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

You may hear a clicking or tapping sound soon after parking a car after a long drive, even with the key removed.

When this happens, it’s perfectly understandable that you may be worried that it’s a warning of a fault in the car that’s only going to get worse.

If this is you then read on. This post lists the clicking, and tapping sounds you may hear with the key ignition switched off their causes, and what you can do to stop them.

What Causes the Clicking Sound (with Key Removed from Ignition)?

As you can imagine, there are several possible reasons why there might be a clicking sound in your car when the car is removed.

To quickly identify what’s likely causing it, it helps to listen intently for the likely source of the sound.

Let’s review the several sounds you might hear and their causes.

1. The ticking or tapping-like sound under the hood or car exhaust after a long drive

Quite likely the sound of car parts that previously warmed up with the engine running now cooling down.

Because the engine parts are likely made from different materials, they cool down at different rates leading to the ticking sound.

It is usually gentle but still noticeable. The intervals between ticks may be short at first but then increase over time before dying down after the car engine has cooled down.

2. Relay-like click from under the hood

This is a noticeable sound of a relay’s contacts opening and closing. You may be able to trace the sound to the fuse and relay box found to the right of the engine bay.

In the box are a set of relays. It is possible that one or more have corroded or loose terminals, are malfunctioning, or are faulty.

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

Why the Clicking Sound Should Not Be Ignored?

While the sound may not be an issue such as when the previously warmed-up engine cools down, the clicking sound if not attended to can lead to problems that affect the car’s performance such as:

1. The car is unable to start because the car battery is drained

If the clicking is from a relay, there’s a risk that the car battery can be drained by the relay coil and contact closing.

This can draw a significant portion of the battery power over time depending on which of the car’s accessories are activated by the relay. and draining the battery’s power over time.

2. Inconsistent performance of the car

The clicking sound may also point to a malfunctioning component such as a relay or even a loose wire connection that can cause intermittent car performance problems.

An example is the car blower sometimes not working when switched on or the car failing to start sometimes even when the battery is sufficiently charged.

Tips to Stop the Clicking Sound

Here are a few suggestions that may help you stop the clicking sound. Do not at any one-time hesitate to contact a qualified auto technician.

1. Collect as much information as you can to fix the problem faster. In some cases, the sound may be difficult to describe or may only come on intermittently. Therefore, note the source of the sound as best as you can.

  • Does it happen all the time the car’s ignition is switched off or only occasionally?
  • Does it happen when you activate a specific car accessory such as a blower or other? The more specific information you can provide the faster the fault can be diagnosed.
  • Use your phone to record the clicking sound for the technicians too.

What to Do when there’s Clicking

1. If there’s a relay like click

If it’s a relay-like click, listen intently for the source of the sound. Check the car fuse/ relay box, located near the car battery.

Open the fuse box then try to identify the clicking relay. It may continue clicking making identification so much easier.

  • 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.

2. In case the car battery voltage is low

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 the reoccurrence of the problem

3. Clicking from the car alarm

Check the alarm status for signs. Alarms will usually display OK or green led status if working well.

Perhaps it is a malfunctioning shock sensor when the alarm is muted or loose alarm connector cables.

If there’s an improperly connected cable, disconnect it and reseat it properly. Check if this stops the ticking.

4. There’s a ticking sound from the car engine or exhaust

If this is from the engine or exhaust parts cooling down then this is normal. There’s nothing to do but wait for the engine to cool down.

The ticking or tapping sound should stop on its own.

Do not hesitate to contact a qualified mechanic for assistance.

Closing Thoughts

A clicking or tapping sound from under the hood or the car’s exhaust after a long drive is probably normal and should stop after a few minutes.

Relay-like click could point to a loose malfunctioning relay and can lead to car performance challenges. They should be fixed asap.,

Do not hesitate to contact a qualified car mechanic.

Recommended Posts

Leave a Comment