Why Is My Dashboard Rattling and How Can I Fix It?

Plenty of people enjoy driving as a way to escape and relax. That could mean taking a trip to the coast or riding the highway with the windows down, and the volume cranked up. But if your dashboard suddenly starts to rattle, that peace and relaxation can quickly vanish.

A rattling dashboard is usually caused by panels or internal components coming loose. Though most common with older cars, it can happen at any point to any car. To correct this, you’ll simply need to tighten the fastenings of these pieces. You can also install padding to reduce the noise.

This article will help you to determine the cause of your rattling dashboard, and then we’ll discuss all of the potential solutions for each of the issues.

Car dashboard making rattling noise.

Common Causes of a Rattling Dashboard

The most common cause of a rattling dashboard is loose parts. When the engine is on and the vehicle is moving, these loose parts will vibrate against each other, creating a rattling sound.

To correct it, you’ll need to reattach all these pieces or place padding around them.

When you’re trying to identify the source of the noise, there are two main places that you’ll look:

  • At the panels
  • At the internal components

Loose Panels

Often, the rattling will be coming from the panels and seams of the panels in the dashboard. This usually happens because the screws and glue holding them in place have come loose.

However, it can also occur when the panel warps from heat or other harsh conditions. In this case, the panel may no longer fit snugly and may be shaking from the engine’s vibration.

Loose Internal Components

The other most likely cause of dashboard rattling is a loose internal component. To fix this, you’ll need to open the dashboard and examine all of the pieces within it.

For example, if any of the wires or their metal fasteners inside have come loose, they might start to bounce around when the car is moving, creating a rattling sound.

How to Identify the Source of the Rattling

To correct the rattling, you’ll first need to identify the source, which is most likely a loose part inside the dashboard. To do this, you’ll want to have someone drive you around, so you can listen carefully while pressing down on various parts to see if that silences it.

Find Someone to Help and Start Driving

Don’t try this on your own. You’ll need both hands and your full attention to listen for and locate the source of the sound. Just remember to give your helper instructions and advice on what you need from them.

For example, if you know that the noise only happens when you take left turns, ask your friend to make as many left turns as possible. Similarly, if the sound only happens at certain speeds, ask them to find an area in which they can maintain that speed.

Press Down on the Dashboard to See if You Can Find the Source of the Rattle

Once the rattling has been triggered, you’ll want to start pressing down on different parts and listen to see if that made a difference.

If the rattling stops when you press down in a particular area, then you’ll know that the loose part is coming from that section and can focus on securing and padding that area.

On the other hand, if the rattling doesn’t stop when you press down, then you’ll know that another area needs to be secured.

Try to Add Foam to Any Visible Cracks

Another thing you can do is take some sort of padding material, such as foam, and stuff it in the cracks around the dashboard.

If this silences the rattling, then you’ll know it was because the panels were loose, and to correct it, you’ll simply need to tighten them, so they don’t rattle against each other. Or you can just keep the padding in and work with that. Sometimes padding works even better than tightening the dashboard because it absorbs the vibrations.

Once you think you’ve identified the area that’s causing the rattling, park the car so the engine isn’t triggering it. Then try to manually trigger it by applying pressure to and shaking the dashboard.

Don’t get too carried away, though. You don’t want to exacerbate any damage that’s already there. Plus, if you press or bang on the dashboard too hard, the force you’re exerting could create a sound that covers up the noise of the rattling that you’re actually monitoring.

Fixing a dashboard that makes rattling noise.

Fixing a Rattling Dashboard

Now that you’ve identified which parts of the dashboard are causing the rattling, you’ll want to secure them.

To secure paneling, you’ll need to tighten the screws and sometimes add padding as well. To secure the inner components, you can use tape or tighten the fasteners.

Secure the Paneling

The first step to secure the paneling is to remove it. That way, you can see if there’s anything caught in the seams that could be contributing to the rattling or if there’s an issue with the fasteners.

Then you can also give your dashboard a thorough cleaning which will help to make sure everything’s tight and secure when you refasten it. Here is an article about the best dashboard cleaners available right now.

Check the Condition of the Screws

One good thing to do when you’re looking everything over is to take a look at the condition of the screws being used to hold the panels down. Over time, screws can become stripped, meaning their threads (the ridges that go down the shaft of the screw) get worn down and can begin to slip.

If you notice that this has happened, you’ll want to replace the screws before you even try reattaching the panel. If the screws are worn out, they’ll simply come loose again.

Once you’re sure that the panels and the fasteners that hold them in place are in good condition and that there’s no debris caught inside, you can re-screw the panels in place. If the issue was with loose fasteners or faulty screws, this should solve the problem.

