Loud Clicking Noise When Driving Straight (Why & How to Fix It)

Nothing is more irritating than when your car starts to make an unexpected and unusual noise when you drive. One of the most common noises that cars can make is a loud clicking sound when you drive straight down the road. The source of the sound may be minor. However, it is usually clear that something is wrong that needs to be addressed.

A clicking sound when you drive straight can be an indication of a problem with the drive train of your car, especially those with front-wheel drive. This sound can also indicate a broken or worn suspension strut, a problem with a tire, or even a loose hubcap. Less likely causes include a worn belt tensioner on the engine or a broken belt.

Whatever the cause for the clicking sound when you drive, the cause should be investigated and repaired immediately.

The more you drive your, the more likely you are to be causing further damage, leading to more expensive repair bills. We will look at some of the most common issues that cause clicking noises and how to best remedy the problem.

Reasons Your Car is Making a Clicking Noise

Every automobile has hundreds, if not thousands, of mechanical parts that move and work together almost silently.

However, when something goes awry, it is usually accompanied by an alarming sound that gets your attention quickly. These are some of the most common problems that can lead to a clicking noise when you drive.

Bad CV Joints

A clicking or rubbing noise from the front of your front-wheel drive car is one of the most common issues reported. Front-wheel drive cars are exceedingly complex pieces of machinery with special components in the drive train. Part of these components is the CV, or constant velocity, joints on each side of the car.

How Do You Tell Which CV Joint is Clicking?

CV joints are subject to normal wear and tear that can cause them to begin to click. Driving your front-wheel drive vehicle with a bad CV joint can lead to a catastrophic failure. If the clicking sound becomes louder when you turn, this can indicate which CV joint is bad. Sometimes you will notice grease on the back of the tire where there is a bad CV joint.

How Do I Know if My CV Joint is Broken?

You will know very quickly if your CV joint breaks. If you are driving, this can be a disaster in the making.

Your car may become impossible to control and lurch to one side. The broken CV joint may disconnect from the transmission or wheel hub and begin to drag on the ground. Often very bad noises accompany a broken CV joint, and the car will become undrivable.

Bad Suspension Struts

Most new automobiles use struts on the front suspension rather than shock absorbers. Shock absorbers are parts of the suspension that help provide a smooth and stable ride.

Struts do many of the same things as shock absorbers. However, struts are also an integral part of the structural chassis of your automobile.

As you drive, the struts absorb much of the motion caused by uneven roads, bumps, and potholes. Struts also support the drive train on front-wheel drive cars and help stiffen the suspension to provide control. A broken or damaged strut will often click or pop as it moves. Your car may become hard to control and unsafe to drive with a broken strut.

Incorrectly Inflated or Designed Tires

Another critical part of the suspension of your car is the tires. Your tires support all the weight of your car and provide the traction to drive safely in all sorts of weather conditions.

Car tires are designed to operate at a specific inflation pressure and to handle specific load ranges. If either of these is incorrect for your car, you may experience problems, including noises that can include clicking or popping.

Low tire pressures can cause tires to fail, as can running tires not meant for your vehicle. Often tires that are failing will begin to make noises such as high-pitched whines, vibrations, or popping and clicking sounds as the tired begin to disintegrate.

Loose Hubcaps

If you have changed a tire recently or had new tires installed, the hubcaps may not have been replaced properly and may begin to click or rattle as you drive.

While this may not be a serious mechanical issue with your car, it can become a dangerous situation if the hubcap comes loose while you are driving. A hubcap flying from a spinning wheel can become a dangerous missile that can inflict considerable damage.

Driving Belt Tensioners or Loose Drive Belts

Every engine depends on at least one belt running around several pulleys and tensioners to drive various engine components. Usually, one of the major parts of the drive belt system is the belt tensioner which keeps the pressure of the belt on the pulleys constant.

The bearings in the belt tensioner wear out with time and can begin to click, grind, or whine. This situation requires immediate attention because a failed tensioner renders your automobile undrivable.

Is it Safe to Drive with a Loud Clicking Noise?

