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Clunking sound from right front wheel on turns

We have a mystery: there’s a clunking sound from our right front wheel when we turn, but our mechanic can’t figure out why - he says the axle, struts and ball joint there all look fine. What else could be causing the sound - is he missing something important? This sound happens about 50% of the time on turns.

Note that we recently (about 10 days ago) had the ball joint and struts replaced on the LEFT front wheel - could that have done something to the balance of the axle, etc. that is making this sound happen on the right front wheel? This is an old car (a 1996 Mazda Protege with 115,000 miles on it) but it’s been well-maintained and is otherwise running well.

I’ll bet my morning muffins that it’s a CV joint. Probably the inner one. Try another shop.

I am in agreement with mountainbike.
Another mechanic who is more thorough/competent is likely to find a defective CV joint.

Incidentally, no amount of preventive maintenance in the world can prevent CV joints from going bad.
Either as a result of age/odometer mileage or from a tear in the rubber boot surrounding the joint, CV joints do have to be replaced at some point in all FWD and AWD cars. I think the evidence points toward your car being at that point.

"Clunk, clunk, clunk,… or 1 “clunk”

I’m leaning towards needing a new axle, but if it is a single clunk each time, that would open a few more possibilities. Did the noise start only after the work on the left side? If so, did they replace the sway bar link on the left side when they did the strut? If so, then you would have a stiff, tight joint on the left side of the vehicle driving a potentially loose, sloppy joint on the right side via the sway bar, and so it could be a sway bar link or even a strut mount on the right side making the noise…

It’s just 1 “clunk”, when we’re turning. Seems to happen more on sharp turns than on gradual turns.

Since it’s only one clunk I retract my post…but I’ll give you the muffins anyway.

In addition to the suggestions already mentioned, let me add the strut and perhaps a broken spring coil. But I also have a question: why was only the left strut replaced? Did something happen? Struts are usually replaced in pairs, and a strut can look fine and still be bad.

Thanks for the muffins :-)!

Hmmm, not 100% certain about the number of struts replaced - my husband thinks it probably was both in the pair since our mechanic said he was replacing strutS (the plural), but we aren’t absolutely sure. We’re taking our car back in to be looked at tomorrow morning, armed with the excellent suggestions we’ve gained here, and we’ll ask about the strut question as well as these other things. Many thanks, knowledgeable car people!

And yes…we ARE going back to the same mechanic (we like him!) - but if he can’t fix it this time we promise to go and find someone else who can.

Something just occurred to me. Perhaps too late as usual.

It’s very possible that when the struts were changed the tech did not properly seat the spring ends or perhaps the top part. When changing struts, the shock/spring assembly is removed, the spring is clamped, a nut at the end of the shock’s center shaft is removed, the now-freed end piece is removed, and the pieces including the springs and rubber isolaters are transferred to the new shock and reassembled. The prudent thing is to mark the pieces and be sure they’re all properly oriented in the new assembly, including proper seating of the isolators and the spring ends.

Perhaps one of yours isn’t properly seated.

The problem has been found and fixed! It turns out that the sway bar on that side is just slightly bent (probably from an impact before we owned the car - we bought it used), and because of wear on the right ball joint, the sway bar was sometimes coming into contact with the piece below it when we turned. Our mechanic replaced the right ball joint this morning, and voila - no more clunk! Incidentally, it was actually a body shop guy who located the problem - our mechanic advised us to see one this morning - and then our mechanic fixed it. Thanks so much for all your help everyone - we were able to discuss this whole thing much more knowledgeably because of you, and I know that helped us reach the solution!

Thanks very much for taking the time to report back. Many people don’t, and its always great to get a final word especially on those problems that are pesky and hard to pinpoint.

I do wonder though - it sounds like the clunk was an interaction between a bent sway bar and worn ball joint? It just seems to me that the ball joint wear should have been found on an earlier visit. I also wonder about only replacing the ball joint. Is the sway bar problem deemed unimportant?

I too extend my thanks for your follow up post. It’s rare to hear the final results, and it’s appreciated.

Happy motoring.

The sway bar is a lot more expensive repair than the ball joint - the guys advised us to try doing the ball joint first (they said it wasn’t at “replace me immediately” shape but would have needed replacing anyhow in maybe six months), and hopefully that should be a permanent fix (or at least for a good number of miles) for the problem. If the clunk comes back then we’ll fix the sway bar - they said it’s only a small bend, and not a safety hazard. So fingers crossed the clunk doesn’t return…so far so good, my husband took it through lots of sharp turns, etc. where it would have clunked before, and nary a sound was heard. Happy motoring to you too!

Something to keep in mind when it comes to ball joints is that they really should be replaced in pairs. This means both sides at the same time because if one is badly worn the other is usually not far behind it.

A ball joint is the one thing in a car’s suspension that can cause all kinds of problems when they break and this includes sliding into the ditch, rolling over, or becoming a traffic fatality number.

NorthTex…Did you solve the front end clunk noise problem ?