2 Cars, Similar Repairs, 1 Mystery: Coincidental Passenger Front Wheel/Suspension Noises — or Not?

In a span of about 8 months my spouse and I have had CV boots, axles, front struts and front brakes and one cracked bushing repaired at the same shop on two different cars. The question now is whether or not we’re dealing with purely coincidental NEW front-end passenger side wheel/suspension noises or a problem that may have arisen out of the multiple front-end repairs.

With the 2001 Hyundai (~54K), the “wheel noise” began after replacing both CV boots and axles on the front. It consists of an intermittent metallic groaning sound going into left turns. At low speed we also hear a tire tread friction noise from the front passenger wheel that repeats once per rotation (driving straight ahead at about 10 mph). For the most part, however, what we’re noticing is a straining sound from the suspension beneath the passenger side when the driver is turning left. A sharp turn — like overshooting a parking space and cranking the steering wheel to the left — will create a sort of snapping noise in that same passenger side wheel/axle area. The car was brought back less than a week post repair out of concern that the tire or axle install was faulty (both front boots/axles had been replaced). However, our mechanic was unable to duplicate the sound. He wants me to come back when it is more pronounced/regular. The CV boots/axles were replaced in February this year whereas the front struts were replaced in 2013, and the front brakes replaced last year. Three months later and four return trips, our mechanic is frustrated because he claims to have found and heard nothing wrong. I have asked if the culprit is the wheel balance, a wheel bearing or a bushing, but the mechanic says they appear to be okay. I’ve also asked if a visual inspection is sufficient to diagnose issues with the suspension, or if it would be better served to tear down some of the area. He has denied that its necessary.

The 2004 Subaru (~130K) most recently had the struts on the front replaced, after which it was necessary to align the front end of the car earlier this year because the steering wheel was crooked as we left the repair shop. New front brakes had been installed about three months prior, and a torn CV boot that was causing a burning grease smell on the passenger front was also replaced late last year. For a number of months, however, notable at low speed over bumpy asphalt everyone BUT our mechanic can hear a low-pitch metallic rumbling sound. Road noise will drown this out very easily at higher speeds, but the overall impression is that the car no longer has a quiet ride. Like the problem with the Hyundai, though, the mechanic can’t hear this.

On the Subaru it was previously known for over two years that a bushing on the passenger side was cracked, but the mechanic said it could wait because there was no creaking leaning into turns as is typical of a cracked bushing. In effort to eliminate this “new noise”, however, we opted to replace the passenger side bushing along with a control arm last week. Having done so, there is NO change in the sound. It has been suggested that the source may be “tire noise” but this is something that doesn’t increase or decrease with speed, and is most evident over bad asphalt at residential area speeds. I’m not sure if there is a connection but the brakes, even though they were changed on the front less than a year ago, are behaving as if they are glazed (near constant metallic grinding), and sometimes there is a burning odor still present on the passenger side (presumably still grease burning off from when the torn boot was leaking?). Our mechanic’s suggestion is to replace the tires but the tires (Michelin) are not even three years old.

We have been going to the same mechanic for years — he owns the place — and when there are problems he has always stood behind the work. This time, however, we’re not getting anywhere.

First things first, I’m curious to know if any of this may be as simple as failure to lube the linkage/undercarriage on one or both cars? I ask because even though we have regular oil changes with the same mechanic and do the majority of our maintenance there, he’s not the type to nickle-and-dime up a repair bill by informing us that this, that or the other is also in need of replacement or maintenance. By way of example, although both of our cars had three torn CV boots between them at the same time, our mechanic wasn’t the one to flag the problem even though our cars come in several times a year. In one case the problem was detected by myself only because the leaking grease began to burn (the Subaru) and in the other instance a visit to a Hyundai dealer late last year to repair an emissions problem (CEL), turned up the presence of two torn CV boots on an all-points inspection. This suggests to me that the shop we’re using is missing stuff — stuff that should have come to our attention sooner.

Between two sets of front struts, three CV boots, three replacement axles, a bushing/alignment on the Subaru and two front-end brake jobs we’ve spent a lot of money in the same general vicinity on both cars in less than a year’s time. If a visual inspection were enough to diagnose the problem it seems probable the respective causes would have been found, therefore my assumption is that if the cars are taken elsewhere for diagnosis we may be forced to duplicate our costs. It’s a question of whether to ignore it like our mechanic suggests until the problem is more pronounced — loud enough for him to hear — or try to get to the bottom of it now before it becomes a potential safety hazard (or simply a lot more costly).

We don’t want to throw good money after bad, which very well could happen if we go to another shop. So any advice on how to ID the respective front end noises — or to convince our mechanic to look harder — would be greatly appreciated.

You always need an alignment after the struts are replaced. If your mechanic does alignments, it should have been done before you got the car back and if he doesn’t do alignments he should have told you before he did the work so you could have set up the appointment.
Suspension noises seldom need disassembly to be diagnosed.

When your struts were replaced, the rubber pieces between the strut and the strut tower can make noise if not replaced. I am having a senior moment and can’t remember what they are called.

The noise from the right front when you are turning left sure sounds like a wheel bearing but I can’t examine the car from here.

I think a second opinion is called for, possibly from a shop that specialises in front end work but I beg you, do not go to a national chain for this or you will truly have jumped from the frying pan into the fire.

Sounds like ball joints or tie rod ends may be getting a little sloppy.

I would ask around for recommendations of good alignment shops and take both cars there. A good alignment technician should be able to spot what ever problems there are that are making the noise. Avoid the chain shops and try to concentrate on the independents out there, but be sure to get good feedback from others, for the best shop.

Maybe you mechanic is great at most repairs, but is lost when it comes to diagnosing noises or maybe his hearing is not as good as it once was.


Noises that don’t change with changes in vehicle speed are not tire noises.
And torn CV boots do not create a burning smell unless the grease drips onto a hot exhaust.

The popping sound when turning suggests something binding, like a tie rod end or a ball joint. It’s also possible that the new (rebuilt?) half-shafts has a bad joint.

A crooked steering wheel after work having been done means a proper alignment was not done. And always leaves me to wonder if its correction was done improperly too… which could be a major contributor to your problems. A root cause even.

And then there’re brakes, which can cause all of these symptoms including the burning smell. Has anyone looked at these?

Honestly, I think you need a reputable chassis shop to look everything over including the symmetry of the alignment. Give him the whole story, perhaps print this thread, And let him take a good hard look. You’ll probably need a new articulating joint (ball joint or tie rod end perhaps), perhaps a new caliper & pads (always do both sides), and maybe anther half-shaft. But it needs a good look-see.

The sounds you describe are not normal and the cause needs to be resolved. It might be nothing of import, but it’s a safety issue until you know what’s causing it. What needs to happen is you and the mechanic need to be in the car at the same time the sound is happening, so you can’t point out exactly what it is that concerns you.