Unable to Diagnose Noise After 5 months. Desperate

I have a 2017 Honda Civic. About 6 months ago now in March I began hearing a whining/howling type of sound, consistent with the speed of the tires, coming from under the car. The sound happens when both accelerating and coasting at speeds above 40 mph or so. On a very smooth pavement it is insanely annoying more than any noise I’ve ever heard in a car before in my life. I had someone else drive the car and I put the seats down and went into the trunk, finally hearing that it was coming from the drivers side rear tire.

Thinking it was a tire problem, I changed the tire and the noise was still there. I brought it to Honda who checked out everything including the transmission and said there was nothing they could find. We had talked about it possibly being the wheel bearing but they said the wheel was on very tight and there were no signs of that being it, though he said he couldn’t be “100%”. But I wasn’t about to pay $350 for a new bearing and the noise still be there. I continued to drive the car for months, putting off this mysterious noise until I couldn’t stand it anymore. I went to a local mechanic who was nice enough to change a bearing for me temporarily. Noise was still there. Changed bearing back, charged me 60 bucks for labor.

At this point I am almost out of words and feel lost. The noise is driving me crazy and I feel like no mechanics really know a damn thing about truly figuring this out, or they just don’t care enough to do so. I’ve read stuff about it possibly being a bad wheel differential or maybe the wheels “carrier bearing”? I have no idea. I’ve read about the ring and pinion creating a similar type of noise but that is in the front of the car. If anyone can give their two cents to give me any hope, I’d greatly appreciate it.

I had a slight howling noise too I couldn’t identify. Liagtened on bare road and snow to see if it went away. Finally when in for other work asked them to check the wheel bearing. Yeah it was making noise. Happy ever since. What did Sherlock Holmes say, when you have eliminated the possible, look for the impossible? I had one go out on my olds at 20,000 so it happens. Also just had a little road noise on another car that went away when I changed both bearings. Or you can wait fir it to get really irritating enough to spend the money.

Maybe it’s the wheel bearing on the passenger side. Are you absolutely sure of what side the noise came from? Maybe it has nothing to do with the wheels at all, but something is vibrating with the wind.

It was 100% coming from the area of that particular wheel. My ear was directly on the trunk pad. The noise goes with the wheel speed. Gets worse as speed goes higher.

Can you jack up the wheel and spin it?

How old are the tires on the car?
When you changed the tire, what was the condition (age and treadwear) of the replacement tire that you tried?

I ask because I’ve seen wheel bearings get replaced when seemingly decent looking tires were the problem.

From the description, my first thought was the transmission’s final drive (differential), which would probably make the most noise at the front/driver’s side. But OP says the sound is from the rear passenger side … hmmm… may OP is mistaken about the location , very easy for a car sound to seem to be coming from one place when it is actually coming from elsewhere. One idea, “chassis-ears”. That’s a diagnostic product that allows a mechanic to set up microphones here and there, and listen on headphones to what each microphone is “hearing” while driving the car. The mechanic can easily switch from one microphone to another for comparison. I think something like that is probably the next step.

I’m sort of puzzled how you ever found a mechanic who would agree to re-install a rear wheel bearing into a hub after they’d already removed it from the hub. I doubt that is a procedure recommended by either the car manufacturer or the bearing manufacturer. On my Corolla’s configuration, I’d worry the bearing would be damaged by removing it. Maybe such a thing is possible w/out the risk of damaging the bearing on the Civic, don’t know.

If the noise actually is discovered to coming from the rear, other possibilities

  • exhaust system noise (from leak, pipes/heat shields loose & rattling, etc)
  • fuel pump is about to fail

Ask your friends, neighbors, coworkers for the name of a reputable shop. Tell them about your noise, ask of they have a set of Chassis Ears that they can use to help pinpoint the noise. Expect to pay a minimum of an hour shop labor rate to diagnose this noise.

I don’t know who would temporarily install a bearing to check for a noise but “swaptronics” is not a valid diagnostic approach for a professional shop.


I’m not totally sure what you mean. The tire isn’t the problem. The noise was there before and the noise was there after I replaced the tire. The older tire was in decent condition I’d say.

If I’m being honest I don’t know what the mechanic REALLY did. I left the car for the day. He claims he put a new bearing on and the noise was still there. I trust these people as far as I can throw them. My next step is trying to go out of my way to find someone very reputable.

Of course. Did that myself to try and see if the wheel was loose. Hands at 12 and 6 then 9 and 3. Felt sturdy. Not to mention a few of the shops did the same thing.

Seems like a good approach. Suggest to find a shop by a personal recommendation from somebody you know. Ask friends, coworkers, fellow church-goers, etc which local auto repair shop’s they use. Interview a few from that list and choose the one that seems to have the best ideas.

AFAIK, you cannot replace just the wheel bearing in the rear of this vehicle. You have to replace the whole hub.

Find a road with no traffic, or at least no traffic within a couple hundred yards, then zig-zag the car a few times. Listen for a change in pitch and/or volume of the sound. If it is the drivers side rear, it will get louder and the pitch will drop as you zig to the right, the noise will diminish as you zag to the left.

If you hear a difference, it is definitely the hub. The hub contains the wheel bearing and must be replaced as a unit. If you have over 100k on the vehicle, replace both hubs because when one fails, the other will not be far behind. If you have low miles, then the failure is a factory defect and you only need to replace the bad one.

One last thing, I don’t know if your Honda has a toe in adjustment for the rear, but if it does, you might just need the rear wheels aligned.

Edit: You cannot detect a bad wheel bearing by the 9&3 or 6&12 method. It takes a dial indicator to detect any lateral movement.

Thank you. I will try the zig zag thing tomorrow. The car has 62k miles on it fyi

I was wondering if the shop might have replaced the entire hub with one they had laying around, used, etc. But if that’s what they did, hard to understand how they could do all that work for $60. Seems like a pretty time consuming job to remove the existing hub, install a test hub, then remove the test hub, and install the original.

The zig-zag test is a good idea.

It really is very hard after all to do the zig zag test. The car has to get above 40 mph or so and on very smooth pavement for the noise to become super audible. There is simply always too much traffic on the highway or any roads where something like that could be done. That being said I did try a little bit and it does seem like the noise pitched higher when I zagged to the right and lowered when going to the left. I can’t be certain as I didn’t get much of an opportunity.

Also, I wanted to add that about a month ago I went on a trip and didn’t drive the car for a week. When I returned it appeared as though it took the noise a good while (few hours?) to return back to crazy loud levels. This could have just been in my head somehow but it really did seem this way. So, if that helps anyone think of another possibility.

I’m sure that there are times during the day when some highways have low traffic. It might be inconvenient, like between midnight and 5am.

1 Like

When the rear wheel bearing on my 2018 Versa began making noise I was able to hear it by jacking up the car and comparing the sound between the left and right wheels. Had this not worked I would have purchased one of those gadgets with several microphones wired to a switch and headphones so you can click between microphones and compare the noise while driving.

I suggest a school parking lot on a weekend. Even if you don’t get all the way to 40 mph, you still might hear the noise at a lower speed while zigging or zagging, but not in a straight line.

1 Like

@asemaster had the best idea so far, imo . . . find a shop that has and will use Chassis Ears

The tool isn’t expensive and a decent shop should have it and know how to use it effectively

it removes the guesswork


1 Like