Many 4-wheel-drive owners have reported hearing a loud clicking noise when turning in 4WD mode. The problem only seems to manifest itself when the vehicle is under load while turning and braking or under acceleration.
The strange ‘clicking’ or ‘clucking’ noises are only heard when 4WD is engaged and not in 2H or 2-wheel-drive mode. The ominous noise seems to be in sync with the wheel speed. What could be the cause of this ‘clicking’ or ‘clicking’ noise when in a 4-wheel drive?
But what causes this phenomenon to occur and is it dangerous to drive your vehicle in this state? Let’s look at what can be done to rectify it and what costs are involved to replace it. The following article will discuss the causes of CV joint failures and the possible solutions.
Table of Contents
CV Joint Clicking Noise When Turning in 4WD
The CV joint axle assembly consists of two CV joints on either end of a drive shaft (an inner joint and an outer joint). The axle assembly seldom fails but rather the CV joints themselves. In most cases, it is the outer CV joint that fails first since it does more work than the inner CV.
Excessive Force When in 4WD
CV joint failure during 4WD engagement occurs when the vehicle’s front wheel becomes airborne, as in cross-axle or rock-climbing scenarios. Aggressive acceleration causing the spinning airborne wheel to land forcefully can exert excessive torque and stress on the CV joint bearings.
When the wheel suddenly encounters high resistance upon contact with the ground or dry rock surface, the bearings may struggle to manage the intense forces transmitted through the wheel shaft. The airborne wheel, receiving all available power due to the least resistance, is particularly vulnerable in this situation.
Torn CV Boot
CV joint failure can also result from inadequate lubrication caused by a damaged or torn CV boot cover. The rubber cover is designed to safeguard the grease within the boot, ensuring proper lubrication for the bearings and shielding them from dust and grit. Once the boot tears and the grease leaks out, the CV joint becomes susceptible.
Even a small amount of sand or dust entering the joint can cause wear and eventual failure.
This lack of lubrication, combined with foreign particles infiltrating the joint, contributes to the audible clicking or clucking noise indicating dryness and wear in the CV joint.
Wear And Tear
A third way a CV joint can fail is when the rubber boot becomes old and brittle due to age and wear. Road or off-road track debris can damage the rubber cover, causing the grease that is meant to keep the joint lubricated to leak out of the joint.
All it takes is for some dirt, moisture, or grime to enter that CV joint, and it will fail sooner rather than later.
Extreme Suspension Upgrades and Body lifts
When enhancing the suspension of a 4WD, the impact on CV joints is often overlooked, particularly with significant lifts exceeding 50mm on specific IFS Utes. Such lifts alter the angle of the axle shaft, expanding small tolerances between the joint’s moving components.
This increased space between parts causes them to knock against each other, leading to accelerated wear and eventual failure of the joint.
Handling Symptoms of a Failed CV
A few signs and symptoms occur when you have a failing CV joint. These symptoms are the following:
- Clicking sounds that are in sync with the wheel speed
- The popping and grinding noises
- Loud clicking noises when you turn under full lock
- Later loud clacking sounds can become bad even under partial lock.
- A vibration that is felt in the steering wheel
- A vibration that is prominent in the floorboard of the vehicle
How To Inspect Your CV Joints
You need to regularly inspect the condition of your CV joints. There are a few methods you can apply to determine the state of your CV joints.
To perform this method, park your vehicle on a level surface. Stand in front of the vehicle and crouch to visually inspect both CV axle shafts. Ensure both the left and right front axle shafts display similar angles. Then, examine the rubber boots for cracks, leaks, and the presence of loose or missing clamps.
These vulnerable components, situated low on the vehicle, are susceptible to damage from branches, potentially causing silent tears in the rubber boots. There should be minimal play on the axle shaft. If the play exceeds 1/8 inch in any direction the CV is worn.
Why Only In 4WD Mode
The clacking noise often arises when non-permanent 4WD vehicles engage 4WD mode. Part-time four-wheel-drive trucks primarily operate in 2H mode on high-traction roads, with only the rear driveshaft propelling the vehicle. Consequently, no suspicious sounds occur in 2H, unlike when shifting to 4H mode.
A simple method to identify a failing CV joint involves driving briefly in 4H on grass or gravel roads. While driving with the steering locked left, listen for clacking or clicking noises from the left front wheel, indicating a problematic CV joint. Repeat the process on the right side for further confirmation.
Inner CV Joint
If you notice a heavy vibration on the steering and a slight whining sound coming from the center of the vehicle, you might have to have your inner CV joint inspected. Take your 4WD to a reputable brake and suspension center to have them professionally inspected and tested.
Can You Drive With A Bad CV Joint?
For the CV joint to function efficiently, it needs lubrication, as well as protection from dirt, dust, and other debris. Once the boot that seals the CV joint is damaged, the grease leaks out and contamination begins to set in, eventually causing the CV joint to wear out and fail.
Regular off-road adventures in a 4-wheel drive necessitate consistent examination of CV joints post-trail rides. Identifying a failing CV joint is crucial, usually indicated by a distinct snapping sound and reduced off-road performance. Post-trip inspections should prioritize checking the integrity of the rubber boots, ensuring they remain undamaged and properly lubricated to prevent costly CV joint failure.
If audible clicking or clunking occurs in 4H mode, switching to 2H at a slower pace is advisable until a service center or mechanic can inspect and potentially replace the problematic failing CV joint. Prioritizing these checks and immediate action upon detecting issues ensures smoother, safer off-road experiences.
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