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pulsating noise - bad wheel bearings?

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Old 01-08-2012, 08:03 PM   #1
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Default pulsating noise - bad wheel bearings?

i've been noticing some whirling/pulsating noise coming from the right side of the car recently, within the last week or so. the noise varies depending on speed, but doesn't start until at least 25mph. it is only this pulsating noise that increases with speed, no clunking or anything else.

i'm having trouble figuring out of it's from the front or rear, but my friend sat in the passenger side and thought it seemed to be coming from the rear. however, he was unfamiliar with the normal sounds and road noises from inside the car.

i've checked that the tire pressures are correct and there is not visible tire damage.
my friend and i also jacked up the car and spun the wheels, and all 4 seem to be rotating smoothly. there doesn't seem to be any play in any wheel either.

my next thought is to swap to a different set of wheels/tires to make sure the noise is not coming from the wheels/tires.

does anyone have any ideas if i'm on the right track, or if there is anything else i should look into? any help is much appreciated.
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Old 01-08-2012, 08:21 PM   #2
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How many miles are you at? Does it happen only when your accelerating, or all the time? Im at 120,000 and have had vibrations from everything under the sun, axles, bearings, hub, tires, you name it, Ive had to replace it. If its only under acceleration, it could be a bad axle, if its all the time it could be bad bearings.
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Old 01-08-2012, 09:02 PM   #3
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Torque axle nut to 240, was wrong by factory.
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Old 01-09-2012, 06:32 AM   #4
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i have around 65,000 miles on it. no vibrations, just noise. as long as i am over 25mph i can hear it, even if i am rolling in neutral. it's easier to hear around 45mph, but still present around 65. haven't really gone over that since i've been hearing the noise.

i had the axle nut retorqued about 30,000 miles ago by billman. the noise started around 300 miles ago, so unless the bearings had already been damaged and slowly began to fail, the axle nut itself is not causing the problem. there is also none of the clunking noise associated with the axle nut.
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Old 01-09-2012, 07:58 AM   #5
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Jack up the rear and see if there is movement in the wheel. Like this guy:

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Old 01-09-2012, 08:05 AM   #6
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did that on all 4 wheels, but couldn't find any movement or play. is there always noticeable play when bearings fail? i'm suspecting it's the bearings, but i'm not completely sure.
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Old 01-09-2012, 08:31 AM   #7
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You may be able to hear it just by spinning the wheels on jack stands. I had one the other day, I spun it by hand it was instantly obvious. One side quiet, other side noisy. Compare sides.
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Old 01-09-2012, 08:35 AM   #8
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there was nothing noticeable. my friend and i both tried it. no obvious noise from all 4 wheels, and all 4 spun smoothly. the right side front and rear seemed to be slightly more resistant to turn than the left, but not difficult at all.

i'd like to eliminate one possibility at a time, but could it be something aside from the bearings that i should be looking at?
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Old 01-09-2012, 08:37 AM   #9
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Does the sound change if you turn the wheel (like making a lane change)? Have you checked your brake pads?
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Old 01-09-2012, 08:44 AM   #10
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yes, there is less noise when turning right, like on highway exits. i didn't notice a noise change when shifting lanes normally, but it's possible if i were to shift lanes aggressively.

brake pads looks like there is a lot of material, but i did not remove them to inspect.
the right rear rotor has a thin line gouged into it, like maybe a piece of sand got stuck in it. i heard a slight grinding noise last week, but was only there for a couple days. the gouge in the rotor goes around in a perfect circle though, so it still looks smooth. the pulsating noise may have come up soon after the grinding noise disappeared. not sure if it is or isn't related
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