Subaru Creak: Diff? U-Joint?

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My daughter's 2004 Subaru Forester (manual) has about 110k miles. We've owned it since new, I did the 100k service (timing belt, pulleys, water pump, coolant, etc.) and it still runs like new.

She reports the car started making a creaking noise when steering is full to one side or the other, and moving slowly. She's across the country so I can't inspect in person anymore. I had an old Honda Civic that developed this creaking when its u-joints went bad. But turning tight radius at slow speeds makes the wheels spin at different rates so it could be a differential. I replaced the diff & tranny oil back around 40k miles using Mobil 1 GL-5; inspected at 110k and it still looked like new (oil not dark, no water, no metal).

Advice or tips?
 
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There should be some minimal binding doing the full turn. if it still moves and doesnt get stuck I doubt there is much wrong with it.

She knows to not hold the steering against the stop while turning?
 

MRC01

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There should be some minimal binding doing the full turn. if it still moves and doesnt get stuck I doubt there is much wrong with it.
I was inclined to think the same. But, this is a new noise, so something changed. If the advice from others with old Subarus is that some amount of creaking is "normal" that would be good to know.

... She knows to not hold the steering against the stop while turning?
Yes, well at least I've told her this...

PS: from what I read, manual trannies like hers have open diffs from & rear with a viscous coupled front-rear / center diff.
 
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I was inclined to think the same. But, this is a new noise, so something changed. If the advice from others with old Subarus is that some amount of creaking is "normal" that would be good to know.


Yes, well at least I've told her this...

PS: from what I read, manual trannies like hers have open diffs from & rear with a viscous coupled front-rear / center diff.
its pretty much the same setup through 2018 when they made the last manual forester.

Owned 2 MT foresters and worked on a mt outback in the family as well.

on a 2004 I'd drive it. First guess would be old rubber bushings or similar getting torqued from the driveline binding.
or maybe a strut mount binding.
 

MRC01

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Update: daughter reports the creaking sound comes from the front of the car, on both sides. Most likely, the U-joints (CV joints) are going bad.
The OEM part seems to cost about $400 (each side). I see a bunch of aftermarket replacement parts: GSP, Bodeman, Cardone, A-Premium, etc. for around $100 to $150.
I'd estimate 1-2 hours to replace both. Too bad I'm not there to fix it.
Recommendations on aftermarket vs. OEM?
 
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Is there noise turning the steering wheel with the car not moving? That would not be a CV joint.
 

MRC01

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She says it only creaks when moving and steering is turned to the limit (or nearly so) in either direction. And the creaking comes from the front, on both sides. It doesn't creak unless the car is moving - idling while parked, no creaking.
But she will double-check that.
 
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Tlugh to diagnose this from across the country. Can your daughter get recommendations and take it to a local independent mechanic for his opinion?
 

MRC01

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She's in Troy, NY and I'm calling around. Any recommendations?
 
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The land of USA-made Subies!
PS: from what I read, manual trannies like hers have open diffs from & rear with a viscous coupled front-rear / center diff.
I had an ‘01 manual, but it’s been a few years…can you have her video the creak? From what I know, the Foresters never had the limited slip rears, only WRX and Legacy/Outback and they were sealed units (changing the gear oil didn’t change the LS unit oil). Jason Fenske of Engineering Explained has a great video detailing the 4 different kinds of Subaru AWD systems on YouTube.

 
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Definitely sound like drivetrain? I feel like I’ve read and noticed front lower control arm bushings deteriorate quite bad on Subarus if it sounds like it may be suspension as opposed to a cv joint noise.
 
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Definitely sound like drivetrain? I feel like I’ve read and noticed front lower control arm bushings deteriorate quite bad on Subarus if it sounds like it may be suspension as opposed to a cv joint noise.
I’ve had to do both sets of lower control arm bushings on the last 3 I’ve owned, but no creaking. I noticed some clunking on the Forester and Outback, and the Impreza would nearly change lanes under hard acceleration because it was allowing the arm to move and change the steering angle. Creaking may be a broken spring; my Outback had a snapped coil and it squeaked a little because there was metal on metal rubbing. I’d have her lift each corner off the ground one at a time and shake the spring. If there’s any appreciable movement, have her take it to a shop.
 

MRC01

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I had an ‘01 manual, but it’s been a few years…can you have her video the creak? ...
Definitely sound like drivetrain? I feel like I’ve read and noticed front lower control arm bushings deteriorate quite bad on Subarus if it sounds like it may be suspension as opposed to a cv joint noise.
I'd look at the ball joints
I’ve had to do both sets of lower control arm bushings on the last 3 I’ve owned, but no creaking. ... I’d have her lift each corner off the ground one at a time and shake the spring. If there’s any appreciable movement, have her take it to a shop.
Unfortunately, I'm 3000 miles away and she's not mechanically inclined. So I'm going to have to find a local shop to do this for her. Can anyone recommend a place in the Albany/Troy NY area? I contacted one called "Ernie's Auto" but I have no idea how good they are and won't be able to talk to them in detail until next week.
 
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There should be some minimal binding doing the full turn. if it still moves and doesnt get stuck I doubt there is much wrong with it.

She knows to not hold the steering against the stop while turning?
My experience with 3 separate Subarus is that they sometimes do weird things at low speeds and full steering lock. I've always found the fix to be frequent fluid changes (transmission and diff) and not turning the wheel full lock unless it's impossible not to for some reason.

Hoping it's this for you. Tough to diagnose from online.

Edit: if it was my daughter I'd also be moderately worried "but what if...". And would probably have her check all the lug nuts and bring it somewhere for a "check over" during an oil change. Maybe without telling them but just tell them as a worried dad you want the steering and wheel play and such checked over.
 

MRC01

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OK so there's a place called Ernie's Auto in Albany across the river from Troy, less than 10 minutes from RPI. I emailed with them and they seem pretty good. Anyone in that area heard of them, or have other recommendations?
 
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