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1996 toyota camry "Rumbles" at speeds above 50 MPH

My daughter’s 1996 Toyota Camry with over 122,000 miles has started to “rumble” when she reaches speeds of 50 mph. She uses the car to get back and forth from Burlington, VT to Massachusetts for school. On this past trip the car now rumbels continuosly at any speed above 50 mph…help! Is is drive train or transmission and what could a poor college student do…mom’s car in not an option!

Noises are very difficult to describe accurately and the same noise could be described five different ways by 5 different people, but the items that I would suggest having checked first are the tires (possible bad belt in one or more tires) and the wheel bearings.

Please bear in mind that this noise could also be from other sources, but since the integrity of the tires and the wheel bearings is a definite safety issue, I would strongly suggest having this checked into by a competent mechanic before the next high-speed trip. Losing a wheel at high speed from a bad wheel bearing, or having a high-speed blowout from a defective tire are two situations that could be fatal, so this is not something to ignore or to postpone.

Do NOT go to Midas, Meineke, Monro, Sears, Pep Boys, or any other chain, as the level of their mechanics’ competence tends to be low, and the prices tend to be high. Take the car to a well-reputed independent mechanic for an evaluation of the problem a.s.a.p.

If the car is in Burlington at the moment, call Hometown Auto on Industrial Avenue in Williston or Harry Norton Automotive on Prim Road in Colchester and make an appointment. These are shops that I know to do quality work at reasonable prices. I’m sure there are others.

Other than that, the kid can try swapping the tires front to back. If the nature of the noise changes, the problem is probably a tire. The risk is that she will probably get a male friend to do the swap. The chances that he owns a torque wrench or will undertighten the lug nuts is close to zero. Too much overtightening can warp the disk rotors. If the spare is a full sized tire, she can swap it in one wheel at a time and see if she can get the noise to go away. If the spare is limited duty, you can possibly buy a servicable full sized spare mounted on a wheel at a salvage yard. There one on Rathe Road in Colchester. They won’t make fun of you or her. It’s a reasonable request. It’ll go better if she reads the tire size – probably 13R### off the existing tires. Same risk to the rotors as swapping tires around.

In any case, driving the car at highway speeds without knowing what is wrong could be dangerous. The problem could be anything from an underinflated tire to a wheel that is getting ready to fall off.

“Rumble” is hard to diagnose without hearing it, does she “feel” a vibration as well as hear the rumble?

A bad wheel bearing is possible. A tire out of round with the tread separating is possible. A “cupped” tire can rumble and the cupping is caused by being out of balance and/or the car’s alignment is off. A CV joint could be stiffening up on the way to failure and it would make a rumble sound.

This shouldn’t be very hard for a good mechanic to track down the cause. Any of these possible causes I’ve listed are safety issues so the car shouldn’t be driven too much until it is properly repaired. Something is wrong and will get worse leading to a flat tire, a wheel coming off, or one of the drive axles falling out. None of these are good.

Possibly a damged exhaust system hanger, allowing the pipes to vibrate?