CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Mazda dealer quotes $730.00 to replace "A-Frame" due to creaking sound

113 mi. - Creaking sound - hot and cold weather - getting worse - driver’s side front.



Should this diagnostic be more specific? Like "ball joints, frame rail, lower control arm, bushings, upper control arm, etc.? Shop floor manager says: “this isn’t surprising after 100k miles”.



The dealer doesn’t have the parts on hand and may not until late this afternoon so I’m here to get opinions, suggestions - perhaps options…

Mazda makes many different vehicles. What model do you have? Year might help, too.

Get another opinion from an independent alignment shop. I agree that “A frame” is not specific enough.

Will they guarantee the work will fix the problem?

Sorry - I’m new here and thought that info would appear next to my post but thanks for responding. It’s a 2004 Mazda 6 Sport. As of right now, they have not made any guarantees but it’s a good question. “A Frame” is one thing yes. Not calling me back after requesting they do so (over an hour now) after I asked if they could be more specific is another. May be nothing but the floor manager cleared his throat when I asked for more specifics… Thinking hard about getting a 2d opinion.

I would guess they mean the control arm? We’d probably need more info.

If it is the control arm, that’s ludicrous. A new upper AND lower control arm for a Mazda6, for example, runs ~$300 in parts from a Mazda dealer. Even if they do an alignment, that still leaves $360 in labor. No way does this job take 4-5 hours. Aftermarket upper and lower control arms would run ~$150-200 for parts…

By comparison, I paid just over $200 for a new control arm AND balljoint installed on my 97 Taurus with similar mileage - with a lifetime parts+labor guarantee. It didn’t need the balljoint, but the shop included it in that price, which wasn’t much more than what the parts alone would have cost me for a decent part… and was definitely worth the time savings.

Yeah see that’s what I’m waiting to hear - more specifics. I think I may have caught them off guard and now they don’t know what to do - even after I suggested they have the mechanic go back to see if it might just be ball joints or a lesser component. Their last official comments:

  • 8:10 AM EST: Drop Off
  • 9:30 AM EST: “A-Frame” replacement - parts on order (They called me)
  • 10:41 AM EST: “We’ll have our mechanic look into specifics”. (I called them)
  • 11:18 AM EST: We’ll look into the ball joint question and someone will call you back"… (I called them)…

I avoid dealers like the plague. This is a good time for you to start a relationship with an independent mechanic and save some of your money.

Please note I said “mechanic.” Nationwide chain tire shops, muffler shops, oil change places, etc, are NOT what I mean.

This dealer doesn’t seem to be on the ball. Take the car elsewhere.

I agree. Just doesn’t feel right. Let’s see how they respond to my getting a 2d opinion. Hey thanks for your feedback!

I use a local “chain” tire shop that’s actually owned by AAA for a lot of work I don’t care to tackle myself. They’re actually pretty good at diagnostics (better than the independents I’ve tried with high ratings on here) and give a great warranty on their work…

I certainly avoid the oil change shops like the plague, though, and use the muffler shops only for relatively brainless services, like alignments.

Many times, squeaking control-arm (A-frame) bushings can be cured with a can of silicone spray lube…

Few repair shops are interested in this type of repair, so you will just have to figure out how to do it yourself…

Thanks. I’ve read that elsewhere as well. At this point I’ve asked the dealership to re-assess the situation. I may very well abort the repair at this point. Is “bushing creak” something often reported during winter and summer?

In my experience anyway, a creaking sound is usually a sway bar bushing that has dried and hardened with age. Short of replacement, lubing them with a silicone based grease will shut them right up.

The only thing that can creak on an A-frame (control arm would be a more proper name) is the ball joint, the through bolt at the sub-frame, or the sway bar fitting if it’s connected to the control arm.
Through bolts are easily quietened with some grease; a ball joint means replacement.

The price may be about right for factory OEM parts and dealer labor rates, which are higher by necessity than independent shops.
There is a perception that dealer parts have an obscene markup but this is really not the case except in a few isolated instances. The car manufacturers are not giving those parts to the dealers at cut rate prices.

I have the same car–although mine has a blown engine which I am tying to ahve replaced–long story.
Anyway, are you SURE it is coming from outside the car? I had a creaking noise from the steering column, and after 8 trips to the dealer and having every component repalced it was determined that it was actually the combination switch causeing the problem. Replaced, creaking gone.

The sound can be heard from both outside the car and inside. It’s horrid and getting worse. There is a subtle vibration in the steering column which occurs simultaneously. The noise occurs at warm temps but particularly when turning the wheel from a stopped position.

Another owner captures it well here: http://forum.mazda6club.com/speed6-suspension-chassis/235009-suspension-creak-any-ideas-experiences.html#post3267798

Update - the dealer reports (more specifically) that the upper and lower control arms need to be replaced. I asked if the bushings can just replaced or the center bolt and I’m told they cannot. I also asked if the bushing can just be hit with some silicone spray to which he responded (likely correct) “the noise will just come back” so… At least I have an indirect confirmation it seems on a bushing issue. I decided to pull the plug on the parts order (control arms due in tomorrow afternoon) at this point just to regroup and figure out where to go from here. I may have lost $99.00 on the diagnostic but I feel better than forking out the $733.00 original quote for now. Can anyone think of any safety related issues from this? Could the center bushing bolt snap on the road?

This is no joke… That problem has cropped up more than once on Mazdas here. The creaking can be felt as the fender is pressed down. Baby powder on the bushings has been the best cure. The bracket must be seperated from the control arm and liberally sprinkled, re-installed and the noise gone. A friend at the local dealer clued me in to that trick several years ago.

Rod thanks. My hunch is that you’re right.

Update: I’ve pulled the plug on the dealer’s $730.00 whole upper/lower control arm replacement this afternoon. They’ve kindly stranded me here at home overnight (no shuttle) and have failed to return calls most of the day after I changed course on the repair. The dealership manager won’t be in till Friday.

Got my car back this AM. Temps are cool so the noise is minimal to none I’ll either try Rod Knox’s baby powder suggestion or I’ll get some silicon lube spray and try to hit the bushings myself.

I still think this is going in the wrong direction. This car uses sway bar links attached to the steering knuckles so WD or powder will do nothing in regards to a control arm issue.

What should be done is to disconnect the sway bar link on that side and try bouncing the car up and down. If the noise remains the problem is in the control arm/ball joint or spring pad, etc. If the noise goes away it’s in the sway bar/bushing attachment point on the car body.

Remember when cars had grease fittings on every suspension joint that moved??

Put the car up on a lift and spray every rubber bushing you can find with silicone spray. Let the car down and bounce the suspension to work the lube into the bushings. Try that.