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Help me figure out why my car is making horrible sounds?
October 16, 2012 9:05 PM   Subscribe

I am worried about the sounds emanating from my car. Could it be an alignment issue?

Before I take my baby (a 2006 Saturn Ion with manual transmission) to the mechanic I was hoping to see if I could get some idea as to the problem. A few weeks ago the car started to make more noise on the road. The noise seems unrelated to shifting or the RPM and it varies based on the direction I'm turning (left gets louder, right gets quieter). Breaking also kills the noise almost completely. There is also vibration which did not used to be present. However, the car still drives straight and doesn't pull one way or the other.

I'll be taking it to a mechanic towards the end of the week but before I do that I was hoping to get some idea of what is going on. I'm not terribly mechanically inclined but I dislike not knowing what is wrong with my primary mode of transportation. Any thoughts?
posted by Loto to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Tie rod end. I had a car with this so-called alignment issue that I drove around for weeks, and when I finally took it into the shop and went to pick it up, the guy at the counter said "Oh, you're the one with the killer Tempo."
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 9:12 PM on October 16, 2012


Guessing a bit, but left-hand outer CV joint. If you are hearing a rhythmic clicking when turning left at full lock, the diagnosis is pretty much confirmed.
posted by jet_silver at 9:23 PM on October 16, 2012


Engine mount, maybe?
posted by skittlekicks at 9:27 PM on October 16, 2012


Seconding the rod end, especially if it sounds like a knock.

Get it looked at sooner rather than later.

(Like Serene Empress Dork, I waited a bit too long on my noisy "alignment issue" and it turned out that I was about 10 seconds away from throwing a rod.)
posted by xyzzy at 12:23 AM on October 17, 2012


It would help to know what the noises sound like (other than horrible), but CV joint was my thought.

Whatever it is, it won't have been caused by an "alignment issue," but since it's evidently steering / front suspension related, the car will probably require an alignment after the primary problem is repaired.
posted by jon1270 at 2:44 AM on October 17, 2012


If it's a rumbling noise that you can change the intensity of as you turn the wheel in one direction or the other it's possibly a wheel bearing.
posted by Gev at 5:28 AM on October 17, 2012


I'm going to second Gev's comment about it being a potential wheel bearing problem. I had the symptoms you're describing last year and it did turn out to be a wheel bearing that needed to be replaced.
posted by jroybal at 6:46 AM on October 17, 2012


Hey gang, thanks for the help! I tried turning fully and going in circles (in reverse, as per some instructions I saw online) and heard a few very quiet clicks but they seemed to stop after the initial acceleration.

In trying to type up what the noise sounds like I realize I am terrible at describing sounds. There is a rhythmic component to it at times but not constantly. It's low frequency and very loud. Rumbling, even. As an example, I normally listen to the radio at about a volume of 12 but recently I've had to keep it at 30 to hear it.

Thanks for the note regarding post-fix alignment, I probably wouldn't have thought of that.

I'll drive the car home tonight and take it to the mechanic in the morning. Is there any other test I can do for curiosities sake to determine if it is the CV joint vs. the tie rod, etc?
posted by Loto at 6:48 AM on October 17, 2012


I had metal shavings in my oil, which is what alerted my mechanic to the rod.
posted by xyzzy at 12:58 PM on October 17, 2012


You could look under the car and see if the rubber CV joint boots are torn or cracked. If grit from the road gets into the joints, it wears them out.

Unless you can get the car off the ground, there isn't much else you can do to test the wheel bearing.
posted by twblalock at 1:50 PM on October 17, 2012


I did actually jack the car up over lunch. No play horizontally or vertically so it doesn't seem to be the tie rod end according to what I could find online. I didn't notice that the rubber on the CV joint boot was torn or in any way damaged. The only thing I noticed was that the wheel clicked quietly when I turned it and that it was easier to turn in one direction than the other (only slightly, overall motion seemed normal compared to the other wheel).
posted by Loto at 1:58 PM on October 17, 2012


xyzzy:
Seconding the rod end, especially if it sounds like a knock.

Get it looked at sooner rather than later.

(Like Serene Empress Dork, I waited a bit too long on my noisy "alignment issue" and it turned out that I was about 10 seconds away from throwing a rod.)

I had metal shavings in my oil, which is what alerted my mechanic to the rod.
None of this makes any sense at all. I think xyzzy is confusing two different problems because they both include the word "rod." Metal shavings in oil can be caused by a failing *connecting rod,* which is an internal engine component that has nothing to do with *tie rods,* steering or alignment.
posted by jon1270 at 2:36 AM on October 18, 2012


Must be. All I know is that there was knocking and I had metal shavings in my oil. It could be that I had two problems at once--this was like 8 years ago. =)
posted by xyzzy at 6:18 AM on October 18, 2012


Took it into the shop this morning and am getting the wheel bearings replaced. Not the cheapest thing in the world but I'm getting the pair done. Thanks for all the help, I now know much more about my car that I did a week ago!
posted by Loto at 9:36 AM on October 18, 2012


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