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Squeaky suspension?

I just had the 120k mile service on my 2003 Toyota Corolla. Took it to the dealer, like a chump, but I think they did a fine job, despite overcharging me a couple hundred bucks. In addition to odds and ends, it also needed new tires very badly, so I took it to a tire place (they seem great) and the alignment guy said he had some trouble with the alignment, but he was finally happy with it. Except…the day after I picked it up, I noticed a terrible squeaking on the rear driver’s side, like a really old mattress. It feels like a suspension thing, because it gets worse when I accelerate or go over bumps. I took it back in to the tire guys, because I didn’t have this problem after I left the dealers…the alignment guy was out that day, but someone else put some lubricant in. The lubricant did make a huge difference – no squeaks at all and she drove noticeably smoother. A few days later, and the squeak is back. Called the alignment guy and he wants to blame the bushings. The last thing I want to do is take it in for more service and parts – especially because the problem only started after the alignment was “fixed.” Any ideas what else it could be? Help!

Bushings are a perfectly reasonable cause in terms of the squeak. It would help to know exactly what bushings were lubed to temporarily do away with the noise, but no matter, really. You have a car that is about 8 years old with apparently about 120K miles on it. For some bushings in the suspension to get noisy is not an odd thing at all.

It is also likely not a coincidence, but it is also not anyone’s “fault.” Your car went on & off a lift several times recently - or in other words had all of the weight removed from the suspension and then reapplied. It also may have been adjusted in the rear for the alignment. This will inevitably shift things around a bit, stuff sits a little differently and can easily produce squeak. So it is likely that you need to replace the bushings. But its not at all likely that this is b/c the tire/alignment place did anything wrong. You just have old, worn bushings.

Thanks so much for your reply! I had no idea a lift could affect a car – makes sense tho. I’m assuming bushings are relatively cheap to replace, if a little labor intensive? And hoping it’s not a more involved problem than that… Thanks again!

Cig’s post is perfect and complete as usual and as-is. Ditto to what he said.

Bushings are, in fact, inexpensive to replace. The “lube” is a good to find out which bushing is squeaking, but they should all be inspected. Typical culprits are the tie rod end link bushings and the antisway bar bushings that hold the bar to the chassis. The antisway bars rotate within the bushings and not only wear the rubber away but can also wear a groove in the bars. When the vehicle is lifted the wheels dropping rotates the bars well beyond their normal amount and that can leave sqeaks when the car is dropped back down. I haven’t replaced any for some years, but I seem to recall that it was less that $20 for the bushings and a whole 15 minutes to change them. Yours may vary.

Thanks again for the advice. Have done some reading on other drivers’ descriptions of worn bushings, and their descriptions really seem to match my experience. I bought her used several years ago and am very close to paying off the loan…of course, no sooner will I be done paying her off then she’ll really start costing me money!:} Thanks again guys!

Actually, if you keep taking good care of it, that car will save you gobs of $$ over the years. Once the loan is done, take 1/4 of your current car payment and stick it in a piggy bank as a savings for repairs. Once you see how much you save by having no car payments and lower insurance premiums it will become apparent how much cheaper an older car can be - as long as it is well cared for.

more great advice! now another question – beyond regular oil changes and servicing, my mom says i should never let my gas tank get below a quarter tank – and her honda civic’s lasted forever. is she right?

Yes, she’s right. Your mom is a smart lady.

In addition to running your engine, your gasoline helps keep your fuel pump cool. Making sure you never run out of gas by keeping the tank over 1/4 full is good preventative maintenance. And it doesn’t cost you one penny more. You’ll use the same amount of gas whether you routinely fill the top half or the bottom half. And you’ll never run out of gas in a strange neighborhood. Or in the middle of a blizzard.

I fill mine when it gets near the 1/2 mark or when I’m headed out on a long drive. That way should I ever actually do get a bad batch of gas (a much overused excuse) it’ll be mixed with the existing gas and won’t likely cause a problem.

Besides, many years ago in BC (before cellphones) when I was stationed in North Dakota we were taught to always keep plenty of gas in the car. People died out there when they ran out of gas and ended up stuck for long periods of time in winter and froze. Some died when their car broke down and they didn’t haved gas to run the engine and stay warm until they were found. That lesson always stuck with me.

oiling the bushings might stop them from squeeking for a while, but the oil will attract and hold dirt that will wear them out all the faster. Go ahead and get them replaced, and save wear and tear on the suspension components (swaybrace etc.) that the bushings are there to serve.