problem first manifested as difficulty turning while in 4x4. The turning felt very stiff and was very similar to turning without power steering fluid. Being new to 4x4 I ignored this thinking it was normal while in 4x4. Dumb newb mistake I know.
Then recently while driving through some mud (not deep mud mind you, more like sliding through puddles at low speed) I heard a soft POP! sound from the front passenger side wheelwell and smoke/steam started pouring out from under the truck. I panicked and immediately came to a stop and turned the truck off. I got out and climbed under the truck to see if I could see anything, but the mud under was too thick. When I started the truck back up everything seemed fine, but I drove it home very slow anyways where I could spray it out with the hose to inspect again.
Once I had cleaned the bottom out, I inspected a second time. Nothing visible, and the noise/smoke was gone. I drove it around the block to test and even put it in 4x4H and drove through my yard a few times to see if it would do it again, and nothing. I asked a buddy of mine who I believed at the time was pretty knowledgeable on the subject and I was told "Oh yeah, it happens all the time. It's just mud steaming on the hot axle/transmission". (I thought this sounded wrong, but who am I to question his years of experience right, I'm just some newb trying to learn about his truck.
Anyways... all went well for about a week or two, no noise, no smoke, nothing. Then this very light, almost unhearable clicking sound starts from the front passenger wheelwell, but only when I make a left turn. The noise grows a little bit louder over the course of the following week and now does it all the time, regardless of turning. What is this and how do I fix it?
Thanks to all for any help.
(EDIT TO ADD)
This happened BEFORE I did the torsion crank. I only mention this because I have suspicions that this will end up being CV joint related and I thought that might be relevant.