Is Engine Noise in Brand-New Car Normal?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | May 18, 2017

Dear Car Talk:

I have a 2016 Ford Escape 1.6-liter EcoBoost. When started (with the engine cold), I hear a noise coming from the back center of the engine near the firewall that lasts for 15 to 20 seconds. It sounds like a fan belt or an alternator bearing noise, but the dealer says it isn't. The dealer thinks it could be the EcoBoost. The car has only 4,700 miles on it. Any ideas would be helpful. -- Mary Lou

"EcoBoost" is the name of the engine family, Mary Lou -- it's not a specific part. It's a collection of technologies (like turbo-charging and gasoline direct injection) that Ford calls "EcoBoost" for advertising purposes.

So if your dealer thinks it's "your EcoBoost," he thinks it's "your engine."

It's hard for me to know what it is without actually hearing it and trying to pinpoint it. It could be lifters or a timing-chain tensioner that is slow to get full oil pressure. It could be that there's a space where the exhaust manifold meets the exhaust pipe that quickly heats up and expands then quiets down. Or it could be something else entirely.

My first suggestion is to leave the car at the dealership overnight. Then, in the morning, go back and have the service manager and a mechanic listen to it when you start it up. They may be guessing because they haven't heard the noise and had a chance to pinpoint its location when the engine is really cold.

If they hear the noise and brush it off by saying, "They all do that," then ask the dealer to go out to the lot with you and start a few other brand-new Escapes with the 1.6-liter engine.

If none of the other Escapes makes the noise, then they have to look harder and figure out what's wrong with yours and fix it. If the other Escapes all make the noise, too, then you can be the first on your block to start a public campaign to try to force them to change the name of the engine family to "EcoNoise." Good luck, Mary Lou.

Get the Car Talk Newsletter

Got a question about your car?

Ask Someone Who Owns One