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I posted this fix earlier in a separate thread titled "What else could this clunking be" which I posted when I was trying to figure out what a clunking noise was. I'm posting this in a new thread with the title "Clunking Front End Fixed" so as to facilitate anyone searching for possible fixes to Santa Fe Front end noise, which I know are common and frustrating.

I have a 2007 Santa Fe Limited AWD that needed some front end work just due to age and milage. I was getting a slight clunking noise in the front end, but decided to do a total rebuild as the car has over 265k miles. I was hoping to solve the slight clunking also, but that's not why I did the total rebuild.

I ended up changing:

Lower control arms including new ball joints on both sides
Inner and outer tie rods on both sides
New front hubs on both sides
New front struts on both sides
New Sway bar links on both sides.
Oh, and I changed one axel on the driver side due to torn CV joint boots. (The axel was only $80-something so why not)

For a few days everything seemed fine. I suspect the new lower control arm on the passenger side fixed the clunking in this instance. (The rubber bush as pretty deteriorated).

However, a few days later the front end developed a very distinct, more pronounced noise. At low speeds I would get a very distinct clunking when going over even slightly rough surfaces. It seemed to mostly be coming from the front right (passenger side). I checked everything that was recently replaced and could find no hint of what may have been causing this noise.

The noise was most pronounced when I was going slow over a rough surface and when I turned the steering wheel on a rough surface.

I put the car up on jack stands and tried my best to check everything I'd just replace to make sure all was tight. I even used a pry bar in all the usual places, but I could not figure out where the noise was coming from. The sway bar links, which would come to mind first, "seemed" tight; at least with normal shaking by hand I could not feel any obvious looseness.

I finally gave in and took it to my local auto repair shop and at first they couldn't find what was causing the noise either but then, after they had it up on the lift a second time and the guy shook the sway bar with all his might, he could "just" duplicate a slight clunking on the passenger side, but not on the driver's side. At first he told me that I probably needed a new sway bar link, but I insisted that I had just changed them on both sides. After some more investigating he found that the nut (nylock) on one end of the passenger side link wasn't completely tight! He said he really had to man-handle the sway bar with some force to notice the noise.

I suspect what happened was that I had used a wrench that was too think to hold the back side of the link joint while I wrenched on the nut and I probably tightened the link ball up against the wrench and this kept the flat part on the link ball from tightening up against the back side of the sway bar as intended. I know some links have an Allen key in the threaded front that you can use to keep the ball joint in the link from spinning as you tighten the nut, but these links just had thin nut-like flats on the back side that you need to hold with a wrench. The key is, you need to use a THIN wrench (I'm going to buy a set of metric ultra thin wrenches).

Anyway, he tightened the nut properly and the noise has vanished! Lesson learned. I hope this revelation might be helpful to someone else who might be experiencing similar hard-to-diagnose front end noise.
 
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