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I have an early-model (it has 2000 model brakes) 2001 Ford Explorer that demonstrates a noticeable (tactile and somewhat loud) clunk occasionally during turns.

  • It seems to be much more likely when the turns involve bumps or inclines/declines.
  • I can consistently reproduce the problem by pulling into my driveway at moderate speeds (a 90 degree left turn and a reasonable decline from street level)
  • I can consistently prevent the sound by slowing down and taking the turn much more gently.
  • I will have to check my records, but I believe I have had the U-joints replaced about six months ago, due to vibration at highway speeds which was fixed by the replacement.

What could be causing this clunk?

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Is this a 2wd or 4wd model? Is it just a single "clunk" noise each time or does it does it multiple times with each occurrence? – Troggy Mar 27 '11 at 8:33
@Troggy: 4WD. Single clunk. – Kevin L. Mar 27 '11 at 20:56
At what point in the turn does the clunk happen? As you begin to turn the wheel? As you straighten back out? Somewhere in between? – William Cline Mar 28 '11 at 19:42
@William Cline: Definitely in between; the steering wheel doesn’t seem to be a factor, e.g.: If I’m doing a 90 degree turn, for much of the turn (after starting the turn but before straightening out) I’m holding the wheel in the same orientation. It is then when the clunks generally occur. – Kevin L. Mar 28 '11 at 20:09
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Upon examination it became immediately obvious what the issue was; the front passenger sway bar link had snapped off at the top, losing its head and both top bushings. The clunk was presumably caused by the remnants of the sway bar link (still attached to the lower control arm) impacting the sway bar during turns with bumps or inclines.

A replacement sway bar link solved the issue completely.

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Other than what has been mentioned, the other part I would check out is your CV Axles. Check the boots at both ends for cracks or any grease leaking out. If they start leaking and lose the grease, they can start making continuous noise or show up when making turns.

If they have cracked, the grease can make a mess if it has been driven long on them.

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Ball Joints.

The clunking you describe is symptom of them being worn out.

It's a known service item on Exploders. All ball joints wear/fail eventually, it just seems the Explorer goes through them quicker than others.

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In a tight turn the steering knuckle is pushing on the steering stop and any vertical motion of the body could create a thumping or squeaking noise as the knuckle rubs against the stop.

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Most of the time when you have a clunking sound when turning, it means one of two things.

  1. The power steering fluid is low.
  2. The alignment is out of whack.

Buy some power steering fluid and pour it into the correct spot. If the problem goes away, you're done. If it doesn't, check the alignment.

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