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Q: Crunching, grinding, popping under front end

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There is a very loud crunching and popping sound accompanied by metallic grinding coming from the front, driver's side wheel area. I've heard it for about 3 weeks now, but it's never consistent. Nothing I could find triggered it or prevented it, and most days it never occurred. I can feel the crunching in my feet and every so often it will affect the drive, the side the sound is coming from will lag for a split second as if in mud or water. But today I was pulling into a parking lot when I heard a very loud crunch and what sounded like a piece of the car falling out from the front end. I continued into the lot and then my space under 5 mph. The entire way I heard the horrific crunching, grinding, and popping much worse than ever. It sounded and felt like I was dragging a piece of the car. I parked, turned the wheel, and did a quick inspection but didn't see anything obvious.

My car has 120000 miles.
My car has an automatic transmission.

A: It sounds like the brake pads or wheel bear...

It sounds like the brake pads or wheel bearing may have failed. If the brake pad surface is worn, it will grind against the rotor surface, especially during braking.

The bearings could also be to blame. Over time the bearing will wear out to the point that there is no more lubrication and metallic noises will be present.

Those are the two most likely causes but there could also be some other front end issues that may need immediate attention.

I suggest having a qualified technician, such as one from YourMechanic, inspect the vehicle to determine what is causing the grinding noise that you are describing. They will be able to detect the fault and make any needed repairs to resolve this issue.

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