To some degree, it depends on the source of the clicking noise. A loose hubcap may not pose much of a problem. A bad CV joint can be on the verge of breaking completely, which can severely damage the suspension and drive train of your car. We don’t recommend driving your car when it is making strange noises any further than necessary.

Any unusual or different noise, especially clicking sounds from a front-wheel drive vehicle, should be investigated and repaired promptly. If a CV joint fails while the car is being driven, you could lose control of the car and be involved in an accident. You should refrain from driving your car if it is making clicking sounds. Your best bet is to get professional help to determine the problem.

Look Into Calling a Mechanic

More than likely, if your car is front-wheel drive and it begins to make clicking sounds, the CV joints are involved.

A CV joint repair is not something that the average automobile owner can handle since it takes special tools and training to repair and install CV joints properly. Your best bet is to find a reputable garage with mechanics trained to work on your automobile model.

What To Expect

If your car needs CV joint repair or replacement, be sure to get an estimate in writing from the mechanic before any work begins.

Typically, a repair on a CV joint will cost between $200 and $1000, depending on the make and model of your car. If the entire axle assembly must be replaced, you can expect the bill to run from $400 to over $2000 per axle.

How Is It Done?

Often a CV joint can be rebuilt and reinstalled on your vehicle. This requires removing the axle and CV joints from the car. The bad CV joint is disassembled, worn or damaged parts are replaced, and new lubrication is used to reassemble the CV joint. This usually requires specialized equipment and is best undertaken by a trained mechanic.

How To Fix the Loud Clicking Noise

If you are comfortable with tools and have access to a working space, it is possible to rebuild a CV joint at home.

There are some requirements and considerations to be taken if you start this job. We advise anyone who wants to do their own CV joint repair to spend time researching the needed parts and tools for your model and make of automobile.

Step 1. Prepare The Equipment (Safety Stuff Too)

Before you start any involved repair to your automobile, you should ensure you have all of the equipment, tools, and parts you will need. This includes the required safety equipment. At a minimum, you will need these tools, parts, and equipment.

  • A drain pan to catch lubricants and liquids
  • A jack and jack stands to support your car
  • A CV Axle puller
  • A set of sockets with a ratchet
  • The necessary parts to complete the repair
  • Safety glasses
  • Screwdrivers
  • A torque wrench
  • Wheel chocks
  • A set of open-end wrenches

Some models of automobiles may require specialized tools to remove the CV joints and axles. Many automotive parts stores have tool rental or loan programs for these specialized types of tools.

Step 2. Remove the CV Joint and Axle

This procedure varies widely depending on the make, model, and production year of your car. In general, you must remove the tire and wheel from the hub. The castle nut that holds the hub on the axle must be removed. This will allow you to separate the ball joint from the steering knuckle. This may require special tools.

Once the hub is removed from the axle, you can remove the axle from the transaxle seal. Transaxle lubricant may leak from this joint so use your drain pan. Once the axle is free of the transaxle you can remove the axle from the vehicle for repair.

Step 3. Repair and Replace the Axle

If you choose to rebuild the CV joints, they must be removed from the axle. Once they are repaired and replaced on the axle, the entire assembly can be re-installed on your car by reversing the steps used to remove the axle.

Rather than rebuilding the CV joints, it is often a better choice to install new a new axle and CV joints. Installing an entirely new assembly can save both time and money and often ensures that the axle assembly is built to factory specifications, properly assembled and within tolerances.

How Long Can my CV Joints Survive Once They Start Making Noise?

How long you can drive with a CV joint that is making noise depends a lot on your driving habits. If you drive many miles daily on a long commute, your CV joints may last for a few weeks. If you only use your car for short trips around town you may go as long as four to five months before the CV joints fail.

When The Noises Start, It’s Time to Pay Attention

Any unusual noise that suddenly appears while driving is cause for concern. This is especially true if you notice a clicking or popping sound while driving a front-wheel drive car. These kinds of sounds usually indicate a serious problem with the CV joints. You should never ignore what your car is trying to tell you when it starts making noises.