Clicking Noise When Driving – What Are These Noises?

Clicking Noise When Driving – What Are These Noises?

Imagine you are driving down some country roads, the weather’s pleasant, and your favorite radio is playing. Everything’s good until all of a sudden, your mood is abrupted by a sharp noise. You hear a clicking noise when driving. You try your best not to think of it but it still manages to get inside your head.

Turns out what you feared is actually true. You are instantly reminded that something is wrong with your car. Your mood is instantly ruined as well as your day (most probably).

A car is filled with tiny bits of mechanical and electrical components that make the car function as a complete unit. Some mechanical components are hidden from the human eye unless opened or completely disassembled like engine pistons or even radiators.

Undeniably, you’d go insane trying to figure out why you keep hearing a clicking noise when driving. It is not an easy job to pinpoint its exact cause which can certainly do your head in.

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Are you looking for answers? Would you rather spend all day fixing your car at home instead of waiting in long queues at the workshop? Well, you are in luck. We have here a thorough guide regarding each and every single reason why your car keeps making a clicking noise when driving.

Before we start, let’s categorize each of the clicking noises coming from different areas of a car. So, let’s ‘drive’ right in.

Car Making Clicking Noise When Driving

First of all, it is important to know HOW a car can make these clicking noises. This way, we know what exactly are their causes and how to avoid them in the near future.

Clicking Noise from Engine When Accelerating

Following are the noises you’d generally hear from the engine upon accelerating:

1. Broken Motor Mount

Distributed throughout the vehicle’s chassis and frame, motor mounts are blocks of rubber sandwiched between metal plates. The rubber is used for dampening the engine vibrations and preventing them from entering the vehicle’s cabin. Typically, you’d find 5 to 6 engine motor mounts on a normal FWD car. That said, they can also be found on the rear differential of RWD cars as well.

Even though motor mounts are made to withstand tough abuse in very rough and tough conditions, they can also sometimes break. Reasons such as driving too fast over potholes (or speedbumps) and excessive weight can diminish the life of a motor mount. Rubber is not the strongest of all materials so causing too much flex or putting unnecessary weight can tear away the motor mount.

In the case of a broken motor mount, the rubber is unable to absorb the shockwaves or the vibrations passed on by the engine to the cabin. Also, it means that it is unable to hold the engine in place. As a result, because of the excessive torque produced by the engine, the engine lunges forward and backward.

Eventually, that forward lurching causes the engine to impact against other engine parts. Hence, the clicking noise from the engine when accelerating. These clicking noises come especially in the form of acceleration. Therefore, if you feel any clunking sounds from the engine bay upon hard acceleration, chances are that the motor mounts have broken.

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Unfortunately, in this case, you have no other viable option but to replace the motor mount. You can replace a motor mount by yourself in the comfort of your home IF you have proper car knowledge. However, if you don’t want to take any unnecessary risks, then you should probably leave it up to the specialists.

2. Broken CV Axle

In simple words, a CV (Constant Velocity) axle acts as a go thorough between the vehicle’s transaxle and its (front) wheels. Basically, it’s how the engine transfers its power to the wheels. A complete CV axle unit comprises two CV joints. Outer and inner CV joints.

Both these joints are different from one another and play very different roles when it comes to making clicking noises. The one we’ll be discussing is the inner CV joint which is found closer to the engine. Let’s save the outer CV joint for later.

An inner CV joint, with the help of a sliding tripod joint, offers inward, outward, up, and down angle articulation for the wheel. By doing so, it helps transfer the power from the transmission to the wheels despite uneven surfaces.

You’d mostly see inner CV joints among normal, everyday-driven FWD cars as well as some RWD cars with independent rear suspension.

A CV axle can break over time or with improper use like driving fast over rough surfaces. Such reasons will increase the burden on the needle-bearings of the inner CV joints. These needle-bearings will eventually grind against their ‘grooves’ hence causing friction. You can hear this friction in the form of clicking noise when driving.

