If you went out for a drive and you noticed a clunking noise when going over bumps or when braking, you may be dealing with more than just an annoying noise. This kind of clunking noise is actually a symptom of a bad suspension and it’s something you’ll experience not only going over bumps, but also whenever you brake, drive over uneven surfaces, potholes, debris, and more.
Today, we will discuss the causes and symptoms of a bad suspension and we will show you what to do to fix the clunking noise when braking and when going over bumps. Granted, the suspension system is complex and it can be difficult to find the source of the noise on your own. However, this guide will help you understand things a bit better and if you still can’t handle it on your own, an expert mechanic will help.
Among the causes for a clunking noise, you’ll find issues such as worn-out struts, damaged shock absorbers, ball joints, or leaf spring shackles, and loose body mounts among others. If you want to learn more about the possible causes so you can pinpoint the issue, all you have to do is keep reading!
What Causes a Clunking Noise When Going Over Bumps?
If you hear a clunking noise when going over bumps, you have to take a look at your suspension system to see what’s going on. Now, there are many parts involved and any of them could be damaged or loose, which means you have to take your time checking. Knowing what the most common causes are will help you understand the potential issues a lot better, so let’s discuss them in-depth.
If the struts are damaged or worn, it will cause a suspension noise over bumps because the strut shocks won’t work properly. Additionally, it may lead to the strut housing getting dented, which will cause shocks to constantly pop in and out of the strut tube. To determine if this is the issue, steer the wheels of your car and listen carefully for noises.
Damaged Leaf Spring Shackles
Leaf spring shackles are present on vans, trucks, SUVs, and trailers. However, they can bend or even break and leading to the clunking noise when going over bumps. To check for this, look at the end of the lead spring shackles to see if they’re damaged or worn.
Damaged Control Arms
The control arms can get worn out in normal road conditions and the issue will be accelerated when driving in off-road conditions. When they get damaged or worn, the wheels will move out of alignment, which leads to clunking noise when going over bumps. Plus, the body mount can also get damaged and it will lead to vibration in the cab compartment.
Damaged Ball Joints
Damaged ball joints provide another reason for suspension noise over bumps and they make it difficult for you to steer in a straight line. If the ball joints get dented, the ball will continuously come in and out of its housing, leading to the clunking noise. If the housing comes off entirely, sand and debris will get into the joint, leading to noises when the car’s in motion.
Damaged Shock Absorbers
Shock absorbers are meant to absorb the impulse of the wheels so it’s possible to drive on rough terrain. However, they can get damaged or worn over time. If they break, you will hear a tapping noise and it will be difficult to veer from side to side while you’re driving.
What Causes a Clunking Noise When braking?
Damaged Control Arms
Over a period of time control arms can get worn out and it will get worse if you are an offroad adventurer. These worn-out control arms make the wheels move out of alignment causing the clunking noise when braking.
If you are hearing clunking noise when braking, most likely it is because of loose bolts. Make sure you check all your bolts are tightened.
Loose or Seized Brake Caliper
When your car is sitting idle without much usage for a long period or if you often park in a damp environment, it can cause corrosion and rust which will seize your brake calipers. Even the hand brake cable mechanism can hang up causing to seize the brakes sometimes. So, it’s necessary to keep lubricating the cable and mechanism. Here’s a good article about causes, symptoms, and fixing a seized brake caliper.
Damaged Shock Absorbers
Under rough driving over uneven surfaces, shock absorbers may get damaged or worn over time. So, if they break, they can cause clunking noise when braking.
Check If the Clunking Noise Is a Known Issue
If you are dealing with a clunking noise when going over bumps or braking, it’s important to check if the cause is a known issue. You can do this by looking through Technical Service Bulletins for your car. These bulletins are issued by automakers and they address known issues while providing solutions. To get your TSBs, you can call your dealership or simply search online so you can find the right TSB for your car’s make and model.
