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A few months ago I bought a used manual '98 VW Golf. It has a lot of new parts (including a fairly new clutch), and I bought it knowing that I needed to get my engine's MAF cleaned/fixed (fairly inexpensive fix) because I got a good deal on it.
Not even a week after buying it, the muffler came off. I spent $700 replacing everything from the converter & back because there was a shoddy patch-up job done on it previously.
Now more recently, I'm hearing a loud, unnerving grinding sound that is occurring more often over time. The sound only occurs when I take my foot off the gas pedal, or for a second when I'm shifting. If I push in the clutch or push on the gas, the sound goes away instantly.
If I were to describe the sound, the image I get in my head is a metal gear spinning against another metal gear, but not the way it should - it's a grinding noise, not a metal-on-metal rubbing noise. It also seems to get slightly higher in pitch the higher the gear I'm in, but when I'm in 4th or 5th gear, it occurs rarely.
It used to only make the sound when someone else was in the car, so I thought it had to do with the extra weight of a person causing pressure on something. But now it happens even when I'm alone.
I've looked online and have found a million different possibilities, but of course, no one ever posts anything conclusive after figuring it out in their help threads to confirm the problem. I also don't know very much about cars, which is why I hesitate to take it to a mechanic that's just going to rip me off for being a mechanically-ignorant girl in her 20's.
Does anyone have any idea what it could be?
(Until I find out, I'm only driving it when absolutely necessary.)