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Front Suspension Question

My front suspension has been making some noise for a while now, and lately has been getting worse. So I want to replace whatever the problem is, but having trouble figuring it out. Everything looks ok, and the methods I researched aren’t giving any clues. The one question I Have is, should I be able to move any of the parts by hand? There are two that I can wiggle back and forth pretty easily, but I don’t know if this is normal or not. One is a thin vertical piece parallel to the strut, the other is behind the wheel and low in the back (a tie rod?). Pardon my ignorance on the part names, have worked on my vehicles for a long time but never the suspension. Current finances dictate I try and replace the parts myself. I tried to upload a pic but it’s not working. Thanks.

Suspensions differ. We need to know the year, make and model of your car and the mileage. Also tell us how long you have owned the car.

Then we might be able to offer a possible cause.

It’s a 2005 Dodge Caravan. Got it 6 years ago with 50K miles on it, up to 130K now. The noise is generally a dull thump/clunk, but lately a new one started. Hard to describe, sounds almost hollow, like something is rattling around, more of a “clonk”. I got the pic to upload, I’ve indicated the part I can move with red arrows. Thanks.

In addition to doc’s question, if you could post photos they’d be an enormous help.

The arrow on the left side is pointing to a sway bar link.
The arrow on the lower right is pointing at an outer tie rod end.

Should I be able to move them by hand? I can rock them back and forth with little effort.

They should be able to rock back and forth with a smooth friction, but no freeplay.
Hope that makes sense.
Sometimes there’s no substitute for having someone with experience laying hands on it.

True would be best to get someone with experience, but nobody around here wants to do that for less than 30 bucks. I’m assuming 5 to 10 minutes of their time would do it? Seems like a steep rate for advice.

Something on the front suspension could possibly come undone and cause a loss of control and you don’t want to spend $30.00 because you think mechanics are over paid. Don’t you get paid for what you do.

Volvo, I was looking for someone who can take a look at it and tell me what I need to replace, not do the work. I never said I think they are overpaid, your words, not mine. But I see from your profile you tend to just post incendiary comments.

It’s something I myself would take in to a good shop to have it verified and what else might be wrong. A thorough diagnostic fee for $30 does not seem out of line.

You’ve heard the expression, if you pay peanuts you get monkeys!

If you have to ask, spend the $30. Who knows what else might be worn?

I don’t think $30.00 would be at all out of line for a knowledgeable person to do a complete check of the suspension & tell you what needs replaced . That being said , u tube has a lot of videos on checking & repairing suspension parts .
It’s almost impossible to diagnose a problem such as yours on a forum . Some of those parts are supposed to move a certain amount in a certain way . It just about takes a knowledgeable person with a hands on approach to determine what’s moving correctly & what’s worn out .
Actually , if you can get a mechanic to thoroughly check your front suspension & give you a list of what needs replaced for $30.00 , I’d say that’s darned cheap .

I am not familiar with the parts you show making noise. Is power steering fluid full? Does the noise go away on turns? My thought bearing or cvc joint if applicable.

The entire suspension and steering should be checked on a regular basis and a decent shop should be happy to inspect it all for a nominal fee even if they know you are going to do the repairs yourself.

A word about sway bar links. Sometimes those little boogers when worn do not want to surrender the nuts on the ball studs. This may lead to some aggravation and having to cut them off.
The salvage yards around here don’t even make any attempt to try and save them. They just torch them off to remove other parts.

The sway bar links on this cars are notorious for going bad and making noise. But over the net one could not say whether this is the problem or now. They are a bear to take off as they get rusted and if I am not wrong, might have a star nut in the middle, so most end up chiselling them off. If you can take them off, you should be able to drive around and see if the noise is gone. Each one should be around $14 in rockauto.

BUT, as others have said, you might live longer if you have a shop check things out.

You can go on the allpar forums if you have not already been there and browse through a lot of helpful info on your car.

Replacing sway bar links can be a pain. If you look carefully, you’ll see that the joint at each end is a “ball joint” with s shank from the ball coming through the rubbery center piece. The little hole in the center of the shank is a hex hole for an allen wrench. What you need is a long-shank allen wrench to hold the shank while turning the holding nut with a box end, line, or ratcheting box-end wrench. The last is by far the best for this task.

The other arrow points to the link from the steering rack, connected to the steering knuckle.

Circuitsmith gave an excellent description of how they should feel, movable but not loose.

That antisway bar that the bar is attached to is secured to the unibody (or subframe) with two rubber-bushinged brackets. Every time the wheels move up or down, which is constantly, it twists within the rubber bushings. The hole in the rubber bushings grows, and it can even wear a groove in the metal bar. That alone is one of the single biggest causes of suspension noises. WITH THE VEHICLE SECURELY ELEVATED, you should be able to vigorously shake that bar with your hand without hearing any noises. if you hear a thunk, those bushings are a very common cause.

Having written all that, it’s well worth the money it would cost to have a qualified shop look at your suspension and give you an assessment and estimate. Ask the mechanic to show you anything he sees, although some shops won’t allow customers on the shop floor. Ask before they drive the car in.

Let us know how you make out. We do care.

I would bet money the sway bar links are shot. Very common with these vehicles. The tie rod end may or may not be bad also.

If there’s any play at all , or if you hear a click, when you push/pull those shafts in the direction of their long-axis (the way they are oriented), that’s almost always a worn-part problem that requires some kind of parts replacement. When you twist them they’ll usually give a little even if they are ok. But like said above, this is something that takes some experience to make the proper judgment. How about this idea: Pay a shop $30 to show you how to do the test. Then you’ll know how to do it yourself next time.

I would add that even the sway bar bushings going bad could create a lot of creaking noise. It is very difficult to diagnose these problems because when the couple of thousands pounds of weight is offloaded everything sounds great. So a bit of trial and error is involved. That is where car specific forums are useful. If half the members have had their sway bar links go bad at X number of miles, then chances are you have the same problem.