Why Your Car Makes Noise When Turning and What to Do

Why Your Car Makes Noise When Turning and What to Do

It’s an unsettling experience when your car makes noise when turning, especially if you don’t know what’s causing it. Generally, this unfamiliar sound is present when going around a corner, and it usually signals an underlying problem in the steering or suspension system.

The dilemma is that there isn’t a fix-all solution to this matter. Steering systems are complex, and you could find that the issue gets worse over time if you don’t deal with it. You’ll need to look at the symptoms, including the speed you were traveling and the type of noise, to diagnose this issue and have it corrected.

In this article we take a look at some symptoms, causes, and solutions for vehicles that makes strange noises when turning a corner. But first, here’s some background on how the steering system operates.

How the Steering System Operates

A vehicle’s steering and suspension systems are interconnected and complicated, so many different problems could lead to noises emerging when you turn.

As you turn your steering wheel, it engages with the power steering rack. This rack requires a power steering pump and belt to operate, and there’s power steering fluid providing lubrication throughout the entire process.

Your shocks and struts are part of this process, too. Although they aren’t responsible for physically turning the vehicle, they experience additional stress when you go around a corner as they stabilize the car.

Additional Components

But there’s more than the steering wheel and power steering system involved in turning a car, as all kinds of components connect the various parts. There are also ball joints, control arms, and steering knuckles that bring the steering and suspension together, and they can dry out or wear down over time.

All of the stress and weight that’s placed on these components means you’ll have to properly maintain them to ensure they’re functioning. If you overlook this maintenance, steering noise is sure to follow eventually.

Understanding the Problem

Here are our top two strategies for identifying potential causes of noise when turning.

Listen to the Type of Sound

One of the most important aspects of diagnosing your issue is isolating the sound coming from your vehicle’s steering system. That’s because different problems create different noises.

Of course, ideally, you won’t hear any sounds when turning. Signs that something is wrong with your steering system include creaking, squealing, groaning, knocking, whining, clunking, or screeching sounds as you turn. You might also hear a popping sound, which is an indication that something is wrong with your suspension.

By listening to the specific sound the car is making as you turn, you can better understand its cause and hopefully develop a solution.

Pro Tip: If your steering wheel doesn’t make any noise when turning, but it has instead just become incredibly hard to physically turn, that’s likely to be a different issue entirely. Check out this article for further information.

Note Your Speed

Another way to determine what is wrong with your car is by noting your speed when the noise appears. The idea is that some problems only occur at certain speeds, so by keeping an eye on how fast you’re going, you can narrow down the cause.

If you hear a rubbing or creaking noise while driving at a low speed, your joints could be the culprit.

Likewise, when driving at normal speeds, the steering system is probably responsible for the issue. Potential underlying causes for this could include:

  • Low power steering fluid levels
  • A loose belt
  • A worn tie rod
  • A poor connection between the gear and joint

At highway speeds, rubbing or humming noises can be caused by faulty wheel bearings, while worn joints could create a clicking sound.

By identifying the speed at which you were traveling and the type of noise you experienced, you can give yourself a head start on identifying the issue.

Hopefully, these tips give you some immediate insight into potential causes. But here’s a closer look at what could be behind the issue.

Causes of Car Noise When Turning

Now for some bad news: many different car problems could be the underlying cause of the noise you’re experiencing when turning. Therefore, it could take some trial and error to determine the solution.

However, there is some good news, as carefully examining the symptoms, including the noises each problem creates, can provide clues.
driver turns steering wheel

Dry Ball Joints

Ball joints are responsible for keeping the car’s control arms and steering knuckles moving. These joints tend to dry out over time if they don’t receive proper lubrication. When they get too dry, you’ll hear a loud creaking noise when you turn and could experience some shaking in the wheel.

The ball joints can also break down to the point where they’re unusable and require replacement.

Worn Control Arm Bushings

Control arm bushings connect the car’s steering knuckle and wheel hub to its frame. The bushings are responsible for helping the vehicle adapt based on road conditions.

The problem is that control arm bushings absorb all sorts of vibrations and shocks as you drive, causing them to crack. The result is a creaking noise whenever you turn your steering wheel. There are some easy ways to check your control arm bushings with the car parked, too.

Bad Struts and Shocks

It might seem counterproductive to look at the suspension system when it seems like your steering components are causing the noise, but all of these parts are interconnected. Your suspension kicks in whenever you turn your steering wheel and round a corner, so it could be the culprit in some situations.

In many cases, the suspension problem could be in the mounting, as they wear down and loosen over time. The knocking sound you hear in this situation could be the mounting sliding around as you drive.

The coil springs around the shocks can also break, leaving you with a clunking sound anytime you turn the vehicle. You’ll want to deal with this issue immediately because as it worsens, your car could bounce as you turn, making it challenging to control.

