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Toyota Service
Toyota Service, Toyota Expert
Category: Toyota
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Bottom line up front: I suspect the rack or lower steering

Customer Question

Bot***** *****ne up front: I suspect the rack or lower steering shaft are producing a clunking noise on my 2005 Tundra 4x4 Double Cab with 120,000 miles.
Problem: While driving at low speed, moderate to rapid changes in direction will occasionally produce a dull clunk that can't be felt in the steering wheel. Speed bumps will occasionally produce the same sound.
Vehicle history: Quite a bit of recent front end work performed. I recently removed a Daystar spacer lift as is was causing issues with the knuckle hitting the coil spring. I installed Bilstein 5100 shocks and replaced the upper and lower ball joints at the same time. The sway bar end links were loose so I replaced those as well. Alignment was performed after the components were changed. The steering rack bushings and sway bar bushings were replaced about 15,000 miles ago.
Steps taken so far: I have rechecked the torque on all components recently serviced. UBJ, LBJ, alignment cam bolts, and tie rod ends. I jacked the truck up and checked for play in wheel bearings, rack, and control arms. I can get lower control arms to move a little if I use a large pry bar, but they don't appear excessively worn. How much play is normal on these? I am not seeing or feeling any excessive wear on any of the components when I shake the wheel assembly. I have pulled back the bellows and watched for excessive movement on the inner tie rod ends.
Where I think the problem lies: With the truck on the ground, if I have someone grab the steering wheel and move back and forth, I hear and can physically feel a knock at the point where the lower steering shaft is coupled to the rack. I can minimize the noise by pushing up and putting upward pressure on the rack cylinder on the driver's side. It leads me to believe the rack is the problem, but there is not excessive play and I can't feel any looseness in the steering wheel while driving. I know the Tacomas had intermediate shaft issues, not sure if the Tundras have any history or if the lower shaft can make noise. Any way to narrow down from here which of the components is worn and if this is the knock I'm hearing while driving?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Toyota
Expert:  Toyota Service replied 1 year ago.

Hello. Welcome to Just Answer. This sounds very much like a similar problem that we had in the shop several years ago. Our used car manager was complaining of a clunk noise under the vehicle. We check a lot of things and replaced a lot of things to no avail. We eventually found that the rubber bushing on the steering rack was worn out. We replace the bushing and the noise was eliminated. You might want to check the rack mounting bushings; replace if any excess movement.

Then we invested in a new tool that helps eliminate this:

The best way to narrow down chassis and suspension noises is via a set of 'electronic ears'. This is a tool that almost all Toyota dealerships have. It consists of a 6 channel receiver, and 6 sensors that clip onto various suspected noise locations. A set of headphones allows one to hear each individual channel. I would really suggest you do this next, (put a couple sensor clamps on the rack where the bushing is) and then road test it.

Expert:  Toyota Service replied 1 year ago.

Please condfirm you have received my input. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask. Thanks