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Grinding noise when key turns in ignition Inspection Service & Cost

When you turn the key in your car’s ignition, you expect the engine to crank. If your ignition and charging system are in good working order, that’s generally what happens, but there are times that this might not occur. If you turn the key and hear a grinding noise, there’s a problem that must be diagnosed and repaired before the engine will crank.

How this system works:

In order for your engine to crank and run, it must be turned over with force. This jump-starts air and fuel intake, compressing it in the process. The starter motor is an electrical component, and is responsible for turning the engine over when the key is turned in the ignition. The starter consists of an electric motor, a shaft and a pinion gear (also called a drive gear). When the key is turned in the ignition, electricity is sent to the starter. The shaft extends and the pinion gear engages with a gear ring located on the engine’s flywheel. Because of the heavy electrical load required to operate the starter, a solenoid is used as a switch. Current is fed into the solenoid when the key is moved from the “on” position to the “run” position.

Common reasons for this to happen:

  • Bad Starter Drive Gear: Perhaps the most common problem here is the starter drive gear grinding on the teeth of the flywheel. The drive gear wears down over time – a car could go through two, even three starters in its lifespan. If this is the cause, the starter will need to be replaced before you can crank the engine. You may be more familiar with this as the starter pinion gear, or Bendix, but they all refer to the same part of the system.

  • Bad Starter Solenoid: Another very common problem here is a failed starter solenoid. Like all other electrical components, starter solenoids are subject to high heat and heavy workloads, and will eventually fail. Some starter solenoids can be replaced without replacing the starter, but if there is heavy wear to the pinion/drive gear, replacing both is recommended.

  • Bendix Clutch Dust Contamination: If you drive a car with a manual transmission and the clutch was recently replaced, it’s possible that dust from the old clutch contaminated the Bendix gear on the starter. This causes “dry” operation, and the starter makes a loud noise when engaging. This is a temporary situation and should resolve itself in a short time.

  • Dead Battery: The second most common issue here is a dead battery. Listen carefully to the noise. If it sounds more like a series of rapid clicks rather than metal-on-metal grinding, chances are good that the battery is dead and must be replaced.

What to expect:

A top-rated mobile mechanic will come to your home or office to inspect the entire starting system and determine the source and cause of the grinding noise. The mechanic will then provide a detailed inspection report that includes the scope and cost of the necessary repairs.

How it's done:

The mechanic will need to inspect the vehicle, including listening to the grinding noise on cranking. Next, the mechanic will visually inspect the starter and determine the underlying cause of the problem. It may be necessary to test both the starter and the starter solenoid, as well as troubleshooting any other possible problems.

How important is this service?

Without an operable ignition system, your engine will not crank and your car will be unable to move. Regular maintenance is the best defense against some common problems here, particularly battery problems. Charging system tests should be conducted during normal maintenance, alerting you to the fact that the battery is beginning to fail. These tests will also check starter operation, although they are not foolproof protection against a failed starter. Note that continually trying to crank a car with a damaged starter could cause additional damage to the starter (the flywheel will turn the starter too fast). If you hear a grinding noise when the key turns in the ignition, one of our certified mechanics can inspect and repair the problem.

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