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Haunted Tire

Help! Right now the most likely culprit for a strange vibration is a ghost! 2008 Ford Ranger RWD 100, 000 miles: groaning, grinding kind of vibration whenever any weight gets put on the front right tire. Increase in volume, harshness with increased speed or weight from hard left turn. Here’s the story -
1st- Noticed the sound worsening over time. Switched out front right wheel bearings and races. Had minor discoloration on the inside surface of the larger bearing. No change in sound.
2nd- Notice odd resistance to spinning rotor / hub assembly. Like the nut is too tight but it’s loosened off like it should be. Even with brakes off there is resistance to turning. I think, is it possible for the whole hub to be screwed up? Try new rotor. No change. Back goes the old one with the new bearings and races.
3rd- Shop convinces me to change rack and pinion. Reason: alignment has gotten suddenly worse while driving with the noise and all bushings and joints and such look good. No play anywhere. Sound gets better probably because they fix the alignment. It now requires a heavy turn for the noise to start but it’s still there and still sounds real bad with very heavy left turns.
4th- New PS pump and fluid. At this point, why not? No change.
5th- New lower control arm. Now the alignment is super off in the opposite direction from before and the noise happens even going down a straight road with a 3 degree tilt to the curb.
Now- I can do the tie rod ends and upper control arm but its not gonna change a thing. Has anyone heard of a bent spindle/knuckle and is it reasonable to think it could cause the rubbing kind of groaning sound? Where can one find a replacement part if so - autozones, etc. don’t carry them.
Jeez thats a long one. Any ideas greatly appreciated!!!

Take a look at a sticking caliper?

You mention the noise/problem starts when you make a turn. Try changing the rear differential fluid. Change the fluid, make a few tight turns both ways (figure-8s) in a parking lot, and change again.

Thanks for the input. No excessive resistance from the brakes when they’re on the rotor and a sticking caliper would have next to no change turning vs. not. And the noise is definetly from the front so it’s not the differential.

Yes, I’ve seen and replaced bent steering knuckles but unless one is bent bad enough to cause tire rub on something that should not be the cause of the noise. If AutoZone, etc doesn’t have them then about all I can suggest is eBay, Craigslist, or a local salvage yard.

Any abnormalities such as feather edging, etc with the tread of the tire on that side? If that wheel has 3 degrees of positive camber (the way I read it) that really needs to be resolved.

Have you tried bouncing the front end of the truck to see if there’s any noise? Just wondering if this could be caused by a seriously groaning sway bar bushing.

Thanks for your ideas! I guess a bent spindle is a long shot but it’s only long shots left. Its at the alignment shop now. I expect it will go back to being a problem specific to jeavy left turns again. I forgot to mention that I did the sway bar bushings already so its not those either. The links are ugly but solid. Well see where were at in an hour.

And im not so good at looking for tire wear patterns. But one of the first things I did was rotate, back to front and the two fronts with each other. There hasnt been enough time for a pattern to develop on the new ones and nothing obvious on the now rears. Sometimes I wonder if im imagining it…

Easy way to check tires is to run your hand on the tire surface horizontally from back to front. You will feel where its eaten off. If you do not feel anything and is smooth then its good.

There is no abnormal tire wear any any tire that I can notice and the shop didn’t mention it. They’re just as baffled as me. They took an extra hour to look today. No smoking gun. It’s back to the way it was. There is a sound like a tire is rubbing against something coming from the front somewhere. Not obviously from the wheel well area, although I’ve assumed it was from there given the fact that it’s only when turning hard left. It is barely discernable under 20mph but faster than that and it sounds quite bad. On the highway, its a disconcerting rumble. Only on left turns. Or when the right side hits a bump.

Is there a particular reason you didn’t change the LF bearings? It’s worth a shot. Perhaps they get noisy when they’re UNloaded. Or when lateral load (axial to the bearing) is placed on them.

Yeah, I’ve seen a bent spindle. And it sounds like a reasonable suspect.

Please keep us posted, this is very interesting and if it gets fixed I would love to know the solution.

Drive the car and make the noise occur by making a left turn or whatever. Then immediately go to a shop that has a lift. Lift the car up with somebody in it and let him press the gas pedal and move the steering left and right. From underneath check the car for noise. If the car makes the noise then its the drivetrain or steering. If it does not then its the suspension. This test will help narrow down the problem.