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Old 09-27-2011, 09:14 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Popping/Clicking sound when turning the wheels

Hello all,

I have a problem here with my Subaru Outback 2001 Limited Wagon (5 spd manual) that has been going on since April of this year.

Back in April I would notice a slight "popping" clicking noise when I would pull into a parking lot at a shopping center. I noticed it then because I was going barely a few mph and making a 90* turn into the parking space. The popping and clicking sounds only occurred slightly at first which seemed to be an annoyance but over several weeks through May the sound got worse when pulling into parking spaces and just making turns. There was no sound when driving straight, just turning when going forward or in reverse out of the parking spaces. At one point it got so bad that I could feel the wheels 'grabbing' at the pavement when turning and hearing the popping that had gotten really loud.

Well I took it into the Monro garage and they said it was the CV joints/axle's needing to be replaced. I had never had the axle's replaced so for right around $600 I got the axles replaced. The turning sound and popping immediately was gone after taking the car out of the garage and heading home. Barely two days later I started noticing the popping/clicking sound returning a little bit. Within a day after that, the noise had returned almost to the point of pre-fixing. I took it into the shop and they had me drive it for another week asking me to check and make sure the noises were occurring when turning left and right when going forward and backwards (which I already told them it was previously). I also informed them that the noises ONLY happened after driving the car for about 15 min. When backing it out of the garage in the morning, it doesn't make those noises.

I took the car back in and they did a warranty replacement on the CV Joint/axle's and again, when driving the car off the garage property and for several days afterwards, the popping and clicking was gone when turning into a parking lot. But slowly it returned and AGAIN it's back to the pre-fix sounds.

Does anyone have any idea what is going on here? I have spent $600 on this issue alone and doubt I've got two bad replacement axles in a row, or was the service somehow flawed in it being performed?

Just an FYI, I had new struts/shocks put on about 2-3 weeks prior to the CV joint problem, and had the head gaskets replaced back in Feb-March before the noises appeared. The car has 222,600 miles on it and the body and interior are in EXCELLENT condition, but I'm leery of adding more money to it than I need. I'm just caught in the spot of, not having a car payment if I don't need one for another vehicle and keeping this one as long as I can drive it.

Any suggestions or thoughts? I would greatly appreciate it!
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Old 09-27-2011, 12:45 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bawalker View Post
Hello all,

I have a problem here with my Subaru Outback 2001 Limited Wagon (5 spd manual) that has been going on since April of this year.

Back in April I would notice a slight "popping" clicking noise when I would pull into a parking lot at a shopping center. I noticed it then because I was going barely a few mph and making a 90* turn into the parking space. The popping and clicking sounds only occurred slightly at first which seemed to be an annoyance but over several weeks through May the sound got worse when pulling into parking spaces and just making turns. There was no sound when driving straight, just turning when going forward or in reverse out of the parking spaces. At one point it got so bad that I could feel the wheels 'grabbing' at the pavement when turning and hearing the popping that had gotten really loud.

Well I took it into the Monro garage and they said it was the CV joints/axle's needing to be replaced. I had never had the axle's replaced so for right around $600 I got the axles replaced. The turning sound and popping immediately was gone after taking the car out of the garage and heading home. Barely two days later I started noticing the popping/clicking sound returning a little bit. Within a day after that, the noise had returned almost to the point of pre-fixing. I took it into the shop and they had me drive it for another week asking me to check and make sure the noises were occurring when turning left and right when going forward and backwards (which I already told them it was previously). I also informed them that the noises ONLY happened after driving the car for about 15 min. When backing it out of the garage in the morning, it doesn't make those noises.

I took the car back in and they did a warranty replacement on the CV Joint/axle's and again, when driving the car off the garage property and for several days afterwards, the popping and clicking was gone when turning into a parking lot. But slowly it returned and AGAIN it's back to the pre-fix sounds.

Does anyone have any idea what is going on here? I have spent $600 on this issue alone and doubt I've got two bad replacement axles in a row, or was the service somehow flawed in it being performed?

Just an FYI, I had new struts/shocks put on about 2-3 weeks prior to the CV joint problem, and had the head gaskets replaced back in Feb-March before the noises appeared. The car has 222,600 miles on it and the body and interior are in EXCELLENT condition, but I'm leery of adding more money to it than I need. I'm just caught in the spot of, not having a car payment if I don't need one for another vehicle and keeping this one as long as I can drive it.

