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Check Engine Light - Crackling Sound

Hi, my name’s Charon (sounds like Karen) and this is my 1st post. Nice to meet you! On Tuesday, as I was on my way home from work the check engine light of my 2005 Scion xA came on. I wasn’t too worried because I’ve had a lot of problems with a faulty sensor relating to my check engine light. But yesterday, I noticed a faint crackling noise coming from the direction of the stereo/dash console. I’m taking my car into a local mechanic tomorrow but I wanted to be mentally armed with some kind of idea of what I’m dealing with here. Can anyone give any insight? Any similar experiences? I live in LA and it’s been a bit hot the last few days if that matters at all.

Hi @Charon4MyCar, welcome.

You haven’t given us much to go on. Is the crackling noise coming from the stereo’s speakers? Or behind it in the dash? It may be an electrical issue but that usually lights up other lights besides the Check Engine light. Really, until the mechanic reads out the trouble codes that caused the light, we are kind of blind.

Try not to gt too upset over going to the mechanic. Since the car still drives, you can always take it elsewhere for a second opinion (unless it flashes or a red oil light turns on, then stop immediately ad turn off the engine and call a tow truck)

We usually suggest independent mechanics rather than the big-box chains like Pep Boys or Sears. The dealer service is usually knowledgeable but more expensive than an indie mechanic.

The noise is probably from either the stereo speakers due to some kind of electrical interference, a clicking relay under the dash, or something to do with the passenger compartment ventilation system.

Suggest next time this happens try turning the turn signal levers on and off, pressing the emergency flasher button on and off, and turning on and off the various heater/AC controls. If it stops or gets worse with one of those, that info will be helpful to the shop as they try to diagnose and fix it.

BTW, there is a certain possibility that the cracking noise is sparks jumping around under the dash, which could present a fire hazard. If it sounds at all like that, suggest to carry a fire extinguisher in the car with you until this is resolved.

Just a wild guess, but could you have a vehicle where the radio stays on after you shut off the car…until you open a door, or about ten minutes pass. I know many vehicles have this option.

If this is an option with your car, maybe you had the radio on…but the volume down, and you inadvertently are tuned into just static. Then the normal sounds of driving would drown out the radio until you shut the car off.


Check the fluid levels before you start the engine again, you may be listening to coolant boiling.

Good catch @Nevada_545 . She could be hearing the gurgling in the overflow tank.


Thanks, everyone! I took your advice to not go to a major chain but instead took it to this auto body shop in Hollywood to get it checked out on Saturday and they did a reading from the check engine light. They said it has to do with an emissions leak and it’s not vital to get it fixed until I have a smog check coming up - that the leak wouldn’t impact drive-ability. Thanks so much to all who answered for pointing me in a good direction. Feeling a lot less worried now!

A body shop??? And in Hollywood.??? I’m surprised they had the time between auditions to get a look at it. Must be a slow week.

That’s like going to the petrologist for a tooth ache.

But if it gave you the answer you needed…so be it.

Wouldn’t the price of a good mechanic be much higher in Hollywood…than another near by community.


I was thinking more about proximity to my house than anything (I live just up the street from this place). I thought about bringing it to a shop near my work but they all seemed shady.