Creaking sound on slow turns

My 2003 Subaru Outback sounds like it is creaking when I’m traveling at very low speeds and making sharp turns. I’ve been told this everything from low power steering fluid to bad bearings. I am beyond broke. What would be the best economical way to diagnose and fix this.

Well, the very first thing that I would do is to check the level of the power steering fluid!
Have you done that?

However, I doubt that the creaking noise is the result of either low PS fluid or bad bearings, although they are remote possibilities.

More likely to be the cause is bad CV joints, or dry bushings in the front end, or possibly a center viscous coupler that is going bad. After checking the PS fluid, I would suggest taking a look at the axle boots (the rubber that covers and protects the CV joints). If you find damaged axle boots, it is likely that the CV joints are now in need of replacement as a result of dirt and grit contamination. Even if the axle boots are intact, it is possible that you do have one or more bad CV joints.

If the CV joints and their boots turn out to be okay, then you might try lubing all of the suspension bushings. This rarely works for an extended period of time, but it would give you at least temporary relief from the noise. The good news is that bushing noise is annoying, but is not a safety hazard.

For your sake, I hope that the noise is not coming from the center viscous coupler, as it will cost…probably about $600-$700 to replace this component. Damage to this part takes place if the car is operated with mismatched tires for more than a very short period of time.

For instance, if you drove the car with a “donut” spare in place without having deactivated the AWD system (instructions are in the Owner’s Manual), that will damage the viscous coupler.

If the tires have not been rotated on a regular and consistent basis, that will damage the viscous coupler.

If you have ever replaced just one or two tires, rather than replacing all 4 tires, that will damage the viscous coupler.

Have any of these situations ever taken place?

Also–where is the noise emanating from?
The answer to that question may help with diagnosis.

Will You Get The Noise If The Car Is Running, But Stationary And You Turn The Steering Wheel, Or Does It Have To Be Moving At Low Speed ?