Any suggestions or thoughts? I would greatly appreciate it!
This is text book CV joints getting tired. Also its pretty well known that replacing them with after market CV joints and not stock subaru parts can result in what your experiencing.

A very very slight chance that the wheel bearings are getting tired but they would figure that out when replacing the CV joint. My guess is that they replaced your joints with after market parts which are known for not being very good and cheap. Ask them if they used stock Subaru CV joints or aftermarket. That could be your answer right there
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Old 09-27-2011, 12:50 PM   #3 (permalink)
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ditto what subiesailor said.

In addition, I tend to agree it's not likely, although not impossible, that two sets of axles would have the same faults as the originals, leading to the same "clicking" symptom, unless they are really poor fitting aftermarkets.

Also, the fact that the clicking starts only after the car has been driven for 15 or more minutes could suggest it's something else.

After the first and second replacements, it appears that the clicking didn't show up immediately. Were there any times immediately after the axles were replaced that the car was driven for a longer time without the clicking showing up? In other words, did the clicking not show up in the first two days because the car wasn't driven far enough to cause the clicking, as it would have before?

I ask because there's another possibility if the tire are "grabbing" when making tight turns, and that's a failing center viscous coupler (part of the AWD transfer mechanism). When these fail, they often do so in a way that causes the wheels to skip/hop/shudder in tight turns, but not when going straight.

The viscous coupler works on the basis of heat generated inside its housing, so the time lag (e.g., 15 minutes of driving) before the clicking starts is consistent.

One common cause of this is tires that are not properly inflated or have different circumferences. (See: Tire circumference spec confirmed by Subaru (TechTips)) All four tires should be the same brand, model, size, and have the same tread wear (tread depth). Even a tread depth difference of as little as 1 or 2 thirty-seconds of an inch can cause problems with the viscous coupler. If left long enough, the coupler, which might initially "self correct" when it cools, will become permanently faulty and even correcting for unequal tires won't correct the problem.

The clicking sound might just be the sound made by the drive train as the tires hop/skip/shudder.

Not sure that this is the problem, but it would be consistent with your description.
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Old 09-27-2011, 01:29 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Thanks for the insight.

I am 99% sure that aftermarket axles were used as the manager of the shop told me that they ordered them through one of their reliable vendors and was a name that didn't sound familiar for the actual axles.

When I mentioned the clicking/popping noise appearing after driving the car "some time" before having the axles replaced the first time, the manager was confident that a ball bearing unit attached to the axel was wearing out. Thus in his opinion, when the car would drive straight it wasn't rubbing against the bad bearings, but would heat up and the damaged bearings would have issues when in use when turning.

I only mention that because I'm not very knowledgeable in suspension related items and wanted to pass that on to the group here. However part of the diagnosing problem with this was that for me to drive to the garage from my rural house is 1hr 20min and pulling into the parking lot mechanics and other patrons could definitely hear the louder clicking when making a hard right or left turn into the parking space.

But after the car sat for 30 min or more before a mechanic could get to it, he could not replicate the same degree of clicking/popping that I could in the front end. It is consistent every time that when the car sits and cools off, the immediate clicking and popping subsides. I was in the garage the day after the second axle repair was performed where the mechanic took the car out to the parking lot and was making figure 8's just fine.

To answer your question, of the following two days after the first repair (it may have been 5-7 days after the second repair before the sounds returned) I drove approximately 100 miles home and then out to customers/clients.

As for the grabbing/hopping/stuttering, I notice this some in parking lots when going really slow and making a angled 45* parking space turn or even a 90* parking space turn. I do not notice this on turns faster than or at a lesser degree than 45* angle.

When I asked in another forum someone indicated to immediately change the front diff oil, though they didn't offer a reason as to why that would help. I was wondering that at 222,600 miles, would the rack and pinion be apart of the cause?

As for tires, all 4 tires are Goodyear triple treads, all of the same wear being rotated every 5-8000 miles as they have been for the past 3 years since getting them installed.



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Originally Posted by plain OM View Post
ditto what subiesailor said.

In addition, I tend to agree it's not likely, although not impossible, that two sets of axles would have the same faults as the originals, leading to the same "clicking" symptom, unless they are really poor fitting aftermarkets.

Also, the fact that the clicking starts only after the car has been driven for 15 or more minutes could suggest it's something else.

