Having a squeaky suspension can be one of the most frustrating problems to have in any vehicle. Every time you go over even the smallest bump or make a turn, you have to deal with the squeak or creak of your suspension. Speed bumps can become embarrassing and, although it’s good exercise, you park as far away from the door of your office building as you can so no one hears you pulling into your parking spots.
Squeaky suspensions are not just embarrassing, they can also be an indication that there is a big problem with your suspension. Besides the annoying noise, a broken suspension system in your vehicle can increase the likelihood of rollovers, make it difficult to control your vehicle in corners and can increase your stopping distance in an emergency. Suspension issues can also cause your steering geometry to be incorrect which can lead to increased tire wear and difficulty negotiating turns. The setup of your vehicle’s suspension is extremely important as is explained in this extensive article about steering geometry.
A squeaky suspension system is not just embarrassing and dangerous, they can also be extremely difficult to diagnose and fix. Your vehicle’s weight is supported using coil springs, leaf springs or torsion bars. You also have a shock absorber by each wheel and in most cases a sway bar or anti-roll bar both in the front and in the back. There will also be control arms, struts, steering linkages and/or track bars linking the wheels to the vehicle. Each one of these components have a joint on each end that could be the source of your noise. There are three types of joints commonly used in your suspension components.
Ball joints are used when the joint must be able to move in multiple plans such as rotating and moving up and down. For example, the joint at the end of your lower control arm that connects to the steering knuckle needs to move up and down and the spring compresses, but also turn as you turn the steering wheel. Ball joints are much like your shoulder or hip joint where a stainless steel ball fits in a Teflon cup and provides the range of motion and rigidity needed. Ball joints usually have grease in between the ball and cup and a rubber boot containing the grease. If the boot rips these joints can start to squeak or creak. If you find a ball joint with a torn boot, consider replacing it.
Bushings are used if the joint only needs to move in one direction such as up and down or side to side. Bushings are the most common joints in your suspension system and also the most likely to case a squeaky suspension. Bushings are basically rubber sleeves that go between the frame of your vehicle and the suspension component which allows the suspension component to rotate. Bushings can squeak if the rubber becomes torn or even dried out or if the suspension component starts to rotate inside the metal sleeve inside the bushing due to incorrect torque or a broken bushing. If you suspect a squeaking bushing, try spraying a small amount of lubricant on the bushing to see if the noise goes away temporarily. If it does, consider replacing the bushing. For an even quieter ride, consider using polyurethane bushings.
The last type of joint used is a simple rubber mount. These type of joints are used if only a small amount of motion is required and are much like engine or transmission mounts. These types of mounts are often used on the rear side of lower control arms. If you suspect a squeak from a mount style joint, simply check for tears or try spraying it with penetrating oil to see if the noise temporarily stops.
In some cases, these mounts or joints may be integral to the suspension component so you may need to replace the entire control arm or shock absorber just to replace a single joint or bushing. When you’re replacing shock absorbers, it’s always important to replace them in pairs (both front or both rear) to ensure even and predictable handling from your vehicle.
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