What inspection is needed when a clicking or popping sound is coming from wheels?

During a clicking or popping sound inspection, a mechanic will primarily investigate your car’s steering system—home to a few key areas that will probably cause strange sounds. The sound may originate from your wheels, but this type of inspection rarely identifies wheels as the source of the problem.
Here are the most probable causes:

Damaged CV joint

A damaged CV joint can result in a popping sound from your wheels. CV joints enhance the flexibility of your vehicle’s axles. When damaged, CV axles can become rigid, creating a sound whenever the wheels are turned—they are usually replaced in pairs.

Bad struts

Struts help your suspension system absorb impact from the road. When struts are damaged, they will be unable to absorb as much impact—which can be extremely harmful to your vehicle and also result in some strange noises from your wheels.

Loose hubcaps

When components loosen on your vehicle’s hubcap, more wiggle-room will be created between your hubcap and wheel. This type of damage will result in a rattling noise at high speeds—but it’s usually a simple fix.

Loose drive belt or drive belt tensioner

Drive belts relay power to other essential components of your vehicle. To do their job efficiently, a drive belt must be extremely taut. If it’s not, you will hear a slapping noise that may seem as though it is coming from your vehicle’s wheels.

Tires are inflated or shaped irregularly

A wheel-based culprit for strange sounds can be a distorted or poorly inflated tire. This can happen if one or more of your wheels are not similar in size—so it’s important to keep your wheels up to factory standard.

How to inspect a clicking or popping sound coming from wheels

To find the source of the noise, a mechanic will first investigate your vehicle’s wheels and increase the inspection scope as necessary. Usually, a mechanic will inspect components in the following order.
  • Wheels
  • Steering System
  • Suspension
  • Drive belt or drive belt tensioner
Once the mechanic identifies the problem’s cause, they will inspect the damage and give you an estimate for a replacement. If the damage is minor—like a loose hubcap—they may be able to provide a fix at no additional cost.

When do I need to inspect a clicking or popping sound coming from wheels?

While hopefully minor, a clicking or popping sound coming from your wheels could signal severe damage, making your car unsafe to drive. If you notice an unfamiliar noise coming from this area, be sure to get it checked out as soon as possible.

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