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. When you go over speed bumps in a public place, are you embarrassed because your car sounds like an ironing board being closed? These squeaks and creaks can be an indication that you have a broken or worn steering or suspension component.
Squeaky suspensions are not just embarrassing, but can also be extremely difficult to diagnose and fix. No matter what type of vehicle you drive the suspension is a complicated setup. Your vehicle’s weight is supported using coil springs, leaf springs or in some trucks, torsion bars. You also have 4 shock absorbers by each wheel and in most cases a sway bar or anti roll bar both in the front and in the back. Most cars will also have control arms, struts and steering linkages while trucks or vehicles with a solid axle may have any number of arms and links connecting the axle to the chassis of the car. Usually you can only get your vehicle to make the noises while it’s driving and all the parts are small and located in difficult to reach places so that it can seem impossible to track down the source of the noise.
A squeaky suspension component is usually caused by the rubber bushing or connecting ball joint to be worn out. Ball joints are small connections that have literally a metal ball trapped inside a cup lubricated with grease. Many ball joints cannot be externally lubricated so if the grease leaks out or gets old, these joints can start to squeak. Similarly, most rubber bushings cannot be lubricated and are designed to work dry. Overtime, as the rubber dries, shrinks and cracks it can start to squeak as your suspension moves.
The Difficulty is identifying which ball joint or bushing is making the noise. This usually has to be done with the vehicle still on the ground. If you put the vehicle on a lift with the weight off the suspension it can be almost impossible to get the suspension to move as it does while driving.
Start by parking your vehicle on a level surface and blocking all 4 wheels to ensure your vehicle will not roll. Next, with a friend try bouncing each corner of your vehicle. Make sure you do not dent or damage any body panels, but you may really need to get your vehicle rocking to hear the squeak. Feel free to bounce, bump push or pull to try to create the squeaks you hear while driving. This will help you narrow down the problem hopefully to the front or back and passenger or driver side.
Once you’ve narrowed down the location of the squeaky suspension component, you can start checking to see which is causing the problem. Make sure there is enough room for you to see under the vehicle, then have a very trusted friend bounce the vehicle to recreate the noise. Be extremely careful to not get any part of your body under the vehicle or pinched in the suspension components. Next try spraying penetrating oil on any bushings or ball joints you can see one at a time. Start with ones that look old or have tears or rips. If you notice the squeak change or go away once you’ve squirted it with oil, you’ve found your squeaking suspension component and it should be replaced along with any other torn or ripped bushings and ball joints. In some cases you cannot purchase just the bushing and you may have to replace an entire piece of your suspension, like a shock absorber or lower control arm.
If you are really looking for a quite ride you may check to see if the bushing you are replacing is available in poly urethane instead of rubber. Poly urethane is quieter and can help give your vehicle a better ride as well.
Pictures courtesy of:
Suspension – By Nike Ares in “My 1966 Mustang” Licesned by Creative Commons Share Alike 3.0 Via Flikr. Original Link