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My car has developed an annoying creaking sound when turning. I'm trying to figure out what it is but I've hit the limit of my car knowledge now.

Car: 2003 Mazda Pretege5

Miles: 121K

The creaking sounds like it's coming from more toward the center of the engine. I started off by checking the tie rod ends. I found the boot on one end slightly greasy but overall still intact. I'll put that on the future repair list. The other end looks fine.

I jacked the front end off the ground to remove weight from the wheels and rule out bad ball joints. I got the same sound with the wheels off the ground.

The inner tie rod boots look fine.

Any ideas on what to look for next. I'm pretty limited on tools though so I'm likely going to have to pay someone to fix whatever it is for me.

EDIT So a bit more internet research has turned up a lot of stuff about bushings and sway bars causing things like this.

EDIT 2 I loosened both strut mounts and lifted both wheels off the ground. Still creaks. I gave a little pull on the passenger's side sway bar link and it make a very similar sounding noise.

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So this happens when turning the wheel while the car is stationary? Or only when moving? –  Nilloc Apr 10 '13 at 5:37
    
Both when it's moving and when it's stopped. –  JDD Apr 10 '13 at 10:41
    
It's not coming from the strut mounts? –  Mike Saull Apr 10 '13 at 14:20
    
121K miles probably your car lubricants have dried if you haven't lubricated them before that makes a the problem sometime –  Akash Apr 11 '13 at 3:13
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2 Answers

maybe you should try to lubricate the rack and pinion and the base on which the steering system is mountedenter image description here

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Creaks, groans and other noises while turning can be a signal of something serious. If you are unsure of how to check ball joints the usual method is to raise the car by the lower control arm. Place a large prybar (think 3 ft crowbar) under the tire and rapidly pry the tire up. You are checking for movement between the steering knuckle and the lower controlarm. You should also check upper strut mounts. If you can't find anything you need to bring it to a mechanic you trust. Demonstrate the noise if can.

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I think I ruled out the ball joint by taking the weight off the wheels and still hearing the sound? Both ball joint boots looked fine and I replaced one of them last year. Not because it was bad but because I'm an idiot and tore the boot apart when doing the wheel bearing. –  JDD Apr 10 '13 at 22:30
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