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Old 05-23-2010, 04:43 PM   #1
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Default Bad Wheel Bearing or Differential?

I'm having a problem with the front-end of my car. At speeds over 10 MPH I hear a loud howling noise that gets louder the faster the car is driven. My initial thought was a bad wheel bearing. I did the usual test of each front wheel by jacking up the car and rocking the wheel with my hands on the top and bottom of the tire. I found that the left wheel bearing was extremely loose so I replaced it. The right side had no play so I thought it was fine.

After replacing the left bearing the noise did not go away. Since I found no play in the right wheel, could the problem be elsewhere? Maybe the differential? The noise at speed does not go away when putting the transmission into neutral. The noise does decrease dramatically (80-90%) when turning the car hard to the right. Left turns have no effect on the noise level. Would this remove most of the load from the right wheel of the car, quieting a bad right-side wheel bearing? Or could a bad differential exhibit the same type of behavior? Does a wheel bearing have to have play in it to cause it to become noisy? I also have a vibration in the steering wheel.

Any help would be appreciated. The car has 133K miles.
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Old 05-23-2010, 05:24 PM   #2
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I would suspect the right wheel bearing. I had a few here that made noise, and I could feel no play at all. After pulling it I found them to be very tight. Replaced and noise went away. A tight bearing will have no play.
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Old 05-25-2010, 02:05 AM   #3
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I agree. It almost has to be the other bearing. Wheel bearings are funny. I've had quiet bearings that were so bad they rubbed the brake bracket. And I've had tight bearings that howl like crazy.

I've never heard of a front diff go bad. If it was bad, that would be serious cost, bcause it'* internal to the transmission... as in major R&R. Cheap by comparison to replace the bearing.

Last edited by ZeeVert; 05-25-2010 at 02:07 AM. Reason: add dif comment
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Old 05-25-2010, 02:21 AM   #4
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I would bet it is that other bearing. I had the same thing happening on my car about 6 months ago. The bearing was fairly new and everything was tight, so I kept thinking it was something else. Eventually just replaced it and my howl went away. Plus, the fact that the howl changes while turning is a dead giveaway.
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Old 05-25-2010, 07:35 AM   #5
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With the guys on this one. I've actually had two bearings go bad at the same time. As they mentioned there doesn't need to be any play for noise and or a bad ABS sensor.

If your diff went bad, you should expect slipping and issues along with more problems them longer you drive it.
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Old 05-25-2010, 10:29 AM   #6
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Its most likely a wheel bearing prolly the one you didn't replace a way to check what bearing it is. Is to first jack up the front of the car mount it on jack stands, set parking brake. For the next step you will want to start the car and put it in drive just idling no need to rev it may cause rapid wear of the diff otherwise. Now you will need a assistant to hold one of the wheels (i use a sledge hammer handle against the tire to stop it) so the opposite wheel gets all the power and spins faster when this is going on grab the top of the strut shaft and feel for vibration (on the side that'* spinning) really identify the feel then switch sides with your assistant and do the same to the other side whichever side has more of the vibration felt threw the strut is the side with the bad bearing. good luck wheel bearings are very tricky to trouble shoot.
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Old 05-25-2010, 10:48 AM   #7
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This test may be OK for those of us that really know what we are doing. But i really don't suggest this for a novice. Very dangerous.
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Old 06-04-2010, 12:25 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Danthurs View Post
This test may be OK for those of us that really know what we are doing. But i really don't suggest this for a novice. Very dangerous.
It'* dangerous sometimes for those of us who know what we're doing... for example, don't forget to turn off the Traction Control. And don't forget that it might reset every time you start the car.
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Old 06-07-2010, 08:44 AM   #9
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Thanks this was very useful and helped me diagnosed my SE
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Old 06-08-2010, 08:36 PM   #10
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I was hearing that GM factory bearings are the best and safest. So i went to the junkyard and brought 1 and thinking about doing the same with the passenger bearing...After these wear down do you think i should continue this thread of replacements?

Is it true that after installation of bearings you should get a wheel alignment?
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