I realize these are all the same concerns with the same car model, but you should be starting a new question specific to your car. Unlike other sites where anyone can add a confusing reply, here it becomes a private conversation between just the people involved. None of the other experts will see your additions or have a chance to reply. That may not get you the help you need. When you post a new question, please be sure to list the engine size, transmission type, and mileage. Many parts, systems, and especially wiring diagrams are different for different engines. We look at the mileage to make judgments as to the best suspects.
Most of the successes here revolved around the upper control arm bushings, but after reading through this, there is a lot of misinformation I would like to comment on. The first is buying your own parts, then asking a mechanic to replace them. That is like taking your own food to a restaurant and asking them to cook it for you. If you do not like the meal, who gets the blame?
There is a huge difference between asking a mechanic to perform a service, such as "replace these parts", and asking him to identify and solve this problem. When you supply the part and it does not solve the problem, you are obligated to pay for his time because you got what you asked for. When the shop supplies the part, they mark up the cost, just like any other retail store does, but they take on the responsibility for getting it replaced if it is the wrong part or it fails under its warranty. If it is a part they normally stock, that is money tied up they cannot use for other expenses. Most parts can not be returned once they have been installed, so if it was replaced as a guess, or trial and error, to diagnose a problem, you are stuck with it. If the shop supplied that part, it is up to them to decide if it is in anyone's best interest to remove it and put it in stock if it did not solve the problem.
My next comment of value is except for very rare instances, struts and shock absorbers do not make squeaking noises. When they do, it is usually due to worn hardware associated with them, and that means their rubber bushings.
Rubber bushings change how hard they are with changes in temperature. When they are cold, they may make more noise. Be aware too they are making noise because they are fitting tightly on the metal bolt or bracket they are attached to. When we inspect steering and suspension systems, we are looking for unacceptable movement between parts by prying on them in various directions. A noisy bushing will check fine visually because it will not have slop, or movement, in it.
The next concern that has applied to one of my older cars is part of the procedure in checking these parts, particularly ball joints, is the stress on them has to be removed. That means letting the suspension system hang down so the car's weight is not holding the ball joints together. With the suspension system hanging down, the control arms pivot down a lot more than the normal range of movement they go through as you drive down the bumpy road. That twists the bushings more than normal, and that alone can roll some rust or scale in them to a new orientation. That can make the squeaking disappear for a few minutes to a few days. That is why your mechanic may have performed some service, then found the noise to be gone on a test-drive. Also, remember the temperature issue. The work was performed in a warm shop, but you might be driving in cold winter weather. The bushings can take twenty to thirty minutes to become cold and hard. They will be less able to flex, so they might start to squeak.
I get nervous when I read about someone asking how to replace these parts themselves. Besides the obvious lack of jack stands under the car for safety, few do-it-yourselfers are aware of the steps professionals go through. The procedures are outlined very thoroughly in the service manuals, but there is more to the story. The main one in this case is since the car is jacked up by the frame so the suspension will be "unloaded", meaning hanging down freely, not holding up the vehicle's weight, a control arm can be unbolted, then the new one installed. The problem is most people will just bolt the pivot bolts tight, then lower the car to the ground. As it is lowered, the control arms pivot up to their "at-rest" position, but because the bushings are already bolted tight, they are clamped in a permanent twist. That will greatly reduce their life expectancy. On some models, normal driving over a dip in the road can twist the bushings far enough to tear them from the metal they are molded to. It is not unheard of for a brand new bushing to cause a noise or to grind away in a few months. The proper procedure is to leave the pivot bolts loose enough so they fail to clamp the bushings, bounce the car or drive it around the shop's parking lot, then tighten the bushings while the car is sitting on the tires at normal ride height. As a suspension and alignment specialist, that meant driving the car onto my drive-on hoist. For everyone else, including mechanics with the more common frame-contact hoists, it means crawling under the car while it is sitting on the ground. The mechanics I worked with at the dealership knew to leave the bushings loose when they sent the cars to me for the alignments, then I tightened them on my drive-on hoist.
It is also important to use a click-type torque wrench when tightening fasteners in the steering and suspension systems. These are safety systems, and you do not want a ball joint stud snapping off or a pinch-bolt coming loose. That will let a wheel squirt out on the bottom, then it is just luck whether you sail into the ditch or into oncoming traffic.
From the comments, it may not be clear to everyone that it is never acceptable to simply bolt on a new control arm, then think you are done. The vehicle must be aligned immediately after that service. No two control arms are ever exactly the same. Their length determines where the top and bottom of the wheel/tire sits, and that affects "camber". Camber is the inward or outward tilt of the wheel as viewed from in front of the car. It has a huge affect on tire wear and pulling to one side. Camber must be within specs for the best tire wear, but it is more important it be equal on both sides. A tire wants to pull in the direction it is leaning. Both tires must be equal to offset their pulls.
Camber is adjustable on most cars except for Ford front-wheel-drive models. On most models with front struts, that adjustment is on the lower control arm or lower strut attachment point. A few models have the adjustment on the upper control arm. Even if you were lucky enough to get a new control arm exactly the same length as the old one, if it includes the camber adjustment, there is no way to put it in the right adjustment without an alignment. You can make some observations regarding camber. Changing camber changes the angle the spindle is sitting at, and the wheel is attached to the spindle. One of the tie rod ends is also attached to the spindle. Inner and outer tie rod ends are parts of the steering linkage that turn the spindle and wheel. The steering and suspension systems have a very specific geometry designed into them, and because of that, tipping the spindle on most car models also moves the attaching point for the tie rod end. The steering linkage was not adjusted to match that change, so it causes the spindle to turn a little. That means that wheel/tire turned left or right a little. To say that more simply, tipping the wheel in or out on top will cause it to turn left or right at the same time. Suppose a new part causes the left front wheel to move to a new camber setting. That will also cause that wheel to turn to one side a little. The car will follow the tire with the most weight on it. Since the two tires are steering in slightly different directions, the sidewall on the other tire will flex and allow it to follow along without skidding, (but with excessive tire wear). You have to correct the direction the car is going by turning the steering wheel to one side.
