CarTalk.com Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Shifting Sand Noise when I make a turn

Saw this topic addressed, but not resolved to my satisfaction, in a post made some years back by the owner of an '03 Corolla. The comments suggested a water leak was the cause. But the sound is definitely DRY (think Etch-A-Sketch vs. waterbed). And the small amount of water that is leaking on the front passenger side floor didn’t start until about a month after we started hearing the noise. My VERY amateur guess is that it is some sort of breach in the air bag system, since that’s where the noise sounds like it’s originating. I searched the internet and didn’t find anything on this topic of a sand noise coming from the vicinity of the glove compartment. Since the local Toyota dealer service department also thinks it’s a water leak (not covered by our warranty, apparently) and that it could be potentially very expensive to locate and fix, I’m asking if anyone has any insight they can offer.

I doubt the airbag theory. My WAG. There is something in the duct work sliding on turns, maybe a coin fell in the defrost vent or something similar.

If you have water leaking on the front passenger side floor then the drains for your A/C condensate are probably plugged up - rather than this being a leak. Unless it mostly gets wet when it rains? See - you never really just described the whole issue with the water leak. But someone should make sure that all of your drains are clear. You have something for this outside of the car at the base of the windshield that drains rainwater from the cowl. You also have drains inside for the water that condenses on you A/C evaporator. If you happen to live someplace cold & haven’t used the A/C that doesn’t necessarily mean anything since the A/C system normally operates when you use the defroster.

“There is something in the duct work sliding on turns, maybe a coin fell in the defrost vent or something similar.”

+1

I can recall a very similar noise in the Plymouth Barracuda that my brother had, back in the late '60s-early '70s.

As it turned out, his wife thought that the top of the dashboard was a dandy place for pencils and pens.
You would not believe how many writing instruments had wound up in the ductwork of that car, after falling into the defroster vents.

You could have dry residue sliding around in your heater ducts from mice, dead insects, leaves or seeds etc. from parking under trees. Was your car ever in a sandstorm. Could a neighbors (or your) child have decided to pour sand into your cowl vents to see what would happen?

I understand that on some Lexus cars they have/had put beach sand in between their double firewall because it is said to be an excellent noise absorber and does not hold moisture. While Lexus and Toyota are related, I don’t think they do it on Toyotas, unless someone here knows that they do.

I understand that on some Lexus cars they have/had put beach sand in between their double firewall because

Where did you hear that?? That doesn’t pass the smell test. Sand is a very water absorbent material. Absorbing water is NOT what you want to do inside a fender-well.

You have any documentation on this??? I tried a couple of google searches and found nothing.

I heard this from someone that installs alarms and aftermarket stuff. Apparently some Lexuses (or is it ‘Lexi’?) have dual fire walls and they’ve put sand in between them.
Not sure whether he’s experienced it himself or whether he heard it from somewhere.
I was frankly just as surprised as you but he seems to know his business.

If it is true, a boneheaded decision like that doesn’t stop a company from implementing it. For instance, the later aircooled VW beetles have the equivalent of ‘great stuff’ squirted between certain body panels. Sure, it stops rattles and noises like nobody’s business but it also absorbs moisture like a sponge and causes all sorts of rotting problems.

Edit: googling “sand lexus firewall” brought me to several forums that basically say the same thing. Since it is on the internet, it must be true - Unless it is some sort of urban myth in the audio installation world…

I heard this from someone that installs alarms and aftermarket stuff.

Someone who installs Alarms?? Really??? Sorry…but an alarm installer is NOT qualified or knowledgeable enough to make a statement like that.

I know for a FACT my wife’s Lexus doesn’t have sand between the fender wells…Sorry but if this was true there should be a write-up somewhere on it.

If you can find one…then please post it.

Note they didn’t say it was anywhere near the fender well - “firewalls”.
Apparently Lexus firewalls are doubled where normal cars aren’t. They certainly are very quiet. Maybe they put sand in it - someone else might say that they’ve filled them with liquified beef jerky.
Sand is what I heard.
Liquified beef jerky seems less plausible but maybe there’s yet another possible use of jerky we don’t know about, with technology always coming up with the strangest of things.
Maybe it is true - who really cares? I doubt they went through this trouble on a low end Toyota, if they even did it on a Lexus.

Well, ‘write ups?’ No but there are several forums that refer to it. It took less then a minute to find the reference.
If someone that deals with certain issues on a daily basis (like routing wires through firewalls) mentions it, I have no reason to not believe him. By the same token, if you tell me that your house is painted green with a red trim, I’ll take your word for it too. I have no reason to not believe you, but it may leave me wondering whether you’re color blind. You may wonder the sanity of putting sand behind a body panel. Great. I have no idea whether that is a good idea or not. I just heard that this is what they’ve done.

But I digress: Of course the forums are anecdotal but certainly very persistent:
http://www.mobileelectronics.com.au/forums/index.php/topic/88682-sound-deadening/


There are a bunch more. Google is your friend.

Btw, let’s not turn this thread into yet another ugly match. What’s the point?
Sure, it can be fun for a little while but there are enough useless tirades on this forum already, or don’t you agree?
Maybe we can argue about that instead.

When the big Lexus (now called the LS 400) was first introduced, I recall reading that an asphalt-like substance was used in between two layers of steel in the floorpan. However, this type sound and vibration-absorbing technology was only used on the big Lexi, not the ones that are essentially rebadged versions of Camrys and other smaller Toyota models.

Take a good look inside your front fender wells. Whenever I hear a “shifting sand” sound it’s usually a tire just touching the inside of the fender well.

What did you find out? My 2007 Ford Edge has the same symptoms! Sliding sounds like an “Etch-A-Sketch” from the front dash/firewall, water leaks at the feet (both sides; to the right of drivers side & left of pass side)) and it has a mildew musty smell. It seemed to happen after I got my oil changed 3 weeks ago? I thought that the mechanic left something in however when I checked under the hood I realized that I couldnt get to where I heard the sliding sound. Any ideas I would very much appreciate!!

I forgot to mention that the sliding is only when I turn just as perviously described!

Been to the sand forum and there is nothing specific about whether or not, just that a stereo shop guy drilled a hole and found that sand poured out of it. That’s how the story probably started. He may have found sand but Lexus didn’t install it. AFV might show the culprit some day.

Ice in the trunk, now that happens sometimes in Maine with the right (wrong?) window or roof leak.

I’m having the exact same problem did you ever find out what the problem was?

That thread was from the COLD FILES @Skylarmahaffey227. But as for your car, have you inspected the front plastic fender liners? I have seen those plastic liners making contact with the tire and the sound was somewhat similar to sifting sand. Inspect the fender liners for an area buffed by the tire.