weather dependent creak

I've probably mentioned this before, but I thought I'd revisit the problem before my truck goes into the shop on Monday to fix the A/C - I'm going to talk to the mechanic then about diagnosing and fixing this
annoyance.
My truck (2001 Dodge Dakota SLT, 4x4, 4.7l v8) has a creak in the summertime. In the wintertime, it does not.
Right now, in between, when it starts getting a little warm (60s), the creak happens only a bit, at a slow speed when I'm braking (I've not pinned it down exactly, but I think lower than 35mph). It appears to be coming from somewhere down the steering shaft (and sometimes I can feel it there), but is definitely related to the brakes, or the frame somehow. The steering shaft seems tight, I can't move it up or down or sideways at all at the steering wheel.
As the weather gets warmer, the creak increases, until when it's hot, I've heard it when going over bumps. Usually, I have to be braking, or shifting, or both (I think it's either braking or braking and shifting mostly). When I'm doing both, I can feel it in the brake and clutch pedals, and the steering column.
There was a TSP once, something about the steering column not setting properly, I had this done and it did not fix this issue.
Brakes themselves seem to be fine, I had them checked last time the truck was in for service. It was fall then, so the mechanic and I agreed to wait until it warms up to try to sort this issue out.
Underbody does have a lot of rust, from three years of British winters - the roads are salted nearly every night because of frost (when it frosts there, it isn't kidding!), and thus are salty and wet nearly every morning.
Any ideas I can take to the mechanic are welcome. Anything I can check out myself without having to use a tool or crawl under my truck (because I'm lazy right now, not because I can't) are even more appreciated :)
jmc
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If'n you hadn't welched on all them cookies you owe me I'd tell you exactly what the noise is.... <VBG> But my best guess is the intermediate shaft on the steering column. I've replace several of these on the 1500/2500 trucks but never on the Dakota. My next best guess would be the upper ball joint. I've replaced a few of these from time to time but they usually don't make any noticable noise. The worst possible guess would involve driving it to Ohio and me looking at it. (bring cookies) <BG>
Denny
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Suddenly, without warning, Denny exclaimed (4/15/2009 8:35 PM):

I'm pretty sure the ball joints have been replaced, unless there's multiple sets (I had the ones replaced that were recalled, if I remember correctly).
So, intermediate shaft, eh. What's it doing? Does it need to be replaced, what's the cost?
Cookies are on their way. No really. What, you don't believe me?
<g>
jmc
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Suddenly, without warning, jmc exclaimed (4/15/2009 9:06 PM):

(actually, I meant to say temperature dependent creak, but oh well)
Never mind. Some googling shows this is a common problem, though sadly there's no recall for it. Not sure of the price for replacement though, so if anybody knows that, please speak up.
Does anybody know anything about Durangos and Dakotas failing at around 80k miles due to sludge build up, even with regular oil changes? I saw this an alarming number of times when researching the intermediate shaft. Can my mechanic check on this during a normal oil change, or does something more labor-intensive need to be done to see if there's buildup? My truck will probably hit 80k in another year or so.
Also seeing a few comments about the transmission going out in the 2001 Dakotas at around 75k. Hopefully that's the auto, since I have a manual...
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wrote:

Jodi, it sounds like this creak only happens when you transfer weight towards the front when braking. You might want to grab a can of silicon spray and start hitting some bushings and shock rubber and see if you can eliminate it. Might turn out to be cheaper than throwing parts at it. At least when you spray and it stops you'll know what the problem is.
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Suddenly, without warning, Roy exclaimed (4/15/2009 10:17 PM):

It happens when I accelerate too (I'd forgotten that, but it's warmer today and that one's restarted now too). Not sure which bushings and shock rubber I should aim at. I have some WD40 equivalent oil (123?), would that work? Also, I can feel it too.
jmc
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The rack and pinion steering gear is mounted solid to the frame. The steering column is mounted to the body. The body is mounted on rubber bushings to the frame so it can move a little bit. The intermediate shaft that connects the gear to the column has a slip joint built in it so it can "give" a little bit when the body flexes on the frame. If the slip joint doesn't move freely you can feel/hear a "pop" noise/ sensation when it does move.
Mine has done this for the last 3-4 years on my 1500 but it doesn't annoy me enough to change it yet. I've tried working some lube/grease into it but it hasn't helped any.
Denny
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Alldata shows the shaft runs about $75 and .7hr labor to install.

The Chrysler engine with the sludge problem was the 2.7l used in the LH platform. I haven't run across the sludge build up in any of the truck engines yet. I would think your mechanic could see sludge in your engine by looking in the oil cap.
Denny
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