Car Maintenance And Repairs

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

Mike Cross
Updated Mar 2, 2021
Clunking Noise When Driving

When it comes to their vehicles, people can be very attentive to anything that seems to be off, and perhaps not running efficiently. Being very used to the normal way the vehicle runs, it isn’t too hard to notice when something just seems to be out of place.

Throughout the use of their car, car owners will often come across the problem of noticing a clunking sound coming out from their car, sometimes from different areas than others.

This clunking sound can be relatively quiet, or sometimes very audible. Undoubtedly, there is quite a broad range of possibilities that could be linked to your cars clunking sound, some being more serious and costlier than others.

When taking notice of the clunking sound coming from your car, determine if it mostly comes from when you are stopped, while driving, while going over a bump, while driving at a certain / any speed, or while the engine is off, and you just happen to be moving the stationary car by closing the trunk, for example.

With this identified, diagnosing the problem will become a bit more easy, seeing as you have a better idea of where to start looking.

Clunking Noise When Driving
Clunking Noise When Driving

General Areas Of Clunking Concern

When trying to assess where the clunking sound in your vehicle is coming from, it is likely that it is coming from one of a few areas; parts concerning either the engine, transmission, or its suspension system.

Having the general area of where the sound is coming from will be helpful, as you can more properly diagnose the issue, or will be able to better inform the mechanic or body shop you are seeking to help fix the issue.

Car Stopped / Stopping

If the clunking sound you are experiencing happens while you are stopped / stopping, perhaps at a red light or stop sign, than it is likely that the clunking may be an engine or transmission issue.

Going Over Bump

If the clunking sound you are experiencing happens while driving over a bump, than it is likely that the issue has to stem from the suspension system.

While Engine Is Off

If the clunking sound you are experiencing happens when your engine is off and you are moving the body of the car on its suspension, perhaps while closing the trunk hard, than it is likely the clunking noise is the result of an issue from the suspension system.

At Specific Speed / Any Speed

If the clunking sound you are experiencing happens when you are going at a specific speed, or at any speed, for that matter, than it is likely that the clunking sound you are experiencing has to deal with a transmission issue.

Common Causes Of Clunking

Driving without clunking
Driving without clunking

As with many issues that make cars clunk and do all sorts of weird things, there can be a wide range of possible causes, and these can vary in how much it will cost to buy and replace the parts as needed.

Generalized above, many clunking sounds seem to stem off an issue arising in either the vehicles engine, transmission, or suspension system.

Damaged / Leaking Struts

When riding over bumps and cracks, a damaged strut / struts can let out a clunking sound. If they are leaking externally, it may be easy to identify, but if they are leaking internally, a bump test (bouncing the car up and down) may be required to properly diagnose.

Average price to buy and install struts: $450 - $900

Damaged Leaf Springs

Not all vehicles have leaf springs, but most do, especially those who are suited for off-road use. Over time, these commonly tend to wear out, and the shackle will bend over, causing the clunking sound.

When a vehicle has a suspension lift, it is more likely for their leaf springs to wear out quicker, so this is something to keep in mind for those who have lifted vehicles.

Average price to buy and install leaf springs: $450 - $790

Worn Ball Joints

In the suspension system of a vehicle, there are normally several ball joints, with some in the back and some in the front. There are many different types; some are held in by clips, while others may be bolted in. With this varying difference in types of ball joints and their placements, it would be recommended to have a professional take a look before attempting to look yourself. It may be one, or more, ball joints that are producing the clunking sound.

Average price to buy and install a single ball joint: $361 - $422

Fuel With Low Octane Rating

If you happen to fill up with gas that has a low octane rating, this can be the cause of a knocking or clunking sound coming from your car. With a low octane rating, the fuel will be more likely to detonate the air to fuel mixture in the engine too early, causing it to “knock”.

If this happens to be the culprit of the clunking issue, than it will be a cheap fix compared to other issues, seeing as you just need to fill up with better fuel next time.

Incorrect / Faulty Spark Plugs

Sometimes throughout a car’s life, the spark plugs will be replaced, and sometimes not by the ones recommended by the car manufacturer. In this case, or in the case of a faulty spark plug, you may begin to experience clunking due to the spark plug not withdrawing enough heat from the combustion chamber.

Average price to buy and replace spark plugs: $326

Get That Clunking Checked Out!

It’s no secret that clunking sounds coming from cars are common, and that there is a wide range of possibilities that could be looked at as the cause of this issue. Some may be the result of an engine issue, some from a transmission issue, but seemingly,most stem off of a transmission issue.

Getting the clunking sound diagnosed as early as possible can help to deter any other issues that may arise as a side effect of the original issue. Begin by determining where the sound is coming from, then go from there. Getting started early on will help to keep the process as smooth as possible while keeping some extra money in your pockets by avoiding extra costs.

Mike Cross
Life is too short to drive with stock audio

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