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So, up to now, if I read correctly, you have done the steering rack, tie rods (innner AND outer?) and sway bar links. Up next is ball joints, struts, sway bar bushings (I hope you did those when you had everything else apart), and then onto the lower control arm bushings, half-shafts, brake components and wheel bearings. If you really want a different perspective, have someone drive the car slowly over a couple pieces of firewood or small logs with you outside so you can hear the clunk from a different perspective. You might find it's one side or the other and that would help isolate.
 

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Discussion Starter #22
So, up to now, if I read correctly, you have done the steering rack, tie rods (innner AND outer?) and sway bar links.
Yes, but please clarify "inner AND outer". As I see it, the steering rack comes with threaded rods that connect to the tie rods which connect to the wheel assembly. It appears to me that the inner tie rods are part of the steering rack assembly. Is this not correct?

Here is the rack I bought, showing what I think are the inners already installed.

Up next is ball joints, struts, sway bar bushings (I hope you did those when you had everything else apart), and then onto the lower control arm bushings, half-shafts, brake components and wheel bearings.
Dummy me, I didn't replace the sway bar bushings. But... those don't look too bad. Nothing like the rack, anyway!

But I don't like the idea of shotgunning all those parts. I prefer to test, then replace. I really blew it on the steering rack - I saw the torn boots, saw the movement in the rack when the wheel was turned, and jumped to a too-fast conclusion. I was in a hurry to get the thing in shape for a trip. Wound up having to take a different vehicle anyway!

If you really want a different perspective, have someone drive the car slowly over a couple pieces of firewood or small logs with you outside so you can hear the clunk from a different perspective. You might find it's one side or the other and that would help isolate.
Tha'ts excellent advice.

Here is some additional info: While I was out of town I had my son take it to the dealer. They said I just hadn't tightened things down enough. Hmmm.. I was skeptical, but paid $130 to have them take care of it. So, the clunk is now reduced. Not gone.

Also, there was a clickety sound when turning to the left. Sounded a lot like CV joint the one time I heard it. My wife says that now happens on a right turn, not on a left turn.

I may have more than one problem here, confusing the diagnosis.
 

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Thankfully, I have never had to buy a steering rack, but yes, it appears that you have the inner tie rods already installed.

As for the rest, I wasn't exactly suggesting replacing all the parts without question, as much as inspecting them to see if they need replacement. I just recently had a "front end clunk" which turned out to be the stabalizer links. The joints were loose and the links were just flopping around under there. However, my struts were clearly also shot. So I got some new struts and lifted the car, only to find that the ball joints and tie rods were also shot. It seems these vans don't like to have a single front-end failure. They like to have all their front end parts go at the same time. As a side note, when doing one of my struts, the half-shaft managed to shift and twist somehow, so that, when trying to get the knuckle back in place, I blew apart the half shaft. The "fix" for that was having it towed to a mechanic to have the half-shaft bearing bracket torched off because, from what I can tell, unless you remove the half-shaft and put anti-sieze lube on the carrier bearing bracket every 2 years from new, you can NOT remove the shaft from the bracket to replace it.
 

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Having three Toy/Lex vehicles from the '00's, I can confidently say that ToMoCo switched to a really short-longevity material for their motor and tranny mounts during that decade. I've had to replace all of 'em. One of the key symptoms on my 08 Sienna was weird sounds when starting out and when hitting bumps. Worth a check...
 

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Discussion Starter #25
As for the rest, I wasn't exactly suggesting replacing all the parts without question, as much as inspecting them to see if they need replacement.
Oh, I knew that. I'm just a bit lost because I have inspected them. I'm not seeing any obvious cause. Everything seems tight.:mad:


Having three Toy/Lex vehicles from the '00's, I can confidently say that ToMoCo switched to a really short-longevity material for their motor and tranny mounts during that decade. I've had to replace all of 'em. One of the key symptoms on my 08 Sienna was weird sounds when starting out and when hitting bumps. Worth a check...

Yep. Worth a check. Thanks!


So, to review:

  1. Clunking sound when going over bumps, but not every time.
  2. Clackety sound when turning left (which has now switched to happening when turning right!)
  3. Torn steering rack boots discovered, and some movement of the rack when assistant turns steering wheel.
  4. Taken to dealer to diagnose clunk, dealer confirmed steering rack diagnosis. ($1450 quoted to replace.)
  5. Steering rack, tie rods (inner and outer), and sway bar links replaced, all by me.
  6. Dummy didn't think to replace sway bar bushings. (Self-kicking is ongoing and will continue for some time.)
  7. Problem remains after rack replacement.
  8. Back to dealer to diagnose; dealer says didn't get everything tightened enough.
  9. Plausible, so okay given, work done. (I was out of town for a few days, so my son took it in.)
  10. Problem remains.
Some observations:
  • The clunk is a very metal-on-metal sound. IF it's a bad bushing somewhere, it's GONE, not just compromised. It should be obvious, but I'm not seeing it.
  • The clackety sound is reminiscent of CV joints. had a 76 Honda which had CV joints go out, and I had them replaced. It's a while ago (okay about 4 decades), but its sure sounds familiar.
  • So, I could have more than one problem here.
  • Yelp reviews on dealership are not encouraging at all, so.....
I guess I need help with what to look for on the struts. I have not dealt with the beasts before. Any other suggestions are welcome.
 

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The clunk
I recently tackled a similar problem on the rear of a Chrysler. I supported the vehicle near the hubs high enough for me underneath, on my back, pushing against the chassis with my legs. Meanwhile grasping joints feeling for slop that corresponded with clunking. Worked for me.
Rule of thumb: When throwing parts at an unknown problem, throw the cheapest parts first.
 

