Clunking Noise When Driving Straight: [Solved]

Driving fast and straight on a highway, and you start hearing clunking noise, can be a scary experience. A million questions may cross your mind as to the cause of such abnormal sound. Could it be the tires? Engine? Should you pull over immediately? Should you drive your car to the nearest engineer? Are you putting your life at risk? All of this can be overwhelming, but with the right information, you can avoid this anxiety.

Quick Answer

Hearing a Clunking noise when driving straight can happen for a lot of reasons. How you fix the problem causing this abnormal sound is by spotting its origin. Here is a guide for what you should do if you hear a clunky noise when driving straight

  • Park your car on a safe and even surface
  • Secure your two rear tires
  • Elevate your car
  • Examine the vulnerable parts of your vehicle (exterior and engine)
  • Lubricate your inner casings
  • Replaced damaged parts
  • Lower your car
  • Remove the rear tire wedge

Clunking noise when driving straight is nothing to have a panic over. In this article, we explore the most likely causes of the noise. This guide is perfect if you have some experience with car parts. If not, you should call anyone who can recognize the different components of a car. Identifying the problem is a vital part of getting the sound to stop. Once you know what’s wrong, all that’s left is for you to fix it or get a replacement.

What Can Cause My Car to Clunk?

Below are 7 essential parts that can develop a clunking noise when faulty.

A Damaged Strut

A strut is a significant part of the suspension assembly of a vehicle. It makes for better drivability and reduces the stress on the wheel and chassis of the car. However, due to prolonged exposure, especially on rough roads, it is prone to wear and tear. As such, it can start to develop strange noises, makes driving a lot less comfortable, and worse still can even pose as danger when continually used without a fix.

Wear and Tear of the Wheel Bearings

The wheel bearing of a car performs the simple function of letting a vehicle’s wheel spin freely. This unique function becomes relatively easy to spot anomalies in the wheel bearing while driving. The most common of all is the clunking sound that you hear as you move along. This sound either gets louder or gets dampened as you accelerate or reduce your speed accordingly. When this happens, you should know that the wheel bearing is faulty or damaged.

Damaged Control Arms

A damaged control arm could be another significant reason for the clunking noise you hear while driving your car. This can happen when the ball joint is either torn or worn-out. When this occurs, it makes the vehicle highly unsafe for driving. If you continue to drive without fixing a faulty ball joint, the vehicle’s lower suspension can get dislodged from the front wheel, which can cause the car to get out of control and somersault in worse cases.

Faulty Tires

The tires are a crucial part of any vehicle, and without a properly functioning tire, the car’s performance on the road is significantly inhibited. Sometimes, when you hear a clunking sound coming from the under of your vehicle, the tire is always the last thing to cross our minds when looking for causes. The truth is, even a new tire can blow out prematurely due to factory defects or poor routine maintenance.

Worn Out Stabilizer Bars

Stabilizer bars are often undervalued components of any vehicle. This is as a result of their conspicuous functions beneath the cars. They serve a host of functions such as bump absorption, noise reduction, and aids for smoother drivability. Sometimes, due to inadequate lubrication and maintenance, the stabilizer bar could undergo wear and tear over time. You may start to experience a clumsy response when handling the vehicle. The most obvious of all is the clunking sound you hear from underneath, and this should be your cue to have the stabilizer bars fixed.

A Defective Ball Joint

A ball joint is a highly critical part of the suspension family of any vehicle. They are always available in most, if not all, modern vehicles. A ball joint’s simple function is to connect the cars’ steering knuckles to the control arm. Because of this significant role, the ball joint is frequently plagued with wear and tear and can cause it to become loose. The clunking noise you hear is also a result of a defective ball joint.

Lax Fitting Lug Nuts

The primary function of a lug nut is to secure the tire wheel to a vehicle tightly. Sometimes, when you use a rusted or poorly-fitting nut to tighten a wheel, it can cause a persistent clunking noise when driving on the highway. This problem can be life-threatening if you don’t fix it on time since the tires can jolt out while the vehicle is on top speed, causing the car to spin out of control.

Precautions to Take When Handling A Car

Checking out your car may seem straight forward, mostly if you’ve done it a couple of times. Whether you’re checking out your engine or changing a flat tire, there are a couple of things you must put in place to prevent avoidable accidents. Below are a couple of precautions you should take when handling a vehicle.

  • Always keep the working areas tidy and organized.
  • Technicians must always adorn the proper protective clothing free of tears to avoid getting hooked on sharp objects.
  • Never go under a vehicle that is anchored and supported only by a jack.
  • Always put on protective apparatus such as gloves, goggles, safety hats where required.
  • Avoid smoking near a vehicle while working on a car. Vehicles carry flammable substances such as gas and oils.
  • Fire extinguishers must always be available and within reach to prevent hazards.
  • The battery must always be disconnected when you are working on electrical sections of a vehicle.
  • Always make sure a vehicle is properly supported when working underneath it to avoid the risk of it falling on the mechanic.
  • Never forget the key at the ignition. There is a tendency to pull some charge from the battery causing the car to start unexpectedly.
  • Be careful of the car’s temperature. Specific areas can get very hot after working for a long time, such as the radiator and exhaust systems.

13 Straightforward Steps to Handle A Clunky Sound While Driving Straight

Getting a clunky sound from your vehicle can be a source of worry, especially when you don’t know where such a noise is coming from. In this section, we will be discussing the steps you need to handle a clunky sound in your vehicle.

