Car Makes Noise When Turning (Reasons & Fixes)

car makes noise when turning

Have you ever noticed your car making strange noises when turning the steering wheel? Does your car make noise when turning at low speeds or high speeds? Hearing new and unusual sounds from your vehicle can be unnerving, especially a grinding, knocking or whining noise when performing basic functions like turning the steering wheel.

If your car is making noise when turning, it’s a clear sign there’s an underlying issue. Ignoring those sounds is not recommended, as the problem will likely worsen over time. But where do these noises come from, and what are the most common causes?

In this detailed guide, we’ll outline the top reasons a car makes noise when turning the steering wheel. You’ll learn how to diagnose the issue, what steps to take to fix it, and how to prevent noises in the future through proactive maintenance. While hearing noises from your car when turning can be alarming, understanding the root cause will give you confidence to resolve the problem.

Common Causes of Noise When Turning the Steering Wheel

There are a number of reasons you may hear strange noises when turning the steering wheel. The most common causes include:

Low Power Steering Fluid

The power steering system uses hydraulic fluid to provide additional steering assistance. If the fluid level becomes low, the pump may whine or groan when turning the steering wheel. Low fluid indicates a possible leak in a hose or seal. Topping off the power steering fluid may temporarily stop the noise, but if it’s persistently low the system should be inspected for leaks.

Failing Power Steering Pump

As the main component of the power steering system, a worn out or failing power steering pump is a common reason for noise when turning the wheel. The pump uses fluid pressure to reduce the driver’s steering effort. But internal wear and tear causes a whining or whirring noise during steering at low speeds. The noise typically gets louder as the pump further deteriorates before fully failing. Replacing the power steering pump is the permanent fix for this issue.

Steering Rack and Pinion

The steering rack and pinion gear set converts the rotational motion of the steering wheel into lateral motion to turn the front wheels left and right. Excessive wear between the rack teeth and pinion gear can make rattling, clicking or clunking noises when turning the wheel. A binding or loose steering rack needs replacement to correct play and noise issues.

Worn Tie Rod Ends

The outer tie rod ends connect the steering knuckles to the rack gear. If the rubber boot cracks or tie rod end ball socket wears out, it allows movement and makes clunking or popping noises over bumps and when turning. Worn tie rods affect steering precision and alignment but are inexpensive to replace in pairs before further damage occurs.

Failing Ball Joints

Ball joints are pivotal connections between the steering knuckles and control arms, allowing the wheels and suspension to move freely. Similar to tie rods, deteriorated ball joint boots or wear in the bearing allows slop and creates knocking and popping noises when turning the wheel. They should be checked and replaced in sets for optimal safety and performance.

Broken Sway Bar Links

Sway (stabilizer) bar links connect the sway bar to the control arms and are key in controlling the body roll of a vehicle during cornering and turning. Broken links cause popping, knocking or rattling noises when steering due to the loose connection. Replacing worn links restores stability and eliminates noise issues.

Bad Wheel Bearings

The wheel bearings inside the front hubs allow the wheels to spin freely when turning. Worn bearings cause grinding or growling noises when turning the steering wheel, especially at high speeds. Damaged bearings that are loose or worn out should be replaced to prevent further damage to the wheel assembly.

Failing CV Joints

Constant velocity (CV) joints transfer power from the transmission to the front wheels while allowing them to pivot when turning. The rubber boots commonly crack or joints start to wear, causing clicking or popping noises when turning. Bad inner or outer CV joints and boots need replacement to stop damage that can lead to axle failure.

Loose Steering Column

The steering column connects the steering wheel to the gearbox and allows the wheel to turn effortlessly. If the mounting bolts or joints become loose, the column may clunk or rattle when turning the steering wheel. Proper torque on mounting hardware removes looseness and corrects noise issues from a worn steering column.

Worn Suspension Bushings

Flexible rubber bushings are found throughout the suspension system and chassis. When these wear out, it allows more suspension movement and creates noises like squeaking, creaking or rattling when turning the wheels over bumps. Worn strut mounts, control arm and sway bar bushings are common sources and need replacement to quiet noise and restore function.

