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Strange noise

2004 Corolla, 100,000 miles. It makes a strange sound when moving. It’s noticeable at speeds higher than about 30 mph. It changes with road speed, not engine speed. It’s similar to a failing wheel bearing sound. I’ve stuck my head out the window on each side of the car and can’t localize the noise. I checked for deflection in all four wheels, and they’re all tight.

My next thought was a transmission problem. I checked the fluid and found it to be at the proper level. I doubt if it’s ever been changed. I drove the car and released the accelerator, and I put the transmission in neutral. The noise did not change. I’m not sure what that tells us, but it’s another data point.

Currently I have the front wheels off the ground. If I run the drive system to 30 to 40 mph that way, the sound is not there. I don’t know that both wheels are going the same speed, so I’m not sure it’s an accurate test.

I’ve checked wheel bearings before on my Cavalier and easily found the defective one. I could tell which one it was by hearing the noise while in the driver’s seat, and the check verified that. I think I know how to find a bad wheel bearing, but maybe there’s another test I don’t know about. I’ll search online.

Maybe it’s a noisy tire. I can’t locate the source by ear, and that’s something I’m usually good at. I wonder if the transmission or differential might be making the noise but only when it’s under an actual load. I’d appreciate your thoughts.

You may not be able to localize the noise, but you could try moving the tires around. If you move them around you might still not be able to localize it but if the sound changes some then that’s good evidence of a tire issue.

Bad wheel bearings don’t always show themselves in obvious ways. The standard thing is the wiggle to check for looseness of the wheel and to rotate the wheel while listening for anything that sounds like grinding. You might also try spinning the wheel while holding onto the spring. A bad bearing will often send vibrations through the spring (but not always). One problem with all of these methods is that they have to be done with no weight on the bearings. A key giveaway of a wheel bearing issue is often noise that changes when you turn one way or the other.

Some Owners Of 03 - 08 Corollas With Automatic Transmissions And 1ZZ-FE Engines Have Complained Of A Strange Noise That Turns Out Be Coming From The Transmission Cooler Lines.

Toyota made available "revised" cooler lines and were replacing them under warranty for complaining customers who recognized this noise before 36 months or 36,000 miles went by.

I'll bet a Toyota dealer could give a listen and see if that's what the noise is and they could also sell you some new lines if it is. Yellow paint marks go toward the radiator and white paint marks go toward the transmission.