October 26, 2009 11:27 AM   Subscribe

What's this creaking sound my car is making and how long should I wait to get it fixed?

My car ('07 Jeep Compass) has been making a creaking sound when it goes over speed bumps and into driveways -- basically anywhere there's potential for a bump. It's been doing this for about a month or so now. My next service is the 3rd week of November, but I'll drive about 600 km before that. What's the likely source or problem that's causing the creaking? Shocks? Struts? Suspension? Should I bring it in for service right away or can it wait the 3 weeks and 600 km?

The car is regularly serviced (last time was late August) and it has over 25000 kms on it so far. There have been no other problems with it since I've had it. It's parked outside most of the time, on a very slight incline (always with the parking brake on), if that matters.
posted by pised to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Wait, are shocks and struts the same thing? Shows how much I know about cars.
posted by pised at 11:30 AM on October 26, 2009

My really old Volvo has been doing the same thing for a few months, and my mechanic can't find anything wrong with it. For what it's worth, my wheels haven't fallen off or anything (yet).
posted by oinopaponton at 11:34 AM on October 26, 2009

My Ford Focus was doing the same thing this summer - making horrible creaking noises over any kind of bump. It turned out that a bolt that held the struts in place was loose, so they tightened it and the creaking stopped.
Disclaimer: I know almost nothing about car repair, I'm not even 100% sure what struts are.
posted by LolaGeek at 11:37 AM on October 26, 2009

A year ago I replaced the struts on a Honda Accord, and when I recompressed the coil spring it turned a bit perpendicular to its axis and didn't sit in its spot the same way again. So it's got a bit of a knocking/creaking sound over bumps, but it's no big deal. I'm guessing if your car hasn't been worked on recently your struts might be bad or loose and that the spring is being jostled around. Bear in mind a spring is not anchored and is held by the weight of the car.
posted by crapmatic at 12:18 PM on October 26, 2009

IANYMechanic: spray some silicone lube around the rubber sway-bar bushings; that's usually a culprit for light creaking without any other evidence of problems (excessive bounce, clicks, difficulty steering, abnormal tire wear). Our Dodge Caravan came to us, used, with a slight creak on bumps; the dealer has looked at it twice and determined there's bushings up at the top of the springs/shocks/struts/whatever which are making the noise, but it isn't causing wear, and nothing's going to fall apart, so we're choosing to be annoyed by the noise rather than spending $500 - $1000 on tearing it apart to replace things. Creaks on their own aren't always a sign of a problem, but it's good to have a mechanic check it out anyway, because it could be a loose bolt, like LolaGeek, which has the potential for future catastrophic failure.
posted by AzraelBrown at 12:31 PM on October 26, 2009

I had this happen on a Ford Escort, and it was the ball-joints at the ends of the axles. Repairman squeezed some grease into the rubber boot, turned the wheel a few times, and the creaks were gone. We even changed the struts and tested the springs.
posted by Khazk at 2:22 PM on October 26, 2009

My 1984 Mercedes 300D did this as well. It was really loud. Mechanic said it was the ball joint, but that it didn't necessarily need to be replaced. I replaced it because it was quite annoying.
posted by MonsieurBon at 2:51 PM on October 26, 2009

I worked my way through college at a tire shop and we got this complaint several times a week and maybe once a year it was something serious.

It is most likely dry/damaged bushings, probably on the sway bar, but could be control arm, strut tower mounts, and could be the ball joint (but these usually don't 'squeek' they tend to clunk when bad and 25000 km really soon for ball joints to be worn out unless you are using it for rally racing on the weekends). The first thing i would try is thoroughly washing the underside and around the suspension of the car. If that doesn't fix it try spaying chain lube (for motorcycle chains) around the bushings.

However if you aren't sure the difference between shocks and struts (they kinda do the same things but are NOT the same thing) you probably shouldn't be evaluating the soundness of suspension components (this is not meant as a dig-we all have our specialities and hobbies). Take it to a place that does tire/suspension work have them put it on a lift and see if they can replicate the noise and have them explain it to you. If what they tell you costs a lot of money and doesn't make any sense go elsewhere. This kind of thing is fairly common, usually easily to fix and usually easy to understand if you are mechanically inclined at all. However it can be very bad (like a wheel falling off) so get it looked at by a professional. you can always post whatever they tell you and estimate cost on here and get it evaluated.
posted by bartonlong at 3:55 PM on October 26, 2009

Response by poster: bartonlong, would you suggest taking the car in now or could I wait it out? I'd like to not spend money if I don't have to -- taking it in at service-time means it's covered by warranty so if I can stretch it till then, I would like to.
posted by pised at 4:06 PM on October 26, 2009

I would take it somewhere that either does free (or almost) inspections (sears used to and may still if you are in the us). It is likely to be no big deal but you really don't want it to be a big deal and have the tire come off or what is currenlty a small easy repair turn into a major repair. A way to check at home is to jack up the tire it seems to be coming from, grab the top and bottom of the tire and try to rock it top to bottom without rotating the wheel-if there is any movement at all it is probably something serious. This is not a 100% method and it really requires some experience to judge what is wrong and how serious it is. The dealership should be able to help you out or at least inspect it (at least dealers in the us tend to do this on cars under warranty but they will also try to sell you some service you may or may not need-just say no and get a second opinion if it doesnt seem right). If you can try to get the haynes manual for you vehicle and it can cover a lot of the basic diagnostic stuff for the vehicle. Or check you tube for how to inspect for suspension components or wheel bearings
posted by bartonlong at 7:04 PM on October 26, 2009

Your Jeep should have come with a basic 3 year, 36,000 mile warranty and an lifetime powertrain warranty. You still have plenty of miles left, so take it into the dealership and they should fix it for free. Go to your service a few miles early and get it checked out then.

But at any rate, unless something extraordinary has happened, 15000 miles is REALLY PREMATURE for any serious failure to have occurred. Major safety issues like shocks, ball-joints, etc typically have a service life that exceeds 60000 miles. In your case, I'd guess something relatively minor like a rubber bushing has dried out or some corrosion has infiltrated it slightly.

Just do your service early and make sure you tell the service advisor about this concern.

Wait, are shocks and struts the same thing?
Essentially. "Shock absorber" is kind of a misnomer. The suspension springs are what do the shock absorbing and the "shock/strut/damper" is there to keep that spring from reciprocating and bouncing all over the place. Both "shocks" and "struts" are forms of dampers. The specific difference is that a "strut" is a damper and spring assembly wherein the spring is mounted directly around the damper, basically.

posted by Jon-o at 11:40 PM on October 26, 2009

taking it in at service-time means it's covered by warranty so if I can stretch it till then, I would like to.

And by the way, you can take your car in any time for a warranty concern. It doesn't have to be during a scheduled service. Warranty is warranty. You don't need to wait for a service to fix stuff that's broken due to manufacturer's defect.
The only reason to wait for a scheduled service is to save yourself a trip.
posted by Jon-o at 11:48 PM on October 26, 2009

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