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Mysterious clunk/click noise when turning - just replaced strut

Recently replaced the two front struts and noticed the passenger side is exhibiting this peculiar clunking/clicking/popping sound when turning. It mostly happens when turning in motion but once in a while when parked. Clunk/click sound usually only occurs once, or in a short series of 2-3 times, during turning.

Video of this clunk/click while parked:

Noise is almost silent at the strut mount/bearing, so I suspect it’s lower in the assembly. Can feel the clunk/pop vibration with hand placed on the lower spring seat.

Took the tire off and thoroughly inspected things. No tears/leaks in any joint sleeves/bushings. Tie rods and CV joint look fine, as do strut mount, bearing, upper spring seat, insulator, rubber bumper, sleeve, and spring. None of these were replaced during the strut replacement as everything looked great and with only 55k miles.

I’ve not been able to reproduce the issue with the engine off, nor when the tire is off the ground when jacked/lifted.

During Google searches, it was suggested the culprit is likely either the strut mount/bearing or CV joint. We removed the strut today and everything looks the same as during the install. We can’t reproduce the sound with just moving the knuckle around with the strut removed. Strut mount/bearings look in excellent condition.

Any ideas appreciated!

I have seen this on a 2007-2009 RX350 (I can’t tell what year yours is). The strut mount is on an angle, if it is not installed in the vehicle with the correct orientation the bottom of the strut mount will rub on the upper spring bracket.

The white paint mark on the strut mount is a reference mark, I believe the white mark faces outward, compare it with the other side. On the strut mount near the studs there should be arrows that face forward.

Thanks @Nevada_545 I did see the triangular mount plate has a white dot on top, and the upper spring seat has three etched arrows pointing outward. My RX350 is a 2007.

I was definitely concerned about the orientation so used white-out to make a vertical marking all throughout the assembly from mount down the the lower spring seat. The strut mount dot does indeed match the arrow markings on the upper plate.

One concern we had was the bearing being installed upside down:

But in reading around the ClubLexus forums and playing around with the directionality, I think we installed it correctly with the cupped side facing down, sitting atop the upper spring seat, while the side with the inner red ring faced up to the strut mount. Basically to allow the strut assembly to rotate relative to the fixed strut mount…

Oddly, regardless of which direction the bearing faces, if we rotate the mount/upper spring seat (in the aligned white dot <> arrow orientation) sufficiently, they do scrape against one another past ~90 degrees of rotation… But I imagine the strut/tire would never rotate that much even with maximum turning of the steering wheel.

If I remember correctly there is a flat side on the top of the strut that has to align with the top plate. You can get the assembly back together with it off but it will pop when turning. Look at the pic you posted and you will see what I am referring to the strut has to align into the top plate. Did you replace the bearings and top plates also?

@SteveC76 Right, the flat side of the strut rod abuts the upper spring plate/seat – for this RX350 assembly the upper bolt won’t screw on otherwise…

We haven’t tried replacing the bearings, mount, or upper seat yet, as everything looks in excellent shape at only ~55k…

Still flummoxed

You could try swapping the bearings side to side and see if the noise moves. As I rule I usually replace the bearings and mounts when doing struts. Toyota/Lexus has had issues with both the bearings and towers making noise.

Take a look at the spring and its orientation to the insulators, any sleeves on the spring wire and spring seats top and bottom. The spring should be a small bit (2-5 mm) from touching the kickup on the spring seats used to orient the spring. Also, any spots that the bare spring can touch the spring seat away from the insulators. Too close and these movements can cause noise as you describe. These assemblies can be pretty touchy about assembly.

I’m Not Sure What Kind Of Car An RX-350 Is… There Are None Around Here And No Dealers For Them. I Saw The RX And Was Thinking Mazda, But No. What Make?

@SteveC76 Thanks for the tidbit, I purchased an extra strut mount and was anticipating replacing that alongside the strut, but it seemed to be such good shape I ended up returning it, untouched… I suppose what’s prompting me to not suspect the mount/bearings as much is I specifically watched and listened alongside that area under the hood during the noise (above Youtube video) and it didn’t seem the sound was emanating from that area, but moreso lower down the in assembly. As in the video, I barely saw any motion in that area and certainly no rubbing/scraping, vibration, buckling, or such… But I wonder if it is the source after all and the noise is just propagated downwards.

I’ll look further into the strut bearing and think about installing it upside down (from its current position), but would like to avoid it as the assembly/disassembly process takes a good 2 hours…

@Mustangman Thanks for the advice. I’m a bit concerned about the spring positioning as well. One thing I neglected to mention is I swapped out the bottom spring insulator with rubber tubing (radiator hose of ~1/8in wall thickness) per the recommendation of several folks at the ClubLexus forums. Apparently the OEM insulator doesn’t last very long so the rubber tube/hose extends its lifetime significantly:

It’s about 18" long altogether and wraps around for almost one full circle up the spring. My original insulator is in quite good shape (at ~55k miles), so if worst comes to worst, I can reinstall that, but the spring seems to be positioned quite securely against the little kickup/stopper in the lower spring seat. The original upper spring insulator is also in great shape so I didn’t replace that either, and it seems to conform well with the top coil.

I can certainly try to position the lower spring seat (i.e. its kickup) a litter farther away from the end of the spring coil/sleeve to see if that helps things. Not sure if it will stay in place by friction along if not in contact with the kickup/indentation…

@“common sense answer” Thanks for the interest, the RX350 is a SUV model by Lexus here in the US.

I would get the OEM rubber spring seat. You may have induced the problem with the hose and are now fighting a no win battle.

The Noise Is Disconcerting. (Disclaimer: My Low-Tech Computer Won’t Allow Me To Run Your Video/Audio). The Only Time I’ve Experienced “Clunk” Noises From A Strut Assembly It Resulted From Defective Bearing/Mounts.

If for any reason the bearing binds up occasionally then the spring “winds up” and then suddenly releases with a clunk. This twisting of the spring can eventually break the spring. Then a broken coil can puncture a tire causing a blow-out.

For that reason I’ve never trusted a visual inspection of the bearing/mount, but rather insist on replacing them when struts are replaced. If they’re still functioning properly when the struts are renewed they could be well on their way to failing before the new struts will wear out.

This is the same reasoning that causes folks to replace water pumps, pulleys, etcetera, when renewing a timing belt or replacing valve stems with new tires.

You seem to be pretty certain in your investigation that the bearing/mount is not the culprit and I hope that’s the case.

Most of my cars have available Monroe Quick Struts, an easy to install factory assembled strut/spring/bearing/mount assembly. They are probably not available for a Lexus.


Why Did The Struts Require Replacement At 55,000 Miles?


Sorry for the bump, but I’m having this same issue. I just replaced the front struts on my CR-V and I seem to only get one knock when I turn the wheel hard to the right (typically when backing out of a parking space). Were you able to resolve your issue? I replaced the struts with after-market KYBs, which are supposed to feel like OEM. I haven’t done a wheel alignment yet because I’m worried that I might need to replace something that will warrant another alignment.