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New front end popping/crunching


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What I'm working with:

  • 2002 4x4
  • Lifted 1 year ago
  • Reused struts and strut hats
  • 1 yo OEM strut bearings
  • 1 yo AC coils
  • 1 yo Camber adjust bolts
  • 1 yo Inner tie rods
  • 1 yo outer tie rods
  • 1 yo steering rack bushings
  • 1 yo ball joints

Wheeled all summer on those fresh components and everything was great. My last wheeling sesh was August.  Early 2021, I developed a popping/crunching sensation in the steering. I assumed it was the ball joint so I replaced both ball joints. The issue remained unchanged. For troubleshooting, I set the front end on jack stands and prompted the noise by having somebody turn the steering wheel. Best judgements of sound and feel by hand led me to the tie rods. Struts didn't have much of a output on feel or sound, nor did cv axles or ball joints. This led me to do the following:

 

After replacing ball joints (which were actually still good btw) I replaced the following this month:

  • CV axles
  • Wheel bearings (inner and outer) and both sets of races
  • Inner tie rods

Outer tie rods seemed really solid, almost like new and the grease boot didn't see compromised so i reused them.

I took it to the shop for an alignment. The same guy that aligned it last summer aligned it again and said the alignment procedure was smooth and typical. After getting it from the shop, Everything feels straight and aligned but the popping/crunching is still there. 

 

I can create this by low speed tight turns such as cutting the wheel to pull into a parking spot or follow a drive thru path. It seems that the low speed + hand over hand turning of the steering wheel causes this. This does not occur if you drive straight or if say you cut the wheel for a slow turn and hold it steady at an angle. It's the action of turning the steering wheel that causes it.

What's weird is this occurred months after I last wheeled it. The only abnormal abuse my front end takes is that there is a 3" step transitioning from my driveway to my street. This transition is always taken at turned angle whether backing out or pulling in. (not good for steering components). My street is a main street so occasionally my approach home from the speedy street is a bit hot which causes strut top out with those old struts on new AC coils. 

I guess i'm leaning toward aiming the parts cannon at the strut bearings and strut hats. Anyone have any thoughts on this before I drop another $100+ on parts and labor?

 

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I've never had a strut suspension to bits, and I've seen a few threads about strut top issues, but I'm not sure I'd fire the parts cannon just yet. Having it still make the noise when it's on jackstands makes me think it's not load-related, which isn't what I'd expect for either a strut top or a TRE. I'm also noticing you said both tie rods seemed like they were making the noise. Maybe both outer TREs failed prematurely, at the same time, or the noise is transferring really well from one side to the other, but noise on both sides of the rack has me wondering about the rack.

I'd pop the outer TREs out of the knuckles and repeat your jackstand steering test. If it doesn't make the noise, steer the knuckles by hand to check the strut tops, and if those seem fine, check it again with one tie rod, then the other. If on the other hand the steering still makes the noise when it's not moving the knuckles, that suggests an issue with the rack, steering shaft U joints or rag, steering transfer box whatsit, or possibly the column. I would double-check the rack bushings, too, though again that seems like a long shot given how little load they're under with the truck in the air. If the feel-stuff-while-it-makes-the-noise test fails, disconnect things one by one until you find the problem. Obviously be mindful of the clockspring while doing this. I think the shafts are keyed so you can't reinstall them cockeyed, but I would still put a paint pen mark on them before pulling them apart just to be safe.

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4 hours ago, Slartibartfast said:

I've never had a strut suspension to bits, and I've seen a few threads about strut top issues, but I'm not sure I'd fire the parts cannon just yet. Having it still make the noise when it's on jackstands makes me think it's not load-related, which isn't what I'd expect for either a strut top or a TRE. I'm also noticing you said both tie rods seemed like they were making the noise. Maybe both outer TREs failed prematurely, at the same time, or the noise is transferring really well from one side to the other, but noise on both sides of the rack has me wondering about the rack.

I'd pop the outer TREs out of the knuckles and repeat your jackstand steering test. If it doesn't make the noise, steer the knuckles by hand to check the strut tops, and if those seem fine, check it again with one tie rod, then the other. If on the other hand the steering still makes the noise when it's not moving the knuckles, that suggests an issue with the rack, steering shaft U joints or rag, steering transfer box whatsit, or possibly the column. I would double-check the rack bushings, too, though again that seems like a long shot given how little load they're under with the truck in the air. If the feel-stuff-while-it-makes-the-noise test fails, disconnect things one by one until you find the problem. Obviously be mindful of the clockspring while doing this. I think the shafts are keyed so you can't reinstall them cockeyed, but I would still put a paint pen mark on them before pulling them apart just to be safe.

This is brilliant! I’ll definitely be trying this the first chance I get. Thanks! 

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