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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I had read just about every thread on this forum and others concerning creaking steering wheel noise and no-one had mentioned this as their cause so thought I would post it here.

Having only owned my B5.5 Variant for a few months and having just gotten most of the bugs out of it I was amazed at what happened today.
I never would have guessed that my tire's pressure @ 35 lbs would be the cause of my creaking steering wheel. 35 lbs has always served me well on most vehicles & was how it was set when purchased. I'd read many threads where Passat owners are using the same pressure.

Since I've owned it the steering wheel has creaked like an old wooden ship in a pirate movie whenever I had to turn the wheel, driving me crazy, but the only thing seemingly wrong with the steering/control arms (based on subjective driving since purchase) was some TREs that were replaced awhile ago. I hadn't done anything to the tires (Michellin X-Ice 15") except put air in occas. It's always had a stiff ride and I was just playing around with lower tire pressure today (30 lbs) when the first thing I noticed when taking it for a run to test it was that the creaking had ceased in the steering column.

Perhaps it's the combination of the tire type and pressure, or not, but I was laughing out loud for a moment as it was the last known mechanical bug I had to deal with and the fix was so simple!

The lower tire pressure is a nicer ride as well.

:driving::lol:
 

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35lb is the correct pressure for the car. Anything lower is under inflation. I think you've masked your problem, not solved it. And you'll wear your tires faster running them low.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
I've read various threads on this, with various theories, but my gas cap door panel sticker reads 28 lbs @ 1/2 load weight & 32 (40 rear) @ fully loaded under 100 mph.

EDIT: As an aside, starting in 2004 & due to the Firestone/Ford Explorer rollover issue, all US vehicles had to list only the maximum recommended tire pressures for their vehicles & may partly explain the discrepancy in tire pressures used (I'll check on some of the UK sites to see what they use.) Also, tire profile, how it's used (fully loaded with family/groceries), and driving style will make a large difference.

I'll be purchasing some new summers by June so will note the wear from new vs. expected. For now I'll see if there's any difference in mileage.
 

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I keep my A4's tires more pressurized than that, up to 42. More road noise, but I also get 30 MPG out of the ol' 2.8, and the wear seems very even.
 

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That's an interesting problem OP. Especially since your tire pressure influenced the symptom. Now I'm curious to look at the steering assembly schematics and see if there are any bushings that could be your noise makers. Your experience is counter-intuitive though. I would expect lower tire pressure to equal greater load on the steering assembly and maybe more noise, not less.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
ylwagon: Do you have low profile tires? Mine are 195/65/15. If I've got it right generally the lower the profile the higher the req'd pressure? Driving at dbl nickel speeds I was getting about 32 mpg hwy & 24 city @35lbs. Interested to see what I'll get tomorrow.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Go back to 35 and see if the noise returns. If it doesn't, the noise disappearing is not related to the lower tire pressure.
If it doesn't I'll really be scratching my head & be the first to say "they told me so" as the only variable is the tire pressure. Nothing else was done to it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
If it doesn't I'll really be scratching my head & be the first to say "they told me so" as the only variable is the tire pressure. Nothing else was done to it.
So this a.m. I raised the pressure back to 35 lbs and the creaking returned. After more reading I decided to try 32 lbs as 30 was a bit soft. 32 seems like a good compromise for my wagon. The creaking is, almost, non existent & liveable at 32 lbs.

I'll admit the possibility that sirwired could be totally correct that the lower air pressure is masking something but other than the creaking noise the steering seems 100% solid. No play, no drifting, no rattles over speed bumps, etc. But if anyone has their own Eureka moment regarding this noise I'll be glad to hear from them.
 

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ylwagon: Do you have low profile tires? Mine are 195/65/15. If I've got it right generally the lower the profile the higher the req'd pressure? Driving at dbl nickel speeds I was getting about 32 mpg hwy & 24 city @35lbs. Interested to see what I'll get tomorrow.
Stock size A4 tires: 205/55 R16. 42 PSI is the max-load pressure shown on the door sticker. But in any event, loud creaking noises are not at all normal, and I can't think of any reason why higer pressure would cause that. I'd try jacking the front wheels off the ground, then move the steering lock to lock to see if unloading the suspension has any influence.

