Balloons pop, not cars. If your car starts making a “popping” noise when turning the steering wheel, something is wrong and needs your attention.
Why would a car make popping sounds when turning?
The seven most likely causes include:
- Worn tie rods
- Bad CV joints
- Loose drive belt
- Improperly inflated tires
- Loose hubcaps
- Oversized mudflaps
- Faulty struts
As you can see, popping noises when turning usually indicate a suspension or steering problem. These are often harmless but can become a safety hazard if left alone. Because of this, it’s crucial to promptly identify the cause.
In this guide, I’ll explain each of the above causes in detail so you can quickly locate and address the issue before it worsens.
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7 Reasons Why A Car Might Make Popping Sounds When Turning
1. Worn Tie Rods
Your vehicle’s tie rods are part of its suspension system and basically connect the front wheels to the steering gear.
Unfortunately, worn tie rods can cause a front-end popping noise when turning the steering wheel. You may also notice the front wheels shaking when turning.
If a tie rod outright fails, the wheel can separate from the steering assembly and cause a loss of vehicle control.
2. Bad CV Joints
Constant velocity joints, or CV joints for short, are another suspension component that can cause a popping in the front end when turning.
CV joints are intricate and consist of numerous mobile components. They aid in transmitting torque from the transmission to the drive wheels while adapting to a changing angle.
Worn CV joints can cause a clicking or popping sound when turning the steering wheel, caused by jammed inner bearings that no longer rotating smoothly.
3. Loose Drive Belt
When turning the steering wheel, a worn or frayed drive belt can cause clicking, popping, squealing, and chirping sounds.
If your drive belt snaps, the vehicle will likely shut down. If it does continue running, be sure to pull over immediately to avoid damaging the engine.
4. Improperly Inflated Tires
Another culprit for popping sounds when turning is improperly inflated tires. When under-inflated, the tire tread may catch as the wheels are rotated, making a popping sound when released.
Over-inflated tires may have issues with cupping, which is when they develop bulges and become misshapen. These can make popping or clunking noises when driving or turning.
In a worst-case scenario, overinflated tires can literally pop, something you never want to hear.
5. Loose Hubcaps
Yes, even a loose hubcap can cause popping, rattling, or squeaking sounds when turning.
Hubcaps are only held on by small plastic clips. Should any clip bend or break, you’ll likely start hearing noises, turning or not.
If you think you have a broken hubcap clip, you’ll need to remove them one at a time and check. Thankfully, hubcaps only cost about $25 to $50 each at a reputable online parts store.
6. Oversized Mudflaps
Mudflaps protect the side of your vehicle (and cars behind you) from rocks. But turning the steering wheel can cause a popping sound if they’re too large.
This stems from the tires catching on the mudflaps. This usually only happens if you’re making a tight turn.
When buying mudflaps, it’s crucial to choose the right size. 24×24 is the most common and should be safe on most vehicles.
7. Faulty Struts
A strut is a structural part of your car that helps support its weight, meaning it’s needed for the vehicle to drive down the road.
A bent strut can cause knocking, clunking, or popping sounds when turning the steering wheel. The vehicle may also lean, feel a bit bumpy, or have odd tire wear.
Regardless, it’s vital to handle a bad strut promptly, or you risk potentially losing control of your vehicle.
Is Your Steering Wheel Popping When Turning? Try Doing This
Now that you know the possible causes of popping noises when turning, you must locate the culprit.
Take off the hubcaps on your car and see if the popping stops. Turn the wheel to one side and slowly drive forward or backward to check your mudflaps. Lastly, look at your tire pressure and add more if needed.
Didn’t work? Then there’s likely a problem with your suspension system, or you need a new serpentine belt.
Replacing a drive belt is something you can do at home while watching a good YouTube video. However, with suspension components, the average car owner will do best by bringing their vehicle to a shop.