Popping Noise When Driving Straight [9 Easy Fixes]

The main reasons behind popping noise when driving straight are dirty engine oil, damaged CV joint, contaminated or low level of steering fluid, loose lug nuts on wheels, suspension issues, loose drive belt, uneven tires, steering column issues, and bad tie rods.

Keep reading this article to find out more about these issues in detail and learn how you can fix each of them to steer free of the annoying popping noise. Let’s dive in!

popping noise when driving straight

Popping Noise When Driving Straight [9 Easy Fixes]

If you’re wondering why my engine makes a popping noise, you’ll find out the answer in this section. Here are the most common reasons behind your car making a popping noise while driving straight or turning:

Note: You can also read how to fix noise when releasing the brake pedal

1. Dirty Engine Oil

Engine oil is used to lubricate the different components in the engine of a car. It reduces the friction between the parts and makes sure that you don’t have harsh metal-on-metal contact.

But when the engine oil gets contaminated, tiny metal pieces build up inside it and that can cause a popping noise when you’re driving. You’ll notice the same sound when you’re running low on engine oil as the metal parts in the car will rub against each other.

Check the level of engine oil first with a dipstick. If the level of engine oil is fine, you need to inspect the quality of the oil. New oil is amber color like honey and once it starts moving through the engine, it becomes darker. If your engine oil is too dark and thick, it can cause that annoying noise.

dirty engine oil

Solution:

If you’re simply running low on engine oil, add engine oil of the right viscosity for your car. If the engine oil is corroded badly, get rid of it at first using the drain plug. Once you’ve emptied out the old oil, add new oil. The popping noise will go away if it was caused by problems with the engine oil.

If you feel like your engine oil gets dirty too soon, you could have a clogged oil filter. So, you should always get a new oil filter every time you do an oil change in your vehicle.

2. Damaged CV Joint

If you’re wondering what causes a popping noise when turning or driving straight, the most common culprit is a damaged CV joint. There are many parts in the CV joint that can go bad and make a clicking noise. So, what causes a damaged CV joint?

The CV boots can become damaged, torn, or cracked with time. When it gets cracked, grease leaks out of it, and dirt builds up on the CV joint. It causes a loss of lubrication and causes the CV joint to go out quicker.

It can also be caused by the boot clamps. The boot clamps store the CV boots and keep them in their place. If these clamps are damaged, the CV boots will loosen up and damage the CV joint.

The next component that could be responsible for a damaged CV joint is the CV axles. They can make a noise if they’re not properly lubricated when they are turning and cause the CV joint to go bad if you keep driving in that condition.

Solution:

Driving with a damaged CV joint can cause an accident and you need to address this issue as early as possible. The first thing you need to do is locate the damaged CV joint.

If the issue is caused by the CV boot, then you can just replace the boot. You won’t have to replace the entire CV axle and save your money. But if the entire CV joint is bad, then you need to replace it as a damaged CV joint cannot be repaired.

The CV axle is a tricky component to replace and it’s a good idea to hire a mechanic for it. It can cost you anywhere from $500 to $1200 to replace the CV joint in your car including labor charges. You’ll no longer hear the clicking noise from front wheel when driving after replacing the CV joint.

3. Contaminated Or Low Level Of Steering Fluid

If you hear a popping noise when turning at low speed, it could be originating from a lack of steering fluid in your vehicle. Insufficient starting fluid wears out the suspension joints and causes a clicking noise.

The steering wheel will also be harder to control and turn if you’re running low on steering fluid. It’s a normal symptom if some time has passed since you last changed your steering fluid.

steering fluid lelvel

But if you have recently filled steering fluid in your car and you’re low on it when you’re not supposed to, it could be because of a leak in your car. The leak could be in any of the hoses that transfer the steering fluid or from the steering fluid reservoir itself.

Check the quality of the steering fluid as well as if you have enough steering fluid in your car when you check it with the dipstick. The color of the fluid becoming too dark and looking milky is a common indicator of contaminated steering fluid.

Solution:

If you have a normal level of steering fluid and it’s contaminated, it’s good news as you can easily fix it. Drain the steering fluid in your car and add the new steering fluid to it. Every vehicle requires specific types of steering fluid. Make sure you add the right one for yours.

Add steering fluid in the car if it has been a long time since you last refilled it. It’s a good idea to drain the old fluid in this case as well as you don’t want the new fluid to get contaminated.

But if it has only been a short while since your last steering fluid refill, there’s probably a leak in the system. When that happens, you need to find the source of the leak and seal it.

4. Loose Lug Nuts On Wheel

The popping or ticking noise from the wheel when driving that you hear can also be caused by simple issues like loose lug nuts or hubcaps. It’s an easy and cheap problem to fix but it’s often left unchecked by many car owners.

Before you spend a lot of time and energy diagnosing other issues that could cause the popping noise in your car, check out whether lug nuts and hubcaps in your wheel are secured tightly or not.

