There's little that's more frightening than a clunking noise coming from your car. What are you supposed to do if you're driving straight down the road and you hear these kinds of noises?
Try not to panic - there are several reasons your car may be clunking. The most common reasons include -
- a failing ball joint
- damaged suspension
- problems with your struts
- issues with the stabilizing bar or other controls.
How can you tell what's gone wrong with your car, and what are you supposed to do to make the noise go away? Here, you'll find an action plan and answers to some other questions you might have about your vehicle. Please remember that a faulty vehicle can be dangerous. No online advice can replace that of a qualified mechanic. You should always call your auto repair shop when in doubt.
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What Causes A Car To Clunk?
There are dozens of reasons your car may be clunking. Some of the most common reasons include:
- A Failing Ball Joint - it's not common for your ball joints to fail, but if you've been driving through dirt and grease, they can begin to wear out. A damaged ball joint will cause your tires to wear out more quickly and will make it more difficult for you to control your car.
- Damaged Suspension Struts - your suspension struts ensure that your tires rotate in unison and ensure that your drive is as smooth as possible. A damaged strut will make it more difficult for you to control your car.
- Lower Control Bushing - your bushings are meant to ensure that your tires remain aligned, no matter what obstacles you face while you're on the road. If your bushings have worn out, your clunking sound may result from your bushings brushing against the other metal parts of your underbody.
- Damaged Stabilizer Bar - if the control arms of your vehicle have worn out, either because of an accident or to the age of your car, your vehicle will probably clunk every time you go over a bump in the road.
- Bad Tires - when your tires are misaligned or if one isn't inflated appropriately, then they can unbalance your car or otherwise damage your belts, resulting in the aforementioned clunking noise.
- Damaged Wheel Bearings - your wheel bearings support your tires and keep you on the road. As they wear out, your wheels may not rotate as freely as they once did, and your car may make knocking noises.
- Loose Lug Nuts - if your lug nuts haven't been tightened in a while, they may rattle in their casings. This is the easiest clunking noise to solve, as you'll just need to tighten your loose lug nuts before they impact your tire's functionality.
- Damaged Axles - if your front axle has worn out, then you'll have more difficulty turning, and you'll hear a clunk every time you take to the road.
- A Loose Heat Shield - if your heat shield has lost the bolt that secures it to your car, it will rattle against the other metal parts of your underbody while you're making your way down the road.
Can A Bad Wheel Bearing Make A Clunking Noise?
Damaged wheel bearings can cause your car to clunk, though they're not supposed to wear out all that quickly. Your wheel bearings support your car while you're on the road, ensuring that everything runs as it's supposed to. Without your wheel bearings, or if your wheel bearings have been damaged, the loose metal can bump against your undercarriage while you're driving on the road.
Is It Safe To Drive With A Bad Wheel Bearing?
In general, you want to avoid driving with a bad wheel joint. While you will be able to make it from Point A to Point B most of the time, you'll only be worsening the joint's damage. More often than not, the only time you want to drive with a bad wheel bearing is when you're on your way to a mechanic.
If your wheel bearing has failed entirely, you'll want to reach out to a tow company to get you to your local mechanic. Driving without a wheel bearing will only put you, potential passengers, and other drivers on the road at risk.
What Are The Signs Of A Bad Ball Joint?
As mentioned, a clunking noise will be your surest sign that something's gone amiss with your vehicle. However, there are other signs that give away a bad ball joint. If you think something's gone wrong with your car, keep an eye out for the following;
- A loose steering wheel
- Difficulty turning around corners while on the road
- Unusual amounts of wear on your tires
When in doubt, it's always best to reach out to a professional. Mechanics and people familiar with your vehicle will be able to tell you whether it's the ball joints that have gone out on your car or if there's another problem at hand.
What Happens If A Ball Joint Fails While You're On The Road?
If your ball joint fails while you're on the road, you'll need to pull over to the side of the road as safely as you can. Once you've come to a complete stop, turn on your hazard lights. Then call your local tow company.
You can discuss with your tow company whether you want your car taken to a local repair shop or taken home. If you're interested in a DIY ball joint solution, you can head home with ease. Alternatively, your local mechanic will be able to quote you a price on services.
Whatever you do, don't drive on the road with a failed ball joint. If you do, you'll endanger yourself, your passengers, and the other drivers on the road.
What Can You Do To Stop Your Car From Clunking?
If you want to stop your car from clunking, you have two options. The best option is to take your car to your local mechanic. If your wheel bearings, ball joints, or another part of your car has gone out, then you'll need to talk to your local tow company and have your car taken to the shop for you. If your car has only just been damaged, you'll likely be able to drive the car to your local shop on your own time.
Alternatively, if you're looking to save money or to flex your DIY muscles, you can try to determine what's wrong with your car on your own. You'll want to do your research ahead of time, of course - check with your manual to see what part of your car you're likely to be working with and what, if any, solutions it proposes. You'll also need to have the tools on hand to jack up your car and appropriately detach and reattach parts.
To get a closer look at your car, you'll need to take the following steps:
- Put chocks or another unmoving surface behind your back wheels to ensure your car doesn't shift when raised
- Loosen your lug nuts
- Jack up your car
- Remove your tires' lug nuts and place them somewhere safe
- Remove your brake calipers and brackets
- Remove the outer wheel bearing
- Remove the rotor and inner wheel bearing
- Grease the inner casing with bearing crease
- Install a new wheel bearing, if it's the bearing that's causing your problems. If you determine that the wheel isn't the cause of your clunking, then continue to inspect your car for damage
- Install a new cotter pin
- Unbolt and replace your hub
- If necessary, remove your spindle and replace it
From here, it's all a matter of reassembling your car. Note that this process is not easy, and you'll need several years of experience to undertake it successfully. Even so, if you feel you can manage it, then you may save a bit of money and time.
If you hear a clunking noise coming from your car, don't put yourself or your passengers at risk. Reach out to your local mechanic or take a peak under your car yourself. There are dozens of reasons your car may be clunking. With a bit of research and inspection, you'll be able to get back on the road - noise-free - in little to no time at all.
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