2006 Honda Odyssey wheel balance gone bad

I took my parents 2006 Honda Odyssey with less than 50k miles to the local Sears to have the tires balanced since the steering wheel was vibrating at highway speeds (65 -75mph). The car sounded fine when we dropped it off, however, when we picked up the car I noticed that starting from about 5 mph on up, there was a loud noise that initially sounded like something was stuck to the contact patch of the tire. The frequency and decibel level of the noise would increase in sync with the car speed up to about 60 - 65 mph. Then, either the noise would fade or the wind noise would drown it out. I’m not sure which. We took it back to Sears to show them. Checked tires and nothing was on the contact patch of the tires. They claim that it was a coincidence that the wheels started making noises immediately after they finished working on it. They said that it is probably bad wheel hub bearings. Is it possible that this was just a coincidence? Why would the bearing not make any noises before the wheels were balanced? Is it possible that balancing the tires messed up the drive train (and it not be the mechanics fault)? Or did they simply mess up/sabotage the wheel and are not fessing up to it?

p.s. as a mechanical engineer, I understand the principles behind the mechanics of vehicles, but I am not a mechanic therefore I have very little experience when it comes to repair procedures. Any help would be greatly appreciated, thanks.

What you describe can happen with anything that involves a bearing.

A bearing can operate with a load imposed on it for a long time without a problem. But if you remove that load, and then the bearing is rotated, and the load is reimposed, the bearing can start making noise.

I’ve seen this happen with wheel bearings when the vehicle is raised on a lift, or with bearings on alternators, compressors, tensioner, and idler pulley bearings when the belt is replaced and load is removed from the bearing and reimposed when the new belt is installed.

The bearing is no longer at its happy place.


Front wheel bearings on 2006 Odysseys are known to be failure-prone. Unfortunately your powertrain warranty is expired, otherwise you would be able to have Honda replace it free.

Have the bearing checked/replaced.

Maybe there is a slight differential in the tire tread barely noticeable to the eye and rebalancing the tires has just caused the problem to become exacerbated and more noticeable.

There’s also the possibility that if the tires were rotated one from the back could now be on the front and causing the problem. Sometimes tire issues with rears are not noticeable to most drivers until they’re shuffled from one end to the other.

"…sounded like something was stuck to the contact patch of the tire. "

I’ve never heard of a bad wheel bearing noise described that way. Can you jack up each front tire and spin it to see if any odd noise results? (Parking brake ON and rear wheels chocked, transmission in neutral.)

Could be a coincidental tire failure (belt?). Think of all the tire balancings done each day. Some will be coincidental with other failures. Could also be that a tire had already failed before the rebalancing.

It is possible those tires were long overdue for rotation, the rear tires are cupped and were installed in the front. A wear pattern in the tires will be very noisy in the front.

A bad wheel bearing will sometimes reveal itself of you lift the wheel (tranny in neutral, vehicle well secured), remove the wheel, and rotate the hub by hand. Removing the damping effect of the wheel sometimes works.

A defective tire can be detected on a machine that does “road force balancing”. Find a shop that does this, and if you do have an internal they’ll find it.

Last by not least, I’ve never heard a bad bearing thump, but the Odyssey is a FWD vehicle, and I have heard a bad inside CV joint thump. That’s a typical failure symptom. It is possible that the lifting of the vehicle, by allowing the axle to hang distending the inner CV joint more than it is under load, caused a bad CV joint to make itself known.

In summary,

  1. have the wheel bearings inspected
  2. have the CV joints checked
  3. if you still haven’t found the cause, have the wheels road-force balanced

And don’t start throwing parts at it until you diagnose the cause.

They rotated the tires and now you have a problem. Tires can fail internally and the tread can wiggle from side to side. Also, these guys use air guns and maybe the lugs are loose or they over tightened them causing the rim not to be flat to the hub. I always go home after a wheel balance and loosen and re-torque my lugs. Now I only use one shop to balance my wheels. The other 2 I took it to prior could not balance my tires properly and it shook at 55 mph. They told me they will wear in after a couple hundred miles. What total idiots.