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Eliminating Clicking Noise from the Front Wheels of a Saab 9-3

Silencing the Saab: A Guide to Fixing Front Wheel Clicking Noises

New Brembo brake pads installed on a Saab 9-3, replacing the old TRW ones to eliminate front wheel clicking noise.

Experiencing a clicking noise from the front wheels of your Saab 9-3, especially during slow-speed maneuvers like turning in parking garages or driveways, can be both annoying and concerning. This issue, often characterized by a metallic clicking or knocking sound, can indicate a variety of potential problems ranging from brake system issues to suspension component looseness. Below, we delve into a comprehensive approach to diagnosing and resolving this unsettling noise, drawing on a specific (my) case of troubleshooting and repair.

Identifying the Source of the Noise

The initial step in addressing the clicking noise is to accurately identify its source. In many cases, such as the one discussed, the noise becomes apparent during acceleration or deceleration, suggesting a connection to the braking system or the car’s suspension. A close inspection might reveal that the noise emanates from the vicinity of the right front wheel, particularly pointing towards issues with the brake pads, rotors, or the control arm’s components.

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Troubleshooting Brake Components

Given that the noise was observed during changes in speed, an immediate suspicion fell upon the brake system, specifically the brake pads and rotors. It’s logical to consider the brake pads making contact with the rotor as a potential cause, especially if there’s a slight gap allowing the pads to knock against their seating.

Old TRW brake pads with noticeable gap causing clicking noise, before being replaced in a Saab 9-3's braking system.
Old TRW brake pads with noticeable gap causing clicking noise, before being replaced in a Saab 9-3’s braking system.

Moreover, vibrations at highway speeds and strong vibrations when braking at such speeds further underscore the likelihood of brake component involvement. In the case at hand, replacing the brake pads with higher quality ones, such as BREMBO Prime for the 314mm front brake calipers, initially seemed to address part of the problem by eliminating vibrations during high-speed driving and intense braking.

Investigating Suspension Components

Despite replacing the brake pads, the clicking noise persisted(!), necessitating a closer examination of the suspension system around the right front wheel. Everything appeared intact at first glance, with no evident looseness or play. However, recalling a similar issue resolved in a different Saab 9-3, attention turned to a potentially loose bolt on the control arm (!), specifically one affecting the bushing area.

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The Solution: Tightening the Control Arm Bolt

The resolution involved tightening a 14mm bolt on the control arm of the right wheel, located just below the bushing. This bolt longitudinally secures the right control arm and had become slightly loose, likely due to vibrations from the previously subpar brake pads.

Diagram from the WIS program highlighting the problematic bolt (number 6) that requires tightening to resolve clicking noise.
Diagram from the WIS program highlighting the problematic bolt (number 6) that requires tightening to resolve clicking noise.

Tightening this bolt by about three-quarters of a turn effectively eliminated the clicking noise. This adjustment required no special tools or wheel removal and could be done with basic hand tools by fully turning the steering wheel to the left for access.

Real-life view of the crucial bolt accessible by fully turning the steering wheel to the left, as part of the fix for Saab 9-3's clicking noise issue
Real-life view of the crucial bolt accessible by fully turning the steering wheel to the left, as part of the fix for Saab 9-3’s clicking noise issue

Final Checks and Precautions

After addressing the immediate issue, it’s prudent to inspect all bolts on the control arms, tightening them to the appropriate torque specifications. For the bolt in question, a torque of 40Nm plus an additional 30 degrees is recommended, but always refer to the vehicle’s service information (WIS) for accurate specifications. It’s worth noting that this particular bolt should be tightened with the vehicle’s weight on the suspension, not while elevated on a lift with the suspension unloaded.

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Conclusion

Resolving clicking noises from the front wheels of a Saab 9-3, or any vehicle, requires a methodical approach to diagnose accurately. Starting with the most likely suspects, such as brake components and suspension hardware, and moving through a process of elimination can lead to a successful resolution. The experience detailed here underscores the importance of considering all potential sources of the problem and the value of precise, targeted repairs.

Goran Aničić
the authorGoran Aničić
For over 10 years, Goran Aničić has been passionately focused on Saab automobiles and everything related to them. His initial encounter with Saab cars took place back in 2003 when the first Saab 9-3 and sedan version were introduced. At that moment, he was captivated by the car's Scandinavian design logic and top-notch engineering, and everything that followed stemmed from that first encounter. Later on, through his work at the editorial team of the Serbian automotive magazines "Autostart" and later "AutoBild," he had the opportunity to engage more closely with Saab vehicles. In 2008, he tested the latest Saab cars of that time, such as the Saab 9-3 TTiD Aero and Saab 9-3 Turbo X. In 2010, as the sole blogger from the region, he participated in the Saab 9-5ng presentation in Trollhättan, Sweden. Alongside journalists from around the world, he got a firsthand experience of the pinnacle of technological offerings from Saab at that time. Currently, Goran owns two Saabs: a 2008 Saab 9-3 Vector Sportcombi with a manual transmission, and a Saab 9-3 Aero Griffin Sport Sedan from the last generation, which rolled off the production line in Trollhättan in December 2011.

4 Comments

  • Been having this phenomenon on my left wheel,told it was top bearing,put new one on…..great. A few weeks now and got the bloody noise again. Will try what you did,as it seems to make sense dear boy. Be good be safe,and ciao for now….Blue😇✋🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿🇬🇧.

  • Any idea what causes that feeling that the car tires are not aligned or going flat that the front of the car and wheel shakes one moment going 70 mph on the highway and then the next moment, it is all smooth and then, it goes back to shaking. Never had that issue before. Just got new front brakes pads/rotors.

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