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If you have a broken (inner) CV joint there’s no better way to replace it. Also, it is actually quite easy to replace a CV axle given that you have proper car knowledge. All you need is a jack stand and some torque wrenches. Everyone knows how to replace a wheel, right?

Now, you only need to remove the broken CV axle and just simply replace it. A couple of more measures and you’re good to go.

3. Rod Knocking Issue

Before diving straight into it, we need to grasp the understanding of what a connecting rod is and how it links to a piston. We all know how a piston operates. Its job is to let air and fuel inside the cylinder chambers and then compress them allowing the combustion process to take place.

Underneath the piston, you’d find a connecting rod that connects the piston to the crankshaft hence allowing the wheels to move forward (or backward). This connection between the crankshaft and connecting rod is possible with the help of a (round) rod bearing.

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In the case of acceleration, the upward and downward movement of the pistons is intensified. This means that the crankshaft would have to work harder to deliver power to the wheels. This is how your car accelerates. But, what happens if the bearings that connect the connecting rod to the crankshaft, break? You start hearing rod knocks in the form of clicking noise when accelerating.

Now, there are several reasons why the (round) rod bearings can go bad. Starvation of engine oil or usage over time are all the factors that allow the rod bearing to wear out easily. As a result, metal clashes against metal hence the clicking noise from the engine when accelerating. Comparative to ‘piston slapping’ (which we will be discussing later on), rod knocking usually occurs upon acceleration.

The best way to tackle rod knocking is by simply replacing the connecting rod. Now, replacing the connecting rod isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. In fact, in many (modern) cars, replacing it requires you to disassemble the engine first which is a risk not worth it. Especially, if you don’t even know how to use an impact gun. It is best to leave it to the professionals.

4. Piston Slapping

First of all, what are pistons and what do they do? A piston is a plunger-type component in each of the cylinders of the engine. These pistons move up and down an airtight combustion chamber to facilitate the combustion process.

A downward motion (or movement) of these pistons in a cylinder creates a vacuum for air and fuel to fill in the chamber. Hence, creating an air-fuel mixture. The upward motion of pistons allows the air-fuel mixture to compress, which then a spark plug ignites. As a result, combustion takes place.

This combustion then relays to the crankshaft which helps move the wheels forward (or backward). Now, what happens if a piston breaks or starts to malfunction. After all, it – like all other mechanical components – can wear out as well.

The space between the pistons and the cylinder walls is zero to none. This is to allow enough vacuum for the air-fuel mixture and the combustion process to take place. Otherwise, the air-fuel mixture would just be leaking all over the place.

Reasons such as excessive wear and tear and loose assembly can create a gap between the pistons and the cylinder walls. As a result, the up and movement will cause the piston to slap (or grind) against the cylinder walls.

You can hear this ‘slapping’ in the form of a clicking sound when starting the car. However, upon acceleration, the movement of the pistons intensifies. So, upon hard acceleration, the clicking sound usually goes away. A piston slapping can be the result of several other factors such as poor acceleration, poor gas mileage, and overall worse driving performance.

So, if you are hearing a constant clicking noise when starting the car, chances are that your engine pistons are malfunctioning and need replacing.

5. Broken Exhaust Manifold

Just as an air intake manifold allows an engine to breathe, an exhaust manifold allows the engine to breathe out. Exhaust manifolds directly bolt onto the engine’s cylinder heads to create an (outflowing) path for the engine gases.

After the cylinder fills with the air-fuel mixture, the mixture then compresses with the help of pistons. This allows the combustion process to take place. After the combustion, the mixture transforms into a gaseous state which has to go out from the engine. This is where an exhaust manifold comes in.

It stores these gases and creates a path through which the oxygen can exit the engine. By doing so, it readies the intake manifold for the next cycle.

That said, a typical exhaust manifold goes through extremely hot temperatures. And since most of these are made from cast iron – which is not the most durable of metals – these manifolds can corrode over time. Also, these manifolds have a tendency of building up carbon in their chambers. All these factors make this manifold exposed to certain leaks.

