Clunking Noise When Driving Straight: What Does it Mean?

People put a lot of care into their cars, and the last thing they want to worry about is hearing something off with it. Be it their drive shafts, line shafts, or what have you. One such fearful sound is the sound of something clunking when they drive straight.

There are multiple things that may be causing this issue, with varying levels of severity behind them. Among the most common causes of this issue include problems with the vehicle’s suspension struts, the ball joint, and/or the stabilizing bar.

If your suspension struts are damaged, your vehicle will become more difficult to control as a result. As for the ball joints won’t fail too easily, but they can be worn down more quickly if you drive through dirt and grease frequently.

Finally, if your stabilizing arm is damaged, you will hear a clunk after basically any time you hit a bump. These are just a few of the potential causes of a clunking sound when you are driving straight. Others are less common but should still be considered a potential factor in the issue.

Identifying which, if any, of these issues is the cause, however, is not a simple process if you don’t know your vehicles.

Regardless of what it is, you should be sure to consult a mechanic as soon as possible. Do not continue to drive unless absolutely necessary to ensure that the problem does not get worse. Continuing to drive with that clunking sound could even lead to an accident if it is or gets more severe.

Suspension struts

The suspension struts in your vehicle are meant to help you keep control of your vehicle when turning, braking, accelerating, or reacting to changes in the road. They attach to your vehicle via the strut mount. It also enhances the comfort of your vehicle.

If your suspension struts are damaged, one major example of this is if you are finding your stopping distance has increased. This can create serious safety issues, especially if you are driving in unsafe conditions, such as wet roads.

This may be more difficult, as the degradation is more gradual. Another sign will be if your vehicle is less stable when driving at high speeds, as well as if it tips when you turn.

Your tires may also have strange wear, with the treads wearing in a wavy manner instead of an even manner as you would expect.

How much do they cost to repair or replace?

The first thing to know about replacing struts is that you should do it in pairs. If you repair only one of these parts, issues may arise and cost more to fix in the long run.

You should expect to repair or replace your suspension struts after around 85,000 miles under normal use, though heavier use may see it come considerably faster.

Replacement costs will also come down to the brand, your vehicle, and the location you get it repaired at. You can expect the cost to land somewhere between $500 and $900. Each strut assembly will come down to around $150 to $300.

When you get your struts replaced, be sure to do a wheel alignment as well (described below).

Ball joints

Ball joints serve as a sort of joint between your car’s tires and the vehicle’s suspension and are vital for the safe performance of your vehicle.

If your ball joints are worn out, this can result in your tires becoming more worn out and, as a result, more difficult to control.

How much do they cost to repair or replace?

The cost of replacing one ball joint comes out to around $110 – $230, depending on various factors. In addition, you can expect this to take two to three hours to finish the replacement process, so expect to pay upwards of $500 on the whole process.

This cost may go up as certain factors come into play, such as who you go to for the replacement process.

Stabilizing bar

The stabilizing bars are a part of your car’s suspension system, ensuring that your vehicle’s body does not roll when you make a sharp turn. They are normally attached to the lower control arm, which connects the front wheels to your car and attaches to the ball joints.

If the control arms have worn out, you may hear a clunking noise from bumps in the road.

How much does it cost to repair or replace?

Your stabilizing bar can be replaced for around $125 and $160 (this includes labor). If the issue is with one or more control arms, you can expect to pay $50 to $100 per arm. Damage to the whole system would necessitate a replacement costing $100 to $250.


You hardly need an explanation on what these are, but they may cause a clunking noise if they are misaligned or are deflated. One sign that your wheels may be misaligned is that your steering wheel is off-center while you are driving straight.

The steering wheel may also vibrate, and you may find your car veering to the left or right. If one or more of these things are occurring, there is a good chance that this is the cause of the clunking sound.

How much does it cost to fix this problem?

Realigning your wheels should not require any replacement parts, thankfully. As such, you should only expect to pay for the services rendered. How much this will cost will depend on what needs to be adjusted, as well as the number of tires that need to be aligned.

Aligning the front or back tires will run anywhere from $50 to $100 for most vehicles, while a full set of tires should run you from $100 to $200. This cost will increase or decrease based on who you go to.

A place like Walmart will run you a little less, while a more specialized business tends to be somewhat pricier. If you are working on a budget, a less specialized location works; however, to get the best outcome for your vehicle, a specialty alignment shop is the best option.

Heat shield

A heat shield prevents heat from getting to the wrong parts of your vehicle, making it safer to operate. The heat shield is secured into place with a bolt, but if it begins to come loose, the heat shield will begin to rattle against your other metal parts.

The heat shield may also deteriorate, which would cause your vehicle to be at risk of overheating. The heat shield may also vibrate and ultimately snap if it is allowed to be loose for too long.

How much does it cost to repair or replace?

The answer to this question ultimately depends on how much work needs to be done to fix the issue. For example, if it is just a loose or missing screw, fixing the issue for them should be a fairly minor process.

In this case, you should only expect to pay approximately what they are owed for their time. This should come out to approximately $90 to $140. However, if the heat plate needs to be completely replaced, you will have to pay for that.

This should run you about $150, though factors, such as the vehicle you drive, may result in that price becoming higher. The heat shield is very important, so be mindful that you do not try to cut corners with who you decide to pay to fix the heat shield.