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Discussion Starter #27
Found a video that sounds right. Struts. I'll be checking that in the morning. I did shove, shake, and generally abuse the struts already, but I'm thinking that hearing the noise requires the sudden loading then unloading of the strut that happens with a bump. I just can't duplicate that while it's up on jackstands. Now that I know how to access the top of the struts (second video) , I'll take a gander there.

Here's the noise:




This is a good video on the replacement process:

 

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Is that your top mount that's totally rusted away? Or just a cap that goes over the top.
Either way, good find. That windshield cowl isn't too bad to remove but it totally covers the tops of the struts.
 

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Discussion Starter #30
Is that your top mount that's totally rusted away?
Yep. We aren't driving it in that condition. I'm expecting the two new strut assemblies tomorrow. I just got in from hitting the two big lower bolts with some PB Blaster.

Sorry, NAPA, Autozone, and PepBoys. Amazon was HALF your price. I like to support my local NAPA, and I'll deal with the other two when needed, but I can't support them to the tune of double prices.


I know that normally a spring compressor isn't needed when replacing the complete assembly, but I'm thinking I might want to use one anyway while removing the old one, just in case that top end gives out.
 

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When I did my struts, the springs were fine but it was only a few dollars more to get the pre-assembled strut kits on amazon. Of course, I still haven't gone to my parts place to borrow a spring compressor to disassemble the old struts so I can throw them in the trash and save the spring steel. An impact driver makes this job SUPER easy, but you will need an alignment when you're done. I really would suggest doing ball joints at the same time. You're already in there taking everything apart and it's only an extra $50 in parts. IIRC, the only hard part of the job was one-handedly reaching under the van to lift up the assembly while looking at it from the top to get the 3 threaded posts through their respective holes. Oh, and I didn't adequately mark the alignment of one of the wiper arms, so that took 3 tries before I got it positioned correctly.

As for your clicking when turning, I would totally anticipate the CV joints are going bad. The passenger side job is one of the few things that ever beat me on a car repair. I used every thing imaginable to get that out and still couldn't budge it. As I mentioned above, it had to be torched off. Knowing what I know now, if I were to replace the passenger half-shaft, I would just take it to a mechanic and pay whatever they want to charge. However, if you're going to do that, I would have them replace the wheel bearings at the same time. And, if you're going to have them remove the knuckles to replace the bearings, they might as well do the ball joint replacement too and you can focus on just replacing the struts.
 

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I know that normally a spring compressor isn't needed when replacing the complete assembly, but I'm thinking I might want to use one anyway while removing the old one, just in case that top end gives out.
This. As a 16-year-old part time "mechanic" at an indie VW repair shop, I made the mistake of removing the top nut of a strut assembly w/o compressing the spring first. I'm still surprised that it didn't take my head off. Instead, the spring missed me and sailed about 30 feet across the shop.
 

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Discussion Starter #33
No need to remove the top nut to remove the strut.

UPDATE: I got the old out, and the new.... won't go in. Looks like the CV joint next to the transaxle came apart. :( It's got the whole hub assembly pushed out so that I can't get both bolts in the lower end.

New axles and a 30mm 12 point socket purchased, and that's tomorrow's job.
 

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Discussion Starter #36
It's just over 200k. We just bought it... a couple of months ago from the first owner. My impression is that he was meticulous in his maintenance. It's very clean.

But, that's what you get with a 13 year old, 200k mile vehicle. Things wear out.

The cap on the strut rusting out is weird, though. The other side looks fine. It's almost like it was exposed to something corrosive that was not present elsewhere. Of course, with that cap rusted out, the actual bearing was exposed to the elements, and would have gotten water in it every time it rained or got washed.
 

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Discussion Starter #37
Well, problem solved. The strut replacement did the job, but the CV joint on that side was trashed, too. When we (my oldest son helps a lot) went to put the new strut in, it just would not go. No matter what we did, we could not get the lower bolts in. The strut just would not line up correctly. After a lot of head scratching, I finally figured out that the axle was protruding too far from the trans. That led me to examining the CV joints. Though both boots were intact, I realized that the inner one was extended. Moving it produced crunchy sounds. Oh. Not good. Grabbed a couple of new axles from NAPA and everything went smooth as silk after that. We plan to get the passenger side done later this week.

Here's what the strut looked like after we got it out. Really weird how that top hat rusted through like that.

44798



44799
 

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Thanks for taking the time to photograph and posting back. I renewed the passenger side axle seal and axle recently. The seal was leaking so rather than reinstalling the old aftermarket axle I opted to put a new one in, similar brand from Advanced auto. Since I did this job over two years ago removing the axle this times was a breeze. Please see the thread I created regarding the passenger side axle seal installation. Included in my post are torque values for the various nuts and bolts. Good luck with the axle removal and be sure to install a new axle seal while you are there. Maybe the ball joint too!
 

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Good luck on the passenger side drive shaft. I did that job a few years ago and the shaft typical is close to impossible to remove from the mount that is on the engine block. There is a bearing that gets so solidly fused into the carrier. I had to cut the shaft, get an offset wrench to remove the bolts on the carrier and then have a shop press out the old bearing. Major pain.

Let us know how it worked out for you
 

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Are you working in socks?! :LOL: Yeah,put aside a full day to replace that half-shaft. Without a lift to work under it's one of the worst wrenching jobs I've done in a long while.
 
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