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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Can someone help me diagnose suspension noises?

Where I live there are uneven roads with many potholes. Whenever I hit one, my poor RAV squeaks and creaks with a sound like an old door hinge or bed spring. I get this creaking also if I bounce up and down on the car while it is parked. Turning does not cause noise.

I can't tell much of anything from a visual inspection underneath - no blatantly torn boots or rotted bushings, or anything loose enough that I am able to move by hand. Shocks don't appear dented or leaking.

I sprayed some silicone on all the bushings and boots. This lessened the squeaks a bit, but now I notice more thumps and thunks, as if the vehicle is bottoming out, even on small bumps. It makes for a rough and noisy ride, not what a RAV should be. Basically it sounds like I'm in a multistory apartment with two young newlyweds upstairs plus an old carmudgeon tenant with a broomstick.

It does not exhibit the classic bad-shock symptoms like nose-diving or excessive bounce. I believe there is excessive sway however, side to side.

Also, if I drive over 75 mph there is a shudder which can be felt in the steering wheel.

I'm sure it doesn't help that my tires are all bought used, mismatched brands, and at least one has been patched.
I can't afford to buy all brand new, only to get a puncture within the month from all the nails and debris that litters my local roads. Also I've got them at 26 psi, which seems low to me but that's what the little manual book says.

I've done some engine work but am a newbie when it comes to suspension. I'm hoping to tackle this myself if possible. But so far I can't even pinpoint where, exactly, these noises are coming from. It actually sounds like multiple locations.

If anyone has any thoughts or advice, I'm all ears. Thank you in advance, fellow RAV drivers!

The vehicle: 2000 RAV4, 4 door, FWD, 132k miles
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
"Any thoughts or advice ..."

Sell, and buy a new car!

Otherwise, time to spend some big bucks fixing up the ol' RAV-4.
Maybe I have to take back the part about being "all ears" since that advice is definitely not what I wanted to hear :)

Things were looking that way last year too, when a lot of expensive maintenance was coming due. Timing belt, brakes, a pesky EVAP code, etc, Close to $3000 if the mechanics shops had their way. But I did the work myself, learning along the way and taking a ridiculous amount of time, but in the end 'ol RAV was all fixed and tuned and rejuvenated. Hard to give up on a vehicle after you've done all that.
 

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i typically associate that hitting-a-bump squeak with ball joints, however i would also associate that with some noise while turning. but it is very hard to diagnose a squeak over the internet. honestly i would say suspension work is typically lower skill than doing a timing belt. unless the clunk sounds higher up, if it sounds like the squeaks are coming from higher in the engine bay

If i were there this is how i would go about diagnosing it:
lift the car up on a jack and attempt to push the tire side to side (hands at 9 and 3 on the tire) if it has play that is a tie rod problem.
attempt to wobble the tire from up and down (hands at 12 and 6 on the tire) and if it has play it is a ball joint.
remove the tire and apply pressure to the swaybar link, if it can wobble it is bad.
Follow the sway bar down to the bushing, if the rubber is worn it may need a change.
check all bushings on the control arm.
and if you are anything like me you will have a list of things to fix.
Ball joints and tie rods tend not to be that much I just ordered for the front of my RAV for just over $100 CAD
 

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@Brendan Rex has some good suggestions for diagnosis, particularly raising up the car and shaking the wheel.

If you don't find anything doing that, take a video of the sounds and post it, maybe someone's had the same issue.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
i typically associate that hitting-a-bump squeak with ball joints, however i would also associate that with some noise while turning. but it is very hard to diagnose a squeak over the internet. honestly i would say suspension work is typically lower skill than doing a timing belt. unless the clunk sounds higher up, if it sounds like the squeaks are coming from higher in the engine bay

If i were there this is how i would go about diagnosing it:
lift the car up on a jack and attempt to push the tire side to side (hands at 9 and 3 on the tire) if it has play that is a tie rod problem.
attempt to wobble the tire from up and down (hands at 12 and 6 on the tire) and if it has play it is a ball joint.
remove the tire and apply pressure to the swaybar link, if it can wobble it is bad.
Follow the sway bar down to the bushing, if the rubber is worn it may need a change.
check all bushings on the control arm.
and if you are anything like me you will have a list of things to fix.
Ball joints and tie rods tend not to be that much I just ordered for the front of my RAV for just over $100 CAD
Thank you Mr. Rex. Something definitive to test is just what I was hoping for. It's definitely an issue with up-down motion rather than steering motion. In the meantime I found some other old posts on this site similar to mine, i.e. "I'm getting noises and don't know where to start." So I'll try to keep peeps posted.
 

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Have a very close look at the front sway-bar end links. If one is broken or collapsed, there will be lots of banging around but otherwise driving mostly OK. If you sheared one of the mounting bolts of an end link, it may even line up when the car is sitting statically and look OK until you rock the car from side to side. Just one suggestion of something to check.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Update: The sway bar end links do seem to have an inordinate amount of looseness and play.

I ordered a new set, plus sway bar bushings, control arm bushings, and ball joints.

Trying to isolate creaking noise by spraying bushings with silicone, eliminating one by one, I think would have been a good strategy. But I became too impatient and just sprayed them all. Seems it takes a day for it to really seep in.

You guys have been really helpful. I will update this again and hopefully it will help someone else.
 
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