91 LeSabre Suspension Creak

I’ve got a 1991 Buick LeSabre with 163 000 miles on it. Less than 2 months ago, I replaced the shocks and struts with Gabriel units found on eBay. I re-used the strut hardware like the bearings and top caps. I had an alignment done where they insisted on installing camber bolts and charging me way more than they estimated, because it took them 4 days to figure it out.

About two weeks after that, I started to notice the odd creak if the front suspension was worked hard, like hitting a speed bump at just the right speed to go through most the spring travel.

Last weekend I took the car on a long trip through the BC mountains - lots of snow and sand. I got a flat tire near the end of the trip and had to drive with the donut spare on the right rear for the last 1.5 hours. Around this same time I started to notice that the front end creak was more frequent.

I had the alignment re-done when the flat was fixed yesterday, since I wasn’t happy with the first one they did. No mention of bad ball joints, tie rods, etc. Now I have major creaking from my right-front side on any size of bump - it resonates throughout the cabin and sounds horrible. The right front is the only corner making the noise when I bounce each corner up and down.

Another problem that developed two weeks after the first alignment was a sort of chattering thump in the front end, like something was a bit loose when I hit most bumps on the road. I can see a tiny bit of daylight through my sway bar bushings when the car is on the hoist (seen about a week ago while buying new tires, before the trip). The shop (different place than above) told me it’s not enough to worry about yet.

So, what does anybody think is wrong? Is my new strut going bad? Or would the creaking disappear if I tightened up whatever is loose?

After 16+ years I’d be amazed if every bushing and piece of elastomer in the suspension system hasn’t shrunk. If you can see daylight between the antisway bar and its respective bushing, you are guaranteed to have various noises. Simply having a car that age aligned is not likely to make it new again, especially of you’re doing things like using the old strut mounts when you replace the struts.

A car this age really needs to be gone over thoroughly by a good chassis shop on order to get it back up to snuff. Or, you can accept the shop’s diagnosis that it isn’t a safety issue and keep nursing the car along.

Sorry, but I truely don’t think it’s likely that there’s a single inexpensive fix that will get a chassis this old back in shape. Especially if it’s been nursed along on a shoestring budget over the years. Changing the sway car bushings is sooper simple and sooper cheap, and that may help some. Be sure to lube the new bushings inside, as the bar actually twists inside the bushing and may squeek if you don’t.

Thanks. I now plan on changing the sway bar bushings, regardless of the outcome. You’re right about the rubber components of course - maybe I should have shelled out for new strut hardware at the time. I bought the car for $380 in March '06, body looks like hell and the suspension was worn out (and broken), but the engine is in great shape and the transmission hasn’t made me worry yet. Been changing worn out components like struts, sway bar links, etc. but haven’t touched everything yet.

After I wrote the OP this morning, I drove to work and realized that the creaking often happens just when turning the wheel, which makes me suspect the strut bearing again. So far I haven’t been able to find a shop just willing to lend an experienced ear for a few seconds to diagnose the sound.

Is chassis grease fine to lube the bushings?

Neat deal!!!

Yeah, chassis grease is fine for that. I’m a silicone lube fan myself, but there’s no technical reason. I just like the word “silicone”. I actually used to use a 100% teflon grease from Dupont for most things, but I can’t get it anymore.