Exhaust manifolds are airtight which means there is an air pressure difference between the outside and inside of the manifold. Eventually, these leaks will take the form of clicking noise from the engine when accelerating. So, if you hear any unusual loud exhaust and clicking noise when accelerating simultaneously, chances are that your exhaust manifold has broken.

Clicking Noise When Driving

Replacing (or repairing) a broken exhaust manifold for modern vehicles can be a difficult and overall time-consuming task. However, for older cars, replacing an exhaust manifold can be as easy as replacing a flat tire. You can find multiple YouTube videos and guides on exhaust manifolds instead of going to workshops and spending large sums.

Clicking Noise From Front Wheel When Driving

Above were some of the most common reasons for a car making a clicking noise when driving. Now. let’s shift our focus to other areas. Specifically, a clicking noise from the front wheel when driving.

Clicking Noise When Turning

Earlier on, we saw how a CV axle tends to have two joints mostly. An inner and outer CV joint. We then discussed how an inner CV joint could be subject to a car making a clicking noise when driving. Now, we’ll be discussing how a broken outer CV joint can be the cause of clicking noise when driving.

Outer CV joints – as the name suggests – are positioned further outside a CV axle. In other words, the joints at either end of a CV axle are known as the outer CV joints. These joints are a bit different than the inner CV joints. Outer CV joints tend to provide greater angular articulation to the wheels. This is because of the (outer) CV joint’s ball-bearing mechanism.

The outer CV joint ball-bearing mechanisms house 6 small ball bearings in a piece of metal. With the help of a special grease, these bearings move against the walls that are otherwise known as ‘inner races.’ A CV boot clamps onto the joint and prevents any outside matter such as dust or water to enter. Also, it prevents the lubricant from leaking out.

Grease leak, torn CV boots, usage over time, and unnecessary load, are all of the reasons a CV joint can fail. For instance, if the CV boot breaks, the lubricant that is used to facilitate movement for the ball bearings car can leak.

Lack of lubricant in the joint assembly can cause the ball-bearings to grind against their grooves. This grinding (or friction) can be heard in the form of a clicking noise when turning. So, if your vehicle is making weird popping or clicking noises when turning especially, it is an indication of a broken CV joint. Also, this is the most common way of identifying a broken CV joint.

Clicking Sound When Braking

There are several reasons which can account for several types of clicking noises when braking. For instance, loose (or worn-out) brake pads may be the reason why you keep hearing a constant, irritating clicking noise when braking.

In the case of a loose brake pad, the brake components aren’t firmly held in their place. Eventually, the brake pad components would clash against each other hence the clicking noise when braking.

Clicking Noise When Driving

A loose brake pad (or brake caliper) may be the result of the poor fitment of brake components after a (routine) service. Either the brake components were not properly torqued or someone forgot to.

Secondly, it is very common for brake pads to wear or even rust in wet conditions. Eventually, the rust would start to corrode and eat away the rest of the brake pads. This is why it is advised to change brake pads every 10,000 to 20,000 miles.

Failure to do so can lead to serious consequences, which are far more dangerous than a ‘clicking noise when braking.’ For instance, your brakes may fail or even cause your vehicle to veer off of its path. This is the last thing you’d want while driving at higher speeds.

That said, there are other reasons as well which can contribute to a clicking noise when driving. For instance, one of the suspension components like the strut bar, or sway bar links has gone bad or caught rust. So, every time you brake, your suspension is placed under a lot of pressure thus causing it to malfunction. Eventually, you’d start hearing clicking noises, especially under heavy braking.