Have you ruled out control arm ball joints? That's what usually causes noises as you've described.
 

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Thanks!!! I was experiencing the same creak as you. I have been running my Good Year RSA's at the max load/over 100mph pressure of 36 psi in front, 44 psi in the rear since I bought the car. I dropped the pressure down to the half load/over 100mph pressure of 33 front/ 30 rear and no more creaking. Just in case anyone is missing their gas cap sticker here it is:

 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Explr1 I feel your frustration.

With the millions of VWs I knew I wasn't alone. I've read quite a few threads about this and, other than a couple of temporary fixes, no one had posted a solution. Even the one's who were replacing control arm kit parts didn't post a final fix.

But the fact that we have this issue means there is an issue. But what is the issue is the question. I don't have enough experience to say. I don't think it's an about to be catastrophic issue with the steering column but I do think sirwired was correct in that it's masking another issue. Who knows? It could be vibration from another wearing part (most likely.) It'll eventually rear it's head. Question is: is it steering column or suspension related? 2 pieces of non-essential plastic or rubber grinding together or a worn part of the control arm kit?

We'll figure it out. That's what we're here for.

Happy first day of Spring everyone!
 

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Agreed, you have another problem. The overwhelming majority of Passat owners (I've had two) have no creaking at 34-36 psi. I didn't have creaking at 44, either, when a shop "helpfully" adjusted my pressures. Keep an eye out.
 

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I think you said you only replaced the TREs. If you raise the car you can isolate the source if the noise. It might be coming from the upper cointreol arms. Replace all control arms at the same time.

The lower pressure causing the noise to go away is misleading IMO . Maybe it works, but 5psi less in the tires is not going to make the steering and suspension have a lesser load (those systems are sized to work noise free when you are going down a steep and twisted mountain road while braking).

Less air in the tires makes them softer so perhaps they cushion the suspension more. Maybe a rubber pad on your spring seats is causing this. Audi A4 had a TSB on this a while back, not sure its common on the Passat though.,
Can you post a video with that noise?
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 · (Edited)
Thanks for pushing me to look further.

I found an old thread from 2003-2005 on another site. They were having the same issues. Apparently it was an issue with some of the early B5s. The steering u-joint area can get a little dry and cause enough of a rubbing friction to cause the sound to travel up to the steering wheel. The fix by the VW dealer was to lubricate the moving parts of the steering u-joint inside the cabin (and there seems to be a bushing/bearing just before it goes through the bulkhead? Couldn't find a good picture or diagram) They used a VW recommended product called Quantum Q lubricating spray (their version of WD40 I guess.) I did the same with WD40 lightly (using the spray tube) at all the joints & whatever that bushing is just below it.

Creaking is gone. Filled the tires back to 35. Creaking is gone.

I guess when I let some air out of the tires it probably changed the angle of the whole steering assy just enough to temporarily stop the creaking?
 

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Glad you found the source of it. I was hoping to find some ideas in this thread. I am having a noise that's more like squeaking, not creaking. I replaced all control arms and tie rods , sprayed lithium grease on the ujoint, and the rubber sleeve in the firewall but its still there. I raised the front wheels up and its there. Basically it is always there when the steering wheel is turned, except I think sometimes after I've been driving for a while. I should add, I've listened with a tube in various places and my best guess is its coming from the rack? Is squeaking common on a rack?
 

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Please DO NOT use WD40 for lube, it is a solvent = removes grease. Which in the long term will do exactly want you don't want to do. Sure it "lubes" while it is still wet, but when it runs/drips off the lubrication will be gone.

I would go back and use a real lube for those areas you sprayed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Please DO NOT use WD40 for lube, it is a solvent = removes grease. Which in the long term will do exactly want you don't want to do. Sure it "lubes" while it is still wet, but when it runs/drips off the lubrication will be gone.

I would go back and use a real lube for those areas you sprayed.
With 3 likes for your post I guess I've been schooled! So is lithium grease what I want for this?:banghead:
 
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