My front passenger suspension on my 02 wrx (120k miles) started creaking about a month or so ago and is proving extremely difficult to troubleshoot. The creaking/groaning is noticeable during braking, accelerating, turning the wheel (both while moving and stopped), and going over bumps (it is particularly strong while turning and going over a bump, up a driveway for example). The noise is only heard at low speeds. As far as I can tell the car is handling/performing just fine. It just doesnt seem like something I should be just dealing with though, so I am hopeful I can get this figured out in the next week or two before admitting defeat and taking it to a shop.
My current suspension mods are whiteline sways and endlinks, Koni inserts, group n mounts, and RCE wagons (about 60k miles on all modifications). I have isolated the noise to the front passenger wheel by going over speedbumps at an angle, in addition to the noise being clearly from this area. I disconnected the front sway bar as part of my troubleshooting which had no impact on anything, noise still occurred in all situations. I had a look at the bearings in the Group n mounts and they seem to be rotating smoothly and are not sticking when turning the wheel. Though I never put a cover on top of the group n mounts to keep dirt from getting in due to the adjusters sticking up preventing the stock cover from fitting. Is there a way I can clean this out, regrease, and then cover up somehow? Does it seem like this could be causing the issue? Picture below...
Is it possible the springs against the group n rubber are squeaking? would it be a dumb idea to put some lithium grease on the springs where they meet the top mount?
I checked the wheel bearing, there is no play in the wheels... Also people describe that as a much different noise so I don't think that's the case.
I replaced the brakes in front as they needed to be done anyway and this had no improvement on the creaking.
I checked the CV boots, no tears in the boots or leaking from the boots, however there is some grease and gunk buildup where the axle meets the transmission on one side. Could this be causing my issue? Should I look at replacing the axle regardless of whether this is causing the creaking? Pic of clean and dirty sides of transmission below. Attachment 101928Attachment 101929
Could this be an issue in my steering column? The boots on the steering column are not leaking or ripped, but they are certainly looking a bit "dry". I had my wife turn the wheels full lock to full lock a few times with the car jacked up and heard no noises. After doing this the car shuddered when turning the wheel at low speeds a few times, but that issue went away quickly.
Any help would be appreciated. I am at my wits end trying to get this figured out and am concerned if I take it to a mechanic they will just throw parts at it till it goes away or till my money is all gone.