The ticking/clicking noises from the front section when steering at low speeds are mostly caused by microscopic relative movements in the front axle wheel assembly.
The movements which cause the noise usually happen between the inner brake disc chamber and the wheel bearing flange. To isolate the movement location, first, try to steer from lock to lock while holding the brake.
Note! This problem occurs only in BMWs with two-part lightweight brake discs!
If the noise disappears with your foot on the brake, you’re on the right track. When you press the brake, the brake pads fixate the brake disc with the wheel bearing carrier and thus prevent the movement between the disc and the hub.
It is not an exact science, but it is mostly very accurate.
If the noise doesn’t disappear, the next step is to retorque the front wheel bolts. I usually release them and torque them to about a half of recommended torque ~ 50 lb-ft, to hear if there will be any change in sound. If the clicking noise sound changes, I’ll usually try to over-torque to wheels.
In almost all cases, over-torque on the wheel bolts will make the clicking disappear.
If you’ve isolated the clicking noise source, here’s how to make it go away, once and for all.
- Remove both front brake discs.
- Clean the flange and inner disc chamber surface with a brake cleaner. Do not grease anything by all means (I’ve seen it a few times)!
- On both sides, place a grip disc between the inside of the brake disc chamber and the wheel bearing flange.
- Assemble the front brakes and torque the wheels according to the specs.
Grip disc for G-series with bolt pattern 5×112: 34 10 6 884 839
Grip disc for F-series with bolt pattern 5×120: 34 10 6 884 837
The friction discs are not listed in the parts catalog but can be ordered through the BMW dealer part department.
Other Sources of Clicking Noise
If none of these steps helped you to isolate the friction between the brake disc and wheel bearing hub flange as the movement location, there are few more common places that can cause exactly the same noise.
The next most common place is the microscopic movement of the wheel bearing hub (10) inside the wheel bearing carrier (2).
If this is the case, the solution is to remove the wheel bearing hub, clean all the surfaces, and install the hub back with a new set of bolts. Torque every nut and bolt according to the specs!
Note! When the movement between the brake disc and wheel bearing flange is not the source of clicking sound, I will take the whole wheel bearing carrier (2) of the car to inspect all the surfaces where microscopic movements could occur.
With the carrier removed, clean ALL contact surfaces with Scotch-Brite pads and assemble everything with new bolts and nuts. Torque every nut and bolt according to the specs!
Note! When ordering new bolts keep in mind the bolt thread pitch! Exactly for this problem, BMW has revised the wheel bearing hub bolts pitch on early F-series models.
While these are the most common causes, I’ve seen it happen in other places also.
The third most common cause of clicking noise comes from the front stabilizer swing bars (4). Just grab them with a hand and check the movement in the ball joints.
If you can’t move them by hand, have someone turn the steering wheel while you are holding the hand on the swing bar. If the noise comes from the bar, you’ll feel how the tension releases while turning the front wheels.
Also, and especially with used BMWs, the mechanics that worked on the front axle previously often torque the nuts and bolts with an impact wrench. While this kind of work will hold the parts together, it can have serious consequences down the road.
For example, the steering tie rod end has small, but sharp protrusions to increase the friction between the ball joint and the wheel bearing carrier.
They will carve the recess if you unfasten the nut with an impact wrench, and their major purpose will be lost. Aside from the carves, the ball joint and wheel bearing carrier surfaces will be smoothed to reduce friction even more.
This is just one of the examples I see in the shop almost daily.
Note! These microscopic movements in the front axle can happen anywhere where two metals meet under tension!
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