Car Won’t Start & Makes Grinding Noise? (5 Common Issues)

Is your vehicle not starting and making a grinding noise?

This could be a result of different types of issues with your vehicle, such a problem with:

  • the battery,
  • the fuel system,
  • the ignition switch,
  • or other types of issues.

On this page, you will find some things that could cause this, and how to fix them.

We also have an article here to help: If the grinding noise appears while turning your car.

Steps to Identify What is Causing the Grinding Noise

Grinding noises usually indicate that the vehicle requires some repair or maintenance.

Overdue maintenance is also one of the many reasons vehicles suddenly won’t start.

If the vehicle isn’t starting and creates a grinding noise instead, you must first locate where the noise is coming from.

Crank the Engine:

The first step would be to crank the engine. If you don’t do that, you probably can’t locate where the grinding noise originates.

Keep cranking the engine to locate the source of the noise.

Lift the Hood

It’s important to get familiar with the different parts of the engine for this step.

You can use the owner’s manual or search for an online diagram to locate the different parts, such as:

  • the alternator,
  • water pump,
  • power steering pump,
  • etc.

Lift the hood and figure out where the alternator, power steering pump, and water pump are, then move on to step three.

Listen to the Sounds:

The best way to listen if the grinding sound is coming from the alternator of the vehicle is to take a rubber hose and put one of its ends on the alternator and the second one on your ear.

If the sound is coming from the alternator, it might need a repair or replacement.

You can use the same method as the rubber hose to listen to the water pump and the power steering to locate where the grinding noise is coming from.

We have an article here to help you if your car makes a grinding noise while idle or driving slow.

Reasons Why the Vehicle Makes a Grinding Noise

As compared to the other noises a vehicle creates when it undergoes some sort of maintenance issue, a grinding noise is very distinct.

For instance, a high-pitched whining noise coming from the vehicle may indicate a damaged accessory belt. Damaged belts usually make the vehicle lose all its power, but if you hear a recurring grinding sound, it is not a problem with the vehicle’s accessory belt.

When you turn the key or press the start button, and the engine makes a clicking or ticking sound, it means there is no fault in the starter solenoid and the vehicle doesn’t have a grinding noise problem.

Here’s why the vehicle might be making a grinding sound and not starting.

Dead Battery


The battery of a vehicle is its power source.

One of the reasons the vehicle may create a grinding sound is that the battery of the vehicle may have reached the end of its lifespan.

By listening closely to the sound, if you figure that the sound is more like rapid clicks than a grinding noise, then it indicates that the battery of the vehicle is completely dead.

On the other hand, a grinding noise will sound something like metal rubbing against metal.

The problem could also be corroded battery terminals. However, if the problem lies within the terminals of the battery, the vehicle might not sometimes make any sounds when you turn the key.

To be completely sure, inspect the battery terminals.

There are also a number of ways that indicate the vehicle’s battery is failing.

For instance, a bad battery will not fully power the vehicle; you’ll notice that the headlights are dim, and there will be a lot of general electrical problems within the vehicle, such as a radio, window motor, or windshield wiper malfunction.

In addition, the battery might’ve completed its warranty. The average warranty of a battery in modern conventional vehicles is 3-5 years.

If the battery has been running for over three years, it might start to develop problems.

Faulty Ignition Switch:

A dead battery will also mess with the ignition switch.

To find out if the ignition switch is causing the problem, try turning on the headlights. The reason behind that is the battery controls the headlights and the dashboard of a vehicle.

If the headlights turn on and the engine is still unable to start, the ignition switch might be the culprit.

Defective Starter Solenoid:

The most common reason behind a grinding noise made by the vehicle is a faulty starter.

The starter plays the role of setting all the engine compartments in motion. It is an electric motor connected to the battery of the vehicle.

With a bad starter, the engine will not crank properly or may not even crank at all when you turn the ignition switch, ON.

In addition, a broken or weakened starter will make a clicking noise when you try to start the vehicle.

In some rare cases, the engine of the vehicle may even start by itself due to a broken starter before turning the key to crank it up. In other situations, when you firmly hold the key while turning it, the starter is engaged but will disengage as soon as the key is released.

Intermittent starting is also an issue linked to a weakened or broken starter.

Other issues that are linked to the starter of a vehicle might be a blown fuse in the circuit or damaged wires that connect the battery to the starter solenoid. Loose wires also prevent sufficient power from reaching the vehicle’s battery.

