Creak/knock from driver's side wheel when turning left.

jamesbeat

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2005 Liberty Sport, 180k miles. It is in stock configuration, no lift.

When I turn the wheels to the left, I get a sort of creaking/knocking sound. It only happens when turning left, and only happens when I turn the wheels almost all the way to the left.
The noise is exactly the same whether I am moving or stationary. I can feel the 'knocks' through the steering wheel.

The problem is intermittent. It will come and go, seemingly with no pattern.

I know there are probably a few different things that can cause this, so I'm really looking for some pointers to narrow it down. What are some tests I could do?

So far, I have tried lifting the wheel off the ground, grabbing it at the 12 & 6 and the 3 & 9 positions and trying to rock it back and forth. It seems to feel fine in both directions.
I haven't taken the wheel off yet, but the rubber boots on the CV joint and the others that I could see with the wheel in place all look to be intact.
 
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duderz7

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Google for videos on how to check upper and lower ball joints. I'd tell ya but Google will save us both some time. I suspect lower ball joint, they tend to go out more frequently. Failure can be catastrophic so don't put it off!
 

jamesbeat

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Thanks. I looked at them, and the upper ball joint appears to have a torn boot.
I'm going to have to wait until I have an assistant to try and and pinpoint it for sure.
The frustrating part is that it is an intermittent problem. I just tried driving around for half an hour to try and reproduce the problem, and I couldn't get it to happen.
 

duderz7

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If it's upper the entire control arm will need replaced. Ball joint cannot be removed. Easy job as long as you have sockets and extentions.
 

jamesbeat

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If it's upper the entire control arm will need replaced. Ball joint cannot be removed. Easy job as long as you have sockets and extentions.

Yeah, i just watched a video. Doesn't look too bad apart from having to reach that bolt with an extension.

I just took the wheel off, and tried using a lever underneath the hub. The boot for the upper ball joint is definitely cracked, but I couldn't see any play in the ball joint - it just lifted the control arm. I tried jacking up the knuckle while observing the ball joint. Looked normal to my untrained eye.
I parted the split boot and looked inside with a flashlight. The ball joint looks normal and is still covered in clean grease.

I tried lifting the other wheel off the ground and turning the wheels while looking at the ball joint. Nothing unusual-looking happened. It will need replacing at some point because of the split boot, but I'm not convinced it is the cause of the noise.

I then put the wheel back on, lowered the front end and turned the wheels - still no noise. This is the frustrating part - the noise is intermittent, so it's hard to pin down.

Everything else in there; lower ball joint, tie rod, sway bar link etc look to be tight (again, to my untrained eye).

Could it be creaking suspension? The steering rack?
 
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jamesbeat

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Ok, I have replaced both the upper and lower ball joints. Both appeared to be in good condition, and replacing them made no difference to the noise.

The outer tie rod ball joint looks ok too, though I suppose that would be the next thing to suspect. It does have a grease fitting, and I filled it with new grease. The old grease that was pushed out looked clean, and the boot is definitely intact. Again, this had no effect on the sound.

Assuming the outer tie rod ball joint is not the cause, what else could this be?

To reiterate, it does not happen on short trips, only when I have been driving for say 30 minutes or more. It only happens when turning the wheels far to the left, such as a tight corner in the road, or when maneuvering at low speed during parking etc.
It feels like creaking at first, and then a sort of knocking as I steer further to the left. The 'knocks' can also be felt through the steering wheel. It happens both when in motion and when stationary.
 

JRB

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I'd say next thing to look at is steering rack bushings, maybe they're worn but not worn through, so when you get driving and they warm up and get softer they go from a creak to knock.

No fun to have to chase noises, but at least if that ubj boot was torn, that was due for a replacement soon.

Also probably not the cause but free to do, inspect and losen the sway bar fittings on that side, and tighten back up with weight of the vehicle loading the sway bar.
 

DadOSix

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2005 Liberty Sport, 180k miles. It is in stock configuration, no lift.

When I turn the wheels to the left, I get a sort of creaking/knocking sound. It only happens when turning left, and only happens when I turn the wheels almost all the way to the left.
The noise is exactly the same whether I am moving or stationary. I can feel the 'knocks' through the steering wheel.

The problem is intermittent. It will come and go, seemingly with no pattern.

