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Steering Clunk


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Hi all,

My wife's 2004 rx330 makes a popping/clunking sound often when she is turning. The circumsatnces vary but she says it happpens almost daily 3 or 4 times a day. I have heard it occasionally and it seems to be coming from the front somewhere. I have removed both front wheels and lubed almost all of the joints. She turned the wheel while it was up on the jacks and of course it did not make any sound. I thought it may be the bushings or the ball joint because I always hear it when I go down the gradual curb at the end of our driveway while turning. The mileage is 46,000.

Can anyone help me with any ideas? Should I replace the bushings and ball joints? Is it easy to do?

Thanx in advance,


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Depending on when the popping noise occurs. It is a popping clicking as your roll around a corner? If so, then that is characteristically CV (constant velocity) joints going out. If it's a pop or click as you turn the wheel, even when the car is not moving, then it could be a number of things. I had a clunk/pop sound after I had my transmission replaced, and they just ran over the subframe with an impact hammer and the sound was gone. Have you had any work done recently?

If it's not that, it could be ball joints or tie-rod ends. With tie rod end issues, the sound should be accompanied with a bit of a tracking/loose-steering symptom. Ball joints shouldn't really show up in the steering feel, but they will show up in tire wear. The way to check for ball joints is to jack up the car, and with the tires/wheels on, put one hand on top of the tire and another on the bottom, and then try to rock the tire back and forth (like this dude is doing - If you can get some movement and play, then you've got worn ball joints. If not, then they are probably okay.

It's hard to believe either ball joints or CV joints would be worn out by 43K miles... but you are having the symptoms. Let us know if the symptoms are only happening while the car is rolling, or if it is when you are turning the wheels at a stop, too.

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blk_on_blk thanks for the thoughts. The link does not work for me but I think I understand the ball joint test and I will try it later today. I have not had any work done and the problem only occurs when the car is moving. Is is not a clicking sound at all but a deifnite clunk or pop that is increasing in the frequency but unfortunately the sound is not duplicatable and there is no loose steering symptom.

gordonw I am not a mechanic by any stretch......where would i find "the intermediate shaft of the steering column. Its the joint that connects to the rack." Is that easily accessible? Might it just need to be lubed?

Thanks for the help guys I really appreciate it!

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It could be the universal joint on the steering column shaft, but that would be a rare failure, especially to make a 'clunk' (and if it was the joint, you would feel it pronounced in the steering wheel itself; if you just hear the clunk, but don't feel it, then I wouldn't think it would be the universal on the steering shaft). I can't see it being the problem unless it was subjected to some sort of damage.

It could also be a worn shock tower mount resulting in a clunking sound.

I'm leaning toward ball joints being your issue. Worn ball joints often won't pop when the vehicle is static because they need the vehicle dynamic and shifting weight to get the worn ball joints to move/shift and pop/clunk.

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