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2006 Corolla S, Help Me Find That Clunk!



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wolverine

Hi Everyone,

Short story, Long, our Corolla developed a clunk on the passenger side front over the last year only when going over bumps. When at the shop the Mech said it was " probably the Struts ", so I ordered up some aftermarket Complete struts (Quick struts) and installed them at home but to my surprise the clunk is still there. I checked everything I could and it seemed good, so when talking to the dealer they suggested the swaybar end links. So I changed them out and guess what the clunk is still there. I don't want to keep throwing $$$ just guessing, so what else could it be? Sway bar bushing, lower ball joint, or lower control arm bushings? Is it possible to diagnose it when everything checks out when I had it up on stands to check the free play? Could it be coming from something else inside the engine bay on that side?

So what's been the consensus of things going clunk up front?

dom

I'd have to hear it, or better yet test drive it and/or inspect suspension and steering components. It could be improperly tightened sway bar end links, worn sway bar bushing, ball joint, control arm rear bushing (ripped or unbonded), wheel bearing, inner or outer tie-rod end, upper right motor mount/insulator... What mileage are you at? Check for free-play at all mentioned parts.

wolverine

Just curious, what do you mean by " improperly tightened " ? How does that matter?

dom

I mean they might need to be retightened after settling in... If they're not tight enough, they will be as noisy as worn out links.

Clunks like this can be tough to diagnose - as they may only show up when the suspension is dynamically actuated. Hard to reproduce on a rack.

I'm with dom - have to pretty much check EVERYTHING under there. Bushings, bearings, links, correct torque on suspension bolts/nuts, axle carrier bolts, strut bolts (especially if there are eccentric bolts used). Some shops will test drive the car with the front swaybar disconnected - to see if they can isolate the noise.

Not a big fan of quick struts - if you check some reviews online - you'll likely come across some owners that installed quick struts, only to find out that they contributed to suspension noise where there was none before. In your case, if the quick struts are noisy - would be almost impossible to pinpoint the noise,

Noise can also be transmitted from one end of the car to the other. Could actually be an issue with the rear suspension, that "sounds" like it is coming from the front. Can also be something completely unrelated to the suspension - could easily be a engine/transaxle mount that is moving around - causing that clunking noise. Even something loose inside the cabin can be misdiagnosed as suspension noise - some sources can be quite innocuous.

True story, this was my case in my old Matrix - made a clunking noise every time someone hit the brakes. Was actually loud enough that it concerned my wide. Technician convinced my wife that the noise was coming from the front suspension. I was on travel for field test, so I had to diagnose it over the phone. I asked them to check to make sure it wasn't something under the seat (simple, stupid stuff first) - as the sound got louder as the phone was lowered toward the cabin floor. Tech argued it was because the noise was coming from under the car - wanted some $$$ to fix it - basically told me not to tell him how to do his job. I was so pissed off, that I caught a red-eye back some to deal with it in person as the car was still sitting at the dealership. Stuck my head under the seat - pulled out my coffee thermos - no more clunk noise. Tech never apologized.

wolverine

Thanks for the replies Gentlemen, appreciate it. The Thermos is a funny story! I guess I will disconnect the link to eliminate/confirm the sway bar. Just to note about the quick struts, I know they aren't the best quality but the noise is the same before the change out as afterwards,so I assumed the strut is good, Right?

Dom, I think you asked how many miles on the Car? 107,000 miles. I wish you could take it for a test drive to hear it.

dom

Disconnect the link? Just make sure it's good and tight instead. If you don't know how, you should have someone inspect it. Where are you?

The Toyota dealership had planted 2 small springs in my first new Toyota (2004 Corolla)'s boxed metal frame under driver's seat to create annoying and very hard to find noise, to 'ensure' that I bring it back in for service... So they lost all my business after my very first visit there, and I reported James Toyota in Timmins, Ontario, Canada to Toyota headquarters for other sales scams as well.

wolverine

You got to be kidding me, Wow!

