Hearing squeaking noises while turning can be bothersome, but it's scarier to drive a car when these sounds serve as signs of malfunctions or breakdowns.
Driving with a contaminated oil or unlubricated moving components are just some of the reasons why a car squeaks when turning. If you don't replace defective parts or hire an expert mechanic, the faulty parts won't function properly. Pushing the mechanism to work despite glitches will result in the vehicle continuously making squeaking and grinding noises as you drive.
Don't ignore the sounds and risk of driving a faulty car. To guarantee you'll have a quiet and safe journey, we're going to explain all the possible causes of why a vehicle squeaks when turning, as well as how to fix the problem and prevent it from happening again.
Types of Noises and Potential Problems
Do you hear all kinds of sounds whenever your car is turning? It's because your vehicle is telling you something about its condition. Here are usual noises you'll hear and what they mean to your vehicle:
- Squeaks, clunks, and creaks: Car's suspensions and shock suffer from vibrations and poor car maintenance, as well as wear and tear. It's also likely caused by dry bushings, tie rods, or ball joints.
- Whining, squealing, and screeching: If these three sounds join the squeaks, it is possible that there's a problem from the power steering system. It may come from a bad pump, low power steering fluid, or loose belt.
- Ringing, metallic grinding: Squeaks with the addition of these two normally mean your vehicle has worn brake components.
- Hum: The combination of hum and squeaks typically suggests it's time for a professional mechanic to check the wheel bearing.
- Crunching: When you hear squeaking and crunching sounds whenever you do a sharp turn, this conveys the need to replace the CV joint.
Reasons for Squeaking Sounds: What Causes Your Car to Make Noises?
There are several reasons as to why your automobile makes unbearable noises. From low steering fluid, worn belt, to contaminated oil— it's crucial that you are able to locate the problem, so that you can think of the appropriate solution.
Failing Power Steering System
One of the most common reasons why a car squeaks when turning is because of a failing power steering system.
This system basically contains the pump, steering gear, and the hoses that connect them. Note that the steering gear is also linked to where the wheels are attached.
Hence, the steering system will produce noises if any of the components get broken or wear down. Other reasons why the system creates squeaking sounds include:
- Steering column is made of cheap plastic.
- Malfunctioning power steering pump.
- Worn inner part of the steering rack.
- Dirt and dust on the cover of the steering rack.
- Loose or damaged steering rack mechanism.
Low Power Steering Fluid
When a car has enough steering fluid, you can easily control the wheels for a smooth ride. However, turning becomes challenging when there's insufficient steering fluid.
This is because the fluid is unable to enter the steering system. Likewise, the steering wheel becomes heavy and off-center, causing squealing noises to go on as you drive.
Contamination of Power-Steering Fluid
Contaminated steering fluid is another reason why your car squeaks when turning. When the oil is dirty, it can't lubricate the steering gear, causing the wheel bearings to wear out.
In effect, the steering wheel exerts too much pressure and friction, damaging the steering wheel pump at the same time.
Steering Wheel Housing Rubbing Against Interior Trim
It's a common problem during hot weather and for brand new cars when the steering wheel housing rubs against the interior trim. If this occurs, the vehicle will produce loud squeaks.
During hot days, the materials inside expand. In effect, the components fill all the gaps and bump other components.
More than that, the steering metal closes up the gap between the interior trim. As a result, the two parts collide, making it difficult for the wheels to turn.
Lubrication Issues in the Steering or Suspension Components
Oil and lubrication issues are almost inevitable, making them among the common causes of car noises.
Moving parts such as steering wheels, suspensions, seals, universal joints, ball joints, and tie-ends require lubrication.
When these components are dried out, they will produce excess friction and pressure, and subsequently, screeching and grinding noises.
Whenever your steering wheel is in motion, it will continuously make noise since the steering and suspension components lose lubrication.
If not appropriately solved, lubrication and oil issues can further result in vibrations, and worse, potentially dangerous problems.
Under-Inflation or Misaligned Wheels
Tires that lack air pressure are more flat, making them vulnerable to flexes and damages. In the same way, tires will lose traction, resulting in less resistance and road contact.
There's not much traction because the tires don't have the proper form to resist physical forces. As a result, the tires will squeak as you turn.
Moreover, the incorrect adjustment of the wheel alignment angles may produce the 'rubber squeak' sound you often hear when turning the steering wheel.
If at least one of the wheels misalign, the rest of the wheels will hit the road at a wrong angle, causing them to wear unevenly and produce irregular sounds.
Loose or Defective Fan Belt
Have you ever experienced starting or warming up a car, and suddenly, you hear a dreadful high-pitched squeal during acceleration?
More often than not, that's because of a worn or loose fan belt. Even if your steering system is working correctly, other components attached to it, like a fan belt, can make ear-splitting sounds.
Aside from that, a damaged belt may affect the fluid pressure coming from the power steering pump.
In the unlikely event, the belt may break, freeze the power steering system, and interrupt wheel movement.
If you continue to run on a loose or worn out belt, it will squeal or screech for a certain period and eventually snap, making it almost impossible to steer the vehicle.
Worn Brakes and Alternator Pulley
As you've known by now, squealing also comes from metal-to-metal friction. The brakes are no exception, especially if you are always hard braking. When tires cease rotation quickly, they suffer from uneven wear that contributes to the squeal.
If you hear a high-pitched screech, it's usually because the wear indicator is exposed, producing the sound to let you know it's time to replace the brake pads.
