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Creaking/clunking sound only when braking - 96 civic

hey everyone, brand new here.

so for the last few years, my '96 honda civic has been making a mysterious (to me, anyway) creaking or clunking sound when i brake. it’s kind of a low sound—definitely not a squeak—and it’s rhythm depends on the speed of the car. it’s easiest to hear when i brake fairly hard—for example, coming to a stop at the bottom of a hill. typically, if i brake easily and come to a slow stop, i don’t hear the noise.

i don’t hear the noise when i turn the wheel or go over a bump, either. just braking.

i’ve had a couple mechanics listen for it. one said he couldn’t hear it, the other told me it wasn’t a big deal. when i asked him what he thought was causing it, he just told me that it could be a number of things but he couldn’t say for sure without a thorough diagnosis, which he assured me i didn’t need. in addition, my dad, who’s been an amateur mechanic for 40 years, said much the same thing: not sure exactly where it’s coming from, but not to worry about it.

so i’ve just been living with the noise. after a few years though i’m getting tired of it, and would love to get rid of it. or even just know what’s causing it!

i’ll attach a video of the sound. after hours of internet research, the one thing i do know is that it’s a hard thing to describe.

anyone have an idea of what it might be?

any help would be very, very appreciated. thank you!

Here’s a test. Try stopping at the bottom of that same hill using only the emergency brake. If you don’t hear the same thumping, you know the thumping is being caused by the rotation of the front wheels (not the rear wheels).

It sounds to me like maybe a bad CV joint/axle that is binding up. Might also be a bad wheel bearing.

Sounds like a brake rotor with a glazed or rusty spot that is causing the pads to move in their holders. Have you had any brake work done lately?

thanks for such quick responses! tried stopping at the bottom of the same hill with the emergency brake and did not get the same sound.

i had brakes done about two years ago. don’t have the records with me, but i think it was just pads.

You could try sanding the front rotors with 600 grit emery paper to see if it makes a difference.

Agree with insightful that it could be one of the front brake pads sliding around. It’s possible one of the retaining clips is broken.

New pads and rotors. Use OEM and more than likely you’ll get better quieter results.

Worn ball joints and tie rod ends can also clunk as the brakes are applied or when driving over bumps. Mine did.

Worn bushings can do this too as the brake application torques the hubs relative to the chassis. The wheels stop, but the rest of the car wants to keep going. I’ll spare you the vector dissertation.

Time to get the car to the shop. Or get the jackstands out.

I once had one defective pad, made just a little short which left too much clearance. It would rattle back and forth at low speed. It was only 1/16" too short but it sure made a lot of noise. It only did that when no brake pressure was applied.

thank you everyone for all the super helpful comments! i’m gonna take it in. truly appreciated.

Good comments above. It could be the brakes, but I tend to agree with BK’s suspension theory. When you stop, the wheels may stop moving, but as the entire weight of the car is thrown forward, the front of the car rotates down, the rear rotates up. The passenger compartment behaves just like one of those bobblehead dolls in other words. This would be accentuated when stopping at the bottom of a hill, as the front is already down and the rear is already up. Anything worn or loose in the suspension components will make a clunking or vibration noise in that circumstance. You should also check for anything rolling around or loose under the seats, in the trunk, the spare tire , the jack, etc.