Front-End Clunking Noise? [Mechanic Advice + Video]

Front-End Clunking Noise?
Mechanic Advice and Video

Clunking noise coming from the front of your car? Our mechanic shows you how to troubleshoot the cause to help you diagnose and fix it. Watch now: 

What’s That Front-End Clunking Noise?

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Clunking, rattling, banging, knocking, or even grinding noises coming from the front of your car could be caused by any number of the parts located in that area of the vehicle.

Keep reading to learn about some of the most common causes of front-end clunking noises and how to diagnose and fix them.  

What causes front-end noises like clunking? 

  • Loose wheel and tire lug nuts 
  • Damaged or loose tires
  • Worn, damaged, or leaking shocks or struts 
  • Loose, worn or damaged upper control arm or upper or lower ball joints 
  • Worn, loose, corroded, or damaged outer and inner tie rod ends or power steering rack 
  • Loose or damaged wheel bearings 
  • Damaged or loose sway bar, links, and bushings 
  • Loose or damaged steering shaft or U joint 
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How to diagnose front-end clunking noises 

Our mechanic inspects the tire and surrounding parts where the clunking noise seems to be coming from in our featured video. 

Check your tires’ lug nut torque 

If your lug nuts aren’t torqued to the manufacturer’s specifications, they can definitely be a source of rattling or clunking. 

Inspect your shocks and struts 

Can bad shocks and struts cause a clunking sound?

Any noticeable fluid or debris around a shock/strut could be causing the noise and means it’s time to replace it.

  • Starting from the top, check out your shock and struts
  • The mount at the top of the shock/strut could also be causing a banging noise if it’s in rough shape or worn out. 

Inspect your upper control arms and ball joints 

  • Pull on your wheel at 12 and 6 as you watch your upper control arm and ball joint to see if they move while you do this.
  • You can also test your upper ball joint by squeezing it with a wrench. 
  • If it moves up and down like the one in our featured video does, that can cause a clunking noise and needs to be replaced. 

Inspect your outer tie rod ends 

  • Our mechanic shows you where to inspect your outer tie rod end for movement, such as popping up and down, at 1:56 in the video above. 
  • Any movement from the outer tie rod end can also cause a banging or rattling sound, which you’d likely notice while driving over any bumps, and would require replacing it. 

Inspect your inner tie rod ends and power steering rack 

  • Follow the power steering rack to your bellows boot and pull down the clamp to inspect your inner tie rod end’s ball and socket.
  • To test it for any movement, such as popping in and out, with your hands at 3 and 9, shake your tire from side to side.
  • If it’s popping in and out, that could be causing a clunking noise. 
  • You can also inspect your power steering rack for movement and coinciding noise as well by shaking your wheel from left to right. 

Inspect your lower ball joints 

What does a ball joint sound like when it’s bad? 

  • Grab your wheel at 6 and 12 and try to shake it to detect any movement in the lower ball joint. 
  • This movement is similar to what happens when you drive on a bumpy road. 
  • Any noise from the lower ball joint may be more apparent while you’re driving than testing, but any movement means you need to replace it. 
  • If you don’t see any movement at this point, there could still be a problem, which you can also test
  • .Continue to turn the wheel as far out from your car as you can and then shake it from side to side. From this angle, you’ll be more likely to notice movement and a clunking noise. 
  • You can also inspect the boots in this area for any holes where water may have gotten in and caused damage. Our mechanic shows you what to look for at 3:32. 

Inspect your wheel bearings 

Locate your steering knuckle, wiggle the tire, and if you hear any clunking, but it doesn’t seem to be coming from any of the ball joints, it’s probably coming from your wheel bearing

Inspect your sway bar, links, and bushings 

  • Locate your sway bar link – Move down from your shock/strut – it connects to your sway bar.
  •  If you hit a bump in the road, one side of a sway bar link will move upward, and you’ll hear a clunking noise from the ball and socket. That means your sway bar links need to be replaced. 

Your sway bar bushings are located where the sway bar meets the frame. If you’re able to take the bar with both hands and move it up and down that’s another potential clunk. 

Inspect your steering shaft 

Your steering shaft comes after your power steering rack and goes to the steering column. Look for the U joint there and shake it a bit to check for any movement, which could definitely indicate a problem. 

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