When you first hear your car’s suspension squeaking, you shouldn’t panic. The cause could be any number of minor, easily fixed issues. On the other hand, however, it also means that trying to figure out the exact cause can feel like searching for a needle in a haystack.
That’s why you’ll want to look to this guide of causes of squeaky suspension and how to fix them.
How Does Suspension Work?
First thing’s first – to better understand what can go wrong and lead to squeaking, let’s establish the basics of how suspension is supposed to work.
If you’ve ever watched a film set in past centuries with horse drawn carriages, you know that people bounce back and forth in those barouches as the wooden wheels run over bumps and debris in the road. Driving over city streets in a modern car should not be a bumpy ride; however, and you have your suspension to thank for that. Its shocks and springs absorb the force generated by the friction between your tires and the road.
There are two basic suspension setups. Dependent suspension features fixed axles, with the friction enacted on one wheel impacting others, whereas this is not the case in dependent suspension.
All suspension systems feature springs, shocks, and anti-roll bars, which help reduce the pressure and weight transfer enacted on your car’s wheels and body while turning.
When something goes wrong with your suspension, one or more of these along with potential trouble with your axles and wheels is usually to blame.
What Are Some Causes of Squeaky Suspension?
Now let’s identify some of the main culprits for squeaky suspension to occur.
1. Ball Joints
One of the leading causes of suspension gone wrong is for things to start to wear out, and ball joints are among the most common culprits. These joints are typically made of a bearing stud and socket that are fitted inside lubricated casing. They act as pivotal connectors between the wheels and your suspension system.
Squeaking can be a sign that they are wearing out or rubbing up against the wheels or suspension too much. Drifting, creaking sounds while taking corners, and knocking as well as squeaking sounds while riding over bumps are all potential signs of ball joint trouble.
2. Rubber Bushings
As with ball joints, wear and tear is the likely culprit here. Rubber bushings are connected to anti-roll bars and are meant to prevent different parts in your car from vibrating.
If they are worn out, you may start to hear squeaking sounds, and other components may start to vibrate, which can in turn cause damage to your vehicle. Rubber shrinks and cracks over time, so you’ll need to check your bushings regularly to make sure that they are still in good shape.
3. Faulty Parts
The previous two examples are relatively minor. It may be annoying to have to replace ball joints or rubber bushings, but nothing lasts forever, and these are small, minor parts that can usually be replaced easily and affordably.
Larger faulty parts are a different story. If your axles are faulty, for example, this is a much more serious issue and will be much more difficult and expensive to fix.
Many people first notice squeaky suspension when they ride over bumps. While this is by no means exclusive to axle trouble, it is a potential sign of a greater problem with your suspension.
The nature of that problem will depend in part on the nature of the shock absorber. If they are hydraulic in nature, the issue may have something to do with air pressure or leakage. Oil leaking out is another potential cause. In addition, spring absorbers that are rusty or broken can lead to squeaking.
In diagnosing the problem with a car where the suspension is squeaky, therefore, isolating the shock absorber is key. If this is the problem, isolating it is essential for determining what’s wrong with it. If this isn’t the issue, it significantly narrows down the list of what might be to blame.
4. Steering Wheel Problems
Your steering wheel is connected to your suspension system, so if there’s a problem it may be the former rather than the latter that’s at fault. If you have gone over a particularly nasty bump, your steering wheel control arm may have been knocked loose. If that’s the case, you’ll need to find a way to tighten it again.
On the bright side, this should be easier to fix than many suspension issues.
5. Lack of Lubrication
As mentioned above, ball joints and other components need lubrication to move smoothly and not rub up against other components in the vehicle. Just as a squeaky hinge may be a sign a door needs more oil, so too can a squeaky suspension system sometimes mean nothing more than your car needing more lubricating oil.
6. Serpentine Belt
Finally, there’s also the possibility that your serpentine belt is to blame. If you have gone over a particularly bumpy patch in the road, this belt may have lost its grip, which can in turn result in squeaking. If this is the issue, you’ll obviously need to reattach the serpentine belt as soon as possible.
Is Squeaky Suspension Dangerous?
Now that we’ve gone over some of the most common causes of squeaky sounds arising from your suspension system, especially after running over bumps, let’s tackle the big question – are these issues dangerous?
Well, that will depend on the nature and severity of the issue. While squeaky suspension is never good, as you can see from the list above, it can cover a wide range of conditions.
If the “only” thing that’s at fault is a ball joint or rubber bushing being a bit worn down, that’s easily fixed or replaced, and as long as you catch it in time, shouldn’t be too dangerous.
However, if it is a broken axle, or a problem with your steering wheel or serpentine belt, you’ll need to buckle up – the path toward repairing that damage is likely to be “a bumpy ride.”
Regardless of the severity, you should never think that squeaky suspension is something you can “live with.” For one thing, you may not know the immediate cause of the squeaking, and even if you do, the severity of the issue can escalate in a hurry. If you hear squeaking, especially if it comes after going over bumpy terrain, you should stop at home or the nearest car repair center and inspect the issue yourself or have your car checked out.
How Much Does It Cost to Fix?
One reason you may be tempted to try and “live with” squeaky suspension is the fear that repairing it will cost too much.
So, how much can you expect to pay to fix squeaky suspension?
Naturally, this is a question that will vary depending on the nature and severity of the squeaking and overall damage to the suspension.
Lubricating your suspension can cost around $80, while replacing a ball joint can cost $100 to $400, and larger-scale suspension trouble can cost even more.
However, there are several options available online that can cost less than that:
This basic ball joint is incredibly affordable at under $30. It does a good job of allowing grease to flow through the bearing as necessary. If this is the cause of your squeaking, this option can be a lifesaver.
This highly durable full ball metal stud offers 36 degrees of movement, resulting in smooth steering and suspension, and improves chassis performance.
This offering from Detroit Axle supplies you with several replacement parts that can help with your suspension, including:
- Two front upper control arms and ball joints
- Two front lower ball joints
- Two front stabilizer sway bar end links
- Six lug wheel models
If lubrication is the issue and you don’t want to pay the service fee, you might consider buying your own lubricating grease. A 50-pack costs just over $150, but just two uses and it’s already less expensive than taking in your car for a professional lubrication job. Your car will definitely need more than two uses, making a bundle like this a bargain. It is also fortified with corrosion inhibitors to further improve performance.
Hearing your suspension squeak while driving may be scary. However, by quickly identifying the problem and either getting your car professionally serviced and repaired or taking advantage of one of these inexpensive quick fixes, you can be back on the road squeak-free in no time.