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clunking noise from front wheel area 2003 outback

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I have 2003 outback wagon with about 165,000 miles on it.  It is now has  a clunking noise coming from the passenger side
front wheel area.  I live on a
gravel/dirt road that is always like a washboard so the noise is pretty noticeable
on that road but quiet on smooth roads. 
I was thinking broke spring or shot strut but the other strange thing is
the noise goes away when the brakes are even just lightly applied. 


I took off the front wheel thinking maybe the brake caliper

had come loose or something like that.  Everything
related to the brakes is tight, the spring is sound and the strut appears to be
fine as well.


Any ideas?
 



 

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Agree with others, either take to a shop, put car up on a lift, or DIY by jacking up passenger side front, use a jack stand to secure car, then pull road wheel left to right, then up and down looking for any looseness. check suspension parts for looseness from wear.

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Two things to check that I haven't seen mentioned specifically: brake pads loose in the calipers rattling around(probably not that one) or swaybar related things: for instance the endlink bushings go bad and they clunk and rattle and make a heck of a racket. I've even heard of swaybar bushings going bad to a similar noisy effect.

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Thanks for the replies.  The strut, swaybar, ball joint were all sound so since the noise went away when the brakes were applied I focsed on the brakes.  After jacking up the car I could create the noise by hitting the tire with the heal of my hand and it sounded like it was coming from the brake area.  I took off the caliper and removed the pads and blew everyithing off with my air hose.  Put it all back togehter and the noise is gone.  got lucky on this one.

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As a note for posterity, if it is the ball joint applying the brakes can make noise go away because the joint sees significant side (front/rear) loads during braking, both from absorbing the torque (strut helps) and from slowing the car (the braking force of the front wheels to slow the car goes through the ball joints and struts).

Edited by CNY_Dave

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