Article by Justin Pritchard

Consumer Advice: Common Causes of Concerning Clunks
Consumer Advice: Common Causes of Concerning Clunks. Click image to enlarge

Your vehicle, whether fairly new or very well used, has a way of communicating with you when it would like some attention. A consistent light screech from the brakes, for instance, means your ride might appreciate a fresh set of brake pads. A loud squeal from under the hood typically means an accessory belt has reached the end of its life. A drawn-out, struggling sound when starting the engine usually means the charging system should be looked at.
And then, there are clunks.

These ominous sounds come from deep beneath the vehicle and can be experienced as ‘bangs’, ‘pops’ or even ‘clangs’, depending on their cause.

If your ride exhibits any such sounds, possibly accompanied by a ‘banging’ sensation felt through the floor, you’re ride needs to visit a mechanic, pronto. Ignoring clunks can diminish ride comfort, affect steering and handling or even cause an accident.

Here’s a look at some common causes of concerning clunks – and what could happen if you ignore them. Not all possibilities are covered here, and sometimes worn-out suspension parts make no noise at all. Point is, if you’ve got any worries, or if your ride is making any questionable sounds from its underneathy bits, it needs some attention, right away.

 

Consumer Advice: Common Causes of Concerning Clunks
Consumer Advice: Common Causes of Concerning Clunks. Click image to enlarge

Sound: A ‘grinding’ noise, or ‘popping’ noise – possibly in succession

When: Often while steering, and especially while steering when parked

Possible Cause: Strut Mounts.  This component lets the front struts ‘rotate’ in relation to the body of the car, allowing the wheels to steer. When strut mounts wear out, the bearings inside of them fail – making it harder to steer the vehicle and putting additional strain on the steering system.

If Ignored: Steering effort will increase, meaning the driver needs to work harder to direct their car. Extra strain on the power steering system will cause excessive wear of its components, too.

 

Sound: A light to moderate ‘clunk’ or pop’

When: Over most or all bumps, especially sharp ones

Possible Cause: Your shock absorbers could be wearing or worn. These components separate your vehicle’s body from its wheels and have a major effect on ride quality, comfort, steering and handling.

If Ignored: Blown shock absorbers will tend to make a vehicle ride like a lumber-wagon and diminish handling by bounding and bouncing excessively over bumps. Wheel contact with the road’s surface is reduced, diminishing steering and brake effectiveness and increasing the likelihood of being in a collision.

 

Consumer Advice: Common Causes of Concerning Clunks
Consumer Advice: Common Causes of Concerning Clunks. Click image to enlarge

Sound: A sharp ‘popping’, ‘banging’ or ‘clanging’ sound, sometimes accompanied by a banging sensation felt through the floor

When: Over all or most sharp bumps, or even while cruising over uneven road surfaces

Possible Cause: Ball joints. These important suspension parts are no bigger than your fist – but when they wear out, they make for a serious safety issue. Ball joints are typically ‘press-fit’ into place and play a role in holding suspension components together. This is one suspension system component not to neglect.

If Ignored: In some cases, ball joint failure can result in a wheel becoming severed from your vehicle’s suspension, which will result in a total loss of control. Ever see a car on the side of the road with its nose on the ground and its front wheels pointing away from each other? That’s ball joint failure – and it’s no fun.

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