Lately, I’ve noticed a faint high-pitched squeak at low speeds coming from my beloved companion in life: my daily-driver, a 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer GTS. I hear it loud and clear, like a piercing shriek from the world’s smallest Dino-Roar. But no one else seems to hear it. I’m not crazy, I swear. There’s definitely a noise, and I don’t know what it is.
I’ve asked several friends and mechanics alike why my car has a quiet eeeek-eeeeek-eeeeek-eeeeeeek noise whenever it rolls along at low speeds. It wavers in volume as my wheels turn, leading me to believe it’s something that spins with the wheels.
“I don’t hear it,” they say. “Just turn up the radio if it bothers you that much,” is another popular response. I usually drive with the stereo on, but when I’m inching along in a drive-thru, it’s unavoidable.
I do not like hearing this tiny, squeaking reminder that something unknown on my car might be worn, wearing, rubbing, broken or otherwise off on my morning coffee run, thank you very much.
There have been theories, despite my inability to reproduce the sound to other ears. Maybe I have a dragging brake pad somewhere, as I have squeaky track pads on the car that loudly announce my presence every time I have to brake. The Lancer has arrived, puny mortals. Tremble in the presence of my noisy brakes.
Yet I feel worse knowing that I’m the only person who can hear the noise. I’m used to knowing precisely what’s wrong with my car and if help is needed, being able to tell that person exactly what it is that I need to fix. This mystery noise leaves me feeling as clueless as someone who doesn’t know what the idiot lights on their dashboard mean, or how to read the error codes that would trigger such a light.
The kinds of people who describe their car problems by the horrific sounds their car is making aren’t usually ones who know much about cars. To be honest, the last thing I want to do is reinforce the stereotype that women are clueless about cars. I suffer quietly with my noise, reluctant to bring it back up again for fear of looking foolish.
Yet if anything, I feel like I have a near-symbiotic relationship with this car. I know it, and it knows me. I hurt when it hurts. Could it be that because I spend so much more time with this car, I notice things are off that other people would write off as normal car sounds?
Or am I merely paranoid? It is, after all, my best friend and favorite toy all wrapped up into one thing. It’s getting older, and I’ve been far from gentle with it. At last glance, the car had over 135,000 miles on it—a car not meant for track use, but used for it anyway. Maybe I am imagining this sound? Everything else on the car works fine right now.
But really, what is this dumb noise? I can’t take it anymore. I must know.