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Mazda Tribute Front End Noise Diagnosis Nightmare (with video)

I have a 2008 Mazda Tribute with 93k miles on it. These last few years have been a nightmare. The car is constantly in the shop. I’ve been trying to diagnose and repair front end problems. Recently, I had my tires rotated and balanced. New sound: Now I’m having loose play in my steering wheel and a loud clicking/creaking sound when I turn the wheel at low speeds or attempting to parallel park. Ongoing sound: the car makes a tight creaking noise when I stop at low speeds. This sounds like something is tightening or screechy brakes. Here’s all of the repairs that I’ve done to the vehicle:

46,000 (11/16/12) Replaced entire right-front CV axle.

52,201 (3/10/13) Replaced front brake pads and rotors. Replaced both front sway bar links.

58,602 (7/10/13) Replaced both front control arms, serpentine belt, and tensioner/pulley for belt.

66,257 (3/23/14) Transmission fluid changed, leaking value seals replaced, spark plugs + wires changed.

81,258 (8/16/15) All four tires replaced with new ones.

84,797 (9/12/15) New front brake pads (ceramic), rotors serviced.

86,391 (10/5/15) Both front struts replaced, both outer tie-rods replaced, wheel alignment performed.

91,308 (1/12/16) Both front ball joints replaced. Both front wheel bearings replaced.

93,744 (3/5/16) Tires rotated and balanced.

I’m running out of things to fix on the front suspension of this vehicle it’s extremely frustrating. I’m nervous to drive on freeways at high speeds because the steering is wobbly but I don’t know how to fix it. Any ideas?

Here’s a youtube video where you can hear the noise. Note the “play” in the wobbly steering wheel when the video first starts.

Mazda has issued a Technical Service Bulletin 02-003/09 for your vehicle and this problem.

It states: “The customer may hear a knocking, clicking, squeaking, grinding, rubbing noise when turn the steering wheel when driving slow such as in a parking lot.”

This problem might be caused by the dust boot/jounce bumper on the strut assembly binding.

The fix is to reach between the coils on the strut spring and pull the dust boot/jounce bumper down. Then take caliper brake grease and apply it to the strut rod where the jounce bumper is positioned and to the top of the jounce bumper. Then push the dust boot/jounce bumper back up into position.


In the beginning of the video, it appears that the car is in park and running as you turn the wheel.

Follow the steering shaft down to the floor, and just up from where it goes through the firewall there is a U-joint to allow the upper half of the shaft and the lower portion to flex. This joint could also be under the hood on some cars/trucks.

Turn the key to the run position and ads you watch that joint. turn the wheel slightly back and forth. Both shafts should move in tandem. If there is slop in that joint…replace the joint.

Then later in the video as you are coasting to a stop, it sounds like a brake is dragging.


Thanks for the comments. How much work do you think is involved in replacing the u-joint? How is a dragging brake fixed?

UPDATE: Here’s a new video

You can see the dark brown/dark rust colored thing looks like it should have a cap or a bushing on it.

It looks like the u-joint. Does anyone know if I can replace just that joint or does the whole driveshaft need to be replaced?

Here’s the part you need.


This vehicle is 4WD right? For the clicking noise, another idea, your left front CV axel may be the culprit. Not entirely unexpected at 93K, since you say you had to replace the right one at 50K miles. Clicking during low speed turns, like pulling away from a stop sign while turning, is a classic faulty CV joint symptom. That’s usually addressed these days just by replacing the entire front half shaft.

What was the issue requiring replacing the the leaky valve seals? Do you mean tire valves? Or engine valve stem seals?

The list of problems you’ve had indicates your driving style is either pretty aggressive, with fast accelerations, fast stops, rapid cornering. Is this the case? Or do you live in an area with very bad roads? In any event it sounds like the suspension, brakes, and steering systems are really taking a beating. the play in the steering wheel indicates more problems with some combo of the suspension or steering remain. I’d guess you are looking at a steering rack problem now. And you probably have some brake problems needing repair too.

Other than fixing what’s broken, the only idea I can come up with is to replace this vehicle with one more adaptable to your driving style and road conditions. A car is like a bobble head doll, the body isn’t bolted directly to the wheels, but sort of suspended by springs. Whenever you turn or accelerate or stop, the body bobbles on the wheels. The taller the vehicle is, the more pronounced this effect will be. So you need a vehicle with a lower body. Not lower ground clearance necessarily, but you need a vehicle with a lower body. A sedan rather than a SUV. Then the jouncing around by the bobble head effect will be less, and you’ll likely experience less problems with the suspension and steering.

Wow that is shot. I would NOT drive this at all until the part is replaced. If that comes apart you will lose all control of where the car is going. At 10 mph it’s not bad, but think if you were traveling at 50mph and when you turned the wheel to make a curve you have no control.

Please, please, save your self and any others on the road and do not drive this.

That is a good analogy @GeorgeSanJose. Like a bobble head doll.

I’m stealing that one!!!


That u-joint is replaceable yes…its a fun job…and do NOT disasseble ANYTHING till you mark the hell out of it so as to get your steering wheel back on an straight!

Not that hard to do…just a slight PIA…but then again what isnt these days? You can try to lube that thing…it is a u-joint afterall and they enjoy lube like anything else. I lubricate mine in my vehicles…but most people dont even know they exist let alone attend to them…many times that juncture is OUTSIDE the firewall and exposed to heat and dirt and rust…esp when missing their covers.


Thanks for the responses. As as far as how thing got to this point, here’s my theory:

  1. I purchased the car used from inner city Chicago. That area is known for bad roads, stop-and-go traffic, and salted roads. I can tell based on the amount of rust on the underside of the vehicle that the car was not rinsed for salt regularly, speeding up the corrosion process. I think it’s a combination of bad driving conditions and/or habbits and lack of maintenance.

  2. I live in Los Angeles now, which has roads that aren’t much better than Chicago. However, I did drive the vehicle out here with a lot of weight in it (moving boxes). Ever since than I’ve had issues. I’m more of a slow-lane type of guy. By California standards, that’s probably pretty ordinary compared to everywhere else.

Getting the vehicle fixed today. It’s been driven like this for around 3000 miles. Good thing nothing crazy happened.

There is a service bulletin to address that noise;

Some vehicles may exhibit a pop or clunk noise from the steering column area while turning. This noise typically
occurs quarter turn before the steering wheel reaches it’s end of travel stop and typically goes away with weight
off the wheels.

Here is a link to the bulletin;

UPDATE: The steering linkage coupler (looks like a universal joint) was replaced. However, there was still play in the steering wheel. As a result, the entire rack and pinion steering had to be replaced.