I have a '94 BMW 318is manual transmission. I hear a grinding/whirring noise while driving that sounds to me like a bad bearing. I typically hear it when

  1. I engage the clutch. The sounds is more pronounced if I don't give it quite enough gas as I start.
  2. As I accelerate
  3. When downshifting

The noise is typically worse when the engine is in between 2000 and 3000 rpms. I would like to diagnose this problem, but more generally, what are some guidelines for diagnosing bearing problems in the clutch or drivetrain?

  • In #1, you state, "[when] I engage the clutch" ... do you mean when you press the clutch pedal, or release it? I'm assuming you actually have this right, but want to make sure. Commented May 20, 2016 at 13:21
  • I mean when I release it and the clutch plates engage
    – rviertel
    Commented May 21, 2016 at 0:19

2 Answers 2


Throw out bearings (TOB) usually make noise when only when you press the clutch pedal. The reason for this is, it is the only time it is engaged and actually can make a noise. If you are hearing this particular noise at 2000-3000 rpm when you aren't actuating the clutch, this can be ruled out almost immediately.

Input shaft bearing will make noise most of the time at any engine speed, though can be more pronounced at a given engine speed. It can also make more noise under a given load. A noise from the input shaft bearing will raise and lower with engine speed, and not with vehicle speed. You'll most likely hear it no matter what gear you are in. From your description, this seems most likely your issue.

The drive shaft support bearing will make noises which will raise and fall with vehicle speed. It will make the noise regardless of engine speed. You can be in 3rd gear going 40 mph or 4th gear at 40 mph and should still be able to hear the same noise (it's just an example ... throwing numbers out there). Considering what you've said, I doubt this is your issue.

It may also be one of the carrier bearings within the transmission. The thing is, though, whether a carrier bearing or an input shaft bearing, you'll need to have the transmission pulled to fix it. A good transmission shop should be able to give you the proper diagnosis.

  • 1
    Input shaft bearing is louder in gears 1-3, 4th gear gets quieter because there is no load being passed to the counter shaft, A sure way to tell if it is an input bearing.
    – Moab
    Commented May 20, 2016 at 16:26
  • @Moab - great point. Commented May 20, 2016 at 16:27

Sounds like the throwout bearing if you're hearing it mainly when you're operating the clutch pedal. Some vehicles do have an inspection port on the gearboxes bell housing, however in a lot of cases, removal of the gearbox and/or bell housing is required.

  • To be clear I don't hear it when I press on the clutch pedal, but when I release it and the drivetrain engages
    – rviertel
    Commented May 21, 2016 at 0:20
  • Yeah, apologies for being a bit vague. What I mean is that when you operate the clutch (let it engage the gear) the bearing that holds the load of the clutch disc/plate is worn, meaning that as it takes load you're feeling it in the car. Commented May 23, 2016 at 0:27
  • I see what you mean
    – rviertel
    Commented May 23, 2016 at 0:49

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