Front end problem


It seems that ONLY after my manual 2001 Saturn SL (78,000 miles) has been sitting in the garage for several days, when I try to back out something won’t let go on the right front when I press the accelerator normally (having released the parking break). But if I give it more gas, it’ll make a loud THUNK as I pull out. It’s been doing this for nearly 4 years. I recently had the front brakes replaced, new pads and rotors, new struts and mounts, shocks and springs. It feels like something is not releasing, but with enough force (gas) it finally does. What could it be? Oh, and the right front sometimes makes a groan at slow speed on left or right turns.


Any caliper work done? Without knowing more, I would look at the front calipers to see if they are releasing properly.


No, no caliper work done? But would a sticky caliper cause a loud metal clunking sound when it finally releases, or that groaning/creaking noise when turning–but only sometimes (usually after sitting a while, but sometimes after just a short stop, like in and out of the grocery store). I read–on Car Talk–someone’s description similar to mine: intermittently, when putting the car into reverse, hearing a loud “metallic clunk”, and that person thought it could be a transmission issue. But why, for me, only after it has sat for several days in the garage?


let the car sit for a couple of days. Then jack it up and try to hand spin each tire so you know which tire is stuck.

If you use the parking brake, I would bet on a sticking rear brake.


I really appreciate the comments. Any other ideas? (Example, what about the thunking noise–can it really be made by the caliper when the car is finally able to move?)


My other two thoughts are: (1) CV joint, but I don’t recall one ever not letting go–if it is bad, it is really, really bad; (2) in a 77 Ford F150, we had the loud clunk/thunk every time it engaged the auto trans. This particular truck had three different transmissions installed inside the first 8K miles under warranty, and the last one continued to have a loud thunk. 100K+ miles later, it is still running, though. I ruled that type of thunk/clunk out due to your statement about manual trans. I am not familiar enough with this transaxle to help out or know that this is truly the problem.


For me, it’s the “thunk” along with the feeling like it won’t move (after sitting days)–and when it does move, it almost has the feeling of running over something–like a feeling of resistance and then overcoming it. Thanks for the input. Any more ideas are certainly welcome! (And, what a nightmare–3 different transmissions?!?)


I have one last question: I just now tried to back out again, and it won’t go, and we couldn’t push it either. Every other time–but one–I’ve just gone ahead with the gas, heard the thunk and felt the release and went on my merry way. Today feels like that other time: We backed out in a hurry, not having time to register the resistance. We heard a thunk louder than any other time and terrible squealing as we moved down the drive. When we tried to push it back into the garage we lost the right front tire, punctured by a broken spring! Does this help with the diagnosis?


When a car sits for several days, especially in moist conditions, the pads can be “slightly rusted to the rotors”. This is because the pads have chopped steel wool in the pad material (which makes them semi metalic) which rusts to the rotors. After getting started it may sound as if the brakes are metal on metal, but after a few applications of the brakes it goes away. I’m not saying this is your answer but this CAN BE it if it is occuring on the disc brakes.


Sounds like a CV joint. The brakes should not be an issue since the car is garaged and driven frequently. The groan on turns sounds like a cv problem. I don’t know for sure because you said it was an issue for 4 years. A stuck caliper(front brake) would have been fixed at your pad replacement and would not have been an issue for 4 years in any case. Is this an automatic trans? If so you may have an issue I found in my Jeep grand cherokee where the transmission lagged and jerked for years due some design issues.


When you do jack it up, do it on a level surface and put some blocks on both sides of a wheel.


I’m glad for all the comments. I’ll (try to remember to) say how it all works out!


it sounds like you found (inadvertantly) the problem. i was thinking broken (worn out) engine mounts until you mention the spring.

a broken strut, strut mounting bracket, or spring. again it sounds like you found the culprit though.


Because of your suggestion, I read up on how drum brakes and parking brakes work. Then I went out and pushed the car–which didn’t move, but rocked a little–and saw three tire roll a bit and the fourth didn’t budge. It WAS the rear passenger-side tire. We called the repair shop and they told us we might do more damage if we try to drive it and said we should call for a flat-bed tow truck; so we did. The tow truck man said he gets calls for stuck wheels all the time (here in Upstate New York). He took off the hub cap and kicked it good, near the center of the wheel at about 10 o’clock, then told us to back it out of the garage. Wow. No thunk, no sticking. He said that the rust on the parts makes them stick together if the car sits more than a few days, just drive it around and it’d be free again (until or unless we let it sit, or get it lubricated).

Thanks SO VERY much for the input.