Clogged Fuel Filter:

A clogged fuel filter also prevents a sufficient amount of gasoline from reaching the engine. This makes it difficult for the vehicle to burn fuel due to the wrong amount of air-to-fuel mixture in the engine.

The fuel pump also struggles due to the increased pressure in the fuel line when there’s a clogged fuel filter.

A clogged fuel filter not only causes the cylinder to misfire but prevents the vehicle from starting due to the insufficient amount of fuel that reaches the engine.

Clutch Dust Contamination:

This problem usually arises in manual transmissions that recently got a clutch repair or replacement.

In cases of a clutch replacement, the dust from the old clutch contaminates the gear on the starter solenoid.

It results in the starter creating a loud noise when it’s engaged.

The problem is usually short-lived, but if it persists, ensure that you take the vehicle to a mechanic to inspect and clean the clutch.

Failing Water Pump

A bad water pump also creates a grinding noise when the engine is started.

The water pump is located around the cooling system and works by pushing the coolant from the radiator all the way to the coolant system, the engine, and back to the radiator of the vehicle.

You should never drive a car with a bad water pump.

Usually, the noise from the water pump is created by worn-out bearings on the pump because the bearings lock up the pump’s housing.

However, it’s normal for the water pump bearings to fail when the vehicle is regularly used.

If the noise is coming from the bearings, they must be replaced as soon as possible because these bearings can further damage the other components of the water pump.

Worn Alternator:

The alternator of the vehicle is a crucial part of its charging system because it converts mechanical energy into electrical energy and continually charges the vehicle.

When the alternator is failing, the vehicle will make a grinding noise every time you try to start it.

There are many signs of a worn alternator, including the service battery light on the dashboard flashing ON.

There is also the smell of burning rubber that indicates that the vehicle’s alternator is failing.

With a worn-out alternator, you’ll observe that the electrical accessories of the vehicle are malfunctioning. A faulty alternator must be replaced at once.

Check out this article also with reasons for grinding noise in cars during acceleration and braking.

How to Get Rid of the Grinding Noise?

Here’s what you should do to fix the grinding noise coming from the vehicle.

1. For the Solenoid:

  • To fix the starter problem, lift the hood of the vehicle and disconnect the battery.
  • To locate the starter, you can follow the positive charge cable coming from the battery, it will lead you directly to the starter.
  • Using a jack to raise the vehicle and remove the positive battery cable connected to the starter motor. Also, ensure that you remove the solenoid energizer wire, which is smaller than the battery cable but just as crucial.
  • Remove and set aside the starter mounting bolts.
  • The ring gear teeth inside the starter mounting hole must have crisp and sharp edges if the ring gear is fresh.
  • If the ring gear teeth have any discoloration, then the flywheel or ring gear flex plate must be removed at once.
  • If there is no abnormal wear on the ring gear teeth, the problem might lie within the starter, and it would have to be replaced immediately.

2. For the Ignition Switch:

  • Ensuring that all the electrical systems of the vehicle are still intact, you can replace the ignition switch. In most cases, the key inserted into the ignition switch is worn out. Replace the key if that seems to be the issue.

3. For the Clogged Fuel Filter:

  • Experts say that a fuel filter must be replaced after the vehicle has run approximately 30,000 miles. For cleaning the fuel filter, use the owner’s manual to find the fuse to the fuel filter.
  • Turn OFF the fuse to relieve the pressure inside the fuel system and shut down the vehicle. Once done, remove the cable connecting the negative terminal of the battery.
  • Place a bucket under the filter to catch any fuel that escapes the filter during the cleaning method.
  • Use a wrench or hose to remove the fuel lines to replace the filter. For cleaning the filter, use a carburetor cleaner.

4. For the Water Pump:

  • To prevent any metal-on-metal contact, apply a lubricant to the bearings of the water pump. There should be a thin layer of oil on the contact surfaces of the bearings. If that doesn’t solve the problem, take the vehicle to a mechanic for inspection.

5. For the Alternator:

  • Replace the bearings and the bushes in the alternator.
  • Tighten the alternator belt and bolts.
  • Lubricate the bearings.
  • Try replacing the rotor or the alternator seals if nothing else solves the issue with the alternator. Take the vehicle to a mechanic if nothing else works.
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