Power Steering Fluid Leaks

Power steering systems rely on their fluid to provide lubrication. It assists in the transfer of pressure that ensures a smooth operation of the steering wheel. This system is why you can turn a half-ton truck with relative ease.

When you have a leak in your system, you won’t have enough lubrication, and your steering system’s performance will suffer. As such, a sudden drop in your power steering fluid levels is a good indicator that you have a leak. You could also encounter a squealing or whining sound as you turn.

The power steering fluid reservoir can also get clogged over time. Generally, a whining noise accompanies this problem.

Dry Jounce Bushing

Your car’s front struts have jounce bushings that help absorb shock as you drive over bumps, reducing noise and vibrations. However, much like ball joints, these jounce bushings require lubrication to continue functioning. When they dry out, you’ll hear a creaking sound.

Tie Rod End Damage

A car’s tie rod connects the steering rack to the steering arm. This component is what allows the vehicle’s wheels to turn when you turn the steering wheel.

However, the tie rod can loosen over time or become damaged by an impact. If so, you’ll notice that your vehicle is less responsive when you attempt to turn it or hear a knocking sound, particularly at lower speeds.

Bad Sway Bar Link

Your car’s sway bar is responsible for reducing body roll as you drive. It acts as a stabilizing force, ensuring a more comfortable ride and preventing the vehicle from rolling on a sharp turn.

When the sway bar is damaged, you could encounter problems with your vehicle’s responsiveness and handling. You could also notice a hefty amount of body roll when cornering and hear a knocking or clunking sound coming from under your car.

Worn-Out Steering Column Bearing

In situations where the noise sounds like it’s coming directly from the steering wheel itself, it could mean you have a worn steering column bearing. You’ll generally hear a squealing sound when this is the case, and it occurs when the plastic inside your steering wheel is no longer insulated from the cowling on the steering column.

Bad Wheel Bearings

If you find your car making a whirring sound, much like a fan or a bird flapping its wings, you could have bad wheel bearings. As you turn, you put additional weight on the bearings’ outer side, causing the noise to get louder.

Damage to Power Steering Rack or Pump

Finally, the cause of your steering noises could be the result of issues in your power steering rack or pump.

The power steering rack is the largest part of the steering system and contains numerous smaller components. You could hear different noises depending on the element that requires attention, as a completely worn rack will generate loud bangs when you turn. At the same time, issues with interior components could cause a creaking noise at low speeds.

The power steering pump’s job is to make it easier for you to turn the wheel. When this component starts to break down, you’ll likely hear a loud noise coming from your engine bay, accompanied by a steering wheel that’s more challenging to turn.

How to Repair the Vehicle

Now that you’re aware of just how many things can go wrong with a vehicle’s steering system and what causes the car to make noises as you turn, it’s time to learn how to fix them.

Provide Lubrication

The good news is that many of these issues, such as dry jounce brushing or ball joints, can be repaired by lubricating the parts and restoring their function. Just bear in mind that you’ll have identify this issue early to fix it easily, as the more these parts rub, the faster they wear down.

Power Steering Fluid Issues

When you encounter a leak in your power steering reservoir, it’ll require repair. There is a chance, though, that the system’s filter is the culprit, which is an easy fix because all you have to do is replace it.

Replace the Components

Some of the most severe steering problems will force you to replace the components that are creating the noise. Things like damaged tie rod ends, worn steering column bearings, bad wheel bearings, bad sway bar links, and worn control arm bushings will need repair to eliminate the sound.

Problems with the shocks, struts, and power steering rack could also require entirely new systems, which are expensive repairs to undertake.

Visiting a mechanic to repair these more severe issues is the likely outcome unless you have experience repairing or replacing major vehicle components.

Pro Tip: Before visiting a mechanic, have a look under your seat and in your trunk for loose items that could be rattling around. Many car owners mistake these sounds for a mechanical issue, only to learn later that it was an easy fix.

How to Handle It When Your Car Makes Noise When Turning

If you’ve found yourself dealing with a noisy steering system, it’s essential that you don’t ignore the problem. The longer you wait to address the issue, the more damage it can do to your car’s components. For example, lubricating the part could be the solution right now, but a replacement could become necessary six months from now because of the additional wear.

Preventative measures are also possible. If you take your car to a mechanic for regular maintenance, you can ask about lubricating your bearing and other parts in your steering and suspension systems. You might also perform a routine check of these components to prevent damage.

While it’s often plausible to continue driving your car if it makes noise when turning, it’s recommended that you find the root cause of the issue as quickly as possible to prevent additional damage.

Final Thoughts

Every issue on this list is the result of a malfunctioning component within the steering or suspension system. However, determining the exact cause will require some attention to detail, as you’ll want to note the precise type of noise, the speed at which it occurs, and how your steering system reacts to narrow it down.

The more attention you pay to your vehicle as it makes noise while turning, the easier it becomes to diagnose the issue and come up with a fix.