Step 1. Ensure You Have All the Right Tools

Before setting off trying to find the source of clunking noise coming from your vehicle, always ensure you have all the right tools with you. These include screw-drivers, spanners, car jacks, etc., to immediately rectify the issues once you spot a source.

Step 2. Drive Your Car to A Solid Flat Surface

You should never attempt any kind of repair on a bumpy or sloppy surface. Always drive to a smooth and flat surface before you proceed with a repair. This is because an uneven surface can cause a vehicle to go out of balance. If you are attempting to jack a car on a sloppy road, the vehicle can roll back even when properly secured.

Step 3. Secure Your Rear Tires

When making a tire change, always secure the rear tires using strong studs made of solid materials like metal or concrete. This way, the car would not be able to roll off while you are at work.

Step 4. Elevate Your Vehicle

While working underneath a vehicle, always ensure that you adequately elevate it to create enough space to move around freely. Another reason for elevating a car is to prevent mishaps, including losing balance and falling while you are underneath. Place the jack under the appropriate jacking points. Raise the jack gradually and steadily by either rotating or pumping its handle. After you’ve reached the desired height, place the jack stands beneath the car at non-articulating points.

Step 5. Examine Your Struts

Do a thorough check-up of your struts, ensuring that it is in perfect working condition. Check for wear and tear, and make the appropriate changes where required.

Step 6. Examine Your Wheel Bearings

Wheel bearings are crucial for controlling the overall movement of the vehicle while in motion. So you must check to ensure that they are in perfect working condition.

Step 7. Examine Your Control Arms

You should thoroughly examine the control arms to look for worn-out ball joints. In some cases, it might not be very easy to fix a single ball joint; hence you might require a complete change of the control arm.

Step 8. Examine Your Tires & Stabilizer Bars

The tires and stabilizer bars are a fundamental part of any vehicle, so you must ensure that they are correctly fixed and functioning to standard. A bad tire or poorly fitted stabilizer bars can lead to severe road accidents, which could otherwise be life-threatening.

Step 9. Examine Your Ball Joints

Your ball joints are essential members of the control arm. A faulty ball joint can lead to complete failure of the control arm. As such, you must always check thoroughly for anomalies such as rust or wear and tear.

Step 10. Examine Your Lug Nuts

A rusted, weak, or poorly-fitted lug nuts can lead to serious accidents while a car is on top speed. While making a clunking noise, you should make it a top priority to watch out for such issues to prevent disasters in the future.

Step 11. Lubricate Inner Casing

Make sure to add enough grease to the inner casing. Adequate lubrication will limit rust, stiffness, or wear and tear as time goes on.

Step 12. Replace Your Wheel Bearing, Hub, And Cotter Pin If Needed

After you must have done all routine checks on the wheel bearing, cotter pin, and hub, always make changes and replacements where necessary.

Step 13. Lower Your Car

Now that you are through with the necessary checks and changes, you can safely lower your car by taking out your jack stands and carefully lowering your jack.

What Should I Do If the Clunking Noise Persists?

After your car must have gathered some mileage on it, there is a tendency to start developing some clunky noises. These noises can range from indistinct to very loud and very disturbing. Whatever the case is, you need to examine your car thoroughly for impending issues.

The irony of it is that while some of these clunky noises might be very elaborate, locating the noise source can be challenging. Hence it is highly advisable to perform routine check-ups to find out what is causing the noise. Below are some things you should look out for;

  • Check your oil level to see how much you have left. A low oil level could cause insufficient lubrication and result in clunky noises in some vehicle parts.
  • Try driving on a bumpy road, then try again on a smooth one.
  • Spot the differences in both.
  • When you don’t hear the noise when on a smooth road but on a bumpy road, it is a high indication that the stabilizer bars are faulty.
  • The clunky sound becomes louder when trying to make a turn. It is an indication that the ball bearings might have developed some issues.

Nonetheless, you still need to consult a trained automobile mechanic or engineer’s services to make a professional diagnosis of the problem so he or she can proffer a lasting solution.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it dangerous to continue driving with a clunking sound?

No, It is not particularly dangerous to drive a car with a clunking sound since not all sounds indicate a severe problem that can be life-threatening. However, it is always helpful to seek the cause of the noise and rectify the issue beforehand.

What causes a clunking sound in the front end?

Some examples are weak rod bushings, worn out struts, or shock absorbers. If this clunking sound takes an instead groaning dimension, it could mean there is a dry joint somewhere, most likely coming from the pitman or idler arm.

How much does it cost to fix a damaged ball joint?

The average cost of a ball joint sits anywhere between $500 – $700. The cost of fixing a damaged ball joint all depends on the kind of vehicle you have. It could go higher if you drive a luxury vehicle. Different car types and models all require specific parts. For clarity, you could consult a good automobile spare part dealer near you.

What does a bad tie rod sound like when driving straight?

While driving straight, a faulty tie rod will start by giving off a clunking sound. When the problem persists without a solution, it graduates into a shaking or vibrating sensation coming from your steering wheel. You will also hear some rattling sounds when slowing down to make a turn.

Wrap up

It is a pretty darn thing to have a car with a clunking sound. Of all issues that a car could have, an unusual sound is the symptom of one of the most conspicuous of them all. Having put that into ample consideration, it is still not the end of the world. From the point discussed above, you can quickly and effectively diagnose what could be causing your car to clunk when driving straight.

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