Suspension noises

Suspension noises and what they could mean for your vehicle

In Suspension by HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire

Contrary to what many people believe, a car’s suspension isn’t responsible for holding the vehicle off the ground. 

The shock absorber prevents the tire from bouncing, allowing it to stay in contact with the road. This enables drivers to maintain control.

On the strut system, the coil spring is built onto the shock absorber. There are gas charged shocks and struts and oil filled shocks and struts. The valving and how they’re made is based on how much dampening control they have. 

Suspension noises

Everything from the lower control arm with the control arm bushings – which connect the control arm with the frame of the vehicle – to the ball joints can cause suspension noises.

Some vehicles – due to age and wear – are more prone to a creaking or groaning noise when the wheel is turned. 

On older cars, almost all ball joints had a zerk fitting that would allow you to service it. Oil changes were called “lube, oil and filter” because you would put grease on the different components. A lot of automobiles nowadays don’t have them. So, if you need to replace a part, like a tie rod end or a ball joint, you can put in a piece that has a greased fitting and is serviceable, and it’s a little better than the component from the factory. 

Here are some suspension noises you may hear and what’s causing them:

  • Control arm bushings: The control arms where the control arm bushings connect is another possible area for noise. They can get dry and start to crack. You may hear a knocking noise while you’re driving down the road, or a thunk when turning. It takes a bit of force to create sound from the control arm bushings.
  • Tie rod ends: Tie rod ends will make more of a squeaking sound, but if it’s worn out or there’s a lot of play you can also get some clunking noise if you move the wheel left and right, even just a little bit. 
  • Sway bars and sway bar links: There are little rubber bushings there too that help when you’re going around a turn and with how much the body sways. When they break, a lot of the time they’ll make some knocking noises when you’re going over bumps because it’s banging against the lower control arm or the frame of the vehicle. Very rarely do they squeak, unless all the bushings are gone and it’s just a metal rod.
  • Pitman arms: On older vehicles, the pitman arm may connect to the center link, or drag link. That would make a squeaking noise too. Today, that’s usually found more on trucks than cars.
  • Struts: For vehicles with struts, the upper strut mount design varies. Upper end vehicles have a bearing while others have a rubber and a metal plate. As you turn the wheel, it turns. When they wear out or parts that aren’t equal to the original are installed, you may experience vibrating, thumping and some resistance while turning left to right. 
  • Coil springs and spring isolators: Between the strut mount and the strut itself are generally rubber spacers called “isolators” that help keep the spring in line. Sometimes, the spring wants to move as you’re turning and you can hear a big clanking noise when the rubber is gone. On the regular control arm and shock system – where the springs are separate – you might get some spring popping noise every once in a while, especially if you’re going over bumps, if the springs are worn or they aren’t doing their job because of age. Generally, however, you see it more on the strut system.    

HomeTowne Auto Repair & Tire is an authorized Michelin and BFGoodrich tire dealer located in Woodbridge, Virginia. Automotive repair services are performed on all makes and models, including oil changes, brakes, alignments, inspections, and computer engine diagnostics.