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The Mysterious and Elusive Sound

I have a ‘98 Toyota Camry with 154,000 miles. The car was purchased from CarMax at about 30,000 miles in 2000 and generally has NO problems and runs like a top! Here’s a little history around this car, which seems charmed to me: once, a 90’ tree fell on it during a windstorm and the 2nd time, a deer jumped into the windshield (I have the tuft of hair from the mirror). Both times, the car was written off as a “Total Loss” by the insurance company, and both times, I had it restored. It looks amazing and is very dependable and otherwise quiet.

In the rain, and only in wet conditions, it makes a low, groaning noise: I’ll call it a “roar” for lack of a better term. It gets louder with acceleration and much louder as I continue to drive it through puddles. This sound cannot be recreated unless there are wet conditions. Sometimes it sounds like a throaty sound, perhaps from the exhaust. Other times, it sounds like it comes from the engine, especially when I accelerate. If I continue to drive it, the sound increases to one so loud it seems like the car will explode if I don’t pull over.

I’ve had several mechanics look at it, and no one can pinpoint the problem. Of course, it’s hard to get the conditions just right, although I guess someone could spray under the car with a hose. Suggestions I’ve heard: (1) Check the CV joints near the boots (what does that mean?). (2) Check the fan belt (it’s been checked) (3) have the pipes checked wherever they meet.

I’m a photographer and graphic designer—this is all a mystery to me. Any ideas how to diagnose and fix this? Any suggestions appreciated, except getting rid of the car!

Well I don’t think that your profession limits you to any real field of knowledge, right? I mean, I think only a slim number of people here are actually mechanics by trade.

This sound… if you drove through a puddle, brought the car to a quick stop, put it in neutral, and revved up the engine… would it be present? And if you don’t know, can you try that test? That will at least tell you if it is a drive train noise, or a power train noise.

I had the exact same problem many years ago with my “Volvo from hell”, and it turned out to be a cracked exhaust manifold.

Since Toyota uses that big sheet metal shield over the manifold, a cracked manifold is not something that a mechanic would see unless he went to the trouble of removing that shield. When the engine is totally cooled down, remove the shield from the manifold, and you just might see the crack. If not, drive it to your mechanic at that point, and ask him to check the manifold for a crack. Just be careful to not burn yourself on that manifold.

Actually, perhaps the best way to toubleshoot this would be to squirt suspect areas with a squirt bottle as he engine is running.

If you have an exhaust leak, whether it’s in the manifold or elsewhere, black carbon residue should be around the leak.

The CV joints are Constant Velocity joints in the driveshafts. The’ye protected by convaluted (I cannot think of a synonym to better describe the folds in the boots…sorry) rubber boots that can fracture with age in the folds, usually the inner folds, and allow the joints’ lubrication out and allow contamination in. Since it gets a lot louder when you go through puddles, these should be suspect. Any shop can inspect these for you.

Based on your description of the symptoms I think the CV joints are a good guess. A shop looking for an engine noise and not doing a test drive could easily not find this.


(Mountain Bike, I’m describing the concentric CV boot folds, not the sound.)



If the OP has accordion noises coming from the CV joints, then he has really big problems. Lawrence Welk would probably not have agreed with this statement, however.

Combine The Accordion Sound With Pressure Washer Soap In The W/Washers (Bubbles) And There You Go!

Thanks CSA, that was the term I was searching for. I struggle with the English language.

For the rest of you with the Lawrence Welk fetishes…thanks for the chuckles!

A one, and a two…

Which Language Is The One With Which You Don’t Struggle?