After the first and second replacements, it appears that the clicking didn't show up immediately. Were there any times immediately after the axles were replaced that the car was driven for a longer time without the clicking showing up? In other words, did the clicking not show up in the first two days because the car wasn't driven far enough to cause the clicking, as it would have before?

I ask because there's another possibility if the tire are "grabbing" when making tight turns, and that's a failing center viscous coupler (part of the AWD transfer mechanism). When these fail, they often do so in a way that causes the wheels to skip/hop/shudder in tight turns, but not when going straight.

The viscous coupler works on the basis of heat generated inside its housing, so the time lag (e.g., 15 minutes of driving) before the clicking starts is consistent.

One common cause of this is tires that are not properly inflated or have different circumferences. (See: Tire circumference spec confirmed by Subaru (TechTips)) All four tires should be the same brand, model, size, and have the same tread wear (tread depth). Even a tread depth difference of as little as 1 or 2 thirty-seconds of an inch can cause problems with the viscous coupler. If left long enough, the coupler, which might initially "self correct" when it cools, will become permanently faulty and even correcting for unequal tires won't correct the problem.

The clicking sound might just be the sound made by the drive train as the tires hop/skip/shudder.

Not sure that this is the problem, but it would be consistent with your description.
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Old 09-27-2011, 01:43 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Correction to my last post, the other forum recommended the center differential torque binding being at issue requiring the front differential fluid being changed.

I'm not sure if this pertains to anything or is in anyway useful, but in April 2009 I had my clutch replaced after the originial gave out. Can't explain everything that happened but all tension was gone and some housing/bearing/something got shredded.

Anyway, the new clutch was installed and the shifting worked great. Several months later I noticed when stopped on a hill and proceeding to move forward, I had to immediately give the car more gas to keep it from stalling out as I let off the clutch which would cause a big forward jerk. Because the normal timing of my feet prior to the clutch being replaced no longer worked. The car would stall, or at best the wheels would "grab" pavement jerking the car forward as if the wheels were trying to spin.

I knew that couldn't be good so I've done what I can to adjust my feet timing and the garage indicating that it was user fault, not mehcanical fault.
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Old 09-27-2011, 01:48 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Clutch would not be related new clutch and parts will have a different feel. The clutch system is hydrolic so if they replaced a few parts the pick up point and feel would be or could be much different than the previous clutch.

Cheap and most common issue for what your describing is cheap cv joints. The AWD binding thing highly doubt it given you've been good about having the same tires etc on the car.
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Old 09-27-2011, 06:56 PM   #7 (permalink)
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If the center differential is binding (actually, it's the viscous coupler in the center differential that is binding), changing the gear oil won't change anything. The front differential and the transmission, including the center differential, share the same gear oil -- it's what's in the transmission. The viscous coupler is a sealed unit -- changing the gear oil around it won't normally have any effect on it's function.

A bad bearing is a possibility, but if it is a bearing, it should be identifiable with the car up on a lift, even if the bearing is cool. A worn or damaged bearing doesn't recover with a rest. Although the clicking might not be as loud, turning the wheels manually and listening (e.g. with a mechanic's stethoscope) at each hub or nearby suspension member can be used to identify which bearing is making an unusual noise. Often, comparison between the four wheels provides a clear indication of which one is bad, if it's only one.

I agree with subiesailor on the tires, provided the car has always had this same treatment. But if you bought the car used, and previously the car wasn't treated to the same good tire habits, or was towed with two wheels down, the viscous coupler life could have been significantly shortened and you're now experiencing the relatively premature failure. But this is just a possibility at this point.

I realize this might be hard to answer definitively, but is the clicking with the two sets of new axles the exact same as the clicking with the originals? While anything is possible, and there have been reports of clicking type noises from new, aftermarket units, I would think new axles wouldn't make quite the same sounds as old, worn out or damaged axles. If it's the exact same noise that starts up in the same way as before, it seems to me whatever caused it originally hasn't been dealt with.

Incidentally, this is not to deny the possibility of the aftermarket axles causing the clicking. But if the garage installs genuine Subaru axles, and the clicking is still there, it could be a costly effort. Unless the original clicking was definitively traced to the original axles, I'd try to be sure it isn't something else before changing them again.
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Old 09-27-2011, 08:15 PM   #8 (permalink)
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plain_OM - Thanks for that information, especially on the gear oil. I didn't know the front diff oil serviced both.

Just an FYI, I bought the car used in 2005 with only 78,000 on it and have ran it pretty hard since. Although I am VERY strict of tire rotation, oil changes every 3-5,000 miles and having the CV boots replaced when they were leaking/going bad.

