Hearing a clicking noise from your car when turning can be annoying and a bit unnerving. However, in most cases it points to a minor issue that can be readily addressed. Here’s a look at some of the common culprits and fixes to stop clicks when turning.
Usual Suspects for Clicking Noises When Turning:
- CV joints
- Wheel bearings
- Tie rods
- Ball joints
- Belts or accessories
- Brake components like brake pads
- Power steering system
- Suspension parts
Pinpointing the cause takes a little detective work. Here’s how to systematically diagnose clicks when turning.
1. Listen Carefully to the Noise
Focus on reproducing the noise and listening closely:
- Does it click on turns in both directions? Just right turns? Just left?
- Is it a single click or rapid clicking?
- Does it happen when stationary and just turning the wheel?
- Any noise when turning at low speeds vs high speeds?
Pay attention to when the click occurs and what it sounds like. This can offer clues to the cause.
2. Check the Wheels and Tires
Inspect the wheels and tires since they are common sources of noise:
- Lift the car and spin each wheel. Listen for clicks or roughness.
- Check tire tread and sidewalls thoroughly for damage.
- Make sure lug nuts are tight and torqued properly.
- Inflate tires to proper pressures.
Wheel bearings and certain tire issues can cause clicking noises when turning.
3. Inspect the Suspension and Steering
Verify suspension and steering components are not worn or loose:
- Shake and move suspension and steering parts to check for play.
- Look for damaged ball joints, tie rods, sway bar links.
- Check for signs of leakage near power steering rack.
Worn ball joints and tie rods are common causes of clicking and can be dangerous if separated.
4. Check the Constant Velocity (CV) Joints
CV joints connect the wheels to the transmission and are prone to wear:
- Pry back CV joint boots to check grease level and condition.
- Look for torn or cracked boots. Listen for clicking on turns.
- Worn CV joints will make clicking noises, especially on tight turns.
Replacing damaged CV joints is the fix for clicks due to bad CV joints.
5. Test Belt Driven Accessories
Engine belt driven accessories can also create noise:
- Use a wrench or socket to apply tension to belts and listen for noise.
- Isolate each accessory like the alternator, AC compressor, power steering pump while testing.
Bad bearings in an accessory like the alternator can cause clicking or squeaking.
6. Brake Components
Finally, consider brake components:
- Brake pads can click if loose or improperly installed. More common on turns.
- Calipers sliding improperly on mounting bolts can also click or squeak.
Addressing any brake pad issues will stop associated clicking noises.
Top Causes of Clicking When Turning
Now that you know how to diagnose clicking noises when turning, here are some of the most common specific causes:
1. Worn CV Joints
CV joints connect the wheels to the axles and frequently wear out. Damaged joints click loudly when turning, especially tight turns.
Fix: Replace any damaged CV joint boots and joints to stop clicks.
2. Bad Wheel Bearings
Wheel bearings allow the wheels to spin freely. Worn bearings can click or groan when turning the wheels.
Fix: Inspect bearings and replace any that are rough or worn.
3. Loose Steering/Suspension Parts
Ball joints, tie rods, and other steering/suspension joints can develop play. This allows clicking noises over bumps and when turning.
Fix: Tighten any loose parts. Replace excessively worn components.
4. Certain Tire Issues
Tire sidewall bulges, loose tread, or separated belts can click, especially when paired with worn suspensions parts.
Fix: Carefully inspect tires and repair or replace as needed.
5. Noisy Accessory Belt
A bad bearing in a belt driven accessory like the alternator can create noise. More noticeable when turning.
Fix: Isolate noisey accessory and repair or replace. May require professional diagnosis.
When to Expect Clicking Noises When Turning
Clicks when turning can occur under many driving conditions. Here’s when to listen for them:
- At slow speeds while just turning the steering wheel – points to belt/accessory issues or steering components.
- During low speed turns – likely worn CV joints or ball joints.
- Medium speed left hand turns – could indicate bad left CV joint.
