Diag Knocking Sound While Turning, Will I need an Alignment?

2005 Camry. 210k miles.

I’m trying to diag a clunking sound when turning the steering wheel. Hear it with the car lifted up, car off and turning steering wheel, or while driving it.

I checked the intermediate steering shaft u joints, both lower ball joints, sway bar links, outer tie rods, cv axle boots, and mcpherson strut mounts. Didn’t see anything obvious. Using a stethoscope, the knocking sound seemed to be the loudest on the upper ball joint of the left sway bar end link. Added some additional grease to all four ball joints on both left and right sway bar end links. Noise still continued.

I would like to start taking a few parts out of the equation. Would it ruin my alignment if I disconnected the outer tie rod on one side and turned the steering wheel to see if I still hear the noise? Would have my tires complete straight and steering wheel centered prior to taking it out of the knuckle, by eye sight. Not sure if when I go to reconnect the outer tie rod back to the knuckle after turning the steering wheel back and forth, and having the steering wheel eye balled centered and the other tire visually straight if I would need an alignment? Would repeat the process on the other side of sound still persists. This would narrow it down to a single side at least. From there I can continue with disconnecting sway bar end link, pushing the cv axle out of the knuckle. One part at a time until the sound stops on the side that I heard the sound on. Not sure if this would ruin my alignment or not?

Did you stethoscope-probe the steering rack too? That would generally be my pinhead-guess for this sort of symptom.

I’d set-aside the steering alignment issue and focus on fixing the steering noise problem. I’ve removed the tie rods and control arm linkages on my cars and didn’t need any alignment work. But I didn’t change any of the adjustments and didn’t change any of the parts, just reinstalled the same parts I disconnected in exactly the same configuration.


As long as the jamb nut for the outer tie rod isn’t loosened the alignment won’t change.

My Honda, which has trapped front brake rotors requires the steering knuckles be removed to perform a brake rotor swap. After replacing the rotors and reinstalling the knuckles, the toe adjustment doesn’t change.


How did you check the strut mounts? That’s my guess - especially if those struts are now 20 yrs old. Hold onto the spring while having someone turn the wheel - if the strut mount is binding/popping you should easily feel it, and it would coincide with the noise.

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If you can hear the noise with the front wheels off the ground and are willing to remove the outer tie rods from the knuckles, then I would remove both ends at the same time and turn the wheels left to right as far as they will go both ways to see if the noise is there or not, and turn the steering wheel lock to lock (with the key turned on, would not hurt to have the engine running either, but NOT needed) to see if you can hear the noise or not… if you still don’t hear the noise then install one tie rod back to the knuckle at a time and turn the wheel to see if you can hear the noise, you do not have to torque to spec while checking for the noise, just when done before lowering the vehicle back down…
And as Tester said, as long as you leave the jam nut(s) on the inner tie rod end(s) alone, alignment not needed, unless already needed…

I would also make sure that all the lower control arm bolts are tight, I have seen them get loose and make a noise also…

Try not to over think this, it is done often in shops…

Look to the spring on that strut. Make sure it is not contacting itself… two coils very close together will make a pop. Also the position of the coil in its lower and upper seats can cause a noise.

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Thanks for the help!

I didn’t put the stethoscope on the actual rack, and didn’t notice the individual coils on the McPherson strut assembly being in contact with each other. Also didn’t notice any lose bolts clunking around

I see that the best and easiest method other than a visual inspection and the things above that I should do before moving forward would be to

  1. Get both outer tie rods out of their respective knuckles
  2. Turn the steering wheel and see if noise still persists
  3. If noise does not persist, put one end back into it’s knuckle and disconnect sway bar end link on the opposite side, this would allow one end to turn independently of the other
  4. Turn the steering wheel and see if noise persists, this would let me know which side has the noise
  5. On the side with noise, check outer and inner tie rod ends for play
  6. If little to no play, on the side that has the noise, disconnect sway bar link
  7. Turn the steering wheel and see if noise persists
  8. If noise persists, undo the axle nut on the side that has the noise, push axle out of the knuckle, so that the knuckle can rotate independently of the axle
  9. Turn steering wheel and see if noise persists
  10. If noise persists, than all that left is a lower ball joint and the upper strut mount. If visually both look ok, replace either lower ball joint or upper strut mount. 20 year old original parts, if the original one is coming out, might as well as replace it. Start with lower ball joint as it’s cheaper

If I’m understanding correctly, this part of the rack and pinion is not exposed to power steering fluid (this car uses ATF)

And the only thing lubricating metal rubbing against metal is 20 year old oil or grease from the factory??

Right now, I’m letting the cotter pin on one side soak in penetrating oil. Seized in their very good. I think it’s likely the original one from 2004 when it was made. Could just cut off the ends, twist the nut off, and drill out what’s left over, but I’m going to try and avoid that if possible. The other end, the cotter pin came out nice and easy.

#3 turn the wheels back and forth left to right and right to left a few times checking for binding and or noise with both outer tie rod ends removed from the knuckles…
You DO NOT have to or need to remove the end links to turn the wheels, unless you hear noise on that side and then you might, just to see if it goes away doing the test again, to see if that is the issue… in true fashion you are over thinking this… again the end link does not effect the turning of one wheel at a time at all on your and most vehicles…

#4 then hook one tie rod back up at a time and turn the wheel to check for noise and or binding… …

#5 You should have checked for inner and outer tie rod end play and ball joint play as soon as the vehicle was up on jack stands before #1

#6 If ANY play, replace the part in question, you should have 0 play…

#8 I would only remove the axle if everything else checks out but still have the noise with tie rods NOT hooked up…

The lower control arm bolts from under the cradle will NOT be loose just by looking at them, much less clunking around, you will have to put a socket on them and try to tighten them, I use an impact gun, but a long 1/2 drive breaker bar etc will work also… Suspension part like lower strut bolts and control arm bolts are not like valve cover bolt, you have to put some muscle on them to get them tight… lol

And if your rack-n-pinion is making noise, replace it with a reman or new one, do not try to rebuild it, the pinion and gear are worn out and need replacing plus whatever else is damaged, I have seen racks lock up, you DO NOT want that happening while driving down the road at speed, it’s a bad day when it happens…

Hint, with the outer tie rod end loose from the knuckle and ball joint loose from the control arm, you can put a small screw driver or ice pick etc etc in the cotter pin hole and rotate the tapered stud/shaft to check for binding looseness and or noise also…

And don’t forget what Mustangman said either… May not be easy to see if the spring is in it’s seat…

My WAG, cv joint.

Try to better narrow down the location the noise is coming from before deciding what to take apart. It should be fairly easy to tell if the noise is from the strut area vs the rack for example.

A broken strut spring should be also considered. They often break in the tightest part of the coil and this makes it hard to spot the crack.

No experience w/your car’s steering rack configuration, but I’ve always thought the steering rack shared its fluid with the power steering pump.