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Bumping noise when driving...wheel bearing issue?

OK so I'm driving a 2000 Toyota Camry. For the last few months it's been making a noise, kind of like a knocking/helicopter type noise, increasing with speed, and it's coming from the passenger side. Not sure if it's the front or the back. The Walmart tire guy said I needed an alignment in front.

At moderate speeds (30-40 mph), you can still hear it, barely. At highway speeds, it's really noticeable. It's really loud around 60 MPH with some mild vibration felt on the dash and in the seat, but interestingly enough, it's less noticeable at 70 MPH. Going around curves, it gets louder/more intense with curves to the left, and gets softer (or goes away) with curves to the right.

So, I posted this on Facebook, and a couple of people replied thinking it's a wheel bearing, most notably the front right. So, I jacked the car up and tried wiggling all 4 tires (like it says to do to check for this), but none of the tires wiggle.

To save money at the shop, what I want to do is buy the bearing or hub assembly if needed, and take it to the shop to have them put it on. Before I buy a part I don't need, I want to be sure. Does this sound like a wheel bearing issue?

Edit: I don't hear any humming, and the noise/vibration is unaffected by braking.
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Comments

  • edited October 2012
    Alias, Have The Entire Suspension/Steering Systems (Ball Joints, Bushings, Tie Rods, Struts, Etcetera) Been Checked Out ?

    If nothing's loose and getting ready to fall apart, I'd possibly suspect a bad (shifted) belt in one of the tires. With the tire(s) off the ground and holding a pointer near the tread, check for radial (out of round) and lateral (side to side distortion) run-out as you turn the tire. You should see the one that's bad if you've got a bad one.

    Don't drive it til you isolate the problem. It could be very dangerous.

    CSA
  • edited October 2012
    This sounds (reads?) like a possible CV joint to me. And the age is right.
    Before you start throwing money away on unnecessary parts, you might want to have it properly diagnosed on a rack by a mechanic.

    Also ask about repairs. There's lots of things that you simply cannot bolt on & off.....like your pressed-in front bearings. Unless, of course, you have a 10-ton press in your garage. Since you posted the question, I'm guessing you do not. And to press the bearing out, you need to remove the whole steering knuckle....got an alignmnet machine?

    Seriously, get it properly diagnosed. My money is on a CV joint, but it's just an educated guess.
  • Rocking the tires won't always expose a worn wheel bearing. Try this. With the tire off the ground place your hand on the strut spring and slowly rotate the tire. A worn wheel bearing will sometimes transfer its roughness into the strut spring where it can be felt.

    Tester
  • This sounds like a wheel bearning on the fritz to me. It could be CV joints, but failing CV joints usually make a very noticeable clicking noise, especially when accelerating after a stop and turning at the same, time, like making a right hand turn after stopping at a stoplight. Failed bearing make more noise the faster you go, usually a sort of growing sound. Or like you are driving on a really rough surfaced road. And the sound often changes when turning left or right. If it makes more noise turning left, the rule of thumb is that it is usually a right hand side wheel bearing. The only thing you say which isn't consisten with a wheel bearing is that the noise gets less at 70 mph. But it may be that other road noises are masking the wheel bearing noise at that speed. But that is a little unusual for a wheel bearing. Some common sense advice would be to be sure to eliminate the tires as a possible cause. Have them switched around and see if the noise follows one of the tires. If so, you need to correct that first, before assuming it is a wheel bearing. Best of luck.
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