I know there are probably a few different things that can cause this, so I'm really looking for some pointers to narrow it down. What are some tests I could do?

So far, I have tried lifting the wheel off the ground, grabbing it at the 12 & 6 and the 3 & 9 positions and trying to rock it back and forth. It seems to feel fine in both directions.
I haven't taken the wheel off yet, but the rubber boots on the CV joint and the others that I could see with the wheel in place all look to be intact.
Since you are already into this - did you try to sound it out with the front of the jeep hacked up.

I know you said moving or stationary, but how bout no load on the front end?

If it were a constant thing, I would suspect the left axle cv joints.

Perhaps get a helper to move the steering while you look and listen?

Did we consider lower control arm bushings? The uppers got changed when you did the top ball joint.
 
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HoosierJeeper

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Does it happen over bumps going straight too? I had an upper shock mount fail and create a hell of a squeak that I had trouble diagnosing.
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What the mount looks like when it fails:
xc_hide_links_from_guests_guests_error_hide_media

That being said, the turning thing still makes me think a ball joint. When I had my KL, I had a LBJ fail that didn't show any play unless you pried on it a certain way with a really long pry bar, but it was just enough to make a horrible knocking noise.
 

jamesbeat

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I'll try to take a look at the steering rack bushings, though the sound really does seem like it's coming from the wheel well. So hard to tell though, even with a stethoscope.

Is it possible that it's my inner tie rods? I imagine worn joints there would start to creak as they warmed up from friction over a longer drive.
Since I have been reduced to throwing parts at this problem, the tie rods seem like a relatively cheap and easy thing to replace.

I also want to say that I'm getting a small amount of bump steer, in that if I hit a bump, it will move the steering wheel a bit, and I will have to compensate. However, I have only had this Jeep for about six months, so I don't know whether that is normal for these vehicles.

Just to be clear, this isn't a constant creak that gets worse after driving for a while. The problem does not exist at all unless I have been driving for some time.
In other words, everything seems completely normal when driving shorter distances. After I have been driving for a longer time, the steering starts to creak as I turn the wheels to the left, and the creak turns into a knock as I turn the wheels further, in other words, the 'knock' is actually just a particularly bad creak, like an unlubricated joint with a lot of weight bearing on it binding up and releasing.

This is most noticeable as I arrive at my destination and am parking, ie steering a lot at low speed.

This is very frustrating, as it makes the problem difficult to reproduce. It's also very annoying, because I keep thinking I have fixed the problem, only for it to happen again when I make a longer journey.
 

jamesbeat

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Since you are already into this - did you try to sound it out with the front of the jeep hacked up.

I know you said moving or stationary, but how bout no load on the front end?

If it were a constant thing, I would suspect the left axle cv joints.

Perhaps get a helper to move the steering while you look and listen?

Did we consider lower control arm bushings? The uppers got changed when you did the top ball joint.
No. I have tried, but it's difficult to reproduce the problem, so catching it at the right time when I'm in a position to jack up the front end is tricky. I'll certainly try though. The creak/knock sounds like an unlubricated joint with a lot of weight bearing on it, so it would certainly make sense that it would go away with the load taken off the front wheels.

Can the CV joints make a sound even while not moving? Is it possible that they would have to heat up (from a lot of driving) before the sound started to occur? I had a chance to examine the joint when replacing the ball joints, and it appeared ok externally. The boot is intact at least.

I have tried to get a helper to move the wheel while I observe, and I even listened with a mechanic's stethoscope. Unfortunately, the sound seems to reverberate throughout the steering components, so it is hard to pin down. I was initially convinced it was the upper ball joint, then the lower, but it was neither.

Is there a test I can do to check the lower control arm bushings? You're correct that the upper control arm bushings were changed when I did the ball joint - it's the whole control arm that gets replaced.
 

jamesbeat

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Does it happen over bumps going straight too? I had an upper shock mount fail and create a hell of a squeak that I had trouble diagnosing.
xc_hide_links_from_guests_guests_error_hide_media
What the mount looks like when it fails:
xc_hide_links_from_guests_guests_error_hide_media

That being said, the turning thing still makes me think a ball joint. When I had my KL, I had a LBJ fail that didn't show any play unless you pried on it a certain way with a really long pry bar, but it was just enough to make a horrible knocking noise.

