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Versa making roller coaster sound after driving in "2nd"

Hi all. I don’t know anything about cars (obviously) so go easy on me. The little window on my gear stick (the car is an automatic) is broken, and so when I shifted into Drive (D) I did not realize I actually shifted into “2” which is right below that. I drove on the highway for about 15 miles between 60-70 mph before I finally figured out that the source of the noise (basically it just sounded like the car was revving and straining up a hill the whole time. Since we just had the car worked on, I thought it was related to that). Once I realized I was in 2 I slowed down and shifted to D. Everything seemed fine until I got off the highway. At the stoplight off the exit ramp, I went to turn right on red after coming to a full stop and nothing happened. It seemed the engine stalled, although I did not feel any shuddering or tell-tale signs that it was about to stall. The radio did not hiccup and the windshield wipers kept going without pause, but the car was essentially off, as it didn’t even rev when I put my foot on the gas. I restarted it and drove home with no issues.

The next day when we took it out, we noticed a clicking sound. Not a single click, but a continuous sound, like an enhanced version of a playing card on the wheel of a bicycle. It doesn’t seem to matter what rpm, what speed, the sound is present, although not necessarily consistently on. When we press the accelerator or ease off, we get a burst of the sound. Sometimes at higher speeds it is more consistent, occasionally when idly we can hear it softly in the background. No stalling occurred that day.

Tonight I drove it to work, which is a 20 minute drive on the highway. What started off as the playing card/bicycle sound soon turned into a sound that is reminiscent of a roller coaster being pulled up the first giant hill. Sort of a faster cranking sound. Then again, without preamble or warning, it stalled when I came to a stop off the exit to my workplace.

I haven’t checked anything under the hood. The oil was changed almost 4000 miles ago. I don’t even know what to begin checking first. I just put $2750 into the vehicle to fix it after an uninsured driver hit me (fender bender) and am still waiting on court proceedings from that. I really can’t afford to go fixing anything else atm, so I’m hoping to get an idea of how serious the issue could be before I start thinking about taking out some home equity to pay for all this. So any help is much appreciated. Please let me know if pictures or audio files are needed. There’s really not much to look at on the outside.

year, model, mileage? Check the oil level first thing.

Are there any error lights on ? Check engine light?

I agree with BillRussell that you need to check the oil immediately. Running out of oil is one likely answer here.

You’re making a very bad choice by continuing to drive the car in this condition. You might have turned a minor repair into a major (and expensive) one.

What work did you have done? Was there mechanical work or just body work?

Since it’s an A/T with rev limiter it should not have exceeded maximum RPM (redline) although driving 20 minutes at redline certainly could have damaged something such as the alternator bearings. Just a wild guess.

Video of noise can be found at this link. You can see my dash, mileage, no check engine light, no check oil light. This is a short drive around the neighborhood to home. Just body work was done. It’s a 2009 sedan.

Oh and the “low tire” light has been on for years now. I was told it was faulty and I just make sure to check the tires myself every month or so with a tire gauge.

sgtrock21 It never redlined. Never got above 2500 rpm during the drive. I was driving middle and right lanes the whole way and only noticed the revving sound when going up an incline in the highway, or when slowing down. The body work in question was a bumper replacement in the front and some passenger side repair from where the other driver hit. In the receipt it lists some inner stuff, like coolant replacement and headlamp work. I don’t know much about cars so I thought maybe they missed something.

Will be checking oil here in a few.

You state: “Never got above 2500 rpm” and “noticed the revving sound when going up an incline”

If you noticed the “revving sound” (??) and the tach never got above 2500, then that sound was not the engine revving, but something else. 2500 is the normal RPMs of the engine.

edit: I watched the first half of your video, didn’t see or hear anything unusual. The RPMs did go up to 3k at a few points, presumably that is when you pressed on the throttle for more acceleration.

