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Finding the front end clunk

Old 03-19-2013, 02:07 PM
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Watkins
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Default Finding the front end clunk

I've looked around the forum searching for suggestions on repairing the front end clunk. The clunk has been associated with various items: aftermarket upper A-Arms "bottoming out," worn LCA bushings, pillow ball mounts on coilovers, bad sway bar endlinks, improperly mounted aftermarket swaybars, bad steering rack and bad wheel bearings.

Essentially I made this thread because there's so many different answers I've already tried for a solution that nothing has helped, so far.

Background on my car, I've had it since new. It's an '03, with a build date of October of 2002; this is one of this first 350Zs made. It doesn't get driven a whole bunch as I've just hit 80,000 miles and I've had the car a decade.

Over that time various parts have been changed for maintenance or upgraded to aftermarket. However within the last six months or so I developed a front end clunking.

My car is not low, but here are the suspension modifications:

18x9.5 wheels (+20) on 265/35 at all four corners, (I'm running a square set-up with a 20mm spacer at the rear to make the wheels a 0.)
Tein H-Tech springs
Tokico Blues struts
Hotchkis Sways
"Frankensteined" Concept Z endlinks
SPL LCAs recently changed to Whiteline Bushings

About six months ago with regard to suspension maintenance I replaced all four wheel bearings and the outer tie rod ends. Also six months ago I added Hotchkis sways; ever since I added the Hotchkis it developed a clunk at the front of the car. Tracing the problem it appeared that the bolts on the concept Z endlinks wouldn't articulate enough while being adjusted at preload and they would bind, and thus create noise.

Well, over $100 spent on testing various kinds of bolts and lock washers/nuts at McMaster yielded me with some really solid, essentially vibration proof endlinks that would allow proper endlink adjustment without binding. Concept Z really skimped on the hardware of the endlinks, but when I was in the market I needed them in a hurry and Powergrids and SPL's weren't available.

After the install of the newly revised endlinks I thought my problem was solved. Nope. Still there, and even worse now. Driving slowly on uneven pavement yielded various clunks and pops from the front end. Turning the wheel exacerbated the problem, and God forbid you had to take a speed bump, because at half a mile an hour, it would sound ridiculous.

I then immediately hit the forums and saw complaints about the SPL LCA bushings clunking. By this time I had had my SPLs for well over a year and didn't notice noise. I crawled back under the car and checked them out along with all of the other visible suspension bushings. Nothing was worn, or torn, or loose. But I decided to press out the SPL's and opt for the Whitelines. When I got to closely examine the SPLs they were in fact lightly scored on the sides from wear, so I assumed that maybe that was the problem. Nope.

After installing the Whitelines, and taking the car for a quick spin, the noise had gotten even worse. Puling the car back into my garage and turning the car off I grabbed the steering wheel and moved it left to right and vice-versa--this brought out a clunking noise. While I had changed the outer tie rod ends six months previous I never changed the inners; maybe this is what's causing it as I can grab my wheel at 9 and 3 o'clock and generate enough wiggle to make a pop. I'd already bought the inners but I needed to buy the bellows for them, and of course when I went to pick some up locally they had to be ordered. They'll be here this Thursday (3/21) and hopefully that evening I can change those out.

To recap, over the past six months I have changed:
SPL LCA's to Whitelines
Outer tie rod ends
Drastically upgraded Endlinks
Hotchkis sways
Wheel bearings

I hope the final answer is the inner tie rods being bad, as there's not much else it can be besides the rack/bushings in the rack being bad, but I don't have any leaks or fluid loss there so hopefully that's not the problem. I'll post my results here when I get finished. Maybe my process of changing all of these parts out with no solution will help someone in the future with a similar problem.
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Old 03-20-2013, 07:33 AM
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I had a popping sound with my rear coils when I put them on. It turned out to be the nut at the top of the shock. I took an impact to it (Per manufacturer recommendation), and this solved that problem. Try that as well. And also look at the compression rod bushings.