It wasn't until this past spring at around 212,000 miles when I started getting that clicking/popping noises when making left and right hand turns. It first started when I would back out of a parking space, cut left or right that I would notice it going very slow and gentle with turning. Eventually it got worse, more pronounced and occured when going forward into a parking space.

When talking with the Monro garage, they put it on the lift and indicated the CV axles where bad which is where I got this diagnosis. My girlfriends father at the time also suggested that the symptoms were very identical to that of failing CV joints/axles.

Thankfully after the first set of axles was replaced and after a few days when the noises returned they replaced them under warranty at no cost to me. Then a little bit longer time, the noises came back once more. It definitely seemed like for a brief time, the replacements did fix it as no noise was eminating from the front end. But slowly it came back progressively.

When out on the road today, I checked to make sure the wheels weren't grabbing/sticking when turning the wheel, and they were not. I may have mistaken that symptom tho. But the noises are still there. I'm pretty certain that Monro didn't install Subaru OEM axles on the car. If they would replace them again at no charge under warranty with OEM ones, I'll take it back, but I'm not sure how apt they would be to do a second replacement at no charge.

You bring up a good question, maybe the originial problem wasn't fixed at all? Monro did mention that I was showing signs of rack & pinion problems. Would that in anyway contribute to the issues I'm having now?

Bradley
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Old 09-28-2011, 08:14 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Thanks for filling in more of the details for us. It provides a better picture of the situation.

In light of this, I can't discount the possibility that the aftermarket axles are the source -- the symptoms are similar to others' experiences with worn/broken, or some aftermarket, units.

But I am puzzled by the absence of any change in the symptoms (clicking when turning but only after significant driving) when the original axles were replaced.

The genuine Subaru axles would probably be more expensive, and I doubt the garage would be willing to install them without a corresponding cost adjustment, let alone the additional labor.

If I were in your situation, I would like an experienced mechanic to hear the sound and, perhaps better still, listen from outside as the car is driven by someone else in a tight circle. This might enable the clicking's location to be better identified and the nature of the clicking (pitch, tone, rate, etc) might also be indicative of the source.

If the mechanic concludes that it is from the axles, then it might well be worth the additional cost.
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Old 09-28-2011, 08:57 AM   #10 (permalink)
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You are welcome for those additional details.

My own troubleshooting skills seem to indicate that after the originial and replacement CV joint/axles were replaced and the problem was immediately solved only to return again shortly afterwards indicates a bad part, bad labor, or as you mentioned, non-OEM replacement part leaving the issue truly unresolved.

I'm going to schedule an appointment with the local Subaru Dealership and have them put it on the lift to look at and diagnose based on the sound coming from the front end.

In regards to the symptoms only occuring after the car has been driven for 15+ minutes, that is when it's most pronounced and when I hear it. I can't discount that it does happen sooner mainly because I do only straight driving when I leave the house with the only turning being backing out of the garage and driving to my destination. I give the example that when I drive 22 miles to the post office, the post office is the first time I slow down to stop, turn, and park thus when I usually first notice it in the day. With our driveway being gravel/dirt, it's hard to hear if there is even a lower clicking/popping noise that comes from it. I can't confirm that yet.

But I can say when I drive to town (68 mi one way) and go to Walmart and park in the angled 45* parking space, just turning into that space in 1st gear very slowly everyone in eyesight can hear the loud 'popping' sounds. If I shop for an hour and then leave, when backing out of the space the sound is there, but obviously decreased in intensity.

The explination I got from the Monro people (regarding the originial problem) was that each axle has a joint attached to it that has bearings on the inside that allow the wheel to move in all directions as needed and as terrain dictate. That when the bearings in that joint wear out the heat exacerbates the wearing out thus increasing the noise. Explaining why the noise subsides after a time period of the car being turned off and why his mechanics would drive it 45min+ after I brought it in and hear only a light clicking sound.

Of course that is probably a bad paraphrase of what he said and I have no way to validate that as I'm not a full on mechanic myself. All in all, my concern is that until I get an appointment with the Subaru dealership later this week or earlier next week, I'll log a few hundred miles more on the car due to the extreme rural distance I live from my customers, work, and town. Will this hurt the car if I'm taking it easy on turns to avoid that popping sound as much as possible till they are replaced? That is if the problem is truly aftermarket CV axles gone bad?
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