If rust and dirt cover the brake rotor, it will lose smoothness, which is another cause of brake squeaking.
Similar to brakes, a failing or old alternator pulley can make annoying noises. If the alternator is dirty, old, or worn out, it becomes prone to emit loud squeaky, grinding sounds.
Bad Shocks and Struts
Struts are a structural part of the suspension system mounted to the vehicle's chassis. They allocate a place for mounting the coil spring, which maintains the height of a car.
The shock acts as an absorber by preventing a vehicle from bouncing. Together, they damp the movement of the spring, stopping bounce and oscillation to ensure you can drive smoothly even when you hit bumps.
Furthermore, driving at high speed often compromises shocks and struts. During maneuvers, shock absorbers sustain an increased load, which results in unpleasant crunching sounds.
When this happens, the components will emit continuous squeaks, a sign that it's risky to continue driving.
Driving on an Unusual Surface
In some cases, you have to go through inescapable roads to reach your destination. If you think there's no problem with the power steering system, then the tire thread type and composition may make the odd noises when you drive over uncertain or rough surfaces like slippery or sticky roads.
How to Fix Noise Issues: Solutions to Squeaky Sounds
Now that you've understood the common causes of squeaky noises, it's time to learn what you can do to solve a potentially dangerous problem.
Refill Power Steering Pump Fluid
As a driver, it's imperative that you always check the fluid levels before you drive, and replenish them if necessary.
If you observe that the steering wheel continually lets out squeaking and whining noises, it's time to refill the oil.
Make sure to buy quality steering fluid, so that the steering systems won't wear out quickly.
Change Steering Pump Fluid
Maybe you have sufficient fluid, but if the oil is dirty or contaminated, your vehicle won't stop squeaking or screeching unless you change the oil.
In addition, you need to clean the fluid reservoir to guarantee that you don't leave any dirt that will contaminate the new fluid you will refill.
Work on the Suspensions
When working on suspensions, it's either you opt for a short-term solution or a long-term one.
When you choose a temporary one, you can soak the squeaking suspensions area with spray-on lithium grease.
The grease helps lubricate components that will bump against each other, thereby preventing noises coming from friction. Meanwhile, use a silicone spray if the rubber suspension is the one making the noise.
If you want a permanent solution, it's advisable to buy new suspensions to replace the damaged ones. Remember, it's unsafe to drive when your vehicle has damaged suspensions, so you might as well replace it.
Replace Worn Out Parts
This solution involves shelling out some bucks, but it will deliver you total peace of mind. Some parts are beyond repair, and it's much better when you replace them.
These include the brakes, alternator pulley, bushings, strut, shock absorber, and belt. The parts are built to last for a long time, but they may wear off prematurely if you are a harsh driver.
Lubricate the Moving Components
A car has several moving parts that require lubrication for trouble-free operation. Use a high-quality lubricant to prevent corrosion while guaranteeing protection against pressure.
Unless you want the components to produce friction and noises, make sure to check the moving parts and lubricate them.
These include the ball joints, universal joints, seals, tie-ends, suspensions, and steering wheels. Additionally, pay attention to the piston and liners, main and rod bearings, turbocharger, valve train, and crankcase.
Inflate and Align Tires
A ball bearing that has suffered from wear and tear leads to dwindling wheels, and consequently, vibrating motion during a drive.
To avoid the ball bearing from impacting wheel alignment, have a mechanic check its functionality every now and then.
In terms of tire inflation, the frequency depends on the type and age of tires. Likewise, your speed, the roads you drive, and your driving style are factors.
The essential thing is you control the air pressure and prevent under-inflation from decreasing the risk of a flat or blowout tire.
Continuous Servicing and Professional Mechanic Diagnostics
It's good that you know how to fix car problems, but sometimes, it is wiser to seek the help of a mechanic for more severe issues.
For instance, you should take your vehicle to a mechanic if refilling steering fluid is not working.
Similarly, let an expert deal with the car if the steering wheel keeps on rubbing against the interior trim.
Don't wait until the steering wheel gets stuck while you are driving. Most of the time, your vehicle warranty covers problems like these.
If possible, service your car at least twice a year. Oftentimes, you won't be able to detect any problems while driving.
In other cases, you'll be unsure where the noise is coming from. This is where you must entrust your vehicle to an expert before the problem escalates.
Let the mechanic inspect your gears, diagnose, and repair any issues related to the squeaking.
Lastly, the saying "prevention is better than cure" also applies to vehicles. Take regular pressure checks and seek proper car maintenance to help prevent squeaking noises even before they begin.
As with anything in life, constant use can eventually lead to wear and tear. Since you are always driving, your car's steering system and other components are prone to damage.
Don't make the mistake of soundproofing your vehicle just because you hear squeaking, clunking, or metallic grinding sounds.
Most of the time, this means there's something wrong with your vehicle, especially when you need to turn.
Listen to your automobile and locate the problem. Use the information we've provided to guide you in fixing squeaking cars.
Jessica is a Acoustical Engineer, currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area in California. After graduating from her degree in Master of Engineering degree in Acoustics from Solent University in 2014, Jessica worked for a few companies before She will be blogging about her past and current experiences in the studio and sharing her journey as she pursues her career goals. She enjoy the balance of work inside and out of the office, solving practical problems on a daily basis as every project is different and requires a different solution, the variety of work (sound insulation testing, background noise survey, mechanical plant commissioning, external plant assessment, plant room breakout assessments) and the mix of independent and team work.