Generally when I have seen someone report little clunks felt in the steering, a bunch of people will immediately reply saying it is the steering rack, with a few people saying to check the bolt/nut torques and bushings in the front suspension. I have had the same problem with little clunks that were slowly getting worse (and was dreading buying a steering rack), and it turns out it was loose bolts in the suspension, NOT the steering rack. So, I thought I would start a thread dedicated to tracking down little clunks felt through the steering that are NOT the steering rack so we have a place to collect such reports
In my case, it was the bolts that hold down the bracket into which the upper end of the damper (shock absorber) is bolted. The bracket is secured by two bolts and nuts to the frame. There is one bracket for each side of the car, for a total of four bolts and nuts. The nuts have nylon inserts so that won't come off the bolt even if not torqued fully. However, the bracket is supposed to stay in place (no slipping), by its friction with the frame member. If the bolts are loose, it slides around, creating little clunks.
In my case, all four bolts were loose. I estimate they had less than 5 ft-lbs on them. The specification is 25 Nm (just over 18 ft-lbs). You can reach the lower bolt with a box end wrench (which is how I initially determined that at least the lower bolts were loose, and making me suspect the upper), but to tighten them all with a torque wrench, you need to remove the damper/spring, which is pretty easy to do (coil compressor is not needed). There are hidden nuts behind the piece to which the bracket is attached. You need to use a 13mm open end wrench to hold the nut still while tightening the bolt head with the torque wrench. I added a few ft-lbs (tightened to 20) just to add a little safety against the bracket slipping. The bolt is class 8.8. If this is a problem again, I will probably replace the bolts and nuts with class 10.9 and torque higher.
The frame member holes on one side did appear to be a little chewed up as if by the threads of the bolts, so I am guessing that it was that side that was causing the clunks. The bolts themselves showed no damage. By-the-way, the illustration in the Elise parts list only shows a single bolt holding down the bracket. There are actually two per bracket.
After tightening the bolts, the little clunks were gone!
I did check all other bolt and nut torques, and they were all good (except I didn't check the lower bushing clamp to frame bolt for the anti-sway bar, which I couldn't access; but, the upper clamp bolt seemed fine). Also, I never noticed any free play in the steering, and hence suspected and hoped something was simply loose.
The concern with these upper damper bracket bolts is that people checking the suspension bolt/nut torques may not be checking these because you have to take the damper off to properly access them. I really recommend to take the damper off and check these.
It is easy.
I have another case I should be reporting soon about Pagid brake pads causing little clunks (and chattering), but I want to finish testing my fix for that one before reporting it.
If you have repaired any little steering clunks that weren't the steering rack, please report or link the post here.