Car Makes Screeching Noise When Turning Key:Why?

If your car and its engine are in good working condition you would be able to start you car easily, right?But are you noticing that your car makes screeching noise when turning key lately? If so, you may be thinking that this can’t be a good sign. And yes you are right! Here are some reasons why your car’s starter may make an annoying screeching noise when you turn the key.

How Does The Starter Work?

Knowing how the system works before diving deeper into the reasons why a car makes screeching noise when turning key can come in handy to you. Having a good knowledge of how the system works will help you understand the issue much more easily.

Your car’s engine needs force to turn it on in order to crank and run. So when we turn our key in the starter of the car, air and fuel intake starts to jump, compressing it in the process. The starter motor is an electrical component of the car which is employed with the role of turning the engine over when the key is turned in the ignition.

The starter consists of components like an electric motor, a shaft and a pinion gear (also called a drive gear). When you turn the key in the ignition, electricity gets sent to the starter. The shaft extends and the pinion gear engages with a gear ring located on the engine’s flywheel. A solenoid is used as a switch by the motor since a heavy load of electricity is required to operate the starter. Current is fed into the solenoid when the key is moved from the “on” position to the “run” position.

This is how the starter normally works when you turn your key in the ignition. Did you knew any of these information before? If you didn’t, then you probably are surprised. Knowing that lot goes on in the moment between you turning the key in the ignition and the engine starts is quite surprising.

Common Reasons Why Car Makes Screeching Noise When Turning Key

There are several reasons why your car makes screeching noise when turning key. Here are the main reasons why this issue happens.

1. Bad Starter Drive Gear

The most common and probable reason why a car makes screeching noise when turning key is a bad starter drive gear. This happens when the drive gear is grinding on the teeth of the flywheel. The drive gears are prone to wearing down over time like most other components. A starter can be changed twice or even thrice in the lifespan of a car depending on the pace of wearing off of the starter. If the cause is a bad starter drive gear, you must get your starter replaced before cranking up the engine again. 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.

2. Bad Starter Solenoid

Another very common reason why a car makes screeching noise when turning key is a bad or faulty starter solenoid. Like many other components of a car, starter solenoids are subject to high temperatures and heat. They also have heavy workloads and all this together can make them fail. Sometimes starter solenoids can be replaced without having to replace the whole starter unit. But some other times if the pinion or drive gear are heavily worn, you may have to replace the starter altogether.

3. Bendix Clutch Dust Contamination

If you replaced your car’s old clutch with a new one recently, it is possible that the dust and other contaminants from the old clutch blocked the Bendix gear on the starter. This is only the case of a car with manual transmission. This causes “dry” operation and makes the car starter to screech when the key is turned. This situation may be temporary and the issue will probably get resolved on its own.

4. Dead Battery

A dead battery is also quite a common reason why your car starter screeches when the key is turned in Ignition. However, most probably the sound that is made when the key is turned on in Ignition is clicking noises when you have a dead battery. In such a case you must replace the battery.

What Should I Do Next?

It’s best to get the help of a mechanic as soon as you notice screeching noises from the starter when the key is turned on. The mechanic will first examine these noises and then will visually verify the starter to diagnose what the issue is. The mechanic will inspect the starter, the starter solenoid and the other parts too to diagnose what the issue is to effectively repair it.

Is It Important To Do This Service?

Even though a screeching sound when you turn the key in the ignition may not seem like an issue, it must be immediately checked. You may tend to ignore such an issue thinking it’s a simple issue that can be ignored. Some of these issues can be avoided completely by just doing regular maintenance services. Regular maintenance is the best defence against many 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).


Car making screeching noises, when the key is turned on at the starter is not something that is to be taken lightly. You may be feeling annoyed on hearing your car make such noises. However, most people tend to ignore such issues thinking it’s nothing. But no matter how busy you are, any unusual issues with the car must be treated with utmost importance. So get your car checked by a mechanic as soon as possible. This article discussed the main reasons why your car tends to make screeching noises when turning the key. Hope you found it helpful!

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