Clunking Noise in the Front End?

If you hear a clunking noise in the front end of your car while driving straight, driving over bumps, or you hear a creaking when turning, there are a few steering and suspension parts you’ll want to diagnose. This article and video reviews parts that are common causes for different creaking and clunking sounds at the front end of your truck, car, or SUV.

What Can Cause a Clunking Noise at the Front End?

1A Auto mechanic reviewing what can cause a front end clunking noise

Worn Steering and Suspension Parts

Clunking Noise When Driving Straight

If you hear a clunking, squeaking or creaking sound while driving straight, the vehicle definitely needs to be checked out and likely has a worn bushing on a suspension part.

Creaking Noise When Driving Over Bumps or Turning

If you hear a clunking or creaking from the front end when driving over bumps or turning, different parts can cause these issues. For hearing a sound when turning, parts like the tie rod ends, ball joints, and sometimes the top strut mounts are usually the cause. For creaking sounds over bumps, parts like the control arm bushing and sway bar links can be the cause.

How to Check the Front End for a Clunking Noise

After listening to the clunking or creaking sound, you might be able to determine what movement the part is making. The squeaking sound in our video is being created by up and down motion, so our mechanic Sue decides to inspect parts that move in this direction, which include the ball joint, tie rod end, sway bar link, sway bar bushing, and control arm bushing.

One way to check the part beyond a visible inspection is to listen to the suspected defective part with a stethoscope. Secure the front end with car ramps and listen to the part while an assistant bounces the suspension up and down.

Steps to check for a front end clunking noise

  1. Check the Control Arm Bushings

    A control arm bushing will have play when driving at higher speeds and can cause the steering wheel to shake.

    Check for rust closer inside near the bushing. Rust indicates dryness and possible movement. Replace the control arm if the bushing is dry-rotted or rusted.

  2. Check the Sway Bar Links and Bushings

    Problems with the sway bar links and sway bar bushings can cause a thumping sound or the feeling of sliding on ice.

    Move the sway bar link and listen for clunking and look for movement. A worn sway bar link will jiggle with a lot of movement. When the bushings are worn they’ll make a thumping sound that you might hear when moving the sway bar link by hand.

    There are sway bar links in many vehicles and this is a part that stops the vehicle from swaying and dipping, like when turning. A broken off sway bar link will bounce up and down and create a thumping noise. They’ll also make driving unstable when turning at high way speeds.

    If you hear thumping in front end and popping when turning, there may be a problem with the sway bar bushing. A sway bar bushing that has torn off could hit the control arm and make a metal-on-metal sound.

  3. Check the Tie Rod Ends and Ball Joint

    To check the tie rod end and ball joint, jack the car up and put a jack on the pinch rail. Grab tire from the 3 and 9 o’clock position and push back and forth while feeling for movement and play. Having an assistant watch might also help you diagnose these parts. If there is too much play, the parts need to be replaced.

    Read more on how to diagnose front suspension parts

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Clunking Noise in Front End? - Diagnose & Fix - Expert Tips - 1A Auto
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Clunking Noise in Front End? - Diagnose & Fix - Expert Tips - 1A Auto
If you hear a clunking noise in the front end when turning or driving over bumps, this guide and video has tips from professional mechanics to help you diagnose and fix it yourself
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