Possible Causes of Clicking Noises While Driving
If you hear a clicking noise coming from your car only when driving, there are several possible causes to investigate:
One common source of clicking noises when driving is worn CV (constant velocity) joints. The CV joints connect the wheels to the transmission and allow the wheels to move up and down while still transmitting power. Over time, the grease inside the CV joints can break down and the joints themselves can wear out, causing a clicking noise especially when turning.
Worn or damaged axles can also produce a clicking noise. The axles connect the wheels to the transmission, and like CV joints, they have grease inside that can break down over time. If the axle shafts become excessively worn, or if the internal splines are damaged, they may begin to click when driving.
The wheel bearings allow the wheels to spin freely. If the bearings become worn out, they can cause clicking or popping noises when driving. Bad wheel bearings will usually make noise when turning and may get louder at higher speeds.
Issues with brake components like brake pads, rotors, or calipers can also lead to clicking. For example, if the brake pads are worn down too far, the metal backing plate can rub against the rotor and create noise. Caliper pins that need lubrication can also click.
Worn or loose suspension components like ball joints, sway bar links, and struts can click when driving. As they wear, they develop play that allows them to move and knock around as you drive, creating audible clicks.
The driveshaft, U-joints, carrier bearing, and other driveline components connect the transmission to the rear differential. If any of these components become excessively worn or damaged, they can cause a clicking noise as the driveline rotates.
How to Diagnose the Source of the Clicking Noise
Determining exactly what is causing the clicking noise in your car requires a thorough inspection and test drive. Here are some tips for diagnosing the problem:
- Localize the noise – Try to pinpoint where the clicking is coming from – front or rear, left side or right side. This can rule out some components.
- Check when the noise occurs – Note if it only happens when turning, accelerating, braking, or going over bumps. This timing can indicate certain issues.
- Inspect components – Look for signs of excessive wear on CV joints, axles, wheel bearings, brake components, etc. Look for leaking, damaged, or missing grease.
- Test drive and listen – Have an assistant drive the car so you can listen from outside the vehicle. See if the noise changes or disappears when turning, accelerating, braking, or hitting bumps.
- Jack up the vehicle – Inspect the wheels, bearings, suspension, and driveline components more closely with the wheels off the ground.
Pay attention to any patterns with the clicking noise and systematically test components that could be involved. Your mechanic can perform more specialized tests as needed.
Possible Solutions for Clicking Noises While Driving
Once the source of the clicking is found, here are some common repairs and solutions:
Worn CV Joints
– Replace damaged CV axle shafts
– Rebuild or replace CV joints
– Replenish CV joint grease
– Replace worn axle shafts
– Replace damaged axle universal joints
Bad Wheel Bearings
– Replace worn wheel bearings and races
– Repack wheel bearings with grease
– Replace worn brake pads and rotors
– Lubricate and inspect caliper slides and hardware
– Replace any damaged brake hardware
Loose Suspension Components
– Tighten loose components to specification
– Replace excessively worn ball joints, bushings, and other hardware
– Replace worn U-joints
– Replace damaged driveshaft
– Replace worn carrier bearing
– Realign driveline
Properly diagnosing and repairing clicking noises right away can prevent further damage from occurring inside the affected components or other surrounding parts.
When to Seek Professional Help
For many repairs like axles, wheel bearings, and suspension components, the average car owner does not have the expertise or equipment to properly diagnose and replace worn components. Seeking help from a professional mechanic is recommended for:
– Diagnosing any unclear or intermittent noises
– Pinpointing the cause of clicks that come from multiple areas
– Handling extensive repairs like transmission, differential, or driveline work
– Utilizing special tools like chassis ears to isolate noises
– Performing alignments or driveline balancing
A certified mechanic can quickly get your car up on a lift and inspect the underside components to find what is making the clicking noise. They can then advise you on the recommended repairs and their costs.
Preventing Future Clicking Noises
While some clicking noises arise unexpectedly from worn parts, you can take proactive steps to help prevent certain issues:
- Frequently inspect brake pads and rotors. Replace them before they are worn down excessively.
- Keep up with scheduled CV axle boot and joint inspections. Replenish grease as needed.
- Address torn CV boots immediately to prevent dirt contamination of joints.
- Inspect suspension components like ball joints during routine tire rotations. Look for excessive wear.
- Listen for bearing noises and replace them early.
- Correct any driveline vibrations right away before further damage occurs.
- Maintain proper wheel alignment to prevent uneven tire wear.
- Use high-quality grease and components when repairs are needed.
Staying vigilant with preventative maintenance and not putting off any repairs can go a long way towards preserving your car’s components and preventing those annoying clicking noises during drives. Address small problems early before they turn into major repair headaches down the road.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why does the clicking happen only when driving and not when parked or idling?
Many of the components that can cause clicking noises only encounter significant loads or motion when the car is driving. For example, CV joints click more when turning, worn wheel bearings get louder with speed, and suspension components make more noise over bumps. The forces experienced when driving make the worn components click and knock around.
Are clicking noises while driving dangerous?
Clicking noises themselves are not necessarily dangerous, but they signal that wear and damage is occurring. Continuing to drive without repairs can lead to complete failure of axles, wheel bearings, suspension, or other critical components. That kind of failure can cause accidents and injuries. So it is best to diagnose and repair clicking noises right away.
Should I avoid driving the car until clicking noises are fixed?
You should limit driving the vehicle when severe clicking noises suddenly arise. However, mild clicking from worn bearings, joints, or pads is OK for short trips to the mechanic. Just be cautious and aware the noises could worsen. Have any persistent clicking inspected so the cause can be found and repaired.
The Bottom Line
Clicking noises when driving often stem from wear in CV joints, wheel bearings, suspension, driveline, or other components. Identifying the exact cause takes some inspection and testing. While the noises themselves may not be immediately dangerous, they indicate issues that will progressively worsen if left unattended. To stop the noises and prevent further damage, have a mechanic diagnose and repair any worn or loose components making the clicks. Addressing problems early is key to avoiding more headaches and safety hazards down the road.