- Medium speed right hand turns – may be bad right CV joint.
- High speed turns – typically wheel bearings or sometimes tire issues.
- Over bumps while turning – ball joints, tie rods could be worn.
- Only when braking and turning – suspect brake pads or calipers.
Being aware of when the clicks happen helps narrow down the likelihood of certain causes.
How To Fix Clicking Noises When Turning
Here are some tips on fixing common causes of clicking noises when turning:
- For worn CV joints – listen while turning and replace any noisy joints. Use new boots/clamps during installation.
- For wheel bearings – raise the vehicle and spin each wheel listening for noise. Replace any bad bearings.
- For ball joints/tie rods – inspect joints for play and replace as needed. Tighten any loose hardware.
- For belts/accessories – isolate and determine source of noise. Repair or replace parts as necessary.
- For tires – carefully check for damage or bulges. Repair or replace problem tires.
- For brake pads – lubricate pad backing plates and slides. Replace loose or worn pads.
Addressing damaged or worn parts is key to stopping clicks and preventing more costly repairs down the road.
How to Diagnose Clicking When Turning
Follow these steps to pinpoint clicking when turning:
- Reproduce the noise and characterize it – single click or rapid clicking? At low or high speeds?
- Inspect tires closely for damage and check wheel bearings.
- Shake suspension and steering joints for play in ball joints, tie rods, sway bar links.
- Pry back CV joint boots to look for leaks and damage. Listen for clicks on tight turns.
- Use a wrench to isolate accessories like power steering pump and alternator.
- Test brake components – slide calipers and check pads for issues.
- Repair or replace any damaged or worn parts found during inspection.
Taking the time to methodically inspect components will lead you to the root cause of those annoying clicking noises.
Preventing Future Clicking Noises
You can help prevent clicking noises when turning through proper maintenance:
- Lubricate suspension and steering components at oil changes or as specified.
- Check CV joint boots and all rubber bushings yearly. Replace if cracked or deteriorated.
- Inspect wheel bearings during tire rotations or any brake service.
- Keep belts and belt driven accessories in good condition.
- Maintain proper tire pressures and check tread depths regularly.
- Follow brake pad/rotor replacement intervals to prevent wear issues.
- Get full front-end alignments with new sets of tires.
Proper lubrication, inspections, and timely parts replacement will minimize clicking and other noises when turning.
FAQ about Clicking Noises When Turning
Q: What are the most likely causes of clicking noises when turning?
A: The most common causes are worn CV joints, bad wheel bearings, loose suspension/steering parts, and damaged tires. Accessory belts can also sometimes be the culprit.
Q: Should I be concerned if I hear clicking when turning?
A: Some clicking is normal, but prononuced or frequent clicking should be inspected. It could indicate dangerous wear in steering/suspension.
Q: How can I tell if it’s the CV joints causing the noise?
A: Damaged CV joints will click more noticeably on tight turns. Check boots for grease leaks and cracks that allow dirt inside to damage the joints.
Q: Can worn tires cause clicking noises when cornering?
A: Yes, severe tire damage or loose tread can click, especially when paired with worn suspension components. Inspect tires carefully.
Q: What’s the fix for clicking caused by a bad wheel bearing?
A: Wheel bearings will need to be replaced if they are worn and clicking. This will require hub/bearing assembly replacement in most modern vehicles.
Takeaways about Clicking Noises When Turning
- Clicking noises when turning require methodical diagnosis to isolate the cause.
- Focus on reproducing the noise and when it occurs to get clues.
- Inspect the wheels, tires, steering, suspension, CV joints, and accessories.
- Repair or replace any damaged or excessively worn components found.
- Proper maintenance and part replacement at intervals can prevent clicking.
- Addressing clicking noises promptly can prevent bigger problems down the road.
In summary, clicking noises when turning can have many causes but are usually due to worn CV joints, wheel bearings, tie rods or other suspension components. Carefully diagnosing when and under what conditions the noise occurs will help isolate the cause so it can be repaired.