If you drive a GM vehicle and hear a popping noise when turning the steering wheel similar to a clunking sound from the steering column, there is likely a problem with the upper intermediate steering shaft. Find out how to tell if the steering shaft is causing a clunking or popping sound and how to fix the steering knock yourself.
Why Does My Steering Wheel Make a Popping Noise?
In particular GM trucks, SUVs, and sometimes cars, usually the steering wheel is making a clunking noise because the upper intermediate steering shaft has a lot of play. This part is greased but could bind if unlubricated. It could also be loose and needs to be replaced.
The steering shaft connects to the steering wheel and the steering box or rack and pinion. It has a universal joint (“u-joint”) that can bind or loosen over time and cause a popping or clunking noise when turning the steering wheel.
Read other reasons why you might hear a clunking sound when turning
How to Fix and Diagnose a Popping Intermediate Steering Shaft Noise
Steps to diagnose and fix a clunking or popping intermediate steering shaft
- Move the Steering Shaft Up and Down By Hand and Listen for Clunking
Find the steering shaft from underneath the steering column. Move it up and down and listen for a clunking and feel for looseness. See if it’s greased or if there’s wear, corrosion or damage. Sometimes the bearing at the base of the column has failed, but it’s usually the intermediate shaft that’s defective. If the steering shaft is making noise or is loose, it’ll need to be replaced.
- Consider Greasing the Steering Shaft for a Temporary Fix
You could grease the steering shaft, but this is a temporary fix and the problem will likely return. To permanently fix this issue, replace the steering shaft if it’s causing the clunking or if it’s loose.
- Straighten and Lock the Steering Wheel
Straighten and lock the steering wheel so it doesn’t spin and break the clock spring while the shaft is removed.
- Loosen and Remove the Steering Shaft
Loosen and remove the nut and bolt from the top and bottom of the steering shaft. The intermediate steering shaft will telescope down and out.
- Tighten and Install the Steering Shaft
Install the steering shaft the same way you removed it. Then tighten the bolts and torque them to manufacturer torque specifications.
Learn to Replace Your Own Intermediate Steering Shaft and More
Find out how to replace an intermediate steering shaft on some GM vehicles if it’s causing a clunking or popping sound when turning. We have thousands of how-to videos specific to hundreds of models to help you perform many kinds of repairs on your car or truck with steps from professional mechanics.
More Automotive Knowledge
- Smoking Brakes? How to Unstick a Brake Caliper
- What Are Fog Lights?
- MAP vs. MAF vs. IAT Sensors
- Can You Drive a Car with Leaking Struts?