2008 Toyota Corolla creaking noise, possibly from suspension

Dear Click and Clack,

I drive a 2008 Toyota Corolla CE (automatic transmission) that I bought new in November of 2007. It has approximately 15,000 miles on the odometer.

This is the first car I’ve ever owned (I’m 25), so I’m new to this car ownership stuff. I’m extremely meticulous about maintenance.

At 6 months and 5,000 miles, I brought it in to the dealer for its first oil change and Toyota’s recommended 5K servicing. No problems. At 10K miles, I brought it in for the second oil change and 10K service.

Shortly after I picked up my car, I noticed something strange: whenever I put the car in reverse, back up a ways, put my foot on the brake, and move it into drive, there is this bizarre creaking or “clacking” sound as soon as I release the brake. This happens every time I do the above maneuver, without fail. Conditions, the particular location where I execute the maneuver-- none of these variables seem to make any difference, so far as I can tell.

I called my father about this when I first noticed it. He lives in Baltimore and I live in Los Angeles, so he could observe the phenomenon directly, but upon hearing me describe it, he said, “It’s probably normal. Ignore it.” I protested that I had not noticed this noise at all in the first 10,000 miles of driving it, and it seemed to start only after I took it into the dealer for service, but my father assured me that I probably just had been unobservant in those first 10,000 miles.

Recently, I took the car in for its 15K service and 3rd oil change. When I dropped it off, I described the above problem (including that it had only started after I took it in to that dealership for the 10K service), and asked them to take a look at it.

I picked the car up, and they told me that the noise came from the car’s suspension, and that it was perfectly normal and not to worry about it. Contented with this answer, I drove the car off.

I stopped in a parking garage a few blocks away to check the oil level, and discovered that they had seriously overfilled the oil. I checked the owner’s manual, which said to check the oil level while it was hot, about 10 minutes after shutting off the engine (exactly what I did). It also specified that the engine took 4 quarts of oil, and upon consulting my receipt from the dealership, I found that they had put in 5 quarts of oil.

Feeling that they had simply made an honest mistake, I took the car back to the dealership and asked that they drain the oil to the proper level, or re-do the oil change. They insisted that they had done it properly, and when I showed them the dipstick reading, they said that was because the engine was hot and that you should always check the oil with the engine cool. I showed them the owner’s manual’s contradictory information, and they unblinkingly said, “oh, well the owner’s manual is wrong.” Incredulously, I said, “Toyota wrote the manual, and they designed and built the car . . . and you’re saying their own manual is wrong?” Without batting an eyelash, they said “yes.”

Then I showed them their receipt that showed the 5 quarts of oil, and the owner’s manual specification for 4 quarts of oil, and asked to know if this part of the manual was wrong too. Without answering that question, they said, “Check the oil in the morning when the engine is cool, and it’ll read fine. If it doesn’t read fine, come back in then.”

I decided that the folks at this dealership were either crooks, bozos, or both, and that arguing any further with them would be a waste of time. I drove home, resolved to take the car to a different dealer the following morning, explain the situation, and ask them to re-do the oil change. That’s exactly what I did at a different dealer. That dealer confirmed that the first dealer had messed up, and re-did my oil change (properly), free of charge.

(incidentally, just for kicks, before taking it to the other dealer, I checked the oil with the engine cool from sitting overnight [in a level parking space] and it still read as overfull)

My oil-change problem was resolved, but since this first dealership undermined their own credibility with me (I don’t intend to go back to them for service again), their reassurance that the creaking noise was a normal sound from the suspension is no longer terribly reassuring, considering the source.

Is their answer that it’s the suspension, and perfectly normal correct? If not, is it something I need to worry about, and/or get fixed? Since I only noticed it after I took it to the bozo crook dealership for 10K service, I’m wondering if it could be the result of something they did wrong, and they were covering their rears with the suspension answer, just as they did with their oil change answer. I meant to ask these things of the 2nd dealership that re-did the oil change, but I forgot to do so.

Should I be worried about this noise, or should I ignore it?


Joel Dahl

West Hollywood, CA

The vehicle is under warranty.

You do not have to take it back to the dealership you bought it from to have work done whether under warranty or not.

Me? I’d be taking it to shop #2 until the warranty wore off then be going to a reputable independent. In fact you can have warranty work done by an independent too, just keep all the records.

Unless some foreign object has lodged itself somewhere to cause the noise you hear, it could well be a brake component wearing prematurely or perhaps come loose.

Have it checked out (shop #2).

I do have a warranty on it. I actually bought it from a dealership in Cerritos, CA., but they are way too far a drive away to get it serviced there. I was using Dealership # 1 (which is in downtown Los Angeles) because it’s literally a few blocks from where I work, so I can just drop it off in the morning, and pick it up in the late afternoon. Dealer # 2 is in Hollywood. Not convenient to work, but close enough to not be a pain to go to when I take it for service. I intend to go there for all future work until the warranty runs out in two years.

But you think this is definitely not some sort of normal noise? Do you think it’s the kind of thing that could wait six months and/or another 5K miles until the next servicing, or is it likely to be something I should bring it in to have looked at (at the Hollywood Toyota dealer) right away?

For a noise like this to start after 10k miles, it sounds unusual. I would take it in to have the (better) dealer to check it out. If they say it’s normal, ask them to show you another 2008/2009 Corolla that makes that noise.

Your first dealer is an incompetent bozo. I bought a new Toyota in 2007 and soon received a questionnaire about how well I liked the car and the dealer. I gave both full marks, since both car and dealer were perfect. You should lodge a complaint with Toyota’s regional office and describe the treatment you got.

The groan or squeaking in your car IS NOT NORMAL, and could be the rubber pads the front springs sit on or some other part of the suspension, as mentioned by others. By all means go to dealer #2 and explain exactly what the problem is. They will fix it I’m sure, and under warranty!.

There were a few cars in the past with this problem; the early 1970s Ford and Mercury compact and midsize models. We fixed that by spraying a silicone lubricant into the mounting bracket. I don’t expect Toyota to produce a car like that in the 21st Century.

Good luck!

Just wanted to give everyone the final word on how this worked out:

I took the car to the Hollywood Toyota Dealership (the good one), and had the mechanic ride with me while I demonstrated the maneuver that tended to produce the “creaking” sound . . . and the damned car would not make the noise for the mechanic. Figures.

I described it to the mechanic and he said that without having heard the noise himself, he couldn’t give me a helpful diagnosis. He said that one thing he could do that might catch whatever it was would be to clean and adjust the rear brakes (since I reported the noise seemed to be coming from the rear of the vehicle), but that he honestly couldn’t guarantee that would do anything, since it was pretty much just a stab in the dark on his part. He said it would be about $65 to do, so I figured it was worth it, if only because perhaps his getting into the brake assembly would be an opportunity for him to discover something wrong (if there was anything wrong).

Long story short, he cleaned and adjusted the rear brakes, and the car has not made this strange noise since then. Whether or not that was just an automotive faith-healing of some sort or if it was related to what the mechanic did, I’m not sure, but either way the noise is gone, so I’m happy.

He did remark that cars in the Southwest do tend to need more regular servicing on certain components than do cars that are used in other areas, due to the very dry and dusty climate. Desert climates have their own brand of wear on cars that you wouldn’t worry about in, say, Vermont, just as in Vermont you worry about cold-weather starting and rust and other things we’ve never heard of in SoCal. He said it was conceivable that brakes needed more regular care in SoCal than Toyota recommends, but that he was frankly just speculating wildly there.

Either way, the problem has gone away, so I’m satisfied.

Thanks to everyone in this thread who helped out.

Joel Dahl