Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Now, that's a new sound somewhere near the wheel

If it isn’t a song, a new sound in the car is generally a bad sound. So here goes… (I’m new here, so don’t take me too much to the cleaners!)

At speeds from around 25 mph to 45 mph, I’m hearing this noise from the front right wheel like there was a (small) stick stuck to the wheel, or like I was driving over small bumps. The frequency of the noise varies directly with my speed. I can feel some sort of bumps through the steering wheel.

However, the noise doesn’t stick around for long. It tends to increase when I’m rounding slight-to-moderate corners, then disappear gradually.

The noise varies, from a “thunka-thunka-thunka” to a “flippa-flippa-flippa”.

I’ve ruled out weather, temperature (it’s been MUCH colder) and a flat tire. Any other ideas?

I drive an '05 Honda Civic EX. Thanks!

Even though it would be very soon for this part to fail on a 2005 car, it sure sounds like you have a bad CV joint on the right drive axle.

Just out of curiosity, did you happen to take a good look up inside of the tires to find out if there is a stick stuck in there?

Your most likely culprits are a bad CV joint or a bad wheel bearing. If you sit still in the car and just turn the wheel side to side do you get any kind of a thunka-thunka or click-click or anything like that? That is normally the sound of a bad CV joint. Of the two, the bad wheel bearing could be dangerous so you should have someone look at it ASAP.

You might be describing a tire with a belt seperation. Try swapping the front tires with the rears and see if the noise moves with the tires.


It’s not necessarly very soon - the car has 107,000 hard-earned (Chicago rush-hour style) miles on it, so I wouldn’t surprised if the wear and tear are starting to get to the vehicle. Since the current leaders seem to be “bad CV joint” and “bad wheel bearing” (something I remember Hondas have particular trouble with), it sounds like I’ll have to bring this into the mechanic ASAP. Thanks!

I was going to guess the tire belt as well (I’ve had that in the past - it was easy to find when the dealer took the tire off and spun it - just had to get a new tire)… but then, I don’t know what a CV joint is. Anyone care to enlighten me?

CV stands for “constant velocity” - on front wheel drive cars the drive axles (“halfshafts”) have to both drive the wheels and bend at the same time (so the car can turn and the suspension can bounce up & down). Wikipedia has a pretty nice animated illustration:

When the internals of the joints become worn, pitted, lose lubrication, etc. they get noisy.

Jumping back in to report an update on this issue. The correct answer was: none of the above.

Indeed, it was something both obvious and non-obvious; while looking for all the esoteric solutions, I failed to notice that 3 of 4 lug nuts had fallen off the front right wheel. The mechanic who took the car out for a spin trying to replicate the problem also didn’t notice this at first, so I’m not quite alone.

I can’t imagine this is supposed to happen in real-life usage, so here’s a question: did the people I had replace the front brakes 6 months ago screw up, big time?

To answer your question: yes. Had this gone on much longer, you could have had a fatal mishap.

A question: How soon after the brake job was done did you first notice something wrong?

My take on this is the lug nuts were only hand tightened and perhaps only the last remaining one done with a lug nut wrench.

Without there being a hubcap on the wheel to catch the loose nuts, you didn’t hear any rattling noise from that wheel.

Hopefully there’s a lesson learned here.

ALWAYS check the work that has been done to your vehicle BEFORE you take it off the repair shop’s lot. NOT days/weeks later.

Thankfully, it doesn’t happen often, but even the best of techs can be distracted (for whatever reason) and can bypass rechecking the previous work at hand.

It is the responsibility of the vehicle OWNER to ensure their vehicle is safe to drive.

It had been 5 1/2 months since I’ve gotten the brakes redone (mid-August 2008). The problem first surfaced the day before I posted - February 1, 2009.

Part of the problem was jumping to conclusions, and the other part not doing a thorough check of the whole system - it’s one thing I should add to my “list of things to check periodically” list.

Just a reminder. Some sales receipts remind us to retorque lug nuts after 25 miles; I forget exactly how many miles, but it isn’t a great distance. It’s easy to install a wheel and have the lugs off center. The car runs good for a while. Maybe you heard a squeaky noise a few weeks ago too.