Car Sounds Like Something Is Dragging but Nothing Is

If your car sounds like something is dragging but nothing is, it could be due to worn-out brake rotors or a stone stuck in the brake system.

Car Sounds Like Something Is Dragging But Nothing Is

In this guide, our automobile team will discuss the common reasons why a car would produce a dragging-like sound while driving, even when there’s nothing to drag, so let’s get started.

What Are Reasons Why Your Car Sounds Like Something Is Dragging?

The reasons why your car sounds like something is dragging include faulty wheel bearings, objects inside the braking system, a loose heating shield, detached exhaust, and a stuck handbrake. Other common reasons include failing pads in the brake system, lack of lubrication of brake parts, and a loose dust shield.

– Defective Wheel Bearing

Cars come equipped with four-wheel bearings, two in the front and two at the rear. The bearings help the wheels to rotate smoothly by lowering the friction between the axle and the wheels. However, continuous use of the bearings can cause one or more of them to be faulty or damaged, leading to other vehicle problems.

You could have a defective bearing once you start hearing a dragging sound in the front of your vehicle. If the bearing is damaged, you will hear a loud grinding or clicking noise. It could also be a humming or growling noise that becomes louder as you press the acceleration pedal. If the damaged bearings continue to be used without getting fixed, it will lead to tire failure.

– Stones Stuck Inside the Braking System

There are basically two types of brakes. The first is disc brakes and other being drum brakes. Stones can get stuck in either brake, causing an unpleasant dragging noise. For example, stones can get stuck in a disc braking system when the brakes are applied while driving on a gravel road. The stones then become wedged between the brake’s pads and the caliper.

Another instance is if the stones are fixed between the rotor and caliper, becoming stuck in the brake system. Likewise, stones and other objects can make their way to the shoes of drum brakes, becoming lodged inside the system. Once these stones or stone-like objects are inside the brake system, you will notice the car grinding or scraping while in motion.

– Detached Heat Shield

A heat shield is a metallic or ceramic material fixed between the engine and exhaust system to prevent damage to other internal components of the vehicle. The shield is a barrier designed to protect against engine misfires and overheating. So, if it becomes slightly or partially detached, it will cause the car to start making noises.

Causes of Car Sounds Like Something Is Dragging But Nothing Is

A loosened shield will make a rattling noise while you’re driving the vehicle. In many cases, the shield becomes loose due to wear and tear and age because the bolts and fasteners that hold the shield in position could have fallen out. More so, if the car is involved in a collision with another vehicle, it will cause the shield not to be adequately secured.

– Exhaust Has Come Loose

The function of a car’s exhaust system is to collect and direct the fumes from the engine out of the vehicle. The exhaust system is responsible for expelling the exhaust gases produced during the operation of the internal combustion engine. The exhaust is comprised of parts such as the muffler, pipes, and hangers. One way to tell the exhaust has come loose is if there is a scraping sound coming from the back of the vehicle.

Also, if you examine the back of the vehicle and spot that the exhaust hangs lower than usual, take note that it has become loose. Thus, when you drive the vehicle and hit bumps in the road or make sharp turns, the exhaust will bang against the car’s underside. The banging sound will resemble a rattle-like noise when it happens. Furthermore, accelerating the vehicle will cause increased pressure from the exhaust, leading to a scrapping sound.

– Stuck Handbrake

Although the handbrake can be used as a backup braking system in case the primary braking system fails, its main purpose is to ensure the vehicle doesn’t roll away when parked. The handbrake uses a different circuit from the main pedal brakes. So, if you discover a scraping noise at the back of your car, it could mean that the handbrake is stuck.

– Failing Pads in Brake System

Brake pads play a vital role in a vehicle’s braking system. They are composed of steel backing plates with friction material bound to the surface. They are used to create friction so applying pressure to the brake pedal causes the car to slow down or stop. The pads can be found between the caliper, which houses the brake fluid, and the brake rotor (a metal disc that extends beyond the wheel).

The pads are bound to wear out with time and start to fail. When this happens, you will notice a scraping sound coming from the brakes, especially when you start driving the vehicle after it has been parked for a while. Another symptom of failing pads is that the brakes feel unresponsive whenever you press the pedal.

– Lack of Lubrication in Brake Parts

Lubrication is important to the proper functioning of brake parts. The backside should be lubricated with a brake caliper tube when the pads are installed. If you fail to do this, the metal of the pad and the metal of the caliper piston will rub against each other, producing a squealing sound while driving.

Lubrication in Car Brake Parts

Lubrication reduces friction between the two moving metal parts. Also, the lack of lubrication on the caliper side pins that connect the two sides of the brake caliper can cause a rubbing sound to be produced from the braking system.

– Dry Brake Caliper Bolts

A brake caliper is a hydraulic-operated brake component that clamps down on the brake’s pads to create friction against the rotating brake rotor. The caliper bolts are attached to the caliper bracket and used to hold it tightly to the spindle or steering knuckle. If the caliper bolts are dry due to a lack of lubrication, they will make sounds while driving.

