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Loud '03 Malibu

Hello everyone!

I recently made my first car purchase, a 2003 Chevy Malibu from a private owner. It has 130,000 miles on it, and is an automatic transmission, front wheel drive.

I’ve noticed that around 45-50 MPH, the road noise picks up suddenly and is quite loud. It could be that I just can’t hear it below 45, and other noises are droning it out before then. I’m fairly certain it doesn’t have anything to do with RPMs, I can slow down with the sound changing with speed, I can drop the car into neutral and rev the engine up to 3000 RPM without noticing any difference in the sound as I’m rolling down the road.

It’s tough to describe the noise in text, but its kind of a rolling rahrahrahrahrah, very cyclic, and comes in time with the wheels rolling.

I don’t feel a pull to either side of the road when driving, and the wear on the tires is pretty well even, so I don’t think its alignment.

Today, I had the car up on the jack and was able to spin the tires a bit. (I put the car in neutral to spin the front) There isn’t any play in the wheels (which I’ve read can be an indication of a bearing failing) but there is a slight scraping noise on 3 of the four wheels as they spin. The scrape always comes when the wheels are at the same angle of rotation.

On the front wheels only, there is a slight “winding” noise, like the one you would hear if you were winding up one of those little cars that zip across the table, but I assume this is because they’re connected to the transmission.

I believe, although don’t have the tools to check, that the slight scraping sound is a brake rubbing. I know the basics of getting around a car, common problems and such, but I’m certainly no expert, and most of my knowledge comes from my Dad doing the little bit of work he did on our cars.

I feel like the noise I hear up around 45-50 is too low a pitch for brakes, but I’m not sure what else would be causing the noise. Besides the slight scraping noise and the winding explained earlier I didn’t hear anything while spinning the wheels.

So, do I just need to get in and adjust the brakes? Or does anyone think there is something else more “sinister” (:-P) at work here?

Thanks a lot everyone,


It is possible there is a worn wheel bearing. (Perhaps just starting to go)

With the vehicles’ weight off the wheel when you turned it may have prevented the noise from being emitted.

Other possibilities are a worn CV-joint or perhaps a tire separation. (Worn CV-joints usually can be detected when making slow speed turns though)

wheel bearing.