To boil this all down, you can look at the steering wheel to figure out if something changed or needs to be corrected with an alignment or when a part is worn. If you start with a car that is in proper alignment and the steering wheel is straight when you are driving straight down the road, then one day you notice the steering wheel is off-center when driving straight, that is not due to a problem in the steering linkage. That means something changed in the suspension system that the steering linkage is attached to. The offset steering wheel is telling you something changed, and if that occurred right after a control arm was replaced, it proves the new arm is different, and an alignment is required.
Everyone here is concerned with how to find the cause of the problem as well as how to solve it. Bushing noise can temporarily go away in a warm shop, or after the suspension has been allowed to hang down, when the car is jacked up, beyond its normal range of travel. That is similar to stretching before you go out for a run. Sometimes you can find a noisy bushing by squirting some oil on it, but that is never a cure. Chrysler's "Spray White Lube", or a similar lithium-based grease works well for this. It sprays on real runny. The juice sneaks into tight places and takes the grease with it. Later, the liquid evaporates, but it leaves the grease behind. This quieted the noisy bushing on my 1972 Challenger for as much as a week. Later I found that bushing to be totally torn away from its shaft, but the grease trick helped me figure out which one was the culprit.
Anti-sway bar bushings were mentioned too. There are always two that surround the bar to hold it in place. Most cars have mechanical metal links at the outer ends of the bar. Those rarely squeak. The links will rattle over bumpy roads when the metal hardware rusts away or the rubber bushings deteriorate. There are some models that use the same type of rubber bushings, like donuts, around the outer ends of the anti-sway bar. 1995 and older Chrysler minivans and front-wheel-drive cars are some examples. It is not uncommon to have a squeaking bushing of this type. The outer ones sit at a small angle to the bar, so the center hole wears to an angle. If you ignore the noise long enough, the squeak will turn into an elusive thumping noise on slightly bumpy roads. A quick test to identify this is to remove the outer bushings and turn them around, then reinstall them. The angle of the bar will prevent it from thumping for a few months. The proper repair is to replace them.
Related to the anti-sway bar bushings, greasing them is never the permanent fix, and doing that should be avoided. Most of these bushings have a Teflon coating on the inner surface where it contacts the bar. That coating is the lubricant to prevent noises. Water gets in there and forms rust on the bar, then that rust grinds away the coating. Squeaking is the result. If you grease the new bushings, that will eat away the Teflon coating, causing them to become noisy too. When these bushings are badly-worn, you will find the wear surface is slightly rougher than the rubber of an ink pen eraser. Areas that are not worn will still have what looks like a wire mesh screen molded to it. That is the Teflon wear surface.
When all else fails, to find this type of noise, there is a tool called the "chassis ear" that works well. It is a set of six microphones, a switch box, and headphones. You clip the microphones to suspect points, then drive around while listening with the headphones. You can move the microphones around to zero in on the source of the noise. Be aware that many mechanics have never seen or even heard of this tool. Suspension and alignment mechanics use it to find rattles, squeaks, and other noises. You might find this at an auto parts store that rents or borrows tools. You will find them on Amazon too for less than what the guys driving the tool trucks to repair shops each week charge.
For my last comment of value, as an alignment specialist, I am very picky about correct ride height. I will not work on any car that has been lowered or any truck that has been raised, partly because I know I cannot solve handling and tire wear issues, and partly because of potential legal ramifications. When ride height is low on an older car, it is because the springs have sagged from age, not mileage. When an experienced mechanic is asked to replace front struts on an older car, he is smart to try to talk you into buying what we call "quick struts" Those include new coil springs, protective boots, and noise-reducing hardware already installed as an assembly. Removing an old spring that was holding up over 1000 pounds of car can be a fairly dangerous task. I have seen a spring get loose and take out an eight foot overhead light fixture, and we used to read about people getting hurt when they got hit by a flying spring. A quick strut costs only a little more than just the strut by itself, but you save a lot of time which translates into cost to the customer. Compare installing just a new strut to buying new shoes, but you are still wearing your old socks. These quick struts restore the car's ride height to the published specs, and that restores the correct geometry of the suspension system. With the correct ride height, the wheels and tires travel through a range of motion that presents very little wear to the tires. At any incorrect ride height, whether too low or too high, camber, and the other two main alignment angles can still be set to specs on the alignment rack, but those only apply to a car that is standing still. The tires will tip excessively as the car bounces up and down, or they will slide left and right across the road surface. Either condition will lead to greatly-accelerated tire wear, even though the numbers on the alignment computer look perfect.
There are a lot of people who think they need new struts or shock absorbers when the car's ride height has sagged. Ride height is always set by the springs. Just about every front-wheel-drive car uses coil springs, and the vast majority of them are placed around the struts. (Those are called "McPherson struts). Struts and shock absorbers only stop the vehicle from bouncing. As proof, you can push any strut or shock absorber together by hand, so it is obvious there is no way that can hold up the weight of a car. There are some original designs, and some replacement or add-on designs that can include a helper spring, but in general, unless you have some exotic car model, your mechanic should only be trying to sell you struts or shock absorbers to address ride quality, and sometimes tire wear concerns. If you have a ride height concern, or a rapid tire wear issue with no other known cause, it is a spring issue.
Wednesday, November 15th, 2017 AT 6:59 PM