“Never got above 2500 rpm during the drive”

A tiny engine like the one in a Versa would likely be turning at 2,500 RPMs–when driven at 60-70 mph in overdrive. If it was actually driven at those speeds in second gear, the RPMs would most likely have been over 5,000.

Something doesn’t add up here.

In any event, it is good that the OP is now going to check the oil himself. Relying on a “low oil light” (assuming that this car actually has an indicator for “low oil”, rather than for low oil pressure) is not a good thing, especially when the engine is making ominous noises.

Yes, VDC, in a lower gear at 70 MPH, it should be revving a lot higher than 2500.

Okay checked oil and transmission fluid. Both were low but not empty. I’ll fill them both and see if the noise goes away. In other news one of my brand new tires appears to have a leak, but I’m not sure that would cause engine noise. Filled it up, noise is the same.

Does anyone else hear a bad wheel bearing? (Tentatively speaking, of course…hear a roar like WBs tend to make.)

Not sure if a tire air leak would make engine noise. Well, I am, absolutely no way a tire leak would make engine noise.

“Okay checked oil and transmission fluid. Both were low but not empty.”

If either of them had been “empty”, the engine or transmission would already have self-destructed from lack of lubrication, but being “low” on fluid can be damaging–depending on how low the level might have been.

How low was “low”?
Did you have to add a pint, or a quart, or two quarts, or…?

I watched/listened to the entire video. The OP described the sound as a card in bicycle spokes. I can agree with that. To me it sounds like helicopter rotors from a distance which I am very familiar with. At the end of the video the door is opened with the car at idle. The sound is easier to hear and is a rhythmic muffled popping sound not a bearing knock. I’m thinking possible exhaust leak. The exhaust system may have been damaged in the accident. I too am totally confused by 2,500 RPM at 70mph in 2nd gear. I have no ideas concerning the stalling.

To narrow the noise-source down, see if you can hear it while idling in the driveway, temporarily rev’ing the engine to rpms where you hear it when driving.

I bought a quart for each. I will update in the morning as to whether it needs more or if that does the trick.

I suppose I should clarify. I didn’t have my eyes on the rpms the whole way home. The few times I checked, it was below the 3000 mark. This car has always seemed to take its time switching gears (even when driven in the currect position) and the most I have ever seen it get to is 5, and it made similar sounds that it made on my way home as it did those times just before shifting. I didn’t go up any massive inclines. I would guess no more than a 15-20 degree climb in a few spots that last for perhaps a thousand feet or less. That’s mostly when I noticed the revving sound.

It doesn’t make any strange noise when I first start it up but I do notice the sound becomes more frequent the more warmed up the car is. If I go somewhere, even a shorter distance, like to the grocery store 5 miles away, when I start, no noise at idle. When I stop, I can hear a faint noise at idle. If I go longer, like to work, which is 20 minutes away, I can definitely hear it at idle. Listen closely to the end of the video, you can hear it a bit there.

It seems to be coming from the passenger side, if that helps at all. While revving the engine, I can hear it beginning a little above 1500 rpm but mostly in the 2000 range. If I press on the gas with just the right pressure I can make the noise go on and on. The noise (which actually seems to be a cycle of single sounds over and over) seems to cycle with the rpms. If I’m idling, it’s slow. If I’m driving at 2000+ rpms, it’s faster. If I let off the gas, it starts to slow down.

I may be wrong but I think you fried the transmission.

I watched and noticed that the speedo did not start off the resting peg until the Tachometer was well above 2000rpm. Starting off slowly like you did, the speedo should have at least came off it’s rest as you passed 1200rpm.

Had it been a manual tranny I wouldn’t have given it a thought, but with an automatic the speedo should have started up as soon as you touched the gas.

I’d have it looked at by a good independent transmission shop before there is more damage done.


Wel even with oil and transmission fluid added, today the car stalled 5 times on a two mile round trip journey. Only $10,000 left on the loan, no big deal that my car seems fried.