Could a car with 63k already have arthritis?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Nov 01, 1993

Dear Tom and Ray:

Thanks for your column, which makes an otherwise (to me) dull subject entertaining, educational, and most of all, humorous. Now a question for the experts (or you guys, if you can answer it). Could my 1979 Mercury Monarch with 63,000 miles on it already have arthritis? The steering column creaks and moans when I turn the wheel. And there is an "old jalopy" sound coming from the trunk area as I go over bad roads or speed bumps. Any ideas of what may be the problem?

RAY: Well, I know where the "old jalopy" sound is coming from, Annette. It's coming from your old jalopy!

TOM: Right. When a car gets to be 14 years old, things start to loosen up. And unless there's something specific rattling around in the trunk, like the spare tire or the jack, it's probably just the sound of your car falling apart. I wouldn't be too concerned about it.

RAY: I'd be much more concerned about the noise up front. Anytime you hear noises or feel vibrations in the front end, you should get them checked out right away. When steering components break, wheels can fall off. And if you think your Monarch is making funny noises now, wait 'til you hear what it sounds like on three wheels!

TOM: The most likely cause of steering-related moaning is the power steering pump. That "moans" when it's either low on fluid, or is just about to give up the ghost. And if it dies while you're driving, you're going to find it very hard to steer.

RAY: If it's more of a creaking, it could be something even more dangerous. Without seeing the car, it's hard for us to tell. But it could be ball joints, tie rods, or control arm bushings.

TOM: So go in right away and have someone check out the entire front end. And have them check the rear end too, to make sure you don't have a broken spring or broken shock. At least if your going to drive an old jalopy, make sure it's a safe old jalopy.

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