Why Your Car Makes a Clicking Noise without Key | What you Need to Know

Have you just parked your car and are wondering why the car is making a clicking sound with the key removed?

Are you worried that it may be a warning of something more serious that can happen if you do not do something about it?

It can be scary not knowing the cause of the clicks and the dangers that can result from it.

So, in this post, I cover the possible causes of the clicking sound in cars, the dangers that can result, when it is normal as well as what you may be able to do to fix it.

Types of Clicking Sounds when Car Key Is Off

You can have several distinct types of clicks from your parked car even when the ignition key is removed.

These may vary in how loud they are and the general locations of each.

#1. The ticking or tapping-like sound from the hood after parking the car from a long drive

This sound may sound like a ticking or tapping sound from the hood of the parked car after a long drive.

It is usually gentle but still noticeable.

The intervals between clicks may at first be short but increase with time and then stop after a few minutes.

#2. Relay like click from under the hood

You may also have another case of clicking from under the hood, again with the ignition key removed.

This may sound like the relay contacts opening and closing.

In most cases, this sound may be traced to the fuse and relay box found to the right of the engine bay when you are facing the front of the car.

You may want to read: Why a car relay may go bad

Causes of Clicking Sound in Car with Key Removed

There can be several possible causes why you may hear the clicking in the car, some electrical while others are related to the expansion and contraction of the metallic parts exposed to varying temperatures.

#1. The ticking or tapping-like sound from the hood after parking the car from a long drive

This is usually the sound of different metals in the warmed-up car engine heating up and cooling down.

When different metals in the engine warm-up, they expand at different rates depending on their composition.

As they cool down, they contract (again at different rates) to produce the ticking sound.

#2. The clicking sound from under the car exhaust after a long drive

You may also experience the ticking sound near the exhaust system of the car after a long drive.

This can be a gentle but still noticeable sound.

It is also usually caused by the different metals in the exhaust that had expanded now cooling down.

#3. Relay like click from under the hood

The distinct sound from a relay or switch activating and then deactivating may have from several different causes:

  • a malfunctioning sensor in the car
  • malfunctioning alarm, problem with an alarm sensor or fault in alarm wiring
  • malfunctioning relay or bad, corroded terminals in the car fuse,relay box
  • worn out bearings from blower.

If the fan has been running, it usually continues spinning even after the engine is switched off with the sound of worn-out bearings more audible since the engine is off.

  • low battery voltage. Some relays may click repeatedly if there is not enough battery voltage to hold the relay contacts in the open or close position.

You may want to read: Why your car battery may be dying quickly

Locating the general source of the clicking is a good first step in identifying the cause.

Some good first places to check include the car fuse box and the alarm installation.

Possible Dangers of Clicking Sound in a Car

Is the Clicking sound normal?

This usually depends on the nature of sound that you may be experiencing and probably how loud the sound is.

The gentle clicking sound from under the hood after a drive is normal.

It shouldn’t be a cause for worry and dies down after a few minutes.

A gentle ticking sound from the exhaust system is usually normal while the loud clicking sound in the car exhaust system after a drive is alarming and maybe point to a problem with the exhaust.

This needs to be checked out by a qualified auto mechanic.

With a relay click, there is the risk of draining a car battery flat over time from the current draw when the relays and activated electronics.

In fact, in some cases, reports of relay clicking are followed by drained batteries.

Tips to Help You Solve the Clicking Sound Faster

Try to replicate the clicking noise – this is helpful in narrowing it down.

Note the specific conditions when the clicking happens and where the sound comes from.

A random clicking sound that cannot be reproduced consistently is difficult even for the service team to fix.

Take an audio recording of the sound using the phone app when it happens.

This can help the repair technicians identify the root cause faster.

Possible Fixes of Clicking Sound in a Car

Here are a few tips that can you identify and fix the cause of the clicking.

Low battery

Check that the battery cables are clean and make good firm contact with the battery posts.

Also, check that the battery has sufficient voltage.

If drained, charge it fully and check for reoccurrence of the problem

Suspected bad relay

In the case of clicking the relay in the car fuse/ relay box, open the fuse box and try to identify the clicking relay.

Unplug and inspect it.

Do the terminals have any corrosion? If so, clean any corrosion that there might be so that the relay makes good solid contact.

Replace the relay and check if there is a repeat of the problem.

Suspected problem with car alarm

If you suspect a problem with the car alarm, check the alarm status for any warning signs.

Confirm that the alarm connectors are firmly connected.

Alarms will usually display OK or green led status if working well.

You may need to temporarily disconnect the alarm to check if the problem clears.

Do not hesitate to consult the support team for your alarm.

Worn out bearings of the blower fan

If the sound can be traced to the worn-out bearings of the blower fan, have them replaced and check if the problem clears.

Get help

You can also seek help from a mechanic or an online forum dedicated to the specific type of car.

Summary

If you hear a gentle clicking sound from under the hood after parking the car, that is probably a normal sound made by the different parts in the engine bay cooling down at different rates.

The ticking sound should stop normally stops after a few minutes.

If the sound is loud or it is a relay-like click, this probably needs attention.

Some common causes of this may be a malfunctioning sensor in the car, malfunctioning alarm, fault in alarm wiring, worn-out bearings of the blower fan.

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