2002 Dodge Neon Screeching Sound When Turning

  • 2002 DODGE NEON
  • 4 CYL
  • FWD
  • 85,000 MILES
After a three hour trip last week, I pulled into the parking lot and noticed a screeching/squeaking noise (that had not been there when I left home) when turning the wheels, pulling into and out of parking spaces, and occasional brief knocks that sounded like they were coming from somewhere beneath me. I made the trip home and did not hear the noise with highway driving, but was still there when I would pull into a parking lot or turn from a complete stop. I took it to a mechanic today and, of course, it did nothing! He put it up on the hoist and couldn't find anything. I asked him to take it down, start the engine and just turn the wheel. Finally, after almost giving up, it started again with each back and forth turn of the wheel. They were tracking the noise and, before he could pinpoint it exactly, it stopped again. But he said it sounded like it was coming from the rack. I don't know what this means exactly. He suggested I drive it, as is, for awhile. It might resolve itself or, if it becomes continuous, they could at least find the problem more easily. He also said they may just need to try a power steering additive or I may eventually need to replace the rack. What is your take on this? Beyond the basic maintenance of a vehicle, I'm automotively challenged. Did I get the right advice and how will a power steering additive help? In the nine months since I bought the car used, I've only topped off the fluid once and that was a minimal amount.
Do you
have the same problem?
Wednesday, April 21st, 2010 AT 4:06 AM

1 Reply

Hi nanbrum56. Welcome to the forum. Normally power steering noises originate in the pump because there is a spring-loaded pressure relief valve that can cause a buzzing noise, especially when the fluid is low and it's pumping air. That noise can be transmitted to the rack and pinion assembly through the hoses and that makes it easier to hear inside the car. It is possible for the rack and pinion assembly to make a singing sound too but it isn't very common. Usually it's caused by internal leakage past seals on the spool valve and is accompanied by hard steering. The spool valve is what is turned by the steering wheel and directs fluid flow one way or the other.

If the sound changes pitch as engine speed changes, suspect the pump. If the pitch stays relatively constant as engine speed changes, suspect the rack and pinion. Your mechanic is correct that in the absence of any other symptoms such as fluid leakage or hard steering, there isn't much anyone can do until the noise occurs long enough for them to trace the source. There are two tools commonly used for noises. Just about every mechanic has a stethoscope for noises that occur while the car is standing still. For noises that require driving the car, such as squeaks and rattles, there is a tool called a "Chassis Ear". It is a set of six microphones that are clipped onto suspect parts, and wired to a switch box in the car. The mechanic switches between them to find the loudest one, then he can reposition them to zero in on the source of the noise.

A worn power steering belt can cause a squeal too. Lightly spraying water on it while the noise is present will make it change. It may get louder or become very quiet for a few seconds.

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Wednesday, April 21st, 2010 AT 6:21 AM

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