Suspension noise over bumps is common enough to be the focus of many TSBs, so it’s a great place to start because if there is a known suspension issue, you will find the solution right away and be able to fix the issue a lot faster. However, if you don’t find any clues, you will have to get to work. In that case, knowing the common causes we just described above will be very helpful.
Diagnosing the Suspension for Clunking noise: 6 Things to Check
The most important step in fixing a clunking noise is diagnosis. You can do this on your own, but you will need the help of a strong friend to assist you. Before getting started with diagnosis make sure you have a powerful flashlight, if not here’s a good one. Once you’re ready to start looking, here are the 6 things you need to check to find the cause of the issue.
Check for Damaged or Worn Struts
To check for damaged or worn struts, you need to push down on the front and rear of your car to check if they are working as they should. If the strut housing is dented, the strut will pop in and out of the tube.
Next, you want to start the engine and turn your wheels from lock to lock, from right to left. This will help you see if the bearing plates are making a popping or clicking noise while the car is not moving.
For step 3, you want to take your car for a drive around the block and take turns so you can steer the wheel all the way into the direction of your turn to check for popping or clicking sounds. Also, pay attention to the way the steering wheel feels and check if it moves, which is a sign of loose mounting bolts on the wheel hubs.
Lastly, make sure you drive over bumps during this drive to check the strut shaft and see if there are broken internal parts or if the shell is dented. If you notice there’s oil in the strut housing, consider replacing your strut.
Here’s a video that will help you check the struts and make a diagnosis.
Overall, keep in mind that the symptoms of bad struts include clunking noise when going over bumps, unusual tire wear, excessive tire bouncing, vehicle tipping to one side when you turn, instability when you’re driving at the highway speeds, among others.
Check for Damaged or Worn Leaf Spring Shackles
Damaged or worn leaf spring shackles are another cause of suspension noise, so you have to check them out. They are present in off-road vehicles, so if you have a van, trailer, truck, etc., that’s making a clunking noise when going over bumps, here’s what you need to do.
Take a flashlight and check the suspension of your vehicle to see if there are damaged leaf spring shackles. If you see broken parts, you need to address the issue right away.
You should also take the vehicle for a short drive and listen for clunking noises. Make sure you drive over bumps and pay attention to how the suspension feels when the tires are moving around.
When you reach a stop, step on the brakes hard and then accelerate hard to check if there’s horizontal movement inside the suspension system. If the leaf spring shackle bushing is loose, it may not make any noise while in motion, but it will move if you come to a hard stop and hard acceleration.
This video provides a guide so you can check leaf spring suspension and this article will help you determine whether or not you should replace your leaf spring shackles. Overall, keep in mind that the symptoms of bad leaf spring shackles include difficulty steering, clunking noise when going over bumps, vehicle wander, leaning to one side, among others.
Check for Damaged or Worn Control Arms
If you are the kind of person who uses their car for off-road adventures, the clunking noise when braking or when going over bumps is likely caused by damaged or worn control arms.
To check if this is the issue, you first need to take your flashlight and do a visual check of the control arms of the car. Look for damaged or broken parts. If you find them, make sure you solve the issue as soon as possible. In fact, you need to get these parts repaired before you do a test drive because it’s a matter of safety.
If your vehicle is in shape for a test drive, take it for a drive around the block and listen for any clunking noises. As always, make sure you drive over bumps and pay attention to the suspension as your wheels move around.
For this test, you also want to brake hard and accelerate hard when you reach a stop to check if there’s horizontal movement inside the suspension system. If the control arm bushing is loose, it may not make any noises while you’re in motion, but this hard brake and acceleration will help you check if it’s moving around.
Here’s a guide to help you make a full diagnosis of your vehicle’s control arms and this article will help you determine if you should get them replaced. Overall, keep in mind that the symptoms of bad control arms are clunking noise coming from the control arm when going over bumps, braking, or making hard turns, steering wander, uneven tire wear, and vibration in the steering wheel.
