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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hello all
I recently purchased my dream car - 2008 EX Element with 82,000 miles. I've wanted an Element for years, but it was veto'd since there are 5 in my family. Now that kids are leaving for college, and I found one local with low miles, I jumped at at the chance!

Not long after, it started making a creaking noise from the front with acceleration, breaking, and low speed turns. I took it to my local Honda dealership twice. The first time, they said they could not replicate the creak, but it was likely the break pads. The second time played this audio file of the creak and they came back with these suggestions;
1. Replace the steering rack and outer tire rod ends.
2. Replacing front engine mount
3. Replacing front lower ball joints
4. Replace stabilizing bar linkages and bushings.

I'm getting a second opinion from another Honda certified mechanic, but it will be a week or so before he has an opening. It feels like they are shotgunning a diagnosis. Is 80k miles a realistic measure for replacing these steering items? Can anyone help me identify the sound?

Thank you so much!
e

Below is the link to the sound.
Creak sound file
 

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Flat rate technicians will not chase odd noises without somebody (you) paying for the time. That is okay, they should not work for free. It is a time consuming process. Instead they just load up the parts shotgun and let fly. I am not saying any of the above parts are or are not needed because I can not hear the noise from here, nor can I see the car from here. The service adviser may not have made a distinction between what parts are needed due to wear and what may be needed to correct the noise, assuming they know for sure (doubtful).

I had a Honda Civic Si that had a creak in the right front on left turns at slow speeds. Since it was a brand new car just for an experiment I took it to the dealer for the (theoretical) diagnosis. I even explained to them exactly how to duplicate the noise. After three trips they had replaced the right front lower control arm, right front strut, right front wheel bearing and right drive axle. Sigh. No change. Finally, I took the car back and explained that I was not telling them how to do their job but I suggested they may wish to replace the right side engine mount and see what happened. They replaced the mount. Noise gone. Then they tried to tell me the noise was caused by a different part they replaced. Uh-huh. Sure.

When I checked the car for the source of the noise it took no more than 15 minutes. Since I could tell the noise was in the right front all I needed to do was narrow the location. I used my stethoscope. I removed the metal probe and the hose. I went to the local home center and bought a roll of clear plastic tubing the same size as the hose on the scope. I cut off a length of hose and attached it to the scope then just secured the hose to different locations in the right front of the car until I found the source of the noise.

The key is the noise has to be repeatable under specific conditions. Think about how to reproduce the noise, how to locate the noise and use the process of elimination. This applies even if the noise only occurs when moving.

Another example. I had a truck that made a creak noise only when I put it in Park and let off the brake pedal and only if I did not actuate the parking brake. It only happened if the truck rolled slightly in Park with the brakes released. I sat and stared at the truck and thought about what was occurring. I decided I could reproduce the noise by having the truck in Park with the engine off and parking brake off. I could reproduce the noise by rocking the truck forward and back. Push-push, creak-creak. Then it is a simple matter of one person rocking the truck and another getting under it to find the source of the noise. Again, it did not take long to find the noise once it was decided how to reproduce it. It turned out a metal brake line was rubbing on a bracket only when the engine and trans rocked sideways. Now, who would have thought of that? Nobody.

I tell you these things not to prove how smart I am but to demonstrate the process. It helps greatly if you know how the vehicle systems work. Otherwise, you may as well buy a pair of diagnostic dice and give them a roll. If the noise happens when accelerating or braking think about what dynamic process is affecting the vehicle. The first thing that comes to mind is the vehicle weight is transferring from front to rear and back again. The next question is, how to reproduce that. You could try bouncing the front and then the rear of the car to see if the noise is heard. Like that. Think first, act afterward.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Flat rate technicians will not chase odd noises without somebody (you) paying for the time. That is okay, they should not work for free. It is a time consuming process. Instead they just load up the parts shotgun and let fly. I am not saying any of the above parts are or are not needed because I can not hear the noise from here, nor can I see the car from here. The service adviser may not have made a distinction between what parts are needed due to wear and what may be needed to correct the noise, assuming they know for sure (doubtful).

