We all know the feeling. You’re driving your car on the way to work or running errands, and all of a sudden you hear a noise you’ve never heard before. At first, you can’t tell where it came from. You might not even be sure it was from your vehicle. But then, as you continue to drive, you hear a distinct, strange sound that only happens when you do certain things with your car.
One of the common sounds drivers report hearing is a grinding noise that happens when the car is turning. Understandably, this is often disconcerting to car owners, who want to make sure their car is in good working order and safe to drive before taking it back out on the road. Read on as we cover some of the possible culprits for this mysterious noise and lay out a few possible solutions that will ensure your car’s properly functioning and that annoying grinding noise is banished once and for all.
What are some of the potential causes of a grinding noise when turning?
Before we go any further, we want to know what’s responsible for these sounds. Well, it turns out there are a few usual suspects that could be creating the grinding noise you’re hearing when you’re behind the wheel. They typically include the following:
- A worn CV axle
- Worn brake components
- A power steering fluid leak
Why do these problems cause a grinding noise when turning, and are they always a cause for concern?
Any kind of abnormal noise that a car makes is cause for concern. If the car did not make the noise to start with, then you should have it inspected.
A worn CV axle can cause what some people describe as a grinding noise. This noise is commonly heard on tight turns at slow speeds. When an axle wears, the joint no longer smoothly articulates. This in turn causes a grinding noise when it catches at a stiff spot.
Worn out brake pads will make noise when applying the brakes, but can also make noise when going through a turn. This is because the geometry of the suspension changes, which can also cause the brake pads to make contact with the brake rotor. The grinding noise happens when there is no brake pad material remaining and the metal backing plate contacts the metal brake rotor.
When the power steering fluid is low there is a moaning/grinding noise that is heard when turning the steering wheel. This noise comes from air bubbles in the power steering fluid. As the fluid moves through the system, the bubbles move and cause a noise.
Are there any signs to look out for that would suggest a specific issue might be causing the grinding noise while driving?
The easiest symptom to look for that will point to the cause is the direction from which the noise is coming.
- A worn CV axle may also spray grease around the axle. In this case, there would be globs of grease just inside of the wheel. The noise from a worn CV axle can be similar to a brake grinding noise as far as position goes, but a worn CV axle will not likely make noise when applying the brakes.
- With the CV axle and the brake noise, the noise will sound like it is coming from just one wheel.
- With low power steering fluid, the noise will seem to come from under the hood and can also seem to come from the steering wheel.
How can we fix problems like worn CV axles, worn brake pads, and low power steering fluid?
The first step in fixing any noise is identifying where the problem is. All wheel drive cars have 4 CV axles, so after identifying which axle is making noise the axle is then replaced.
Nearly all modern cars have four brake rotors, eight brake pads and four brake calipers. After pinpointing the cause of the noise, the brakes are replaced as an axle set, which means front brakes or rear brakes. Once brakes make noise, the brake rotor must also be replaced.
Once a noise is found to be coming from the power steering system, the leak must then be located. The power steering fluid system consists of the power steering pump, power steering reservoir, power steering rack, power steering cooler, and multiple hoses. Any of these parts can leak and cause a problem. Once the leak is found, the part will need to be replaced.
Are there any steps drivers can take to prevent these from happening in the first place?
The biggest step that can be taken to prevent these failures is to have regular inspections. At Alexander’s Import, we look out for signs of leakage and brake wear on every oil change.
The brakes, CV axles, and usually power steering fluid leaks do not happen overnight. They will show signs of wear or leakage before they get to the point of making noise. If cars are brought in for scheduled maintenance and issues are repaired at the recommended time, you may never hear noise from any of these parts to begin with!