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Before going off to college, I had my car carefully inspected by a trusted mechanic whom I asked to inform me of any major problems. That is to say, the car has none now.

However, I just noticed (don't ask how I didn't notice before) that whenever I turn at a low speed, such as maneuvering in parking lots, there is a bit of squealing. Everything works perfectly, and the squealing isn't hideously loud-- it's just loud enough.

What might cause this, and how can I fix it?

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(I drive a '97 Subaru Legacy, if it's relevant.) –  Aerovistae Mar 20 '12 at 4:44

3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Is the noise coming from the steering itself, or from the tyres? i.e does it make the noise as you are turning the steering wheel, or does it still do it as you hold the wheel steady during the turn? If it is the latter (the "hollywood tyre squeal" effect), that is quite common, particularly on the smooth concrete you tend to find in multi-story car parks.

If it only occurs as you are physically turning the wheel, i would suspect an issue with your power steering - have you checked the fluid level recently?

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As of today it actually happens as soon as I start the car, and then continues for the first couple seconds of driving until I get up to a certain speed. Once I'm slowing down to pull into a spot, it comes back. If I sit still and it's not doing it, but then I touch the wheel to move the tires in place, it comes back. Also, no, I have not checked the power fluid. Is that something you refill, like windshield washer fluid, or something you change, like oil? –  Aerovistae Mar 21 '12 at 0:20
1  
PAS fluid is something that is changed, but on a much more infrequent basis - more like brake fluid. Your car's handbook should tell you where to look, there should be a small cap somewhere in the engine bay you can open and check the level of the fluid inside - the handbook will also specify the type of fluid to top it up with. –  Nick C Mar 21 '12 at 9:05

Following up on Nick's answer, you can confirm whether you're hearing tire noise or power steering pump noise in a couple of easy steps:

  1. Try making a hard turn of the wheel at almost no speed at all. For example, when backing out of a garage (don't hit the wall). If the tires are barely turning, any squeal at that point is much more likely to be a pump problem.

  2. Try some turns in the environment where you think you can make the squeal happen. Now try some nearly identical turns to the left and to the right. If you notice a difference in the sound, it's more likely a tire noise than a pump noise. Likewise, if you try the same turns on different pavement and hear something different, you are likely noticing tire noise than pump noise.

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I have had this problem with my old Mazda 626. Usually occurred in roundabouts or slow speed driving in parking lots. In my case it was the driving knots + something else in the steering that needed to be greased up. I even changed them completely since they where old and worn out.

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Yeah that's what it seems like to me but the second I took it to a mechanic, it stopped making the sound. So typical. –  Aerovistae Mar 22 '12 at 13:47
    
That happened to me as well. Always like that ain't it. ^^ –  jamietelin Mar 23 '12 at 7:30

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