in for one of those aforementioned oil changes and was informed it needs rear shocks ($500+). By the time I made my peace with that and went back to the shop, it was only to hear that the car is also leaking oil in two places ($300+). 


At that point, I called a time out and decided to take a few days to figure out whether I wanted to trust this mechanic shop and, if so, in what order to tackle the repairs.


Tonight, I was poking around town and stopped at a convenience store. I returned to the car, turned on the ignition, plugged in my phone to listen to my current audiobook . . . and the car started screaming. 


It's honestly the only way I can describe it: The sound was very loud, seemed at first to be coming from the stereo speakers. It sounded like extremely loud, scratchy, screecy feedback mixed with static. I unplugged the auxiliary cord . . . no change. I unplugged my charging cord . . . still screaming. I turned off the stereo's power . . . still just as loud. I turned off the car and removed the key from the ignition . . . and the sound continued.


At that point, I began to hear what sounded like some hissing from under the hood, too, and I panicked.


It didn't help that my dog was in the car with me and was hysterical.


I bundled up both of us and the most important belongings, and jumped out of the car. It occured to me that the problem could be some kind of electrical short, and I had visions of something under the hood sparking and starting a fire.


Even after I removed the key and walked away from the car, the noise continued for another minute. 


By the time the tow truck arrived, the sound had stopped. However, as the driver was loading the car onto the flat-bed, he called me over, because he, too, heard a weird, loud noise. He pointed out that the car was not on and that, in fact, the key was in his pocket.


What I want someone to tell me is that this is probably a simple short somewhere in the electrical system that is somehow related to the replacement of the battery cable, that the mechanic shop will recognize that this is, at least in some small way, their responsibility, and that this particular problem will be resolved quickly, for under $100. I want to be assured that, by early afternoon tomorrow, I will be back on the road with only the $800-900 of repairs I already knew were looming to worry about.


Am I delusional?

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I've heard a strange loud whine before from my stereo, loud increasing in tone like a backwards falling bomb. . It's brief and stops when I turn off the stereo, but after it happens my radio auto tunes to an AM station. all my radio memory of presets are erased. Clock settings erased and also, one time none of the stereo dials or buttons would respond for quite awhile.

Whaaa? But not quite like what u described!

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I went to drop off the key with the mechanic today, and he tested the car while I was there. There is now no sound coming from the radio on any setting. The controls light up, but not a peep. So, his first guess is that what I heard was the dying gasp of either the speakers or the amplifier. This could be good news, since it would mean the car is safe to drive. Plus, it's possible I could get the diagnosis today and then schedule service on a day when it won't interfere with getting me to work and my son from work to and from his evening rehearsal.


I explained that I've been without a functional antenna for a couple of years (because when it broke off, it took park of the mount with it) and so care only about something I can plug an auxiliarry cord into to listen to audiobooks and podcasts. He says he will take a look at the antenna, too.


He is going to check out the electrical system to make sure there is nothing else lurking that would be dangerous.


The other piece of good news is that, by forcing me to take it in, the car may have helped me make contact with a mechanic I actually like and trust. 


So, this morning I feel a little giddy with a sense of (cautious) relief that my car might not have been screaming for help.



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I had an Oldsmobile back in the 80s that when you would drive on the highway (50+ mph) would make a loud screeching sound.


Other drivers would try to alert me, as if I didn't hear it (I think a hard of hearing person would have heard it)


No mechanic ever figured it out and the car did it for years.

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