Check for Damaged Ball Joints
Ball joints can get damaged or broken over time while driving in normal road conditions. However, if you use your car for off-road adventures as well, your ball joints will suffer a lot more. To check them out, take your flashlight and do a full visual check of the ball joints. If you find damaged or broken parts in the suspension, repair them before you do a test drive.
For the test drive, you want to drive around your block and check for clunking noises coming from under your vehicle. Make sure to drive over bumps and pay attention to the suspension while you’re at it. You also want to make a hard stop and accelerate hard as well to see if there’s horizontal movement inside the suspension.
If your vehicle has been in an accident recently, the suspension was likely taken out of its frame. Make sure you check and set it back on the frame to get rid of the alignment issue. Alternatively, setting the suspension back can lead to other issues, such as the suspension coming loose or the bushing deteriorating a lot faster.
This video will provide some visual aid so you can check if your ball joint is bad. If it is, you may need to replace it. Overall, keep in mind that the symptoms of bad ball joints include clunking or squeaky noise, loose or shaky steering, uneven tire wear, and drifting to the side while driving.
Check for Damaged Shock Absorbers
Shock absorbers have a very important job, but they can get damaged or broken, leading to clunking noise when going over bumps and braking. To check if this is the cause, you want to perform a visual check first. So, take your flashlight and check the shock absorbers thoroughly. If you see any abnormal damage or broken parts, you may have found the issue.
A test drive is never a bad call, so make sure to drive your car around the block and listen for any sounds. Tires are meant to always be in contact with the road as the shock absorbers force them down, so if they are damaged or broken, you will definitely hear it. Make sure to drive over bumps and pay attention to the rebound response of the tires and shock absorbers. They are designed to stop or reduce coil osculations as the coil spring jounces.
Another way to check shock absorbers is to push down on a corner of your car a couple of times so it bounces and then stop pushing to see how much it continues to bounce on its own before coming to a halt. If your shock absorbers are in good condition, the bouncing should stop immediately after you stop pushing.
This video will help you identify if there’s an issue with your shock absorbers. Overall, keep in mind that the symptoms of damaged or worn shock absorbers include unusual or uneven tire wear, excessive bouncing when going over bumps, potholes, or rough roads, fluid leaks, rear squatting, and front nose-diving and instability when you’re driving at high speed, among others.
Check for Damaged or Loose Body Mounts
The body mounts of your car are meant to hold the body to the frame of the vehicle to prevent vibrations from transferring to the cab compartment. On average, vehicles have up to 8 body mounts going from the front to the rear of the car. These parts can get loose, damaged, or just wear out and break off over time.
If you’re dealing with a clunking noise when going over bumps, it could be due to damaged or loose body mounts. Additionally, you will feel a vibration in the cab compartment. To check if the body mounts are the issue, you want to start with a visual inspection.
Take your flashlight and check the body mounts to see if anything is damaged or broken. If you find that’s the care, make sure to repair these parts before you go on a test drive. When you’re ready for that test drive around the block, listen for clunking noise and make sure to drive over bumps to check the body mounts’ condition.
If your car has a unibody, the noise will come from the sub-frames that are holding up the engine and rear suspension. Overall, remember that the symptoms of bad body mounts include excess noise, vibration, and misalignment, among others, so you want to keep an eye on that.
Once you diagnose what’s wrong with your suspension and what’s causing the suspension noise over bumps, you can either repair or replace the part that has been worn, damaged, or broken. Determine if that’s a job you can do on your own or if you should take your car to a professional so they can do what’s necessary so you can go back on the road without annoying noises.
How to Identify a Suspension Noise
To help you even further, we want to provide a table that will help you identify suspension noise over bumps so you can inspect the necessary parts and perform tests for a more accurate diagnosis. This table can save you a ton of time because it may lead you in the right direction instead of having to inspect everything.
As a car owner, you must learn how to identify the causes of certain noises and understand the issue as best as you can. That will help you make better decisions, potentially save money, and avoid safety problems while you’re on the road. Suspension noise over bumps should never be ignored and you must address the issue as soon as possible, so we hope this guide provided the insight you need!