This is why the car squeaks until it warms up

Today I want to bring to your attention a very common engine problem that many of you are dealing with or have, at least, had—the momentary squeaking sound when you start your engine in the morning.

A loud, high-pitched sound comes out of your engine and it gradually fizzles away once your engine warms up. Do you want to know why your car squeaks until warmed up? Well, here’s why

There are specific causes of a brief squeaking sound that comes out of your engine in the morning and disappears as soon as the engine warms up that refers to serpentine belt problems, using an incorrect engine oil or its level is not enough.

Let’s talk more in-depth about these causes.

1. Problems with the serpentine belt

Your engine will behave like this in the morning when there’s a buildup of some condensation on either one of the pulley wheels or the serpentine belt overnight.

Until the engine warms up and causes the substance to evaporate, the affected, loosened belt will slip a little, causing a squeaking sound. Fortunately, this problem can be easily resolved by replacing your drive belt tensioner, which has failed at its job. 

After all, the role of the tensioner is to maintain proper tension on the drive belt. Your drive belt will only loosen due to condensation if it lacks proper tension.

That means re-tensioning the belt will not solve the problem permanently. So replacing it altogether with a new, well-tensioned belt is a much better solution.

Some say that spraying your tensioner and belt with WD40 will help with the squeaking problem. WD40 is a product that is designed to stop condensation buildup and corrosion from occurring. But is it helpful?

The answer is no. I don’t recommend using WD40 in this case because it can do more harm than good and it will affect the drive belt. WD40 does a good job in handling rust but it’s not an actual lubricant

On the other hand other solutions like dielectric grease which you can find easily. This does a better job of keeping the moisture off.

When using the grease, first put some gloves on, and add some substance where the ribs of the serpentine belt are. After that, start the car and let it run for 10-15 seconds.

On average, a brand-new belt tensioner plus accessories costs between $140 and $150 whereas a dielectric grease goes for approximately $15 to 35$. So, it will cost you between $115 and $185, if you take the DIY route. 

However, if you decide to take your car to the mechanic because you are not good with basic engine maintenance and repair tasks, you’ll need to pay for labor besides the above items. Most mechanics charge $70 to $100 for the work of fixing this problem. In total, you can expect to pay between $200 and $300. 

2. Cold temperatures

Due to cold temperatures overnight, your engine and its components may contract a little bit. This may cause the belt to become stiff and brittle. It’s basic science. It will cause the engine to squeak momentarily. Once the engine warms up and the components return to normalcy, the affected belt will fix itself and hence the problem will disappear. 

Protecting your engine from too much cold is the best way to prevent this problem. You can do that by being more careful, especially with the oil you are using for your car which I will describe below.

3. Using The Right Engine Oil

Using the correct motor oil with a lower ‘W’ number in cold months is recommended. Don’t forget that besides lubricating your engine parts to run smoothly, another important function of your engine oil is to keep your engine in better condition during cold months. 

The W letter in engine oils stands for “Winter.” Engine oil with a lower W number e.g. 5W or 0W will flow better in cold weather. This can keep your engine warm enough to avoid the squeaking problem every morning when you start your engine cold. Use a full-synthetic motor oil.

4. Making Sure There’s Enough Oil In Your Engine

If your engine oil level is too low, it means your oil will not carry out its tasks as efficiently as it should. It will neither lubricate the engine’s parts nor keep your engine warm sufficiently. As such, it may not stop the squeaking sound problem from occurring. With that in mind, always check your oil to ensure there’s enough of it in the engine system. 

Consult your car’s user manual for directions on how to protect your engine. You’ll find great details there and a few steps you can take to keep your engine warm in cold conditions prescribed in the book. 

Is It OK to Drive a Car with a Squeaking Noise in the Cold?

The answer is YES but for a short period. However, while you can drive your car with a squeaking noise, you’ll need to eventually fix this issue from the beginning to protect the car from extensive damage.

Your alternator belt plays a critical role in running your car’s systems. For example, it keeps the battery charged while the engine is running. It also connects the alternator and the power steering oil pump. That means if it’s faulty, the smooth functioning of these components is likely to be affected. 

What Can Happen If You Neglect to Take Care of the Squeaking Noises in Your Car?

Neglecting the squeaking noises in your car can result in extensive damage to your overall engine. These noises are often attributed to a failing alternator belt, which is associated with many critical components of your engine and car in general, including your power steering.

If you don’t fix it, these components may also become faulty, hindering your engine’s functionality and putting your car’s reliability at risk. 


If you notice that your car drives with a squeaking noise in the morning when the engine is still cold, more often than not, it means there’s a problem with your serpentine belt.

You can fix this problem by replacing your belt and the tensioner to prevent it from loosening and lacking proper tension. Taking routine maintenance steps such as topping up your engine oil levels and changing these parts will help avoid that problem.

You can fix the engine on your own or take the car to your mechanic, the latter of which you’ll pay more. While you can drive your car despite the squeaking noises that are coming from the engine, ignoring the underlying problem can result in extensive damage to your engine. This can jeopardize the normal functioning of your car.

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