Humming noise from front of car while between 50kph [30mph] and 100kph [60mph]. Could it be winter tires, wheel bearing or related to busted parking brake?

I have a 2008 Peugeot 307sw (manual transmission, diesel engine, about 263.000km [163,420mi] on it) and took it to Finland last November. Shortly after arriving, I learned that the Finnish approach to clearing roads is a bit different from the American approach… Basically, they don’t really bother getting all the snow and ice off; there are parts of the county where you can literally ice skate on public roads: . So after a couple of months of struggling to safely get around the second largest city and before setting out on the first of two long road trips to Lapland, I decided to invest in a pair of hardcore winter tires and settled on the Nokian Hakkapeliitta 9s (which are studded).

It might just be coincidence, but about halfway through the second trip to Lapland, the mercury started hovering around the freezing point and the roads finally were cleared down to bare. After about 3ish days where the temp was around freezing and after driving on bare pavement, a “humming” noise has been coming from the front of the car. At first it was very faint (to the point that my partner didn’t even hear it when I did) but over the course of a few days of warmer temps and bare pavement it eventually became louder and unmistakably abnormal.

The humming noise starts to be noticeable at 50kph [30mph] and intensifies as the speed increases. To my ear it sounds like a constant hum and not “helicopter-y “or “whirry”. I can’t FEEL any difference in the handling of the car. It doesn’t pull to one side or vibrate or anything. The alignment seems ok (if maybe a bit imperfect). The noise does change when turning, but it just seems to change in tone and not get louder or quieter (I think, but maybe should retest to be sure since I have stopped driving it just in case and feel like my memory of this is imperfect).

According to my googling this possibly sounds like a wheel bearing problem… However, I have never heard these tires on bare pavement at near 0C/32F until recently. Winter tires are supposedly louder, but I don’t know how much louder and that’s proving difficult to google. I am hoping the noise I am hearing is just warmer tires on bare pavement but I don’t know how to tell!

It’s also worth noting that during the first trip in late January, the parking break froze and basically didn’t work during the last few days of the week. Lapland tends to be much colder (always between -10C [14F] and -30C [-22F]) than where I live in south Finland (which tends to be between -5C [23F] and -10C [14F] during this time) so I thought “meh, cars are finicky at extremely low temperatures” and didn’t think much of it when it fixed itself after the trip when returned to the relatively “warmer” climate. However, on the second trip it froze up again and never quite fixed itself. I can almost always now hear a scraping sound from the back passenger side when at low speeds and while braking. This time the brake still works, but it is very hard to pull up now and hard to release.

So clearly the paring brake needs to be fixed! Could that also be the cause of the humming noise? Like could it be something to do with the calipers or shoes or something even though the scraping noise is clearly from the back and the humming sounds like it’s from the front? Or is it likely that in that case it’s correlation and not causation?

Of course my worst fear is that it’s a wheel bearing or even two… Did I badly damage my car with my Lapland odysseys? And does anyone happen to know a good English speaking mechanic in Tampere, Finland? :wink:

Studded tires on bare pavement are very noisy, they also have very poor traction on bare pavement.

Don’t be suprised if a wheel bearing is going bad at 163K miles. The passenger front wheel bearing lasted 90k miles on my Corolla. Continuous grinding, howling noise and abnormal play in the wheel will confirm this. Contaminent entering the bearing is due to failed seals.Winter road salt,contaminents etc can enter the bearing and destroy it.

Do you have any advice on how to differentiate between this noise and wheel bearing noise? :slight_smile:

Yeah, parts do wear down definitely! Which is why I’m concerned and now haven’t driven the car in days (and intend to next drive it to a mechanic).

That said, it’s not really grinding or howling. It’s just… “Humming” and like continuously too. As I said in the wall of text above (no worries for missing it, that was a bit WoT) there’s no issues with the handling right now that I can notice.

A mechanic will find the problem in no time…a bad wheel bearing is a safety issue because it will get worst over time.