If you hear a clicking or popping sound coming from your wheels, chances are, it isn’t actually your wheels making those noises but your suspension or drive system. The most common cause of these sounds is damaged and dying CV joints.

To pinpoint the problem from each of the possible causes, Fixter can send an expert mechanic to diagnose your issues and get you back to trouble-free driving in no time.

What are the clicking and popping noises coming from my wheels?

If it isn’t a faulty CV joint, then you could have a problem with your suspension struts, a loose drive belt, there might be something amiss with your tyres, or even something as simple as poorly fitted hubcaps.

Rectifying some of these problems is light work for a handy DIY mechanic, but for others, you’ll need the assistance of a trained technician. Read on for our most likely contenders.

What are the common causes of clicking and popping noises?

Damaged CV joints

Risk level – High

What to do – Replace the problem joint before it causes drivetrain damage.

Front-wheel-drive cars have special joints connecting the wheels to the drive shafts and then to the transmission. These are your CV joints—or constant velocity joint, to give them their full title. Because the wheels are constantly moving under the forces of the suspension and the road level, the CV joints move around all axes, just like your wrist or ankle does. This makes sure the engine can deliver its power whatever angle the wheel is at as it connects to the road.

You can spot your CV joints fairly easily, tucked behind your wheel and covered by a large rubber boot. The rubber boot contains a mass of grease that keeps the CV joints lubricated and healthy. However, if the boot becomes cracked, perishes, or damaged, the grease escapes, the joint dries up and wears out far quicker than when protected.

The subsequent clicking you hear is the dry CV joint that has worn out and needs replacing. If you don’t replace it, it can seize completely, and if that happens, it can cause far more significant damage to your car than you’d like. That’s why it’s imperative to sort out any unusual noises as soon as you hear them.

Suspension problems

Risk level – Medium

What to do – Replace broken shockers and springs.

Your suspension includes several components that provide smooth driving over bumpy surfaces and rough roads. If the shock absorbers or springs are damaged, it’s another area that could produce a clicking sound around your wheels.

Shock absorbers and springs wear over time, so they are a fairly common issue for older cars. You need to replace them as soon as the breakage happens as they can cause additional damage to your wheels and tyres depending on the initial break—oh, and it will be incredibly bouncy and awkward to drive.

Loose drive belt or faulty drive belt tensioner

Risk level – Medium

What to do Replace the belt and associated parts.

If your drive belt has become loose, it can produce clicking sounds as it taps against the car, often mistaken as coming from the wheels. The drive belt powers several vital components as well as driving your engine. A snapped drive or timing belt can seize your engine, so if there’s anything even slightly amiss with it, it needs sorting out straight away.

There’s a problem with your tyres

Risk level – Medium

What to do – Have the tyres repaired or replaced.

If tyres aren’t the same size or pressure or if something has caused damage to any of them, you could hear a clicking or popping sound from the culprit corner. You should always make sure that tyres are inflated to the correct pressure and are the same size.

Loose hubcaps and wheel nuts

Risk level – Low to medium

What to do – Tighten them up!

If any of the nuts on your wheels are loose, it can cause a clicking noise, even something as simple as loose hubcaps—especially at high speed. It’s the easiest and cheapest problem to sort, yet it is potentially perilous if they’re left unsecured. Losing a wheel while driving is a driver’s worst nightmare, so make sure all four corners are secure and safe at all times.

Do wheel bearings make a clicking noise?

Worn wheel bearings can make all kinds of noises, from snapping, grinding, and humming to the clicking and popping sounds under debate. Symptoms of worn wheel bearings include uneven tyre wear, wheel vibrations, and oddly performing brakes.

Can a bad alignment cause a popping noise in my wheels?

Your wheels would have to be quite badly aligned, but it’s not impossible for it to cause binding or popping sounds in severe cases.

What causes my front end to pop when I turn?

Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s your steering—the pop sound made when you turn is most likely the CV joint issue we spoke of earlier. As the axle flex