2003 Saturn Ion Knocking

Info: 2003 Ion-1 165k+ miles

I’m hearing a clunking/knocking noise in my Ion that sounds like the front driver side. It’s most audible starting about 30 mph. It grows louder as I drive faster and the rate of clunking/knocking is relative to the speed I am driving. It doesn’t change when I push in the clutch or when I’m in a different gear. It does not happen when I rev my engine in neutral. I even shut off my car while moving in a parking lot and no change. The sound changes when I turn (sounds like a more muffled/dull sound but still loud if that makes sense), and in my mind it seems to sound worse when I’m turning right than left.

I noticed the noise on Thursday of last week. It was at the point where I had to have my radio off to notice the noise. Since then it has grown louder and as of yesterday is now overpowering my radio when at reasonable volume.

I just replaced both the driver and passenger wheel bearing in the last 18 months, and I just got new Tier-3 Cooper tires 3 months ago. (I wouldn’t think the bearing would knock, but just as history fyi.) I was convinced by the troubleshooting guide in my Haynes manual that it was either the inner or outer CV joint so I replaced the whole Driver side CV Axle and topped off the Tranny Fluid with Dexron-III. No dice. I thought there’s a chance it could be my new tires, so I Rotated the tires on the left side F->B/B->F as well and the noise did not seem to change. Spinning the tires by hand while up on my jack stands does not seem to tell me anything (I’m guessing I’d have to have them spinning at about 20/30mph to hear anything).

My next idea at this point is to put the front end up on jack stands and have someone put my car in gear and give it a little gas while I stand nearby and try to pinpoint where the sound is coming from. I’m a little leery about this one, and I’m not even sure if it’s going to make the noise when not under load anyway.

Any ideas? Or any more tests to further diagnose?


This has all the classic symptoms of a typical worn out CV joint. I’ll bet lunch that’s what it is.

If the noise is completely and totally the same after replacing that CV axle, perhaps its coming from the other side? If its still there but different, suspect a bad reman axle. It seems like half of these are bad out of the box.

I have also had a bad wheel bearing knock before - sounded like driving on train tracks. Make sure you check that.

Okay, I’ve uploaded a video I took of the issue last night. This is a manual. You can see the CV Axle I just replaced. The wheel and brakes are off, eliminating them as options. I do not believe it is the hub/bearing either. I got an opinion that it seems more like a transmission bushing than the new (refurb) CV Axle I just put in. This noise happens in all gears. You can’t really hear the noise until about 30 seconds into the video when I had an assistant give it some gas. On the inside of the car it sounds more like a knocking, but the sound is hard to record over the engine noise. I believe the noise is loudest in the area of the transmission and the inner CV Joint.

I’m hoping this might help to clarify some things. I guess it could be either the refurbed CV Joint or the trans…

Note: 30 seconds in the sound changes - sounds sort of like an older sewing machine or something. This corresponds with the knocking inside. http://vimeo.com/seanriker/knockingnoise