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Mystery Clunk

Hi Everyone. The car is a 2004 Suzuki Aerio with 68k miles on it. I’ve owned the car since 25k miles, and performed all maintenance on time. The car was also maintained well before we owned it (receipts). I’ve taken it to our garage 5 times now, for the same noise. Before this, I whole-heartedly trusted our garage and I’ve had a first name relationship with them for about 5-6 years now. Here is the timeline of events:

  1. Two months ago started making two noises (rattle over bumps and a faint clunk on driver’s side when turning). Garage replaced control arm assembly on both sides.
  2. Took it back a week later because it was still making clunk (It got worse over this week, and then stayed at this level. I can feel it under the driver’s side floor board. Sounds like a clunk/cracking noise) and was making a new rattle. Garage said their air wrench was messing up the first day and a heat shield came loose.
  3. Another week later, still making clunk and making yet another weird rattle/grinding noise over bumps. Garage said this time that it’s another loose bolt on the control arm assembly. Tightened and double checked everything. They seemed apologetic and embarrassed about the loose bolts.
  4. Another two weeks later, still making the clunking noise. I take it back and take our mechanic for a ride. He hears it. I call back later that day and they say they can’t find anything wrong with it (checked struts, front suspension, and cv joint). I speak with a different mechanic and he tells me “we don’t do any fancy hard turning when we take the cars for test drives. We drive them like most people with old cars drive them.” This seems to infer, to me, that it’s only making this noise because I drive my car hard. Fyi, I drive reasonably. They say they had my mechanic, the other mechanic, the shop owner (who was on vacation that week), and ANOTHER mechanic from a different garage looking at it, and they can’t find what’s wrong. Bring it back next week.
  5. Yesterday, they say they looked everything over and couldn’t find anything wrong. Said they would have to diagnose it by feel. I have to work, but my husband picks it up and says they said it’s play in the drive shaft causing this noise, and that they didn’t seem worried about it. I only paid for the first visit.

Does this sound reasonable? Should I take it somewhere else for a second opinion? It does it on turns weather I’m on the gas or not. I like this car and I’m hoping to keep it for at least a few more years.


You need to find another shop

These guys are incompetent, they’re implying YOU are the problem, and they clearly have no desire to fix the problem

They threw parts at the car and took your money. Now they want to wash your hands of you and your car

Find another shop, and this is how it should play out, IMO

Explain that you have a clunk, and what the other shop replaced. Also tell them that the noise is still there, and that the original shop is unable to help you. Don’t mention that the first shop is incompetent and rude. They don’t need to know that, and they don’t need to know who the other shop is. Tell the new shop you’d like to pay for them to diagnose and repair the problem. You might politely ask them if they can please use their chassis ears. When you mention that, it will be clear to the second shop that the first one couldn’t get a handle on the problem

Obviously the first shop never heard of chassis ears

If/when the other shop repairs the problem . . . and you know it’s repaired, because a few days have gone by without a noise . . . you might want to consider bringing the second shop’s repair invoice to the first shop and ask to be reimbursed for that amount. It probably won’t work, but you don’t want to deal with them again, right? You only want some money back at this point. You’ll go elsewhere to actually get your car fixed properly, because these guys obviously can’t handle anything more complicated than oil changes, brake pads and light bulbs, from the sound of things

This sounds like a case where the first shop actually DESERVES to get slammed on yelp!, angies list, etc. It sounds like if you want to throw away your money, NOT have the problem fixed, and also get insulted in the process, this is the place to go :rage:

I agree 100%–as I frequently do–with what db4690 stated.

Thank you very much for your response. I definitely do agree that I need a new shop. I’m asking around to family/friends/coworkers for some recommendations. I don’t think the first repair was a waste of money though. It did fix one of the two noises, which was waaayyyyy worse than the clunk, initially.


Thanks for that information. I was under the impression that the entire repair was a waste of money

In that case, I slightly revise my estimation of the first shop

They apparently did get a handle on a few things, but they still sound incompetent and rude, as far as that clunk goes

Stick to “the plan” and find another shop

You’re going about it the right way, from the sound of it

@db4690 Thank you very much. I found a garage that’s in the same area, cheaper, and highly recommended by a couple of coworkers. I’ll set up an appointment and see what they have to say.


Good luck!

If/when the second shop fixes the clunk, please let us know what the root cause was

Hi Everyone. Just wanted to update you on the mystery clunk. We found a different shop and they diagnosed it as play in one of the half axles. I told my husband this and he said “ohhhhhh yeah that’s what (first garage) said.” He’s not very good with communicating lol.

The new garage replaced it and the clunk is gone, for the most part. I asked how the rest of the suspension looked (good) and if there was a chance the other half of the axle would need replacing. They said no, it should be okay.

However, it’s still making a clunk, but only about 1/10 times that it was before, and not as loud. Any ideas? We’ve now had 7 mechanics at 3 separate garages look at the car and had everything else in the car check out as good. I really like this car and I would hate to have to set it on fire. Just kidding… sort of.

The overwhelming majority of clunks over bumps can be found in the bushings, often the sway bar bushings that hold the bar to the unibody or the subframe. The bar twists within the bushings whenever the wheels go up or down, and the metal wears the rubber away.

Are you yourself able to get under the car? If so, make sure it’s really really solidly elevated, put some leather gloves on, and shake the sway bars vigorously. Shake from the center and at the ends where the sway bar links are.

Post the results.

Thanks for your response. It’s raining here the next few days, but we will try that this weekend when it dries out some.

In the absence of anything else being the cause, you’ve had a shop look at the suspension and bushings, and you’ve removed everything from inside the car that could be a cause, like a loose golf ball that rolled into a wheel well recess, at that point I’d probably just replace the other half axel and see if that fixes the remaining clunk.