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What else makes noise just like a bad wheel bearing?

I have a '95 Caravan, FWD



It has what I would call classic wheel bearing noise. Get it up to 45mph or so and it sounds like there’s a small engine airplane flying along with you.



Turn left the noise goes away. Turn right, the noise gets worse. It sounds to me like it is in the front. (This is noise only - it doesn’t come with any vibration).



Both rears had some contamination, a little play and a little noise so I just went ahead and replaced those - not having high hopes that that was the source of the noise because they were bad, but not that bad.



The problem is that neither of the fronts show any signs of a bad bearing upon inspection. There is no play in the wheels, and they aren’t noisy when you spin them.



Nothing is loose or rubbing. The tires are in VGC, and I moved them around with no change.



The fronts bearings are the sealed hub type, and expensive, so I’m not going to replace them on a guess.



The van has 217K on it & the fronts were done at some point, but it was so long ago I can’t remember - i.e. they could be due.



But what else would act this way? And what might be the best way to find out?

I Once Had Misaligned Motor Mounts That Even A Dealership Diagnosed As A Bad Wheel Bearing.

It would respond to steering the way your’s does. I didn’t argue when they decided to replace the bearing. They were nice about it when that didn’t fix the problem and worked with me on the total repair bill when they aligned the engine and the noise stopped. I guess a mount was not isolating the engine and its vibration from the vehicle’s (Dodge Sedan) body.

I’m not saying that’s what wrong with your’s, but at 217K it’s worth taking a look at. Those mounts could be worn out or breaking down.

CSA

Sometimes these “whats making the noise” type problems have been resolved by using the “magic ear” (microphones that clamp on components).

One way to check for rough bearings is, with the tire off the ground, place your hand on the strut spring. Now slowly rotate the tire. If the bearing is rough, it sometimes can be felt in strut spring.

Tester

I’ve heard of the “magic ear,” but never heard it called that. It’s referred to as a “chassis ear” by a lot of mechanics. I’ve never used one, but I have a story.

A former co-worker did a front brake job on a mid '90s Buick LeSabre, including replacing the rubber caliper bushings. He forgot to install one of the bushings and sent the car out the door. Needless to say, the customer experienced a loud clunk every time she stepped on the brakes, so she took it to a Buick dealership, which used a “chassis ear” to find the glaringly obvious problem. They charged the customer $120 per hour to use the “chassis ear” on the car for two hours, then charged $130 to install a $2 bushing in the caliper (a five minute job). How they missed that problem installing the microphones is beyond me, why they had to test drive the car for two hours is even further beyond me, and why the customer didn’t bring the car right back to us is also beyond me, but not as much as this tale of either inordinate ignorance on the dealership’s part, or a complete and utter ripoff. All told, we had to reimburse the customer about $400 to have the Buick dealership perform a diagnosis that any reasonable mechanic could have diagnosed in the parking lot and fixed in ten minutes for $20 or less.

I had no idea that a “magic ear” was a thing - though I’d considered a low tech equivalent - just running a long piece of vacuum hose out & under attached to my stethoscope. I guess its not as nuts as I thought.

I’ll look at the motor mounts, and see if I can feel anything reverbing thru the springs - thanks CSA & Tester

I’ve experienced front bearing failure and noise that could not be felt by spinning the unloaded wheel or rocking the wheel at the 0/180 position. It made plenty of noise going down the road, though.

My “magic ear” suggestion did not rate a thank you?

Sorry oldschool - I thought my initial mention of it spoke for itself. I should have added that I am going to rig up a chunk of hose to my stethoscope.

It’s possible to have tight wheel bearings that do not make noise when the wheels are off the ground. Apply the weight to them and it’s a different matter.

Tire treadwear problems (cupping, feather edging, etc.) can also cause noise problems.

Have you checked the CV joints for problems? They typically pop and click when they go bad, but they can also make roaring sounds.

So it took me a while to report back as I was out of town for a couple of weeks in between.

I tried my best to look at all of the suggestions here - and even did ridiculous things with a piece of hose & zip ties while test driving (the poor man’s “magic ear”/extended stethoscope). In the end I couldn’t actually verify for certain that it was the bearing.

However, the noise was just so much like a driver’s side bearing that I finally just went ahead and replaced it.

That was it. Noise gone.

Thanks to all for the help.