I had a Honda Civic Si that had a creak in the right front on left turns at slow speeds. Since it was a brand new car just for an experiment I took it to the dealer for the (theoretical) diagnosis. I even explained to them exactly how to duplicate the noise. After three trips they had replaced the right front lower control arm, right front strut, right front wheel bearing and right drive axle. Sigh. No change. Finally, I took the car back and explained that I was not telling them how to do their job but I suggested they may wish to replace the right side engine mount and see what happened. They replaced the mount. Noise gone. Then they tried to tell me the noise was caused by a different part they replaced. Uh-huh. Sure.

When I checked the car for the source of the noise it took no more than 15 minutes. Since I could tell the noise was in the right front all I needed to do was narrow the location. I used my stethoscope. I removed the metal probe and the hose. I went to the local home center and bought a roll of clear plastic tubing the same size as the hose on the scope. I cut off a length of hose and attached it to the scope then just secured the hose to different locations in the right front of the car until I found the source of the noise.

The key is the noise has to be repeatable under specific conditions. Think about how to reproduce the noise, how to locate the noise and use the process of elimination. This applies even if the noise only occurs when moving.

Another example. I had a truck that made a creak noise only when I put it in Park and let off the brake pedal and only if I did not actuate the parking brake. It only happened if the truck rolled slightly in Park with the brakes released. I sat and stared at the truck and thought about what was occurring. I decided I could reproduce the noise by having the truck in Park with the engine off and parking brake off. I could reproduce the noise by rocking the truck forward and back. Push-push, creak-creak. Then it is a simple matter of one person rocking the truck and another getting under it to find the source of the noise. Again, it did not take long to find the noise once it was decided how to reproduce it. It turned out a metal brake line was rubbing on a bracket only when the engine and trans rocked sideways. Now, who would have thought of that? Nobody.

I tell you these things not to prove how smart I am but to demonstrate the process. It helps greatly if you know how the vehicle systems work. Otherwise, you may as well buy a pair of diagnostic dice and give them a roll. If the noise happens when accelerating or braking think about what dynamic process is affecting the vehicle. The first thing that comes to mind is the vehicle weight is transferring from front to rear and back again. The next question is, how to reproduce that. You could try bouncing the front and then the rear of the car to see if the noise is heard. Like that. Think first, act afterward.
Rusty
Thank you so much for your detailed reply! I appreciate you sharing your methodology, there many parallels in the health profession.

Unfortunately, I do not know enough about cars to be able to identify an engine mount, control arm, or brake line (okay, I could probably identify a brake line). A mechanic could point to something under the car and label it the flux-capacitor and I would believe him/her. I am trying to educate myself.

The dealership charges a "diagnostic fee" for chasing down noises, so I was hoping for a more focused assessment.

I posed the question and posted the sound file to see if, by some chance, it is a classic/characteristic sound of a failing _ (gyrojoint, sporkmount, etc).

Thanks again!
e
 

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I had a similar creaking / clunking noise coming from the rear and it turned out to be the stabilizer (sway bar) links -- cost me $38 for the both links and $40 to get them installed at a local tire/suspension shop. Took them half an hour to replace both of them. I replaced the sway bar bushings first myself (super easy, $10) and the clunk didn't go away, but the end links fixed it. You'd be getting more of a vibration if it were bad engine mounts. If you get under the car with a flashlight, look at the stabilizer links and see if any of them look like they're sort of popped out, as was the case with my rear left side end link.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I had a similar creaking / clunking noise coming from the rear and it turned out to be the stabilizer (sway bar) links -- cost me $38 for the both links and $40 to get them installed at a local tire/suspension shop. Took them half an hour to replace both of them. I replaced the sway bar bushings first myself (super easy, $10) and the clunk didn't go away, but the end links fixed it. You'd be getting more of a vibration if it were bad engine mounts. If you get under the car with a flashlight, look at the stabilizer links and see if any of them look like they're sort of popped out, as was the case with my rear left side end link.
Thanks for the advice! I'll look under the car later today.
E
 
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