DIAGNOSE – POPPING SOUND WHEN MAKING TIGHT TURNS
by Jim Miller
The vehicle makes a popping sound when making tight turns. The symptom is probably more noticeable at lower speeds on acceleration. The noise emanates from the front of the vehicle. This symptom only applies to front wheel drive vehicles.
The usual cause of this symptom is a defective Constant Velocity Joint. The CV joint is designed to pivot when the wheels are turned and is connected to the drive shaft, which provides torque to the wheels from the transmission. If the joint wears and causes excessive play in the joint, it will be most noticeable when the joint is pivoted to the extreme right or left position.
Diagnosis of this symptom should be done in an area that is free from obstacles, such as an empty parking lot. With the vehicle stopped, rotate the wheels all the way right or left. Accelerate with the wheels turned, as if performing a u-turn. Listen for the popping sound and determine from which side of the vehicle the noise is emanating from. Perform the test a second time with the wheels in the opposite direction. Usually, the noise will only be present while turning in one direction only.
Once it is determined which side the noise is emanating from, the CV Joint located closest to the wheel will probably require service. This usually consists of replacing the entire drive axle which comes with new joints on both ends. An inspection of the CV joint boot on each side may also reveal the defective joint. CV boots are designed to retain the grease in the joint and keep contaminates from entering the joint causing damage. CV boots should be inspected at each oil change and be replaced promptly if cracked, torn or missing. If caught in time, just the boot will require replacement which is more cost effective than replacing the entire axle.
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