Piece of wheel cover popping off with metal-on-metal noise

Hey guys,

It’s Nissan Altima 97. My friend need to take her road test so I let her borrow my car this weekend to do some road practice (I was in the car with her). Besides all the heavy braking, and sudden acceleration. She did alright. Because she is from VT, so she was practicing this VT Turn Around (I have never heard of it before today). She turn the wheel all the way to the right and back up. I heard a small popping noise, and didn’t pay too much attention to it at that moment. However, After she finish that VT Turn Around, we started to driving down the hill, and heard this metal-on-metal noise. It lasted for 10 ft, then went away. The noise is coming from my driver side front wheel. When I got off the car, I found the center of the wheel cover pop off
(see this link for the pictures) (https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/d8nISMgHvTGljDbqc9hW88ZXzQ3PNSIDpaMx9kCJU2M?feat=directlink and https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/d8nISMgHvTGljDbqc9hW88ZXzQ3PNSIDpaMx9kCJU2M?feat=directlink )

Now here are my questions. What just happened? and do I need to get it look at immediately, or can I wait until the next oil change?


You must take the car to the shop and have it repaired immediately. The center cover conceals the lug nuts and it is illegal to go down the street with your nuts exposed.

Now to be more serious–I would remove the wheel cover and make certain that this is the cause of the noise. If it is, you can probably pound the center cover back on the wheel cover with a rubber mallet. There may also be some clips on the back of the center cover that you could bent out with a pair of needle nose pliers to keep the center of the wheel cover in place. Bending these clips out so that the center of the wheel cover from coming off. I lost the center hub cover from my 1978 Oldsmobile which I think was caused by a careless tire installer. Since I couldn’t prove that he didn’t install it correctly, I bought another one from the Oldsmobile dealer for about $20. Six months later, I found one for a dime at a yard sale. I grabbed it up for a spare.

My dad owned a 1963 Studebaker Lark and the hubcaps had a tendency to “walk” and make a noise when we went around a corner. We took a bar of soap and rubbed it around the rim of the hubcap. That was the end of the noise.

The noise went away after the car moved for 10 ft or so, and it doesn’t make anything sound right now. During my last tires change (2 month ago), the guy told me the ball joint at the driver side (front) needs to be changed at some point, because it has some movements.

“. . .the guy told me the ball joint at the driver side (front) needs to be changed at some point, because it has some movements”.

This being the case, the problem may not be the wheel cover center. Have the ball joint checked out.

The one thing I don’t understand is how the cover center is pop if it is a ball joint problem

“The one thing I don’t understand is how the cover center is pop if it is a ball joint problem”.

I don’t think they are related. The centrifugal force of the VT turn around caused the center section of the wheel cover to pop loose. I am just saying to be certain that the noise really wasn’t the ball joint.

+1 Triedaq…I don’t think they’re related, either.

I would guess it’s more likely that the cover itself was actually already like that, and just not noticed. once you had a noise up there, you checked the wheel out, and noticed it. Happens all the time, really. How many cars do you see on the roads with a hubcap or cover partially off? I see them daily, at least.

I would check into that ball joint today - as in now. Since you had a “metal-on-metal noise”, I would also give that corner a good look over, just to make sure. Be sure and check the drive axle, too, make sure the boots are OK.

the car is in the shop, I will post back on what they found

They drove around a few time, and couldn’t find the noise I was talking about. However, I did have the ball joint replaced. I hope that is the end of that.

The popping was likely a CV joint and was due to the wheel being turned all the way to the lock. This would move the balls in the joint out of their normal wear pattern.

Based on the potential CV joint problem, the ball joint replacement, and the looks of the corrosion on that wheel in the picture I wouldn’t be surprised if there was not a laundry list of needs on that front suspension other than a single ball joint.