Looseness in the steering shaft and steering shaft coupling U-joint can cause a knocking / popping noise from the steering column when turning. The steering shaft and coupling U-joint will need to be replaced.
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Repairpal verified 2009 Mercury Mariner problems
If the transmission oil leaks out of left side half shaft area, it may be from a worn axle shaft seal. The seal can be damaged by a poor surface finish on the axle shaft. The axle shaft and seal should be replaced to correct the problem.
The transmission oil cooler may develop a leak, which will require replacement to repair.