Solution:

If the lug nuts on the wheel of your car are loose, you can easily tighten them using a torque wrench. Even an inexpensive torque wrench will be enough to tighten the lug nuts and hubcaps. 

tightening lug nuts

5. Suspension Issues

There are many components in the suspension system that are supposed to make the car drive safely on bumpy and rough surfaces. The main parts of the suspension system are shock absorbers and springs.

But if these components are damaged, you’ll most likely hear the popping noise when driving over bumps.  Your tires may also feel extremely bouncy when there are issues with the suspension system.

Solution:

The shock absorbers and springs can wear out with time and it’s a good idea to replace them as soon as they go bad to avoid damage to the wheel or the other components in your car. Identify which part has gone bad with the help of a mechanic and replace it ASAP.

6. Loose Drive Belt

The drive belt is an essential engine component that connects the alternator, AC, and power steering to the crankshaft. It’s also commonly known as the serpentine belt. It sends power to these components when it has good tension.

But when the drive belt becomes loose, it cannot supply enough power to the components like the steering. So, if you’re thinking why is my front wheel popping noise, it could be due to a loose drive belt.

loose drive belt

Solution:

At first, you should try to tighten the drive belt if it’s too loose. Disconnect one of the terminals of the battery before you try to tighten the drive belt. Once you disconnect the battery, follow these steps to tighten it:

  • Loosen the bolts connected to the alternator.
  • Put a piece of wood between the alternator and the engine.
  • Pull back on the wood to increase the tension of the belt.
  • Choose the area where you want to pry against it with care so that you don’t end up damaging any coolant lines.
  • Tighten the bolts connected to the alternator in this new position.
  • Take out the wooden piece once the alternator is sitting tightly.

Connect the battery again and see if the popping noise going away. If you don’t want to go through all this trouble or you still hear the sound, you should replace it immediately with a new one. It’s a good idea to periodically replace your drive belt to protect your alternator and engine in the long run.

7. Uneven Tires

It’s important for all the tires in a vehicle to be of the same size, and shape and inflated to the same level for it to function properly. If any of the tires are uneven, it can cause a popping noise.

Inspect your tires properly and make sure they are inflated to the right pressure. Check them for wear and tear and any bulges.

Solution:

If there are one or more tires that are inflated or deflated to a level that doesn’t match the correct pressure, you need to replace them. Replacing a tire is an easy job and it can be a quick fix to get rid of the popping noise.

8. Steering Column Issues

The steering column makes the steering gear function according to the instructions given by the driver of the car. It has a coupling assembly that connects it with the steering gear. It also has a shaft that rotates against the support bearings on your car.

If you’re wondering why is my car making a popping noise when I turn, it could be due to issues in any of these components. You may also have difficulty turning the steering wheel when it goes bad. It won’t return to the center after completing a cycle when it goes bad in some cases.

Solution:

When the steering column goes out, you’ll have to replace it. It’s difficult to replace the steering column for a common man. So, you should hire an expert mechanic for this job. It’ll cost anywhere between $500 to $1500 to replace the steering column depending on your car.

9. Bad Tie Rods

The tie rods are an integral part of the steering system of your car. It connected the steering gear to the steering knuckle so that you can move your car in the direction you want.

When a tie road gets worn out, it can make a popping noise. Your steering wheel will also feel different, the front end will be misaligned and you’ll have difficulty turning the vehicle when a tie road wears out.

Solution:

You need to replace the tie rods in your car when they go out. The issue can be either with the inner or the outer tie rod. It’s a complicated process to replace tie rods and your ideal course of action is to hire a mechanic for it. Replacing the tire rods will cost a few hundred dollars.

FAQs:

Is it okay to drive with a broken CV joint?

When the CV joint breaks, the entire CV axle can become damaged and your car won’t be able to move at all. So, you shouldn’t drive with a broken CV joint as it can lead to engine failure and accidents.

How long will CV joints last after they start making noise?

You can expect a CV joint to last for a few months before the entire axle goes bad. But if you live in an area where you drive over wet and muddy surfaces, it’ll go bad a lot quicker.

Is it okay to drive with a broken tie rod?

You’ll have difficulty turning the vehicle and your tires can also wear out soon if you’re driving with a bad tie rod. Driving with a broken tie rod is a bad idea as you won’t be able to steer your car properly.

What causes a clicking sound in the rear wheel when driving?

The main reason that your car makes a clicking noise from the rear wheel when you’re driving is a damaged CV joint. But it could also be due to bad wheel bearings, worn-out shock absorbers, and suspension problems.

Conclusion

Hearing a popping noise when driving straight can be annoying and a cause for concern. But now you the main reasons behind it and how you can diagnose and fix each of these issues.

Hopefully, you’ll be able to figure out exactly what’s causing the popping sound when you’re driving and how you can solve it after completing this article. Drop a comment below if you have any more questions about this topic.

Leave a Comment