– Worn Brake Rotors

Brake rotors are essential to the brake system as they work with the pads to safely halt the car whenever the brake pedal is pressed. The rotor and the wheel rotate in tandem, so when the brake pedal is applied, the pad clamps onto the rotor and stops the car. If the brake rotors are worn or damaged, they will make various irritating sounds while driving.

The brake rotors can become faulty if warped, gouged, or cracked. Warped rotors will produce a squealing sound when the brake is applied. Once the rotors have become too worn out, they will make a scraping sound while the vehicle is in motion. The worn rotors will create lots of vibration in the braking system that you can feel through the steering wheel or brake pedal.

How To Fix Your Car That Sounds Like Something Is Dragging?

You can fix your car if it sounds like something is dragging by fastening the heating shield, repairing the exhaust, replacing the worn-out pads in the brake system, and applying lubrication to the brake parts. Other remedies include fixing the brake rotors and replacing the wheel bearings.

– Fasten the Heating Shield

Inspect the heating shield to check that it is the source of the problem. Once confirmed, you should tighten the shield back in place. To do this, loosen the screw hose clamp and wrap it around the heating shield and exhaust component so the shield doesn’t move around. Then use a screwdriver or socket wrench to tighten the hose clamp into position, causing the shield to be well-fastened.

– Repair the Exhaust

A loose exhaust should be fixed by first removing the heating shield. This will allow you to loosen the bolts that hold the exhaust pipe to the manifold. Get a wire brush to take out any rust or debris on the surface that is to be welded. Then use a clamp to hold the exhaust pipe in place while you weld around the circumference of the joint between the pipe and manifold.

Solutions of Car Sounds Like Something Is Dragging But Nothing Is

After welding, let the area cool off for some time before reinstalling the bolts that hold the exhaust pipe to the manifold. Once the bolts have been tightened, put back the heating shield. Next, test the engine’s performance by starting the car to check if there are any problems.

– Replace Brake Pads

The damaged or warped pads can be replaced by loosening the lugs on the first wheel, jacking the car up (both wheels should be on the jack), and removing the tire. Take the two slide pins out of the caliper and its safety clip before compressing the caliper piston using a C-clamp. Remove the old pads and replace them with the new unit.

Ensure you lubricate the caliper slide pins with silicone grease and grease the exterior of the inner pad at the point of contact with the piston. Reinstall the other components and the wheel. Check for leaks in the brake’s caliper before testing the brakes to see if the pads work correctly.

– Apply Lubrication to Brake Parts

If the lack of lubrication on the brake parts is why your vehicle is making noise, then you should apply it to the parts. When installing new pads, you must grease the back side of the pads with a brake caliper tube.
Similarly, it would be best to grease the caliper bolts so they won’t become dry and produce sounds while driving. You should consult with a vetted mechanic to service the vehicle and have the lubrication applied to these brake parts.

– Fix Brake Rotors

Worn-out brake rotors should be replaced with new ones. Check into an auto shop to have the rotors inspected. If they have become warped or damaged, they should be removed and new rotors should be installed.

The cost of repairing or replacing the brake system depends on the vehicle’s year, make, and model. Newer car models often cost more, with new brakes ranging between $300 and $1,000. Also, the quality of service you want determines the cost you will incur from repairing the brake system.

– Replace Wheel Bearing

Once you have confirmed that the bearing is responsible for the dragging sound, you should fix the problem by replacing the bearing with a new unit. To replace the bearing, jack up the vehicle to remove the tire so you can access the back of the rotor and remove the damaged bearing. Compress the spring using a C-clamp to remove the caliper without disconnecting the brake line.

Then remove the rotor by unscrewing the two bolts holding it down and take out the old bearing from its housing by pulling out the axle shaft. Install the new bearing and lubricate it with some bearing grease before it is attached to its housing on the axle shaft. After that, reinstall the removed components and put back the tire.

If you are wondering whether or not you can replace just one wheel bearing, the answer is yes, you can replace just one bearing at a time. However, you should know that if one of the bearings is faulty, the others are likely defective too. So, it’s often recommended that you have the mechanic replace all four bearings at the same time to eliminate the noise.

Car Sounds Like Something Is Dragging But Nothing Is Solved


Having read through the article and the recommendations herein, you should know your car is sounding like something is dragging due to some defective mechanical parts.

Here’s a summary of what we have discussed so far:

  • A loose heat shield can cause a dragging-like noise when the vehicle is in motion, so it should be fixed by fastening the shield in place.
  • Defective wheel bearings should be fixed by replacing the old bearings with new units.
  • Warped pads in the brake system can cause a scraping sound while driving, so they should be replaced with new pads.
  • Brake parts should be properly lubricated to avoid friction among the metal parts and prevent a rubbing noise from being produced.

The next time your car makes a rattling noise, you can feel confident that you can locate the issue and do the right thing.

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