car filter: mystery creaking noises
August 3, 2011 1:20 PM   Subscribe

Mystery creaking noise coming from my car. Mechanic is stumped. How concerned should I be?

The car in question is a 1999 ford taurus with upwards of 150,000 miles on it. It is kind of a wreck, but usually I can get from place to place in it. hooray!

This summer I have noticed an odd creaking noise coming from the front driver's side (I really only hear it when the windows are rolled down so it could potentially have been doing this all winter and I wouldn't have noticed). The noise usually occurs when I'm going fairly slow and over uneven ground. It's sort of like it's adjusting-- a little like a squeaky box spring but less squeak, more creak.

I took it into a mechanic and he doesn't know what it is. I'm fine with having a creaking car, but I'm not fine with having a car which has a suspension that might collapse on me someday while I'm going down the highway, or something. I don't know if I should take it to another mechanic, or if creaking is just sort of to be expected at 150,000 miles and I shouldn't worry about it too much.

expert opinions, anecdotal experiences, and random insights all welcome.

Relevant detail: 4-5 months ago I had both of the front ball joints replaced, and I'm pretty sure he did the tie-rods, too. So someone has looked at the suspension fairly recently.

relevant detail 2: I'm moving within the next month from a tiny town in the midwest to the urban northeast so if I need to have work done on the car, it would probably be way cheaper if I did it before the move.
posted by geegollygosh to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
There is a recall on the 1999-2001 Ford Taurus for front springs. This could definitely be the cause of your creaking, and it has most definitely caused crashes in the past. I'd get it looked at pronto.
posted by sanka at 1:28 PM on August 3, 2011

What about the CV joint? Or maybe a cracked/broken front spring?
posted by ACN09 at 1:29 PM on August 3, 2011

My car has 4 ball joints- two uppers, two lowers. And when the driver's side lower one was going out it creaked like crazy, even though it looked and felt solid.

You said you wanted anecdata...
posted by small_ruminant at 1:41 PM on August 3, 2011

I'd also check the brake calipers - a friend recently had a similar experience (with a Ford Focus). One of the bracket bolts on the caliper had worked its way loose, resulting in creaking noises, particularly at low speed/uneven ground.
posted by Bourbonesque at 1:43 PM on August 3, 2011

I had the same squeaking noise on my Civic, and it was a bent control arm. My mechanic noticed it because he couldn't bring that wheel into alignment. We figured it got damaged by a brutal pothole. The metal was literally crunched around the bolt hole, and it was my front drivers side.
posted by Maarika at 2:25 PM on August 3, 2011

PS I only noticed it in the spring, too, and I heard it most while turning at slow speeds or over uneven surfaces (particularly while parking).
posted by Maarika at 2:28 PM on August 3, 2011

The sway bar bushings on my VW Golf creaked like crazy going over uneven ground but only in warmer weather.
posted by firstdrop at 6:43 PM on August 3, 2011

I had a Saturn VUE that was recalled for the sway bar linkages, and not only did it creak, it kinda felt "loose" and would sway more when turning. But it sat higher than yout Taurus, so you might not notice that part. The 2003 VUEs were notorious for a mysterious rattle sound related to the front suspension and one of the repairs that worked for some people was spaying some kind of silicone spray at the top of the springs (I never got that far). So, totally anecdotal, but I'd have the entire front suspension checked...axle, bushings, sway bar, ball bearings, springs, brake calipers, everything. Theres probably a bolt or something small worn out or damaged, but it could be missed unless someone is going through everything meticulously.

I'd also check for a worn belt tensioner (you never might be loose) and for loose sheet metal in the wheel wells somewhere.
posted by MultiFaceted at 9:36 PM on August 3, 2011

If the creaking changes frequency with engine speed (and not necessarily vehicle speed), I would bet it's something like subframe bushings. The subframe will typically attach the engine and transmission to the rest of the unibody. The mechanic should be able to tell if they're cracked or dried-out based on a cursory inspection of the bushings and mounts.

Another thing to look at are the strut mounts at the top of the struts. Visual inspection should also show if these are damaged or shot. It isn't uncommon for them to fail before the control arms if you hit a nasty pothole.
posted by tmt at 11:06 PM on August 3, 2011

« Older Bold book covers   |   Is this a reasonable price for a language course? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.