Ford F-150/F-250: Why is my Front Suspension Clunking?

You might not know what that "clunk" under your truck is coming from, but you can be sure it means something is wrong. This guide will walk through the suspension issues most likely to make your truck bump in a bad way.

By Brett Foote - November 6, 2014

The dreaded front end "clunking" noise can be an indication of a wide variety of problems with any number of front end suspension components. So where do you even begin to look? Thankfully, we have compiled a step-by-step diagnostic procedure to help you identify the problem.

Step 1 - Lift truck on jack stands

Use a floor jack to raise the end of the car that's creating a problem and set it on jack stands. Be sure the tires are completely off the ground. From here, you'll have a better view of your suspension components in action.

F150 on jack stands
Figure 1. Putting your truck on jack stands will make observing your accessing your F-150's suspension much easier.

Step 2 - Inspect your front ball joints

Visually check for broken rubber boots, rust, or other obvious corrosion. Then, position yourself in a spot to actually see the ball joints. Use a floor jack to put upward pressure on the wheel use a pry bar on a fulcrum to provide vertical force. The idea is to try and make the wheel act like it's going over a bump. If there's play in either ball joint, you'll have to replace them.

  • Figure 2. The upper ball joint on an F-150 is circled above. The rubber boot has been damaged.
  • Figure 3. The F-250 and the Super Duty have different suspensions, and therefore, different ball joints. The upper and lower ball joints are circled here.

Why is this happening?

Mostly, ball joints wear out do to age. However, if you're doing a lot of off-roading or driving on gravel surfaces, expect this rubber boot to be torn more frequently. The boot keeps ball joint lubricated. The most common cause of ball joint failure is a rust and corrosion. Also, if you have a lift kit, you will see the ball joints wearing out more quickly, too.

Step 2 - Inspect your tie-rod ends

You can check the stability of the tie-rod ends by shaking the wheels from left to right. Take note of any noticeable "play" when doing so. If they seem loose, replace them. If no play is present, move on to Step 3.

Figure 4. The tie-rod end is highlighted above. The rubber boot protects the joint.

Why is This Happening?

Tie-rod ends typically only become a problem on older trucks. They're located inside the wheel which isolates them from a lot of the debris that gets kicked up into the wheel well. That said, they will clunk if the joints are rusty and worn.

Step 3 - Examine the sway bar links

Crawl under the truck and attempt to wiggle the stabilizer bar. If there is play present, the sway bar should be replaced. If the suspension is undamaged, move on to Step 4.

Completely Worn Stabilizer End-Link
Figure 5. The upper bushing on this stabilizer bar end link (the blue rubber above) is completely worn out.

Why is This Happening?

Stabilizer bar links wear a little bit every time you take a corner. The change is gradual, so you might not notice how far gone they are until you start hearing a "clunk" when you enter corners.

Step 4 - Examine the control arm bushings

If they are cracked or missing, this can cause a clunking noise as the control arm moves around. Missing or cracked bushings should be replaced immediately.

Seized Lower Control Arm Bushing
Figure 6. This is lower control arm. There's a bushing between the arm and the bolt the arm attaches to. If that bushing cracks or crumbles, your suspension will make noise and ride poorly. The bolt in this photo has seized to the bushing.

Why is this happening?

The bushings that hold in your control arms are fairly stout, but they will crack with multiple heat cycles and rapid cooling and heating. As with all bushings, they'll be more likely to seize up, creak and groan with age.

(Related Discussion: Removing Lower Control Arm Bolt with Heat - F150forum.com)

Other Possible Causes

Other possible issues that can cause a clunking noise from the front suspension include bad transmission mounts, engine mounts, or u-joints. Noise and vibration are early symptoms of bad mounts, which can be identified visually. Look for cracks, tears, or a "collapsed" mount - one that is significantly shorter than a good mount. Bad mounts should be replaced as soon as possible, as they can lead to more serious issues down the road.

A loose u-joint will make a clunking noise as the transmission engages as it is shifted into gear. A weak u-joint can also cause a vibration at lower or higher speeds. If either problem is present, look for any movement where u-joint and the yoke connect. If there any movement at all, the u-joint is bad and should be replaced.

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