Bad Struts and Shocks

Shock absorbers dampen forces from bumps and vibration to provide a smooth ride. When the struts and shocks wear out, the suspension has more up/down movement which translates into noise when turning the steering wheel over bumps or uneven roads. Replacing worn out struts and shocks will improve ride quality and eliminate knocking and creaking noises.

By understanding what can cause noises when turning the steering wheel, you can better pinpoint the culprit. Next, let’s look at some specific times you may notice these turning noises.

When Noises Occur When Turning the Wheel?

when noises occur when turning the wheel

Paying attention to when the noise occurs when turning can help determine the location and cause of the problem. Here are some key moments that problematic noises may become evident:

  • Whining or groaning when turning slowly – indicates low power steering fluid or pump issue
  • Grinding when turning at high speeds – likely a bad wheel bearing
  • Clunking when turning while stopped or static – worn steering rack or loose column
  • Popping or clicking when turning and going over bumps – points to worn tie rods, ball joints or sway bar links
  • Knocking while turning through corners – faulty struts or shocks
  • High pitched squealing when turning at low speeds – steering pump belt slipping
  • Creaking noise turning at low speeds – worn steering or suspension bushings
  • Rattling sound when turning left or right – possible loose steering column

Pay attention to the specific driving conditions that trigger the noise you hear when turning the wheel. This provides clues to help zero in on the faulty component making the noise.

How to Diagnose Noise When Turning the Steering Wheel?

Diagnosing the cause of noise when turning your steering wheel is the critical first step before making any repairs. Follow these tips to properly diagnose the issue:

  • Replicate the Noise – Turn the steering wheel at different speeds to isolate when the noise occurs. Have someone turn the wheel while you listen outside the car to pinpoint the source.
  • Check Fluid Condition – Low or dirty power steering fluid causes whining noises and requires adding fluid or flushing the system. Significant noise indicates the pump may be failing.
  • Inspect the Steering System – Have the tie rods, ball joints, steering rack and pump inspected. Any looseness or play in components will make noise when turning.
  • Look for Leaking Grease – Popping noises may come from worn joints with cracked boots. Look for grease splattered around the joints when turning at full lock.
  • Review Wheel Alignment – Have alignment checked and adjusted after any suspension repairs. Misalignment causes extra strain and noise in steering components.
  • Examine the Wheels – Damaged wheels themselves can also cause rubbing and grinding noises when turning at higher speeds.
  • Test Drive the Car – The best diagnosis is often just driving the car. Take it on smooth roads and bumpy ones with the radio off to pinpoint noises.

Thoroughly testing when and how the noise changes in different scenarios will help your mechanic isolate the issue faster. Identify the specific parts needing repairs before they worsen.

How to Fix Common Causes of Noise When Turning?

how to fix common causes of noise when turning

Once the source of the noise when turning has been found, here are tips on fixing some of the most common causes:

  • Low Power Steering Fluid – Add power steering fluid to reach the proper level on the dipstick. If it’s persistently low, the system may have a leak requiring repair.
  • Noisy Steering Pump – Replace the pump if it is worn out or damaged. Use rubber hoses on the fluid lines to prevent vibration noise. Ensure the mounting bolts are tight.
  • Rack and Pinion Gear – A loose rack needs to be tightened or secured within the housing. Excessively worn gears require a full steering rack replacement.
  • Worn Tie Rods – Replace loose tie rod ends in pairs on both sides. Get an alignment done afterward to correct any change in toe angle.
  • Bad Ball Joints – Inspect boots and check for vertical and horizontal play indicating wear. Replace any questionable joints in pairs along with an alignment.
  • Broken Sway Bar Links – Replace just the sway bar links to resolve noise. Lubricate the new links to prevent squeaking.
  • Wheel Bearings – Repack or replace worn bearings and races to correct grinding and rumbling when turning at speed.
  • CV Joints – Replace the entire CV axle that has a damaged boot or worn joint. Use clamps if the boot only needs repair.
  • Steering Column – Tighten bolts and joints between the column shafts. Lubricate U-joints and slip joints to prevent binding.
  • Suspension Bushings – Inspect and replace any cracked or flattened bushings. Use rubber lubricant to minimize squeaking of new bushings.
  • Shocks and Struts – Replace in sets of four any leaking or weak struts and shocks to restore smooth suspension movement and quiet operation.

