Car Maintenance And Repairs

What Cause A Clunking Noise When Driving And What To Do?

Mike Cross
Updated Dec 11, 2021
Clunking Noise When Driving

I have always prided myself on my independence. That is also true when it comes to my car. I heard a clunking noise when driving it a few months ago but didn’t think it was a big deal. It turns out, it was my power steering deteriorating. By the time I addressed the issue, my car was a total loss. This doesn’t need to be your story, and I hope this information will save you the time and money I lost.

Noise Resonating From the Front of the Car

Most times, simple explanations are the correct ones. Car issues are no different. If the noise you hear is coming from the front of your vehicle. It could be with loose lugnuts. First, you must check that the lug nuts are the correct make and model for your car. After you investigate if they are the correct part for your car, you can most likely tighten them.

This is accomplished by tightening the lug nuts with a wrench. Make sure to wrench the lug nut as far right as possible. Although a juvenile, the phrase “righty tighty lefty loosey” can serve real-life practice in this situation. Most times, the looseness is the culprit of a clunking noise coming from the front of your car. Now that the lug nuts are fastened, your car should drive smoothly with no issue.

Check Your Strut/Shock

Your lug nuts are tight, and you're still hearing a clunking noise. Now what? This will require further investigation. To check your tire’s inner workings, you are going to need a lift to raise your car off the ground. Once your car is in the air and accessible, you will turn the wheel towards you. This action will reveal all the workings of your wheel.  

First, check your strut. The strut is found inside the shock of your wheel. The shock is the piece of metal that looks like an intense slinky. If there is a bunch of dirt and debris in this area, it is most likely the cause of the clunking sound, meaning the strut would need to be replaced.  Also, check the mount on top of your strut/shock. If there is any damage to this piece, it could be the cause of your problem. 

Check Your Ball Joints

Next, check the ball joint on your tire. This is the piece of your car that stretches from the well of your wheel to the back of your tire. A great way to test the upper ball joint is to use a wrench. Accomplish this by placing your wrench on either side of the joint and squeezing. If it is easily squeezable, that means this piece is no good, and you need a new one.  

The lower ball joint is located at the bottom back of your tire. Next to your tie rod end, but a little further up will be a ball joint attached to your wheel. To examine if the lower ball joint is not up to par, you must test it. The test begins by keeping an eye on this mechanism while pressing your wheel back and forth. To get the correct motion, place your hands on the six and twelve positions of your tire.  

Press back and forth to examine this part of the car. If there is a movement within the lower ball joint while using this method, then the part is inadequate and must be replaced.  

Check the Outer Tie Rod End

Clunking Noise When Driving

The next piece that can cause this noise is your outer tie rod ends. The outer tie rod is found at the bottom back of your tire. To check for the security of this apparatus, put pressure on your wheel back and forth while observing the tie rod end. If you see any movement in this joint, the part is not operating appropriately and needs attention.  

Check Your Power Steering Rack

Your power steering rack is connected to the outer tie rod. Going from your outer tie rod, you follow the metal arm connected at the bottom. You will then encounter a plastic xylophone-type cover. This part is your bellows boot. There will be a single-time use clamp on the end of your bellows boot. You can take this off and pull the rubber bellows boot down to expect further.  

Underneath your bellows boot is the inner tie rod end. To check if this is your issue, you must test the ball joint. To test the ball joint, put your hands in the position of three and nine and shake the tire. If the ball joint pops in and out, it is the trouble you are looking for.

All of this is connected to your power steering rack. If you look down from the inner ball joint, you will see that it goes straight into your power steering rack. Try moving this rod to test the power steering rack. If it stands firm, then it is not causing the noise. If it wiggles, there is a problem and needs to be fixed.

Extra Things to Pay Attention To

Make sure there aren’t any pinholes in your boot. These tiny holes can cause a lot of damage if gone undealt with. The wheel bearing can also cause a clunking noise. This piece of the car is on the back of the wheel, behind all of the other joints. The square bar links can also be the culprit. These can be found behind your shock/strut. On the bottom of the square bar link is the sway bar. If this is making a clicking sound, it could be a sign of trouble.  

Following the rod up, you’ll find your sway bar bushing. This should be rubber and pressed securely against the bar. There should be no movement while pulling on its attachments. Above this is your steering rack. If the universal joint can be shaken, that could also be the cause of the noise you’re hearing.  


Now that you have identified your culprit, you can find the necessary replacement and be back on the road. Remember that maintenance and listening to your car are all important steps to car ownership. I hope you have safe travels on your way anywhere and everywhere.

Mike Cross
Life is too short to drive with stock audio

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