Hope you get this solved. I know how frustrating this can be.
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Old 03-22-2013, 10:45 AM
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Well, the noise wasn't at the inner tie rods either. So far this has been what's been replaced:

LCA's from SPLs to Whitelines
New wheel bearings
New inner and outer tie rod ends
New ball joints
New Hotchkis swaybars
New CS "Frankensteined" endlinks

Now we're at the rack being bad...but looking around I saw that there is a plastic collar that joins the rack from the column and that piece can break. When it breaks a clunk can develop. I've read that people have replaced their racks in effort to fix the clunk but it nothing changed until they replaced the plastic collar. Even after reading all the talk about the collar, no one posted a part number so I'm going to try and find that so I can order it.



I'll update this when I get the part and have some results (or lack thereof) to talk about.

Last edited by Watkins; 03-22-2013 at 10:55 AM. Reason: Added IMG
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Old 03-23-2013, 08:58 AM
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My aftermarket end links make a clunking sound, could be your end links?
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Old 03-23-2013, 12:50 PM
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Originally Posted by SE5spd View Post
My aftermarket end links make a clunking sound, could be your end links?
Nah, the endlinks are essentially "gutted" and use nothing but mil-spec bolts and heim joints now. The endlinks are now rock solid.
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Old 03-23-2013, 09:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Watkins View Post
Well, the noise wasn't at the inner tie rods either. So far this has been what's been replaced:

LCA's from SPLs to Whitelines
New wheel bearings
New inner and outer tie rod ends
New ball joints
New Hotchkis swaybars
New CS "Frankensteined" endlinks

Now we're at the rack being bad...but looking around I saw that there is a plastic collar that joins the rack from the column and that piece can break. When it breaks a clunk can develop. I've read that people have replaced their racks in effort to fix the clunk but it nothing changed until they replaced the plastic collar. Even after reading all the talk about the collar, no one posted a part number so I'm going to try and find that so I can order it.



I'll update this when I get the part and have some results (or lack thereof) to talk about.
Never heard of this...what type of noise does the worn collar cause and when during driving???
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Old 03-24-2013, 04:29 AM
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Originally Posted by AARONHL View Post
Never heard of this...what type of noise does the worn collar cause and when during driving???
It's a clunk. While driving--going straight, turning, hitting a bump, there's a clunk coming from the front end. I can take the steering wheel while the car is off and move the wheel back and forth and it generates a popping/clunk sound. Since I've replaced every possible noise culprit in the front end with new parts I'm now down to the rack, or something in the rack. Hopefully this plastic collar is the culprit.

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Old 03-24-2013, 08:09 AM
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OK, I have that noise, I've been under my car while someone moves the wheel as described above and the clunk comes from inside the rack, this is with a new and old rack. My parent's Maxima does the same thing.
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Old 03-24-2013, 08:11 AM
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Where do you locate this collar? Inside the car?
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Old 03-24-2013, 10:18 AM
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I would also check the compression rod bushings for tears and cracks where they attach to the frame.
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Old 03-26-2013, 10:14 AM
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Originally Posted by Watkins View Post
It's a clunk. While driving--going straight, turning, hitting a bump, there's a clunk coming from the front end. I can take the steering wheel while the car is off and move the wheel back and forth and it generates a popping/clunk sound. Since I've replaced every possible noise culprit in the front end with new parts I'm now down to the rack, or something in the rack. Hopefully this plastic collar is the culprit.

So have you fixed it? Me and (I'm sure) lots more z guys are trying to fknd this noise also.
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Old 03-26-2013, 07:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Watkins View Post
It's a clunk. While driving--going straight, turning, hitting a bump, there's a clunk coming from the front end. I can take the steering wheel while the car is off and move the wheel back and forth and it generates a popping/clunk sound. Since I've replaced every possible noise culprit in the front end with new parts I'm now down to the rack, or something in the rack. Hopefully this plastic collar is the culprit.
What?

Last edited by Voboy; 03-26-2013 at 07:46 PM.
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Old 03-27-2013, 06:47 AM
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Originally Posted by Voboy View Post
What?
Sit inside your car with it off. Grab the steering wheel and move it left and right, you'll meet resistance but you can articulate it a little bit; when moving it like that there's a clunk coming from somewhere in the rack. This same clunk happens when the car is on and you're driving it.

Originally Posted by Markhimself876 View Post
So have you fixed it? Me and (I'm sure) lots more z guys are trying to fknd this noise also.
Unfortunately not yet. I had to order the part and I'm waiting on it to come in mail, which should be today or Friday at the latest. As soon as it comes in I'll report how it goes.