You asked where I am? NL, Canada! As for why disconnect the links, Fish mentioned it in one of his posts above that one dealership did to try to eliminate the sway bar as being the culprit. Not a bad idea and easy enough to do. I should have taken the care for a run when I had the old ones off just to try it. I'll find out in less than 1km because I live on a gravel road and it's full of pot holes so I don't have to go far. No Biggie! It's only my time.

Yeah, that's pretty crazy for a dealership to "plant" something to generate business. Some dealerships are pretty honest, but unfortunately - I fear that most are just plain profit driven thieves.

Yup, disconnecting the sway is a quick and dirty test - just don't go blasting down a freeway, as without that front sway - the car's handling can be a handful. If you get to sawing that wheel back and forth to correct for the nose sniffing around and you might experience a little pucker factor if the car threatens to swap ends on you.

Gravel road - that could explain a lot about the knocking noise. When I did some work at a remote test site on a local military base, had to drive on gravel / dirt roads to make it to a grassy field with my equipment - with all heavy machinery activity and especially the tracked vehicles running about - was a wonder that I didn't break the car in half.

After a couple of months after that work, took a look at my bushings on the lower control arm, around my sways - rubber material was completely gone. Since I'm running a slightly higher rate spring (TRD coil springs) and the roads here are pretty smooth, they only make noise over big bumps. Unfortunately, its been on my to-do list for some time. My son will likely be the one to fix that before he starts driving.

wolverine

Just an update. I made some time today from all my other toys and changing tires on my buddies motorcycle to get at the corolla. I test drove the car with the sway bar links disconnected but only a few hundred meters down our gravel road to find the clunk still happens but now I decided to try the drivers side on the pothole/rock and now it happens on both sides. The only thing I notice with the car on stands is when I grab each wheel and I move either one left and right there is a clunk there but It feels like it's coming from the center of the car in the power steering box ( if that's the correct name for it, what the tie rods connect to ). Is that normal? I don't see/feel any movement in the lower ball joint or in the tie rod end on either side but at least I have ruled out the sway bar as the issue.

Any ideas?

Did you mean the noise seems to be coming from the steering rack? That is a possibility, sometimes the seals can go bad, or the steering rack can be loose (mounting bolts are loose).

Could be axles as well. Both steering rack and axles can make noises that can vary from a light, clicking noise to deep, clunking noise that can be felt through the steering wheel.

wolverine

Yah, There is something with the steering rack, not quite sure what it is but when I grab either wheel and move it in and out there is a clunk. Not sure how it translates to an up and down clunk when going over a bump or maybe it's just a coincidence but I can't find anything else loose.

Is the steering rack replaceable? Is it a hard job? Is it expensive. What would be clunking inside of it? doesn't look like the mounting bolts are loose, just something inside of it. I did notice oil down around the area on the passenger side, not sure if it's coming from there or maybe the Chain Tensioner is leaking, will have to investigate further.

The rack is replaceable - no need for any SST (special service tools) - just unbolt and pull down. Has to come from the bottom, though I haven't had to replace any rack and pinions on any of my Toyota's yet.

Usually the power steering vane pump will go out before the rack will. But that doesn't mean the rack is bulletproof. On faulty racks, the seals can go bad - leading to excessive piston wear and corrosion forming internally, Can manifest as steering action that isn't 100% smooth (steering feels notchy, single hard spot during turning, clunking and clicking noises, lots of play, etc.)

Might be worthwhile to compare the noise your are hearing with recorded noises online of various suspension issues. There are a number of videos on Youtube that owners recorded with bad steering racks, bad lower control arm bushing, worn sways, etc.

Might help shorten that list of possible culprits to chase down - might even point you directly at the noise source.

amanoai

I had a clunk on the driver's side on my 00' and it turned out to be the stabilizer bar link. This part right here.