2003 Cavalier Front End Squeaks - The faster I go, the faster it squeaks!

I recently bought an 2003 manual transmission Cavalier which looks and drives great, albeit for one (hopefully minor) issue:

The front end repetitively squeaks like a squeaky toy (does not sound like metal-on-metal) when driving. The squeaking is not constant (“Squuueeeeeeeaaaaaaak”) but has a rhythm (Squeak…Squeak…Squeak…Squeak…Squeak). The tempo of the squeaking increases the faster I go and appears to be loudest (or most annoying) around 30 mph. In addition, some bumps will cause the squeaking to occur, but the squeaking will return to its original rhythm immediately afterward. The squeaking sounds similar/equal distance whether I’m driving or riding in the passenger seat.

Can anyone help me determine what could be causing this? I have read topics here and other sites and found that it could be any number of issues from the tires, brakes/rotors, cv joint, bearings, bushings, etc. I am not too car savvy but can follow directions, and I’m hoping that there is a cheap way to determine the root cause of the issue. What steps can I/should I follow to figure out what needs replacement/repair?

Any and all feedback is greatly appreciated!

I can post a video w/audio later if needed.

Does the squeak go away if you brake lightly?

Does the squeak go away if you remove the wheel cover?


I will see if it goes away when lightly breaking. Cannot test it out at the moment, but will on my drive home from work tonight. If it does go away, it would most likely be related to the breaks, eh?


I’ll try this on my way home as well (separate from the check above). If it does go away without the wheel covers on, what could that mean?

Thanks for the help!

@jesmed: Any amount of breaking did not make the squeaking stop.

I have not had a chance to take off the wheel cover yet, @shanonia. I’ll keep ya posted.

I took a video, but the audio is terrible and the squeak cannot be heard :-/ I’ll try again tomorrow!

Does squeaking change after shifting xmission to neutral and coasting? If you lift both front wheels off the ground, and put your hands at 3 and 9 o’clock and wiggle the wheels back and forth, do you notice any difference in the amount of play between the two wheels? If you bother to do this, you might as well remove the wheels, and see if there’s anything unusual to be seen with the brake components. Maybe something has come loose. Or there’s a pebble got stuck somewhere.

I’m going to take a wild guess and say one of your tires has a separated tread, which is an inner defect that cannot be seen. Try to figure out which tire it is closest to the noise, then temporarily swap it for the spare tire. If the noise goes away, get a new tire that matches the others.

PS…one way to figure out which tire the noise is coming from: Find a deserted street and set your video camera on the ground and start recording. Drive past it so the front wheel passes close to it. Then do the same thing on the other side. If the squeak is much louder on one side than the other, you’ve nailed it down.

If it is in fact a separated tire tread, the “squeak” sound will repeat once per tire revolution, or roughly every 6 feet, so the “squeak” might happen as much as 3 feet before or after the tire passes the video camera. You might have to do several runs each direction to get the squeak happening right near the camera.