Correctly diagnosing the cause and making necessary repairs will restore quiet and smooth steering in your car. If unsure of the remedy, have a certified mechanic inspect and advise the best fix.

When to Call a Mechanic for Noise When Turning?

While minor power steering fluid top-offs and tie rod replacements can be DIY repairs, any sustained or severe noise issues when turning should be handled by a professional mechanic at an auto repair shop. A mechanic has the skills and tools to diagnose and fix:

  • Leaking power steering rack, hoses, pump
  • Damaged CV axle joints and boots
  • Worn ball joints requiring special tools to remove and install
  • Steering gearbox adjustments and flush
  • Wheel bearing replacement and hub servicing
  • Bushings and suspension repairs requiring alignment

Significant noises when turning indicate failing parts requiring experience to avoid further damage. Have a shop diagnose and estimate the repairs for peace of mind.

How Regular Maintenance Prevents Noise When Turning?

Regular service and preventive maintenance helps minimize the chances of bothersome noises arising from the steering and suspension when turning the wheel. Here are some key maintenance tips:

  • Inspect power steering system – Ensure proper fluid level and condition. Check the pump, belts, and hoses. Flush fluid as needed.
  • Lubricate chassis and driveline – Keep U-joints, slip joints and bushings greased. Inspect rubber boots.
  • Check steering and suspension – Have key joints and ball sockets checked for wear and tightness.
  • Replace worn parts – Be proactive to replace tie rods, brakes, struts before complete failure.
  • Perform alignments – Keep wheels properly aligned after suspension work, tire rotations or part replacement.
  • Rotate and balance tires– Help prevent uneven wear that can cause wheel noise when turning at high speeds.

Following the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule and listening for changes in your car’s noises gives you the best chance to fix issues promptly before catastrophic damage or failure happens.

FAQ – Noises When Turning the Steering Wheel

What does it mean when my car makes noise when I turn the steering wheel?

Hearing strange noises when turning likely indicates an issue with the power steering system or front suspension components like ball joints, bushings or tie rods. Identifying the specific type of noise will help determine the culprit.

Is it dangerous to drive when my car makes noise while turning?

You can likely drive short distances with minor power steering whining or suspension noises. Any significant grinding or loss of steering control should be checked immediately for your safety before driving further.

Why does my car make a whining noise only when turning the steering wheel?

Whining limited to turning is most often caused by low power steering fluid. It could also be a worn pump or loose power steering belt. Topping off fluid quiets the noise temporarily before determining if larger repairs are needed.

What causes popping noise in steering wheel when turning?

Popping noises when turning come from worn suspension ball joints, tie rod ends or sway bar links. Their looseness allows movement and noise during wheel pivoting. These joints need replacement to correct steering noises.

Should I get a wheel alignment if I replace tie rods or ball joints?

Yes, it’s recommended to get an alignment after any suspension or steering repairs. New tie rods, ball joints or other changes can alter alignment angles and should be corrected to avoid tire wear.

In Conclusion

Hearing new noises when turning the steering wheel can be worrisome but is actually a helpful early indicator of wear and potential failure in steering and suspension components. While the power steering system and worn joints are the most common culprits, there are a number of reasons a car may make noise when turning.

Paying attention to when the noises occur and having an experienced mechanic inspect for play in joints and bushings will allow you to zero in on the root cause. Then timely repairs can be made before further deterioration happens. Investing in preventive maintenance inspections and part replacement remains the best way to keep your steering system quiet and reliable for the long run.

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