I just happened to be reading your posts about the steering popping and this sounds very similar to what I'm finding in my 03 maxima. Could this be related? Did your noise feel like it was directly behind the airbag? This is what I posted on the max board
I just bought an 03 Maxima 4 months ago with 12K miles and I've been having a slight problem since the very first test drive. I noticed there seemed to be a popping and a noise that sounded like the "twang" from a spring that I could feel through the steering wheel when I turned the wheel more than 30 degrees in either direction-i.e. backing out of a parking space or doing a 3-point turn. I didn't think anything of it at the time because after all, warranty right
Anyway, I really just thought something was loose in the front end. I took the car to the dealership and of couse, according to them "nothing is wrong with the car"... ok, I've drivin 3 other 03 maxima's and they don't make any vibration, popping or twang from the wheel. After explaining the problem to a mechanic friend and having him drive the car, he thought it was coming from directly behind the steering wheel and not the steering shaft or any suspension component-possible the clock spring (located on the other side of the airbag, prevents the wires from getting tangled when you turn the wheel, actually not a spring at all, but a coil of plastic wires). Back to the dealership I go (a different one this time). After 30 minutes, I convince the service manager that this noise has to be the clock spring and he agrees to replace it. I get the car back and its better but not fixed. I'm convinced the tech just sprayed some WD-40 inside the spring rather than replacing it, so I pull the airbag, take out the clock spring (hard to tell if it was really replaced because the car is so new anyway) and inspect the area. I figure I will do a couple things to the old spring first rather than put a brand new one in. I spray some WD-40 into the seam around the sealed unit and wipe some grease on the back of the clock spring where 2 pieces of plastic come together and spin around. This actually solved the problem! For a little while. By the way, temperature seems to have a big effect on the vib/noise. The warmer or mugger the weather, the worst the popping is. Cold weather doesn't seem to effect it as much. Anyway, so I pick up a new clock spring for $80 at the dealership (shop discount) take the car apart again...and....no change at all. NICE
I drive it for a week which is how long it usually takes to really annoy me and I decide to pull the airbag and take the car for a test drive without the airbag. Maybe something is loose in the airbag? Nope, steering the same without the airbag. How bout driving without the clock spring, ok, no air bag, no clock spring, just a wheel, noise gone...Has to be clock spring....so how come I've had a total of 3 clocksprings that all have the same popping noise???? any ideas??? anyone else run into a similar problem?