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Lexus ES350 front end clunking noise and wheel hopping.


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I have a 2022 ES350 (Luxury trim) which presently has ~9,500 miles on it. It was purchased in December of 2021 in Tacoma, WA. Within the first months of ownership, I experienced a random "clunking" noises and physical sensations in the front end when I come to a slow stop, as if I have runover something...but I haven't. The noise is noticeable by my passengers as well. This happens just about every time I drive the car, more times than I can count. There is no sequence that I can duplicate to cause the clunking sound and sensation, it occurs randomly. To me, it feels like something is loose, maybe a brake rotor, sway bar or shock absorber.

I also experience a random "hopping" of the front passenger wheel. This feels like someone is bouncing the wheel like a basketball. It has only occurred from a dead stop after the car has sat for a while. The hopping occurs at lower speeds only. When I accelerate to about 25 mph or higher, it will stop. This hopping has happened about 4-5 times in my ownership. The wheels have been checked for balance and have been rotated once. The car itself drives fine, track the road fine and has no other problems. I'm wondering if it has something to do with the parking brake or the brake caliper sticking on that front passenger wheel.

As I live in a town that has no Lexus dealership, I first took the car to our local Toyota dealership for an inspection on 2/1/2023 (two months after purchase). I believe they did a thorough inspection. I rode along with a mechanic, and with him driving, we got the clunking noise to occur more than once. The wheel hopping did not occur. They could find nothing in the front-end area that was loose or out of order. Therefore, nothing was physically done to the car. I drove the car until 9/25/2023, when I returned to the dealership where I purchased the car for another inspection (~250 miles from my home). Again, I rode with a mechanic, we heard the clunking noise more than once and again, they could find nothing wrong with the front-end components. I continue to hear and feel the clunking noise nearly every time I drive the car and the wheel hopping occurred again less than 2 weeks ago as I left a parking lot.

Has anyone else experienced this problem? I feel that this may be a symptom of some serious safety concern. I am approaching the point where I am contemplating trading the car in to put this disappointment behind me.

Edited by Kim N. Fardell
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  1. Suspension Components:

    • Loose or worn suspension components can lead to clunking noises. Although the Toyota dealership inspected the front end, it’s possible that certain parts were overlooked.
    • Consider checking the following components:
      • Control Arms: Specifically, the upper control arm on the driver’s side. If it’s worn or has loose bolts, it could cause the described noise.
      • Ball Joints: Inspect the ball joints for any signs of wear, including grease leakage or torn boots.
      • Endlinks: Even though you’ve replaced them, double-check their tightness.
      • Struts and Springs: Ensure they are properly secured and not causing any play.
      • Shock Absorbers: Verify that they are functioning correctly.
    • If you haven’t already, consider having an independent alignment shop mechanic reinspect these components.
  2. Wheel-Related Issues:

    • The hopping sensation you described might be related to the front passenger wheel. Here are some possibilities:
      • Wheel Bearing: A worn or damaged wheel bearing could cause irregular movement.
      • Tire Issues: Check for any bulges, flat spots, or uneven wear on the tires. Also, ensure proper tire pressure.
      • Wheel Balance: Even though the wheels were balanced, it’s worth rechecking.
      • Bent Wheel: A bent wheel can cause vibrations and hopping. Inspect the wheel for any visible damage.
      • Brake Caliper: You mentioned the possibility of the brake caliper sticking. Ensure it’s functioning correctly and not causing any issues.
      • Parking Brake: Verify that the parking brake isn’t engaging unintentionally.
    • Swapping the front tires (moving them to the rear and vice versa) might help identify any tire-related issues.
  3. Additional Considerations:

    • Road Conditions: Pay attention to whether the clunking occurs more frequently on rough roads or specific surfaces.
    • Temperature: Sometimes temperature changes can affect components, causing noises.
    • Alignment: Ensure the wheels are properly aligned.
    • Transmission or Drivetrain: Although less likely, issues in these areas could also contribute to the symptoms you’ve described.
  4. Diagnostic Tools:

    • Since you don’t have a nearby Lexus dealership, consider investing in an OBD-II scanner. It can help you read error codes and diagnose potential issues.
  5. Finally, if no one can figure this out, you may want to investigate your state's Lemon Law to see if your situation qualifies.

 

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