Cars are very complex machines with many moving parts. Think about it – the engine combusts fuel to move the pistons, crankshaft, camshaft, cams, oil pumps, etc. Then, the power goes to the gearbox, which changes the transmission ratio, and then sends it through a differential to the driven wheels.
Oh, and we are not even close to being finished. The wheels should then transfer the power to the ground and give you forward motion while also moving in all sorts of directions. A wheel not only rotates – but it also moves up and down, and the front wheels even turn.
Inventors worked tirelessly in the past 200-300 years to find different means to cope with every obstacle that road cars encounter. The internal combustion engine is only part of the equation – to make everything work properly, carmakers also use various joints, axles, bushings, stabilizer bars, struts, bars, etc.
We take the modern car for granted because it’s so ubiquitous, but it’s a true engineering marvel that took years and years to refine. So, when somebody asks me, “why does my car make a noise when I turn, mate,” I always require more data. Because although some parts are more likely to cause noise than others, you can never say for sure.
All of this drove me to write this article, where I’ll explore every part that might cause a noise when you turn. So, without further ado, let’s dig in!
Crunching noise while turning
The most common issue that leads to a car making noise when turning is a bad CV joint. This happens on front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive cars and comes from the front wheels only.
Constant-velocity or CV joints transfer the engine’s power directly to the wheels while also giving them great freedom of movement. As a result, front-wheel-drive cars can turn and accelerate at the same time, which wouldn’t be possible with other types of joints.
When outer CV joints fail (those that connect to the wheels), they usually produce a loud crunching noise when you turn the front wheels, either in one or in both directions. However, they also sometimes produce a loud clicking noise. You should be able to hear whether the sound comes from the left or right side easily.
You should immediately replace the CV joint assembly when you start hearing noises. Although your car will be driving just fine at first, the CV joint can completely fail after prolonged use due to insufficient lubrication. When this happens, it can result in serious vehicle instability and even an accident.
Creaking noise while turning
Ball joints are a critical part of any car, regardless of its driven wheels. They connect the suspension components to the wheel and give it pivotal movement. Without the ball joints, you won’t be able to control your vehicle, as the wheels won’t be properly supported while driving.
On modern vehicles, you can find upper ball joints, which absorb radial loads, and lower ball joints, which support the weight of the vehicle or carry the load during cornering (MacPherson struts).
When the ball joints fail, you might hear a creaking noise while turning, but other symptoms might also appear. Notably, worn ball joints can lead to the steering wheel pulling on one side or unevenly worn tires.
Worn ball joints can be a serious safety issue, as they can leave the wheel unsupported. This can result in serious instability and loss of control, which can be problematic if it happens at higher speeds. In some cases, they can lead to the suspension breaking up, which is even more dangerous if it happens at speed.
However, a creaking sound while turning can also occur if the bushings are worn out. The bushings are mounted on the joints and protect the suspension from road bumps and vibration, but they also give your vehicle a smoother ride.
Bad bushings aren’t a safety concern, but you should still replace them immediately, as not doing that could lead to premature wear on other suspension components.
Clunking noise while turning
The most common problem leading to a clunking noise while turning is a work tie rod. These rods are a crucial part of the rack-and-pinion steering system, which is most widely used on modern cars, as they connect the circular gear (pinion) to the steering knuckle on the wheels.
When the tie rod goes bad or becomes loose, it can produce a clunking sound while turning. You should also feel a big play in the steering wheel at the center. It’s an issue that you should address immediately, or you risk significantly impaired steering and even the inability to turn.
Another symptom related to a worn tie rod is uneven tire wear. However, unevenly worn tires could result from a plethora of other issues, so I won’t be jumping to a conclusion immediately.
Screeching noise while turning
If you hear a screeching sound while turning, even if your vehicle is stationary, the most likely culprit is a problem with the power steering system. However, this system includes many parts, and the most likely to fail is the power steering pump.
When the power steering pump starts to fail, it usually produces a screeching noise. However, quickly after that, you might need to use more of your muscles to turn the steering wheel, as the pump won’t be able to provide assistance.
In some cases, simply refilling the system with power steering fluid will solve the issue. Still, in most cases, you’ll need to repair or even replace the pump, which is, unfortunately, expensive.
Now, you can drive your car even when the steering pump completely fails. However, you’ll need to use considerable effort to turn the steering wheel, which can be unsafe. In other words, you can’t be as quick with the maneuvers, which can be dangerous in critical situations.
Knocking noise while turning
Sway bars, or anti-roll bars as some enthusiasts like to call them, are one of the most important parts of any modern vehicle. I know, I know, off-road enthusiasts might think otherwise, but sway bars serve a hugely important purpose.
Namely, by connecting the wheels on either end (left and right), the sway bars use the force that lifts the inside wheel (when turning) to lift the outside wheel, thus limiting body roll. Basically, they limit the movement of the wheel so that the car stays planted while cornering. They also absorb shocks and vibrations from uneven surfaces and keep your car stable.
Some SUVs have sway bars that can automatically disconnect when off-roading to give the wheels more freedom of movement, and some off-road enthusiasts even get rid of them altogether.
However, driving on paved roads without a stabilizer bar is dangerous and can significantly impair the handling of your car. Moreover, it can put more stress on other parts of the suspension system and wear them down pretty fast.
When the sway bar links wear down, they usually start producing a knocking noise while turning, but also while driving in a straight line (mostly on bumpy roads).
“Loose” noise while turning or driving on a bumpy road
You know that hollow noise that we mostly associate with something being loose? Well, if you hear it while turning or even when driving on a bumpy road, the most likely culprit is worn down or bad struts/shocks.
The shocks and struts are a hugely important part of any vehicle. Most people think they are there only to provide a more comfortable ride, but by damping the vibrations from the surface, they also make the vehicle more stable.
The difference between shocks and struts is that the former needs an additional spring that carries the weight of the vehicle, while the struts can carry the vehicle’s weight by themselves. Regardless, when one of them fails, you will experience a loose noise while turning or when driving on broken roads.
Bad shocks and struts should be immediately replaced or repaired, as they can make your vehicle less stable when driving on bumpy roads. Moreover, bad shocks/struts will result in longer stopping distances, and higher body roll, both of which are safety hazards. Not to mention, the ride will be much less composed.
Fortunately, modern shocks and struts last pretty long, and once you replace them, they will serve for years to come.
Hearing strange noise coming from your car isn’t anything unusual and happens to everyone. However, it’s crucial that you take care of the issue on time, even if your car drives as per usual. Most of these problems can result in the failure of other parts, making repairs more expensive in the long run.
Besides, I can’t stress this enough but every suspension component plays a crucial role in how your vehicle drives. If one goes bad, it changes the whole geometry of the suspension and results in an unstable car. Therefore, taking care of the issue on time is great for your safety, but also for other traffic participants!
I’m Ivo Gievski, the content writer for Tireer. We built our website with over 15 years of experience and extensive research in the automotive and technology sectors. My dedication to delivering high-quality content is unwavering, and I strive to continuously hone my skills to stay ahead of industry trends and provide readers with informative, engaging, and valuable insights.