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Wa Wa Wa Noise?

My 2003 Toyota Corolla has about 172K miles on it and I started noticing this noise about 2-3 months ago. Back then, I heard it when I reached speeds of 40-45 mph. It would go wa wa wa consistently and would get louder as I went faster and become one sound. The noise coordinated with the speed of my tires. My brother, who usually takes care of my car, lives in another state and with his work schedule could not diagnose it in-person. From my description, he thought it could be either be my wheel bearings, tires, or CV joints. I drove it around curves on off- and on-ramps and the noise stayed consistent no matter if I was going straight, making right curve turns, or making left curve turns. I also lifted the front of my car and put it on jack stands and tried wiggling the wheel. No give/wiggle. I bought 4 new tires and had it put on. The noise got a bit better/quiet but then it went back to the original noise. By then, the noise could be heard easily at 30 mph in my car. It was suggested that it could be the back wheel bearings, so I had the back hub and bearing assembly changed out on both sides. Noise volume dropped again but went back to the original volume and I can tell it is coming from the front of the car. Now, the noise can easily be heard at 10 mph and there is also very bad vibrations between 60-70 mph. Some people mentioned the center bearing, so I got under my car and checked things out. My CV joint boots are fine (no rips) and I tried moving the right and left axle joints and there was no give (solid). I tried wiggling my tires again and they were fine too. I am due to visit my brother during Thanksgiving, which is another 3.5 weeks. Between now and then, I’ll probably be driving a bit over 3000 miles. Does anyone have any ideas of what this problem is? I can’t afford to pay an actual mechanic to diagnose the problem (not guaranteed that they will find the answer), so I have to figure it out and have that specific thing addressed with people who do mechanical work on the side (cheaper rates). And if you have an idea of what it is, will it be okay to keep driving my car without having it fixed until Thanksgiving?

Oh and I don’t know if this is relevant but the noise is a bit more quiet when I drive my car in the mornings after it has rained the night before.

Great post, lots of great input! Considering what you’ve replaced, that is a tough one. You have bad vibration between 60-70 and still have the noise at the front. A vibration at that speed is a 1x imbalance like an out of balance tire (but you had them replaced) and a bearing would typically be a higher frequency (3x rotation) making a growling sound.

Given the miles and what you already replaced I’d say its likely front wheel bearings. The best way to check is lift the front of the car, remove the brake calipers on each side and turn the wheels hubs and check for roughness. Replace them both if one is bad, its time.

Have the car driven while in the air on a lift. Most likely one of the front wheel bearings are bad, it is a pretty common thing to see happen. The front bearings on this car press in, so it might be a job that you want to have a shop do for you.


Thanks for your comments. I’ll have a look at those again.

Sounds to me you have a final drive axle bearing going bad. Raising the vehicle and check the wheel bearing won’t tell you much. If the fixed bearing race is bad, the load will be on the opposite side so no noise will be heard where as the final drive axle bearing is carrying the weight of the differential/final drive all the time while running. You can raise the vehicle and up put jack stand under the suspension and run the engine while in gear, you might be able to detect the problem if it’s the final drive bearing.

Another idea, when the CV joint looses its lube, this can sometimes be a result. Also if the CV joint boot for some reason gets bunched up it can make this noise. Neither of these would normally cause bad vibrations at 60 mph though. Still, if you 've truly eliminated the back wheels from the picture, and the tires are new and dynamically balanced properly, it could be a front drive axel problem of one sort or another. If the tests on the wheel bearings are negative or inconclusive, I’d probably remove one of the drive axels, clean out the gunk, and see what’s happening in there. If it is ok, no worries, just re-lube it, re-fasten the boots, and put it back on. It probably needed a lube anyway.

Excalibur - did you ever find out what was causing the wa wa sound? Mine is now doing the same thing. 2003 Corolla with about 188,000. Wondering if it’s safe to drive.

The person who started this thread has not posted in 3 years. Please just start your own thread with clear decryptions of your vehicle and it’s problems and the replies will just be for you.

Soundwaves - I ended up taking my car to Sears Auto and having them do a free check on the steering and suspensions (but I didn’t get my work done there). It turned out to be the bearing - though I had already changed that out. I ended up changing the hub assembly as well since I might have burned/damaged it by driving on a bad wheel bearing for a good while (I was commuting over 100 miles a day). I had purchased/warrantied all my wheel bearings from Auto Zone and I found out that Auto Zone was/is cutting back on the inside grease by a lot (to save money), so that was the reason for my bearings to constantly go bad. If you are buying your own, I would suggest to either buy it from Napa or make sure to put extra grease inside the bearing; and if you are bringing your car to the mechanic shop, double check where they get their parts.

Thanks so much for your help! I do think it is probably the wheel bearing.