Oh, and for those who want the part number, here it is.

48827 COLLAR-STEERING COLUMN I ordered two just in case I break one.
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Old 03-27-2013, 07:14 PM
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Is this the same clunk you feel when your REAR wheels hit a harsh bump and your dash board and steering wheel feels like it's cracking in half?
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Old 03-27-2013, 08:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Watkins View Post
Sit inside your car with it off. Grab the steering wheel and move it left and right, you'll meet resistance but you can articulate it a little bit; when moving it like that there's a clunk coming from somewhere in the rack. This same clunk happens when the car is on and you're driving it.



Unfortunately not yet. I had to order the part and I'm waiting on it to come in mail, which should be today or Friday at the latest. As soon as it comes in I'll report how it goes.

Oh, and for those who want the part number, here it is.

48827 COLLAR-STEERING COLUMN I ordered two just in case I break one.
Inside or outside the car? Loud? How much do you have to move the steering wheel until you hear the clunk? quarter turn? full rotation? multiple rotations?

If it's outside: put the front end in the air, take the front wheels off, get someone in the car and have them turn the wheel and replicate it while you find out where the source is.
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Old 03-27-2013, 08:06 PM
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Definitely interested to see if that steering collar does the trick. I've had this clunk in the front for some time now. It comes up more frequently when turing the wheel at slow speeds (like maneuvering through a parking lot), but has also occurred while clearing speed bumps. Watkins, do keep us posted! Thanks.
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Old 03-27-2013, 09:17 PM
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Originally Posted by AARONHL View Post
Is this the same clunk you feel when your REAR wheels hit a harsh bump and your dash board and steering wheel feels like it's cracking in half?
Well, the noise is definitely in the front. It's a clunk.
Originally Posted by Voboy View Post
Inside or outside the car? Loud?
You can hear the noise inside and out, so that's pretty indicative of volume I guess.
Originally Posted by Voboy View Post
How much do you have to move the steering wheel until you hear the clunk? quarter turn? full rotation? multiple rotations?
If I had to give you an approximation of movement I'd say a quarter of a turn of the wheel--while the car is not runing and the wheels are on the ground.

Originally Posted by Voboy View Post
If it's outside: put the front end in the air, take the front wheels off, get someone in the car and have them turn the wheel and replicate it while you find out where the source is.
I'm pretty much beyond that now; the thread details that in searching for the answer for this racket I've changed struts, springs, wheels, tires, wheel bearings, endlinks, inner and outer tie rod ends, LCA bushings from SPLs to Whiteline, and checked for play everywhere else in the front end. Not to mention I've gone over every nut and bolt in the front end to see if they were in TQ spec. Now I'm at the rack itself. There's nothing left to replace for practical purposes. The noise is in the column somewhere, but the collar is behind the firewall so I can't physically "see" anything, but I can roughly guesstimate where the noise is coming from; now I'll just wait on the parts before I tear the rest of the car apart.

Originally Posted by ChriZTT View Post
Definitely interested to see if that steering collar does the trick. I've had this clunk in the front for some time now. It comes up more frequently when turing the wheel at slow speeds (like maneuvering through a parking lot), but has also occurred while clearing speed bumps. Watkins, do keep us posted! Thanks.
You're welcome. The noise you describe sounds very close to mine. See if you can replicate it when the car is off and you turn the steering wheel back and forth; if the noise happens then, it's most likely what I've been trying to figure out. This noise has been driving me nuts and hopefully this collar will do the trick in fixing things. I'll try to remember to take some picture of this ordeal as I move into hopefully fixing this crap, lol.
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Old 03-30-2013, 09:23 AM
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So nothing yet. I ordered the part from Courtesy Nissan as I've ordered many parts from them over the years-but this time even though they had the part listed in stock, it wasn't,. and I didn't know about it until six days after I ordered it. So it's due in on the second. In the meantime I was able to find an image of a damaged collar so you can have a better idea about what this thing looks like.






Last edited by Watkins; 03-30-2013 at 09:33 AM.
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Old 03-30-2013, 01:44 PM
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Interesting. Patiently awaiting your next update sometime next week when the collar arrives.
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Old 03-30-2013, 07:15 PM
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Have fun replacing that-looks like a bich
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