Check for Warping

However, if it doesn’t fix the problem, the next likely issue is warping from extreme heat or cold.

If the panel has warped over time and it simply won’t fit into its slot anymore, you will hear rattling as the car moves. In this case, try inserting padding around the panel.

You can use thin strips of foam padding for this and tuck it around the edges and seams. Then when you cut away the excess, it should be barely noticeable.

This should help with the sound significantly because it’ll prevent the loose panel from making contact with the others.

A common DIY solution for this problem is to use weatherstripping tape around all the edges and seams because it’ll stay better than foam padding. The adhesive should prevent it from slipping around and be more discreet.

When buying your weatherstripping tape, get the thinnest kind available as the gaps surrounding the panels are pretty narrow. Then, once you’re done, you can trim off any excess to make it as unnoticeable as possible.

Secure the Inner Components

If you’ve tried to immobilize the panels and that’s just not working, you’re likely looking at an issue with an internal component having come loose.

To correct this, you’ll need to remove the side panels and take a look at the internal parts.

Remember that your car should be off while you’re doing this, so you don’t risk being electrocuted by any wires that may have come loose.

Check the Links and Fasteners for Loose Connections

If you already know the general area the rattling is coming from, you can focus specifically on that part, but the next step will be to check all the connections and fasteners.

Try moving them around and seeing if they move farther than they should or if any of the fasteners have detached and need to be screwed back in again. Once you find a loose part, you should try tightening whatever fastener is holding it in place to see if that’ll correct the problem.

Remove and Replace Loose Fasteners

If tightening the fastener doesn’t correct the problem, you may have a problem with the fastener itself.

Like I stated earlier, sometimes screws wear out over time, and then it’ll be impossible for them to stay tight. This is when good old-fashioned tape comes in handy. You can use the tape to either tape components together and keep them from banging around or help to reinforce the fasteners so they don’t come loose again.

However, keep in mind that tape doesn’t last forever, so you’ll most likely need to retape things a couple of times per year.

You can also try using zip ties to immobilize components, which may also help reduce the noise. Zip ties also last longer than tape, so once you get them in place, you shouldn’t have to worry about redoing them every couple of years. Also, zip ties can endure hot conditions far better than adhesive that’ll eventually melt. 

Try a Combination of Padding and Tape if You Can’t Find the Issue

If it’s an older car and you can’t find the source of the rattle, use a combination of foam packing sheets and weatherstripping tape to pad the whole compartment.

Pad all surfaces and tape anything you think may be or may become loose.

When you restart your car, even though the pieces will still be moving, you shouldn’t be able to hear them doing so.

Check if the Rattle Is Coming From the Glove Box

If you’ve followed all the previous suggestions and nothing seems to be helping, then the next thing you should take a look at is your glove box. Glove boxes have many moving pieces and are often used to store a myriad of items, all of which can end up moving around and rattling.

The most common reason your glove box will be rattling is an issue with the handle’s latch. The glove box is made to click into place when pushed up, and it’s held in place by a latch. If this latch comes loose, then the glove box will rattle whenever the car starts moving.

In my car, the glove box was the cause of the rattling sound that we were hearing – not the dashboard.

Check the Latch on the Handle

Most likely, the reason your handle is rattling is that the latching mechanism has come loose. To correct this, you’ll simply want to tighten the latch by tightening the screws.

If the screws have come loose or become stripped over time, they’ll need to be replaced. However, sometimes the latch can be faulty from the beginning, and the only way to truly correct it is to replace it. That’s when some good DIY hacks, like velcro, will be lifesavers.

Use Velcro to Keep the Glove Box Hatch in Place

If the latch is broken beyond repair, try installing double-sided velcro to the top of your glove box. That way, when you close it, the latch hooks and the door attaches to the dashboard with the velcro.

This should keep it from getting jostled while the car is moving.

Along these same lines, you can also install weatherstripping tape or thin foam padding around the edges of the glove box to reduce any noise it may create when moving around.

Check Inside for Loose Items

One more thing you can check with the glove box is what’s inside it. I don’t know about everyone else, but my glove box is filled with a huge variety of random things that I don’t need. Sometimes when the car is moving, these items can tumble about and create a rattling noise. So, before you start redoing the latch and tightening everything, make sure that no items are inside the glove box that could create the rattling.

In Conclusion

Most likely, your dashboard is rattling because the panels are loose, or some wires inside have somehow knocked free from their settings.

To correct this, you’ll want to reattach any loose pieces and secure fastenings that have broken or degraded. Then, to keep it as quiet as possible, you can also pad any noisy areas with weatherstripping tape or foam, which will help to absorb vibrations.

However, the sound could also be coming from the different moving parts in your glove box, which is a much easier first step than pulling the dashboard apart.

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