The most common causes of grinding sounds in your car

Cars may not be able to speak, but that doesn’t mean they’re not able to communicate with us. They’re able to tell us when they’re in distress through their own special language of screeching and grinding and clicking and thumping. Grinding sounds are often the scariest of these, and it’s unwise to ignore it when  your car is out on the roads (whether it’s a brand new model or a salvage car you’ve bought from one of our online vehicle auctions). 

Grinding noises can be tricky to diagnose, but to narrow down the potential cause, it can help to find out exactly where and when the noise is occurring, whether it’s at the front or rear of the vehicle. Here, we expand a bit on the most common causes. 

Grinding sounds when braking

We’ll start with the brakes, as they’re amongst the most critical safety features in your car, as well as the most common cause of grinding noises. The noise could be down to a number of individual parts within your brake assembly, including (but not necessarily limited to) a loose rotor, or worn pads and callipers.

You can sometimes easily tell when the grinding noise is coming from your brake assembly because it’ll be exceptionally harsh, due to the metal-on-metal contact. If left unchecked for long enough, this sort of friction can cause irreparable damage to your car, and that’s if you’re lucky enough to avoid an accident in the meantime. 

It’s therefore a good idea to get the whole brakes system inspected by a professional mechanic, or do the job yourself if you’ve got the right qualifications. If any part of it isn’t in a minimally safe condition then it poses an immediate threat to your safety, and that of other road users around you - so don’t hang around in getting it sorted!

Grinding sounds when turning

If you find the noise is only happening when you’re turning, then your wheel bearings constitute one of the most likely causes, and they may well be causing friction where they shouldn’t be. Failing wheel bearings can be just as dangerous as damaged brakes. In the worst case scenario, they can fail completely when you’re out on the roads and cause you to have an accident. If you notice a grinding sound when turning, don’t hesitate to get it looked at as quickly as possible. 

Grinding sounds when driving

A grinding noise can sometimes be slightly harder to detect when you’re driving, depending on its volume and severity. Depending on exactly where it’s coming from, and how fast you’re going, it can be traced down to a number of factors. 

Water pump

If you find the grinding noise occurs when your engine’s running, it may well be the water pump. Unless your water pump is functioning correctly, your engine can quickly end up overheating, which can cause catastrophic and sometimes irreparable damage. It’ll need attention from a professional mechanic to diagnose and solve the problem - whether that’s you personally, or you have to take it to a garage. 


Another potential explanation for the grinding noise is a worn alternator, which essentially charges your battery when you’re driving. If your alternator becomes damaged or worn out, you can all too easily end up with a dead battery, which is a particularly frustrating issue to suffer if you end up at the side of the road. If you think your problem may be the alternator, it’s wise to get it checked just in case. 

Worn clutch

If you notice that a grinding sound only occurs when you change gears, it may well be a sign that the transmission is failing - which is a very serious and expensive problem to have. With enough early warning, you can avoid suffering the worst of the consequences, so make sure to give it some professional attention as soon as you can. 

Air conditioning compressors

You may discover that the grinding noise only occurs when your air conditioning is running, which thankfully isn’t as serious a problem as some of the others on this list. However, there’s no denying it can be annoying, especially in the summer when you’re relying on your air conditioning more often for comfort. A quick check-over by a professional mechanic should normally be enough to solve the problem. 

Obviously, whatever the exact nature of the grinding noise, you should never let it go unchecked for too long. It could be something that’s trivial and easily sorted, or it could be something poses an immediate safety issue. It’s not worth taking the risk!

And if you’re looking for replacement parts to help fix the issue - or you’re just looking for a whole new vehicle - we’ve got plenty to choose from right here at RAW2K. We’ve got a huge range of used cars, seized cars and salvage cars to choose from, with models available from a range of global manufacturers including Ford, Peugeot and Volkswagen. Why not take a look around, and see what you can find?