Nothing fills a driver’s heart with fear faster than hearing their car begin to squeak. There is no way that a squeaking noise can be a good thing while driving. While there is a chance the consequences might be mild – or that your car might not even be to blame – the other side of that coin is too severe to ignore. In the worst-case scenario, your car may be severely damaged, unsafe to drive, and cost four or five figures to repair.
As if that squeaking weren’t bad enough, a squeak while turning can be particularly ominous. Squeaking can indicate everything from low fluid levels to ball joint issues to a severe breakdown, but the fact it comes while driving likely means that there’s something wrong with your handling and suspension system.
No one wants to drive while wondering if their car is going to turn properly, which is why it is so important to determine what’s wrong with your car, how it happened, and what can be done about those squeaking sounds.
1. Low Power Steering Fluid
Let’s start with one of the most innocuous and easily-fixed issues. We all know that it is of the utmost importance to keep cars well-lubricated. That extends to most aspects of the vehicle, including the power steering system. If your power steering is not properly lubricated, the metal and rubber components can start to squeak.
This can also occur if the power steering system is not properly centralized, which can also be a consequence of them not being lubricated properly or sufficiently. One of the first things you should do if you hear a squeaky sound while turning, therefore, is to check your power steering fluid levels and, if necessary, replenish it as soon as possible.
There is also the possibility that your power steering fluid supply is not lacking, but rather filthy. If this is the case, it can cause a buildup of materials in your system that in turn can cause issues, such as the aforementioned possibility of the rubber and metal components starting to squeak.
You should only be using clean power steering fluid. If it is dirty, you need to change it.
If this problem persists, you’ll need to determine what’s causing that repeated buildup of dirt in your power steering fluid chamber.
2. Suspension Issues
No driver wants to think about their car suffering from suspension issues. Not only is your car’s suspension system tied in with its ability to drive and handle properly, but your suspension system is also what’s responsible for ensuring that you aren’t stuck with a bumpy ride.
Imagine how much horse-drawn carriages rattled and jostled in centuries gone by. The reason your car doesn’t rattle around like that is because of your suspension system. As such, car squeaking that indicates a suspension issue is enough to make anyone carsick.
This is one of the more serious possibilities, and also potentially one of the most expensive depending on the nature of the condition. If you take your car to a garage and they find that it is low on lubrication, it may just be a matter of relubricating it. If they examine your vehicle and find that there are ball joints or universal joints that are dried out or otherwise damaged, these will have to be repaired or replaced. Thankfully, they are not typically expensive.
However, if the underlying cause of the squeaking is a broader problem with several parts of your suspension system, or if one of the major parts such as an axle has broken, you’ll be looking at a hefty repair bill.
3. Rubbing Against Interior Trim
If you have a new car, the cause of squeaking may be due to the fact that the steering wheels in new vehicles tend to need a bit of breaking in. This can lead to the steering wheel’s housing rubbing up against the interior trim.
In addition, hot weather can cause the rubber to expand, which can cause it to rub up against the interior trim, thereby causing the squeaking noise.
While you may be able to resolve this yourself if you are experienced at car repairs, it is advisable that you take your vehicle in for repairs.
4. Steering Wheel
Closely related to this phenomenon is the prospect that there is something wrong with your steering wheel. The squeaking can often be heard coming from inside the cabin. It may not be directly related to the steering mechanisms themselves, but if they are, this is obviously a very worrying prospect, not just because your steering wheel is essential for safe driving, but because it can be costly to repair.
There are many potential causes for squeaking here, from friction of the steering wheel against the rubber and plastic to the fastenings keeping them in place coming loose.
Some of these are easier to fix than others. If it is a matter of the fastenings coming loose, for example, the situation can be resolved as easily as tightening them again. Steering wheels themselves can be disassembled and removed if necessary.
5. Steering Column
Sometimes, however, the upper column area of a steering wheel requires extra attention. While they are relatively simple and commonplace components, they can be difficult and expensive to replace.
One sign that it is the steering column that is to blame is the squeaking being accompanied by vibrations near the steering wheel. There are many potential causes of these squeaks, including:
- Cheap plastic, which is common in budget vehicles
- Problems with the clutch near the steering problem, which can be eliminated by adding grease
- A problem with the steering column’s crosspiece, which can also be resolved with grease
- The curvature of the steering column rubbing up against the inside of the column
6. Steering Rack
If there are problems with your steering rack, it may manifest in a squeaking noise. This can result from several causes, including improper alignment or adjustment, the rack being worn, the rack being broken, dirt covering the rack or the area inside, the rack mechanism being loose, and more.