Clicking Noise when Driving: Facts You Need to Know

  1. A clicking noise while driving can occur due to various reasons, and it’s essential to investigate the noise source and consider possible solutions to eliminate worries.
  2. The most common causes of a clicking noise while driving include faulty CV joints, loose wheel nuts, bad struts, loose drive belts, low engine oil, faulty battery, inadequately inflated tires, and loose brake pads.
  3. A damaged CV joint is a common reason for a clicking noise when driving straight, and ignoring it can lead to severe axle issues that require replacing the entire axle.
  4. Loose lug nuts on the wheels can cause the brake pads to move and wiggle, creating a clicking sound while driving.
  5. Damaged struts can cause the suspension to be unable to absorb road shocks, resulting in a clicking noise while driving.
  6. Loosening the drive belt tensioners can cause the drive belts to rattle against the car, making a clicking noise when driving.
  7. Low engine oil levels or bad engine oil can cause a lack of lubrication between the different parts of the car, resulting in a clicking noise while driving.
  8. A rapid clicking noise while trying to start the car often means the battery has just enough charge to get the starter going but not enough to get the engine cranking.
  9. Tires that aren’t properly inflated or differ from manufacturer specifications can also cause a clicking noise when driving, and it’s crucial to check tire pressure regularly.
  10. Loose brake pads can cause a clicking noise while driving slowly, especially when braking, and the recommended solution is to replace them. If unsure or lacking technical knowledge, it’s advisable to call in experts or avail of roadside assistance services.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here are some popular FAQs:

What Causes A Clicking Sound In Rear Wheel When Driving

Apart from all FWD cars, most RWD cars with independent rear suspension have a CV joint to transfer power from the rear differential to the rear wheels. The ball-bearing mechanism found in CV joints helps in providing greater angular articulation to the rear wheels. This helps deliver uninterrupted constant power to the rear wheels no matter what angle they’re at. A special type of grease allows these bearings to operate smoothly. A CV boot protects the CV joint from any exposed dust particles and also prevents the grease from leaking. If a CV boot pops open, the grease leaks away. Without the grease, the CV joints go in direct contact with their ‘grooves’, thus, generating a grinding noise. You can hear the noise in the form of clicking sounds on the rear wheels when driving.

Why Does My Car Click When I Turn

In almost all cases, a broken CV joint causes the car to click when you turn. A CV joint is a joint that connects the CV axle to the wheels. The CV axle, which connects to the transmission, is able to transfer the engine power to the wheels through the CV joint. A CV joint houses 6 ball bearings that run against their ‘grooves’ to provide angle articulation to the wheels. This helps send an equal and constant power ratio to the wheels irrespective of the wheel’s angle. A CV boot surrounds the joint to prevent the grease from leaking. If the boot pops open, the lubricant leaks away and causes dust to enter the assembly. The lack of lubricant for the ball bearings creates friction. You can hear this in the form of clicking noises which is why your car clicks every time you turn.

Why Is My Engine Clicking

Your engine may click because of several reasons. You can source these clicks to different areas of an engine bay. For instance, piston slapping. This is a phenomenon that occurs when the piston’s sides fade away from excessive use. The up/down movement of the piston causes the piston to crash against the walls. When metal slaps against metal, an engine clicking noise is generated which is what you must be hearing. Secondly, broken motor mounts. A motor mount is a chunk of rubber that attaches the engine to the subframe with the help of a couple of metal plates. It is responsible for holding your engine in place since it moves quite a lot. A broken motor mount fails to hold the engine in place. This is why you hear engine clicking sounds every time you crank the car or when you put the gear to ‘D’ or ‘R’.

Why Is My Car Not Starting And Clicking

A car not starting and clicking can be subject to a faulty alternator or even a battery problem. The main responsibility of an alternator is to convert AC current to DC current with the help of a rectifier. By doing so, the alternator is able to control all the electrical systems of the car whilst the engine is running like wipers, headlights, and turn signals. Extreme temperatures, usage over time, and dirt accumulation are some of the reasons why an alternator goes bad. When the alternator goes bad, the current supply to the vehicle’s electrical systems no longer remains. Since the alternator won’t be providing enough current to the vehicle’s electrical systems, the vehicle will eventually come to a stop. This is why you aren’t able to start your car and why you keep hearing engine clicking sounds.

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