It is never pleasant hearing strange and foreign noises when driving your car.
There are many things that may cause noises when your car turns left or right, in most cases the culprit is usually a bearing, joint, or suspension that has gone bad.
We will go through all the potential culprits, how to diagnose and differentiate between them and how to resolve the issue in the best way.
Now, let’s turn straight to the issue!
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Diagnose The Problem
The best thing to narrow down the potential causes is to pay attention to when and where the noise is present.
There are a few questions you should consider when trying to diagnose the problem, here are a few questions that can get you to the right track:
- Does the car make noise when turning right but not left? Or perhaps the opposite?
- Does the sound come from the steering wheel or from the tires?
- Does the noise depend on the speed of the vehicle?
You should try to answer these questions to the best of your ability as it will help immensely in diagnosing the problem.
Down below, we will cover each potential problem and how they relate to the abovementioned questions.
Car Makes Noise Only When Turning On One Side
If the car makes noise when turning right, but not left, left but not right, the problem is most likely confined to the tie rods, suspension struts, cv joint, or wheel bearing.
Basically, any part that there are two, or more of in a car can cause unilateral noise as either the left or right is faulty.
Keep in mind that it can happen that both sides have failed simultaneously. While highly unlikely, there may be a driving event that has caused damage to both sides, such as driving into deep potholes.
Does The Problem Affect The Steering Wheel?
Another important piece to the puzzle is to find out if the problem causing the sound, also affects the steering wheel.
If a steering wheel problem is accompanied by the noise while turning, the problem is most likely confined to the wheel bearing, ball joints, tie rod, power steering system, or bad struts.
Is The Noise Speed Dependent?
Some noises are better heard when driving on the highway, while others can be heard even standing still and turning the steering wheel.
A noise that is heard when the car is totally still, but the steering wheel is turning is confined to problems with the power steering, steering column, ball joints, tie rod, or the control arm bushings.
Noises that come up when turning and driving in are usually due to bad wheel bearings, CV joints, or other parts of the suspension struts.
Fixing The Problem
Now when the options have been narrowed down depending on the questions above, we will go more into detail about each part and how to fix each problem.
All the potential problems and the affected parts will also be discussed in greater detail so you can be sure where the problem lies.
Here is everything you need to know about the potential culprits!
Bad Tie Rods
The tie rods play a pivotal role in the steering of your car. The symptoms of bad tie rods are present both when the car is stationary and when it moves, but they may be more pronounced when moving.
The symptoms include “dead space” when turning the steering wheel, and squeaking noises when turning. The noise is usually on one side but can be on both sides if both tie rods are bad.
If the symptoms are present and you suspect a problem with one or both tie rods, you can easily diagnose the problem by lifting the car up with a jack stand and inspecting the tie rods.
In the video below, you may hear the sound bad tie rods make as well as how to properly diagnose the problem and inspect both the inner and outer tire rod.
Bad Suspension Struts
The suspension struts are constantly under a heavy load, helping the shocks absorbers damp uneven roads, bumps, and the like.
They also provide structural support for the suspension and have a substantial impact on the handling of the car.
If the struts are bad, they will produce a clunking noise when driving on bumpy roads but may be aggravated on sharp turns as the weight of the car shifts toward the opposite side the car is turning.
In other words, if the car makes noise when turning left only, the right strut may be the problem, and vice versa.
At the 40-second mark of the video below, you may hear an example of what a bad strut can sound like.
Bad CV Joint
The constant-velocity joint, or CV joint for short, enables the driveshaft to deliver power at an angle (when the wheel is turned).
A bad CV joint will produce a particular clicking noise when turning. A bad CV joint is usually due to an exposed CV joint as the protective boot has a crack, letting grease out and debris in.
The sound of a bad CV joint is very recognizable and can come and go. Usually, it will produce sounds when accelerating from a standstill and turning.
The noise of a bad CV joint can be heard in the video below.
Bad Wheel Bearing
A bad wheel bearing will produce a howling noise when driving straight, similar to the sound of wind noise. When turning, the wheel bearing may produce a rumbling noise.
In most cases, the noise is better heard at higher speeds. There are a few ways to test if the wheel bearing is the culprit.
The easiest way is to identify the howling sound. To confirm that the wheel bearing is bad, lift the car with a jack stand, take the suspected wheel and push it right to left (hands at 9 and 3 o’clock positions).
If a bad wheel bearing is a culprit, you will feel the faulty wheel bearing and, in most cases, hear it as well. To make sure it is not a bad tire rod, do the same but on the 12 and 6 o’clock positions.
In the following video, you may hear the howling sound a bad wheel bearing produces on a straight line, as well as how to further diagnose the problem.
Faulty Power Steering
It is hard to miss a power steering problem as the steering itself will be greatly affected.
When turning, even at a standstill, the steering wheel will be heavier and make abnormal noises.
In many cars, the power steering system is driven by a hydraulic system which includes a pulley to make everything work as it should.
A leak can make the power steering fluid empty from its reservoir, causing problems such as heavy steering and an abnormal noise when turning the wheel.
Check if there are any leaks in the system and make sure the pulley is not damaged as well. Sometimes, just filling up the reservoir will do the trick.
Here is a video of what a faulty power steering pump sounds like:
Bad Steering Rack
Another problem that is similar to a faulty power steering is a bad steering rack.
If the steering rack is back the wheel may vibrate, produce a clunking noise, feel loose and not turn to center when “releasing” it after a turn.
The best way to diagnose a bad steering rack is to notice how much dead space there is when turning the wheel.
In other words, if you can turn your steering wheel to an abnormal degree but the wheels don’t turn, the steering rack is probably the culprit.
Bad Ball Joints
The ball joints are part of the front suspension and connect the wheel to the suspension. While we may be comfortable in our cabin, the shocks and struts take a great beating for our comforts case.
Generally, bad ball joints last for many miles but rough road conditions can accelerate the wear. Any damage to the casing will significantly accelerate the wear of the ball joints.
Signs that the ball joints are bad include a clunking noise when turning into a corner or driving over a bump, vibrating steering wheel, and slightly unresponsive steering.
Just like many other potential problems listed in this article, the problem can be easier diagnosed by putting the car on a jack stand and performing a few physical tests.
This video demonstrates the noise a bad ball joints gives off, as well as how to diagnose the problem.
There may be many causes why your car produces noises when turning in a particular direction, or in both directions for that matter. After all, it is one of the most common car complaints.
Because there are many parts that can be affected, it may initially look like it is hard to diagnose, but with a few steps of deducting unlikely causes, you will have a good picture of what is wrong.
For example, a problem that affects the steering wheel is usually due to the steering wheel itself or the suspension.
Other noises come up interchangeably, some are louder when the car accelerates, while some sounds present as a clicking noise and others as a howling noise.
Whatever the situation, this article should have narrowed the culprit down to one or two potential causes. In most cases the diagnosis can be confirmed by visually inspecting the potential culprit.