What you should do in these cases will depend on the severity of the issue in question. As with the other steering-related issues, if the cause is something as minor as looseness, simply tightening it up should fix it again. If there is greater structural damage to the unit, however, it will likely have to be replaced. If the steering rack is rubbing up against the inside of the column or rack area, you’ll need to see if you can get it realigned.
7. Ball Bearings and Vibration
Vibration is never a good sign. Ball bearings can cause squeaking vibrating sounds when they vibrate, which can indicate that they need to be tightened or replaced.
8. Hinge and Ball Joint Problems
We’ve already talked about some basic problems that may stem from ball joint issues. However, there are also many problems that can arise when there are problems with a ball joint and hinge combination.
If your hinged joint has been damaged or is covered in dust, it can produce that dreaded squeaking sound. On the one hand, if there is damage, you’ll need to replace the hinge. On the other hand, if the cause is as simple as a buildup of dirt on the hinge, you’ll simply need to free it up and clean it.
Hinges and ball joints can also come together as steering joints. These joints can start to wear on one another, which can start to degrade them and cause damage. If your hinge and ball joints are left to wear on one another for too long, it can cause severe problems for your handling. You should, thus, get them lubricated or cleaned as soon as possible and, if they are worn out, replace them immediately.
9. Driving Surfaces
When it comes to figuring out why your car squeaks while turning, it might not actually be your car’s fault. While the other options on this list run with the assumption that it is, let’s take a second to explore an alternative reason why your car may squeak when turning – the surface over which you’re driving.
If you are driving over surfaces that can cause your rubber tires to squeak, or otherwise causes fiction issues, the answer may be as simple as leaving these surfaces behind.
What You’ll Need to Fix the Squeaking
Once you have identified the source of the squeaking, it’s time to figure out what you’re going to do about it. Thankfully, there are many great tools and parts on the market that can help you address the myriad of reasons why your car may be squeaking while turning.
Lubegard 23232 Complete Synthetic Power Steering Fluid
If you determine the source of the squeaking to be a lack of power steering fluid, you’ll want to fill it back up again. This offering from Lubegard offers 32 ounces of power steering fluid, which should last you a good long while. It can be used for most North American, European, and Asian vehicles that feature power steering, though it is recommended you use Honda-specific fluid for Honda and Acura vehicles. This power steering fluid reduces friction, cleans and frees up sticky turbines as well as pumps, and can reduce friction while protecting seals and hoses.
On the whole, not only can it eliminate that squeaky sound, but extend and improve the life of your power steering system and, thus, by extension your vehicle as a whole.
ACDelco 46D2272A Advantage Front Lower Suspension Ball Joint
In the event that your suspension issues are due to problems with your ball joint, you’ll want to get a new one in place as quickly as possible. Of course, you don’t want to have to spend a fortune on something as minor as a ball joint, but you don’t want to sacrifice quality, either.
That’s why an option such as that offered by ACDelco is so perfect. At $20, it’s easily one of the most affordable fixes for car squeaks stemming from suspension issues. These ball joints are manufactured with durability in mind. They undergo extensive fatigue, impact, and wear and tear testing. In addition, they feature a special coating that reduces corrosion.
Dorman 905-102 Steering Column Shift Tube
If you have problems with your steering wheel or steering column, this column shift tube may be the solution. It is incredibly sturdy and can be a great replacement if your current steering column is lacking. That said, as with any car component, you will need to check to make sure that the unit you get is a good fit for your vehicle. Different car manufacturers feature different steering columns that are of different sizes, so you don’t want to just jam this in there. Make sure that you are getting a Dorman steering column shift tube that is a good fit for your particular make and model.
Detroit Axle Complete Power Steering Rack and Pinion Assembly
This is another case where you will want to consider the make and model of the car carefully. Different vehicles will require different types of steering racks to work properly. Nevertheless, properly configured, a steering rack such as this one can do a great deal to address handling problems such as squeaking in your vehicle. This unit features new oil and lip seals that can help with performance, has been hydraulically tested, and can work in a variety of conditions.
Don’t let a car squeaking while turning fill you with terror. Stay calm, determine the source of the squeak, review your options, and determine the best way forward with one or more of these repair options. In the event of a breakdown or larger and more systemic issues, seek out the help of an experienced garage immediately.
Related: Why Won’t My Steering Wheel Lock?