I'm feeling (not hearing) clunking in the steering wheel. What could this be.

Some background:

I drive a 2001 Ford Explorer. I love this thing, and I would drive it forever, but it has a bunch of issues (diagnosed by a mechanic I trust). A few months ago, he told me to replace it instead of putting money into fixing it. At that time, he said the frame was getting very rusted, the coolant was low and looked like mud, the suspension is starting to go, the AC compressor is leaking (the AC died on me last week), fuel line and exhaust are rusty. He worries that if he touches something on the suspension, I'll wind up having to replace everything due to the rust issue.

A few weeks ago, I began to feel -- not necessarily hear -- a clunking through the steering wheel. It's like someone is under the vehicle banging on the rod that connects the wheel inside the cabin to the parts under the hood with wrenches. It happens intermittently. Some days, I drive the vehicle, and I have no issues whatsoever. Then out of the blue, the tapping feeling in the steering wheel starts.

I don't feel the tapping when the car is at a stop. It might start on a straight, smooth road - so not dependent on hitting a pothole or turning. The bonking feeling isn't rhythmic, so I'm not sure that it's coming from something that spins. I don't think it's related to speed, either. It could start when I'm rolling along at 20 mph or when I'm going 65.

What do you think it could be? How much time do you think I have left with it? How safe is it to drive?

I'm a month or two away from being able to afford to replace this thing, but I don't want to drive it if it's dangerous.

Thanks to anyone who replies!

Comments (4)
No. 1-3
jenjunk44
jenjunk44

@Techsus - I'm not holding out on replacing it for sentimental reasons (although, I do love it). I'm holding out on replacing it for financial reasons. I'll be in a better position to buy in another month or two.

Shadetree Tony
Shadetree Tony

If a mechanic is scared to touch the suspension for fear of breaking things...park it and get rid of it asap. Nothing you have mentioned indicates a reason to keep driving it.

Techsus
Techsus

This is why Scotty calls these "Ford Exploders." I advise bailing now while you still have any remote chance of getting anything for it vs. having to pay a tow service $250 to haul it away. Then buy a Toyota-- 4Runner, RAV4, Highlander, e.g. You'll never look back. We all understand sentimentality about an Exploder, but why wait until it blows up on you?