How to Find and Fix Grinding Sounds

There are many moving parts that work with each other in any given situation during the operation of an automobile. These parts are machined and designed to slide or roll easily while working together, but when things break or wear they can cause a grinding noise. Once you have discovered a grinding noise the cause must be identified to start the repair process. Also, take note of when you hear the noise either when the car is cold or hot and if any action causes the noise such as applying the brakes or turning the ignition key. Once a grinding sound has been detected action must be prompt to stem further damage.

Grinding Noise Causes

  • Brake pads worn
  • Battery needs replacement
  • Starter bendix is weak
  • Front wheel bearing hub is worn out
  • Rear axle bearing has gone bad
  • Clutch disc has fallen apart
  • Parking brake shoes worn out
  • Engine is grinding externally/internally

Let's Get Started!

We have listed the most common grinding noise problem in order of popularity. The following guides feature step by step instructions, your vehicle may be a little different but the procedures are similar in most cases. For specific directions please ask one of our experts to be given instructions from AllData or Mitchell1 repair manuals.

  1. Grinding when brakes are applied: When brake pad material wears leaving the metal backing plate to contact the brake rotor this will result in a grinding noise being generated from the front or rear of the car until the brake are released indicating the brake system needs service. Also sometimes the parking brake shoes can wear and cause grinding, to see if this is the case while the car is moving slowly, gently apply the parking brake to see if noise changes or goes away, if so this is an indication of the parking brake shoes needing replacement.
    Front disc brake service guide
    Rear disc brake service guide
    Rear brake shoe service guide
    Parking brake replacement guide
  2. Engine grinds when cranking over (starter): The starter will  create a grinding sound when the battery is weak and supplying too little voltage to the starter hindering its operation, this can be tested by performing a battery load test. The starter uses a small gear called a "bendix" which engages into the flywheel when the starter is in operation. When this bendix or starter motor fails the starter must be removed and repaired or replaced.
  3. Constant grind noise when the car is rolling at any speed: If at any speed you hear a grinding noise try turning the wheel slightly one way then the other to see if the noise changes, also apply the brake slightly to see if the noise changes a little. This is an indication one of the wheel bearings or bearing hubs being bad. Try to differentiate the noise being generate from the front or the rear, right or left. You might want to have a helper ride along in a rear seat to give a new perspective on the origin of the grinding noise.
    Front hub replacement
    Front wheel bearing replacement
    Rear axle bearing replacement
  4. Transmission grinds when one or any gear is selected (manual): When a clutch disc becomes worn and clutch material is logged between the flywheel and pressure plate it will not allow the clutch to disengage causing the input shaft of the transmission to keep turning (usually it is stopped) this creates a grinding noise when the gear shift is operated (clutch pedal down).
    Clutch replacement video (FWD)
    Clutch replacement guide (RWD)
  5. Engine is grinding while running: Typically there are two areas an engine will grind from, internally and externally. An easy way to find out which is to remove the serpentine belt and start the engine. If the noise is still there the problem is internal and if not the problem lies in one of the engine accessories such as the alternator or water pump. Internal grinding noise will usually include the timing chain assembly including guides and tensioner. Our experts can help you find the problem if a video of the noise is uploaded to the question when asked.

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