5 Reasons for a Clunk Noise When Turning Steering Wheel

clunking noise turning steering wheel

Last updated: February 17, 2023 at 13:01 pm

The mechanics within a car involve a lot of moving parts, and sometimes those parts become loose or worn, and this can result in the car failing to work, mysterious noises and can require expensive replacements.

It is important if you notice something different about your vehicle, like a clunking noise when turning the steering wheel, that you investigate.

In a healthy car or vehicle, the steering wheel should be able to turn silently. If this is not the case, then there is something wrong that needs attention. The cause of the noise could be any number of things.

What Is the Noise When Turning the Steering Wheel?

1. Faulty Suspension Bushings

suspension bushings

Suspension bushings are cushions made of either polyurethane or rubber that are used as a key part of a vehicle’s suspension system. They are attached to vehicles to absorb the impact of road bumps and to help control the amount of wiggling and movement in the joints of the car.

This helps to reduce any noise and vibration within the vehicle, making the experience of driving the car substantially more comfortable and enjoyable.

However, over time, suspension bushings will wear and possibly even crack due to continued exposure to

  1. friction
  2. heat
  3. road salt

The stress of the weight and movement alone is sometimes enough to cause suspension bushings to wear. When they do it leads to more stress being put on the joints of the vehicle.

Broken or worn suspension bushings often make a rattling or clunking noise on rough roads, and this will often occur when turning corners. You may also notice that your car suddenly handles poorly or has incredibly loose steering.

How to Fix Faulty Suspension Bushings

Unfortunately, to fix faulty suspension bushings, you have to just replace them. It is not possible to rejuvenate an old, worn or cracked suspension bushing. You can either replace your bushings yourself if you feel confident, or you can hire a professional to do the job for you.

2. Issues with the Jounce Bushing

jounce bushing

Just like the suspension bushings, the jounce bushing’s sole purpose is to absorb the impact on rocky roads and when turning. As well as wearing, the jounce bushing can regularly become dry. This can then lead to further wear and can cause a rattling or clunking noise when the steering wheel is turned.

How to fix a faulty jounce bushing

If your jounce bushing is worn or cracked, it will need replacing completely as there is no way to rejuvenate a worn bushing. However, if your bushing is just dry, you can lubricate it using a silicone spray. This will need regular top-ups, but the silicone spray is much less degrading on the rubber and other materials used to create bushings.

3. Faulty Tie Rods

tie rod

Tie rods are the piece of your car which connect the steering gear to the steering knuckle. They’re incredibly important and have a large role to play in a car’s steering system. Without tie rods, the steering in a car would not work. Therefore it is imperative that if you begin to notice a clunking when you turn your steering wheel, you check to see if it is being caused by your tire rods.

Just like other parts of the car, tie rod failure can be caused by a lack of lubrication as well as normal wear and tear. They are particularly likely to break if the car has been continuously used on harsh road conditions. Especially if subjected to things like potholes or bumps in the road.

A broken tie rod can be incredibly dangerous, as it can result in a complete loss of steering, and it can cause substantial damage and wear to your tires.

Faulty tie rods will cause a clunking and knocking sound from the front of the vehicle, particularly when turning at low speeds. There may also be more rattling, and the steering might feel different.

How to fix faulty tie rods

Once tie rods begin to wear or break, it is crucial that you replace them as soon as possible. Try to limit your driving until they are replaced. Driving with faulty tie rods is very dangerous and could result in you losing control over steering.

Related: 8 Reasons Your Car Is Squeaking When Driving

4. Faulty Sway Bar

sway bar

A sway bar is another part of the vehicle suspension system. It helps your vehicle to handle turns and prevents the car from leaning (or swaying) as it turns corners. Without the sway bar, the vehicle will not steer correctly, and this can cause multiple risks and dangers on the road.

A sway bar most commonly breaks after another element in the suspension system fails. When this happens, the car loses balance and tilts more to one side or the other, which can result in the whole weight of the car sitting on the sway bar.

On particularly turbulent journeys, this inevitably puts a lot of pressure on the sway bar, and it eventually cracks and snaps under the pressure.

You will be able to notice when a sway bar breaks, as it will make a rattling or clunking sound. This happens when the broken bar taps other parts of the suspension system.

How to fix a faulty sway bar

As with many elements within a car, if your sway bar breaks there is not a whole lot that can be done to fix it. The best thing to do is to simply replace the sway bar completely. If you’re not comfortable doing this, hire a professional mechanic to do the job for you.

5. Faulty Ball Joints

ball joints

Attached to the steering system of a car are a set of joints called the ball joints. These are used to allow the knuckles to move in multiple directions whilst still staying attached to the vehicle and to the steering system. They connect the control arms to the steering knuckles and are part of the front suspension of a vehicle.

Unfortunately, ball joints can easily deteriorate if dirt, grit, or sediment of any kind gets inside them. They also suffer from dryness if the grease escapes and are subject to general wear and tear and rusting. When they do begin to wear, drivers might notice excessive looseness when steering as well as a clunking and rattling noise coming from beneath the car.

How to fix faulty ball joints

If you manage to catch wear and tear or a fault in a ball joint early on, repairs can be done. However, if you leave it too late, it is much safer to simply replace the ball joint. This will prevent any issues with steering later down the line and will save you having to pay for repairs and then again for a replacement in a few months’ time.

Other Possible Noise Issues In Your Car

It might be possible if you’re hearing clunking noises when you turn the steering wheel that it is coming from somewhere else. The other culprits for clunking noises within a car are:

  • Damaged leaf spring shackles
  • Loose body mounts
  • Low or old transmission fluid
  • Faulty transmission mounts

As with the steering-related issues, if you notice any of these noises emanating from your car, you should inspect the vehicle or get someone else to as soon as you can.

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About the Author: AJ

AJ is a self-confessed soundproofing nut. He has written full-time on Quiet Living for the past 4 years, and has a wealth of knowledge about living a quieter life, soundproofing and fixing loud noises.

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