No, it only happens when steering left, whether in motion or stationary. It never happens when steering right or going in a straight line.
I have replaced both the upper and lower ball joint, so it's neither of those.
The only joints remaining are the CV axle and the tie rods. The outer tie rod joint looks fine, and the boot is intact. It has a grease fitting, so I filled it with new grease. The old grease that got pushed out looked fine too.
 

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Complicated —

The LCA bushings- #11 and pivot bushing #8 would tend to be noisy any time.

Also potential for the top shock mount #24 and the spring isolators #18.

How do you feel about dowsing the contact points with a penetrant like fluid film or kroil?

My 06 makes a hellacious squishy noise after he sits for a week or so. It is the boots on the cv axles.

Treated with silicone spray and it gets better off a while.

Bad lca bushings might give the knock you feel but should do it all the time. Would also result in jeep wandering in the lane.

Tie rods aren’t too bad. Inner is a bit tricky. Need a big wrench or a special tie rod tool. I use the big wrench.

Cv will only sound if the axle is being manipulated. Read that to be driving and rolling, or twisting, as with moving the steering wheel while moving or still (for a parking maneuver). They articulate on the axle shafts with a heavy race and 6 or so balls.

I hate to see you throw more parts at this beast unless the front end is shot. Like my 04 was.

Oh test the rack bushings by watching the rack action at the bushings while your helper steers. The wiggle is very apparent, and usually on the drivers side, as it gets soaked with ps fluid from the leaky ps pump.

Is there a decent front end shoppe you trust that could throw it in the machine and check?

There are so many ‘could be’ things.
 

jamesbeat

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That diagram is extremely helpful, thanks so much.
In your opinion, which components actually present a danger should they fail? I know the ball joints can be catastrophic, but those are already done. I imagine a failed tie rod could also be dangerous, and they are pretty inexpensive, so it may be worth replacing them just for the peace of mind.

Are there any other components that present a real danger rather than just making an annoying noise? I'm thinking as long as I can be sure I'm not going to lose control of the vehicle or have a wheel fall off, I could simply wait and see if it gets worse, thus making it easier to identify.
 

duderz7

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Wheel bearing. I think you said you checked them and they felt tight, but they can still feel tight and be quite crusty. Would probably get noticeably loose before catastrophic failure though.
 

jamesbeat

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That's a good point. I didn't think of the wheel bearing, but the first thing I suspected when I noticed the problem was loose lug nuts, and I imagine that's a similar problem to a worn bearing.
That might explain why it only happens when I have been driving for a while too - takes a while to heat up from friction enough to start being noisy.
I have also noticed that when I drive past a certain wall with my windows open, I notice what sounds like a noisy bearing on the passenger side. It's feasible that the driver's side would also be worn, and I am just not hearing it because there is no wall to reflect the sound back at me.

You are right that I did the standard test of grasping the wheel and trying to move it. Is there anything else I can do to to narrow it down to the bearing, or is it just a case of replacing it and seeing if that fixes the problem?
 

duderz7

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You could try spinning it while listening and feeling, maybe with a stethoscope. Probably easier with wheel and brake removed as you wouldn't have extra potential noises. I suppose it's entirely possible you have cv's going bad too. You could give them a wiggle at both ends and rotate and listen also.
 

jamesbeat

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I did try moving it around with the wheel and brake removed when I suspected the ball joints, though I didn't think to use my stethoscope.
I didn't notice anything that seemed out of the ordinary, but I don't really have experience, so it's entirely possible that I missed something.

I also tried manipulating the CV axles, but again they seemed ok from what I could tell. Would the CV make this type of sound? I admittedly know very little about them, but I would have thought the sound of a bad CV joint would change depending on if I was moving or stationary, but it sounds the same either way.

The good news is, compared to the ball joints, both the bearing and the CV axle seem to be quite easy to replace.
I am pretty sure my passenger side bearing needs to be replaced, so maybe I should just replace them both and see if that fixes it. Looks like I can get the pair for under $100, and I already have all the tools I would need from when I did the lower ball joint.
 

duderz7

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Don't cheap or on those bearing or you'll be telling them again soon. Timken are usually recommended by most. Check "rock auto"
 

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