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2009 Toyota Corolla - Clicking Front Axles

My 2009 Toyota Corolla currently has 161,000 miles. I purchased it with 36,000. I live in northern Wisconsin, where most winters get bitterly cold.

When the mercury dips below about 10 degrees Fahrenheit, I get a noise that seems to come from the front wheels when turning at an intersection. It’s not exactly a grinding noise; more of a fast clicking. The noise lessens if I let off the accelerator a bit.

Once the temp warms up, the noise goes away. This has gone on during each of the 8 or so winters I’ve had the car.

I’ve heard that this is not uncommon for this car, but I have not heard of any solutions.

Got anything?
Dave

You have this for 8 years and only now posting here on CarTalk? Where have you been? We’ve been right here!

I would suggest you are hearing the CV joints clicking when the grease inside gets solid when cold. Clearly, it isn’t a problem or you’d have broken something by now. It is just an annoyance, drive on.

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Agree 100%. Sounds like classic cv joint symptoms. If it only makes the sound when it’s really cold, I’d just put up with the annoyance. If it starts clicking full time, it’s probably time to replace cv axles.

The clicking isn’t normal. It means there’s some metal on metal contact, very likely an outer CV joint. Ignoring it until it gets worse might be an option if you are only doing around-town driving. If you do a lot of trips far from home, suggest to take it to a shop b/c at some point the CV joint will fail completely and you’ll be stranded. I had that happen with no warning on my VW Rabbit. Your shop will likely advise to replace the affected front axle. Ask them however if cleaning and re-greasing the joint is a viable option. I’ve done the latter w/success on my 90’s vintage Corolla, haven’t had to replace the axle yet. It’s not necessary to completely remove the axle if only the outer CV is the problem.

The only thing is, he says it only does it at 10 degrees F. Which in that case, I’d only hear it maybe once a year. Mid 90’s today. I’m ready for cooler weather. Maybe not 10 degrees, though…

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As you have seen, CV joints can make that noise for a long, long time and not strand you. It’s a big job to remove and replace a driveshaft - I’ve done it once after much research: cleaned and regreased after I discovered a torn boot that had not been torn long. No noise was happening.

Anyway, after 10 years the boots may be brittle. Maybe not - Toyotas have better than average rubber, in my experience. If they can be pulled back from the CV joint and put back in place without breaking, that simplifies things. While the boot is pulled back the joint can be cleaned to some extent and fresh grease squeezed into place to some extent. Maybe that’ll do the trick. But it’s quite possible the boot will be damaged and needs to be replaced. That means extracting the axle/CV - a big job, but one that repair shops should be able to do well. As a DIYer, for me it was a big deal, but I probably saved a few hundred dollars and had the satisfaction of doing it. If the axle/CV needs to be removed, and has been making that knocking/crackling noise for years, a shop will want to replace the whole assembly, not mess around with hoped-for success with cleaning and regreasing and putting on a new boot. The quality of replacement axles/CVs is spotty. Someone else may know if there are better and worse brands. OEM from a Toyota dealer will be the costliest and maybe worth it.

There’s no clearly best way to go on this. It’s a risk/benefit/cost situation. Situations like this have made me a DIYer. Others, a risk taker. Other others are willing to pay someone else in hopes of avoiding a potential hassle.

Good luck and please keep us informed.

At 10 degrees, my joints make plenty of noise too. Especially my ankles and right knee!

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That’s something the OP could check themselves. At least for the two outer boots. If a CV boot is torn or has a lot of cracks in it and looks to be on the verge of failing, makes the decision easier.

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George, he’s lived with this noise for 8 years and 125,000 miles. If it was really an issue, don’t you think it would have shown up as a failure by now?

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The only thing that concerns me is that it’s doing it at 10 degrees. I’ve had this happen, but at much colder temperatures. 10 seems pretty warm for a CV joint to click from solidified grease. It would make me wonder if perhaps the grease isn’t the right grease.

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So, here’s a whole thread on Toyotanation about some others with this symptom: https://www.toyotanation.com/threads/clicking-noise-when-turning-only-in-extreme-cold-temperatures.369878/

In general, it worried me at first and I brought it to a general auto mechanic - one with a general aversion to anything from an Asian company - who could not reproduce the issue (due to the temperature having risen).
Now, it seems more of an annoyance, which I minimize by rounding off my turns more (make them less sharp) and not pushing the engine while taking those sharp corners, both of which minimize the noise/grinding.

But it IS an annoyance. I just thought I’d bring it here for some new eyes on the problem.

In light of the fact that it seems much more prominent with a sharper turn (bigger differential between wheel rotation), is there any credence to the notion that the root issue might be differential-based? (differential lube is thickening too much in the cold?)

Thanks for all the thoughts and ideas!
Dave

My Corolla was doing a similar noise…more like a squeak because one of my brake caliper was starting to seize.See included video.

Hard to say, as cv joints will be at a greater angle and more prone to make noise when turning sharp also. In my experience, limited slip differentials usually make more of a rubbing / slight grinding sound when slipping. CV joints make the clicking sound.

It’s possible the grease in the cv joints settles to one side when parked. Then it takes it a while to spread back out and lube the joints when it’s really cold. Thus, you have to drive a bit to sling the grease around in there when it’s butt ass cold. My theory anyway.

I’ve owned a 2009 Corolla since 2012. Mine currently has 113k on it. St. Louis doesn’t get Minnesota cold but we do have winter. I don’t remember ever hearing a noise like yours. How long has your Corolla been making the noise? Has it always done it?

It has done this since the first winter (ahem, REAL winter in Wisconsin) that I owned the car. I think my first winter with it would have been 2010/2011.

Ah, I was thinking it might be something that developed over time and my Corolla just didn’t have enough miles on it. As you say, it’s probably an effect of REAL winters so I probably won’t ever hear it in mine.

Maybe I’ll try to get a video/recording of the sound once it gets cold enough. The sound is a little hard to describe. It’s not exactly a clicking… maybe a “rhythmic” grinding? It’s possible that we may not get that cold until January, but I think it might help you to get a better feel for it.

Does it ever get down to 10F in Mississippi?

Not often. Maybe once or twice a year, on average, if I had to guess. Folks in the South hibernate when it gets that cold. :laughing:

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You guessed right I think where I am at we get the about the same weather you do & anything below 45 is freezing for us & below 30 it is time to hibernate I had to put up with enough of the cold when I was still working when I had to be up north & Canada in the winter time.