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1997 Toyota RAV4 Front End Noise

A friend of mine wanted me to look at his mom’s 1997 Toyota RAV4. He wanted it checked out to be sure that she was safe and a general inspection since it had close to 100k on the odometer.

Naturally I took a look at it.

Upon speaking with the owner I found out the front struts and end links were replaced by a friend who just happens to work on vehicles. Since these items were replaced the owner could hear a knocking noise when driving over uneven roads.

My first instincts were, “Great. I’m now in the middle of someone else’s job.”

I drove it and it felt like someone was hitting the floorboard with a hammer.

After the road test I inspected the front steering and suspension system. I visually inspected the ball joints, end links, and struts. I pushed on the front bumper to get the Toyota to bounce. I heard no noises. The lower ball joint grease boots were torn and leaking grease. If they are not replaced debris and moisture gets in while the grease oozes out and causes the ball joint to go bad.

Next I used a floor jack and raised the front left lower control arm until the wheel was off the ground about three inches. I then took a pry bar and placed it under the wheel and tried to lift the wheel. This motion will detect movement in the ball joint if it is worn out. I did not note any movement.

Not having found the popping noise yet, I continued my inspection.

While the jack was under the control arm I placed my pry bar against the control arm with the tip of it under the sway bar at the end link. I was able to move the sway bar. This is not proper. I determined that the end link nuts were never tightened fully when they were installed.

I tightened the end link nuts and road tested the vehicle. The noise was eliminated.

Since this job was for a friend I was not going to charge anything but it was insisted that I take $20. I’m not one to argue about taking money from someone so I took it. And I turned it into this:

Steak and beer

2 comments to 1997 Toyota RAV4 Front End Noise

  • Rick Newsome

    Juts wanted to say thanks for the post about the loose end link nuts….i was having the same problem with my wife’s 97 Rav 4 making a popping noise…she had recently had front end work done on it by a friend of mine but he couldn’t find where the noise was coming from…took it to another friend who also works on Toyotas and he couldn’t find it either….after reading your post i went out in my garage located the end link nuts and to my surprise they were both loose…retighten them both took it for a test ride… no more popping noise…looks like i owe you a six pack and a couple of steaks too..send me your e mail address if you want to and i will send you a gift card…you probably saved her thousands of dollars had we taken it to a dealer..once again Thanks, Rick Newsome

    • Laurance

      I’m glad you found my post useful Rick! It is always nice to correct the problem yourself and save a few bucks in the process. Here is to success!

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