What’s that grinding noise when turning the steering wheel?

Updated Mar 16, 2021 | Same topic: Handy Maintenance Tips

Unusual sounds coming from the steering system could point to a problem.

Cars move around by means of the steering wheel, which controls the front wheels. As a mechanical instrument made up of moving parts, your car makes a number of sounds while in operation. However, grinding noise when turning left or right shouldn’t be one of them.

Woman in car

Hearing noises when you turn the steering wheel left or right shouldn't be taken lightly

An unusual sound when twisting the wheel in either direction is more than annoying. It’s the first sign of trouble, and should especially concern you since the steering system is part of the vehicle’s vital functions. Compromising a car’s maneuverability affects how the driver can evade dangers on the road, and it can also turn the car itself into a hazard that puts other road users at risk.     

What causes a grinding noise when turning the steering wheel? A car is made up of moving parts, and some of them are located in the steering and suspension system. Any one of these components malfunctioning can result in a grinding noise as you turn the steering wheel.

Faulty power steering rack

The power steering rack connects the fuel and electrical systems together, assisting you in turning the wheel with minimal effort. When noises appear as you pull the steering wheel to the left or the right at low speeds, it’s probably the power steering rack that needs to be fixed or replaced.

Worn out shock absorbers

Engineered to support the weight of the vehicle, shock absorbers and struts should ideally last for a long time.

Car underchassis

Have your shock absorbers periodically checked for damage

But real-world usage such as frequent exposure to ruts and bumps can accelerate the wear and tear on suspension components, leading to premature damage.

Broken steering column bearing

A grinding noise during maneuvers could warrant inspecting the health of the steering’s upper bearing. It’s especially vulnerable during hot and humid weather which adds to the heat generated by the car’s operation. As a result, the steering column could expand and cause the plastic parts to rub against other components, producing the sound.

Malfunctioning tie rod ends

The tie rods enable the wheels to respond to the input from the steering wheel. Over time, tie rods can become loose, damaged, or worn from excessive use.

Tie rods

Tie rods can lose their lubrication over time or due to harsh driving conditions

Consequently, this will make the steering wheel produce noticeable grinding or creaking noises that can are audible not just to the driver, but the passengers as well.

>>> Related: 10 bad car noises Filipino drivers should look out for

Dry ball joints

Ball joints link the control arms and steering knuckles to help maintain the car’s control while running at a variety of speeds. To do this properly they need to be properly lubricated. If the lubrication on the ball joint dries up, this can increase friction between the ball and socket, causing the grinding noise.

Dry front strut bushings

Jounce bushings on the front struts dampen the shocks and bumps that a car endures on a regular basis. Eventually, the bushings will dry out, or a particularly nasty bump might be too much for the lubrication to dampen. When this happens, the vibration will become stronger and the joints will move excessively.

Worn control arm bushings 

The wheel hub and steering knuckle are connected to the vehicle’s frame by means of the control arms, with bushings located at the joints between the upper and lower arms. These bushings are meant to absorb shocks and vibrations, but when these impacts build up over time, the parts will eventually be damaged, causing the grinding noise when you turn steering wheel.

Damaged steering shaft joint

The wheel and steering rack are connected by a joint that straightens the steering shaft. Regular wear and tear can break down this component prematurely. When the joint has stopped moving properly, the steering wheel can end up being stiffer than usual,  apart from producing a grinding noise.   

Get more automotive tips at Philkotse.com

Joseph Paolo Estabillo

Joseph Paolo Estabillo

Author

Joseph has been a member of various car clubs since he got his driver's license in 2004 – old enough to remember riding in taxicabs with analog meters, but his fascination with cars goes way back. After nearly two decades of working in broadcast media, he shifted gears by coming on board as Philkotse’s first Filipino member and staff writer in 2017.

Apart from his role in Philkotse as Content Team Lead, Joseph has written episodes for Drive, which has been airing on CNN Philippines for five seasons running. He has also delivered content for various car dealerships based in the U.S., spanning multiple brands such as Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Jeep, Dodge, among others.

Keeping his hopes high and his revs low, he dreams about owning a Kei car when he retires. Hates slow parkers.

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