Grinding noise from wheels
April 11, 2006 10:17 AM   Subscribe

The front wheels are making a grinding noise when I move the steering wheel to the left ('98 Accord.) Happens even when the brakes aren't being pressed. Can anyone provide a Bill Frist-style remote diagnosis, and will I regret it if I don't bring it in to the shop for two more days?
posted by Saucy Intruder to Travel & Transportation (24 answers total)
Only when the car is in motion? If so, I think it's a wheel bearing.
posted by exogenous at 10:33 AM on April 11, 2006

Yeah, it's a high-pitched squealing noise. I do plan to have the brakes checked out but my internets research is pointing me in the direction of wheel bearings.

Am I going to regret it if I put 200 miles on it before taking it in?
posted by Saucy Intruder at 10:36 AM on April 11, 2006

tie rods?

will I regret it if I don't bring it in to the shop for two more days?

possibly ... i would suggest not driving it if possible ... if the problem is with tie rods or other parts of your steering mechanisms you may be in for an unpleasant surprise at high speed
posted by pyramid termite at 10:38 AM on April 11, 2006

Check your power steering fluid - now.
posted by DandyRandy at 10:38 AM on April 11, 2006

If it is the CV joint there is the possibility your front wheel/s will fall off, so sooner is better than later.
posted by edgeways at 10:40 AM on April 11, 2006

a squealing noise (i don't think of that as the same as grinding) might be a wheel bearing, brakes or a power steering pump problem ... that's not as dangerous, but i wouldn't drive it for 200 miles before taking it in ... quite likely you could cause further damage
posted by pyramid termite at 10:41 AM on April 11, 2006

Other clue: It only happens at low speeds. The slower the louder.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 10:41 AM on April 11, 2006

It's the CV joints only if the noise doesn't happen when coasting. Turn the wheel left and push on the gas. Now put the car in neutral and coast. If the noise doesn't occur then it's CV. If it happens even in neutral it's something else.

And just because you're not pressing on the brakes doesn't mean they're not dragging. You can have a sticky caliper or a warped rotor.

The big danger you have in continuing to drive it with a bad bearing is that it's gonna heat up a lot. In the most extreme you could get a seize. In the less extreme, and I dealt with this, the heat made it impossible to get the part off the axle without destroying it. The sooner you get it resolved the better your chances of minimizing your part expenses.
posted by phearlez at 10:41 AM on April 11, 2006

If it is the CV joint there is the possibility your front wheel/s will fall off, so sooner is better than later.

Absolute nonsense. To have a wheel come off the joint would have to fail in such an extreme circumstance as to be irrelevant. If you're taking corners in your car at racetrack speeds you deserve what you get. Examine the diagram at this instructional page and you'll see. Most likely in an extreme failure is your steering becomes -somewhat- poorer and you lose any ability to propel the car. This can certainly happen in dangerous circumstances but under no possibility will your "wheel fall off."
posted by phearlez at 10:48 AM on April 11, 2006

It's the part you need to not die while traveling at high speed. At the very least take corners very carefully, and keep your speed low.
posted by parallax7d at 11:02 AM on April 11, 2006

CV joimts make a clicking noise when they are going out. They are loudest when turning, not as loud when going straight. They will make noise even when coasting, but are more pronounced when engine has a load.
Quick obvious CV check is to look at the boot on the axle joint at the back of the wheel (visible in the first photo of phearlez link). Feel all the way around it. If there is a tear in the boot grease will have fallen out (slung out everywhere). No gease in the boot bad for CV joint. Grease slung on to disc brake bad for disc and for stopping.
posted by sailormouth at 11:11 AM on April 11, 2006

Thanks all. I suspect wheel bearings; I will perform phearlez's diagnostic test to make sure. Made an appointment tomorrow so it will only be 120 miles of driving, not 200.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 11:21 AM on April 11, 2006

CV joint failing=clicking when turning (usually the opposite direction of the failing joint. eg: passenger side clicking is loudest when turning left). I just replaced the CV joint on my 1991 Honda Accord last weekend.

Listen to determine from which side of the car the clicking is coming. Passenger side failure is more common (replacing the cv halfshaft--that part which attaches from the transmission to the wheel--is very reasonable(~60.00 for the part) and fairly simple to DIY if you are comfortable around a wrench. Budget about 3-4 hours, and be sure to have a torque wrench, a breaker bar, and a ball joint removal tool (most decent auto parts centers will loan you a torque wrench for free--the other things are very cheap to buy).
posted by Chrischris at 11:23 AM on April 11, 2006

Yeah, I'm not sure why everyone's harping on the CV joint idea. Squealing = wheel bearing.
posted by knave at 11:57 AM on April 11, 2006

Wait a sec, I just realized it could be a different type of squealing then I was thinking of. If it's a *really loud* squeal, then it's probably your power steering belt (since it happens when you turn the wheel at low speeds, which is when the power steering system requires the most power assistance).
posted by knave at 11:59 AM on April 11, 2006

Test for belt squeal, if you have it -- turn on the AC and see if it gets worse.
posted by eriko at 1:24 PM on April 11, 2006

Don't Hondas have a built-in squeal when the brake pads start to wear?
posted by dpcoffin at 2:00 PM on April 11, 2006

Most cars do, but it would happen independent of the steering wheel turning.
posted by knave at 2:02 PM on April 11, 2006

Is it a "high-pitched squealing noise" or is it a "grinding noise"? Because those are two different problems.

Grinding noise = bearing. Squealing noise could be a bearing, but if the noise is coming from inside the engine bay, it's probably the power steering system. Could be the pump, could be a leak, could just be low in fluids (could be low in fluids because of a leak).

The experiment for p/s failure is pretty simple: cut the wheel all the way (either direction) and move the car a bit. If you can have a helper standing by, you can lift the hood and move the car (VERY SLOWLY, obviously)--they'll be able to tell you if the noise is coming from the engine bay or under the car.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:23 PM on April 11, 2006

Check the power steering pump, too. I'm a car retard, but I've had this one happen to me, so I know how it starts :P
posted by cellphone at 4:26 PM on April 11, 2006

My vote goes to power steering belt or pump failure, because:

1. sound is louder when slower, when the power steering system is under the most load; wheel bearing, CV joint and other grinding should get louder when faster (unless overpowered by road noise);

2. sound is a high-pitched squeal, which is typical for belt slippage.

To be sure, though, I'd ask: does it happen when stopped? If so, it's absolutely the power steering belt or pump.
posted by davejay at 5:38 PM on April 11, 2006

Not to add even more amateur diagnosis tips, but if your car ever makes a noise that's repeatable while it's parked, pop open the hood, grab a length of hose, and put one end of that hose on your ear.

Makes it really damned easy to figure out where a sound is coming from (and a lot of automotive sounds are a bit hard to locate.)
posted by I Love Tacos at 9:58 PM on April 11, 2006

Update: The front brakes were shot. The noise is gone (for now anyway). Anytime that my repair bill remains in the three digits, I consider it a blessing - thanks all.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 8:02 PM on April 15, 2006

Thanks for the update! I always seem to come back to these car threads to find out what the actual source of the problem was.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:50 PM on April 16, 2006

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